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Galana comes round the Mountain.


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This was in part a promise to be fulfilled that had been disrupted by Covid in 2020 as well as another nostalgic return to areas I had first visited as a fresh faced Mzungu 30 years earlier and fairly regularly ever since. There were also places to return to and places I had missed but looked good.

So a plan was hatched to combine the two by landing at Nairobi and heading east to Tsavo with two friends for some Ellie therapy. My screen name is Galana for a good reason. I have known a young lady of that name for fourteen years and my how she has grown since we first met on an escorted walk with the DSWT orphans. There is also another special girl that I have not seen for six years and she is now a mother of two. Let’s not get too sentimental but she DID come to show off the kids to me.:wub:



So I combined this trip with a roundabout route to Shimba Hills and over the border into Tanzania to the Usumbaras before swinging northwest to pass Arusha and head through the Serengeti to Lake Victoria before crossing back into Kenya to Nairobi and home. As Masai Mara lay on our path I thought that I should perhaps spend some time there. I had never been and had really never wished to go due to reports of crowds and bad behaviour so perhaps I should go and see for myself what it is like. Is it really as good or bad as people say?

So with the able assistance of my good friend Achmed Phillips in Arusha we booked the accommodations needed and another close friend and birding expert Emmy ‘volunteered’ to come from Uganda to drive me. The long running spat between Kenya and Tanzania over cross border Safaris disappears when the car has Ugandan markings, Plates, Tags or whatever you call them and Emmy as an EAC resident avoids the steep fees levied on Non Residents. NOT that this has any bearing on him coming as I would cheerfully pay much more for his skills and expertise.


Here is a rough outline of our planned route.


Bed Icons show our stops.

Having booked everything in preparation for a solo run a regular companion and fellow director (CT) asked if he may join me so tickets were bought and extra rooms sought. He would fly from Heathrow (mon brave) and meet me in Addis Ababa.

I still travel with my Minox binoculars and a Nikkon P1000 bridge camera but as the loyal and lovely   Lady G had “found better things to do than chase birds around East Africa” I had to find extra space in my small hand luggage for my Netbook. This meant that I had to ditch my Trail Camera which often upsets those nice chaps at Manchester airport when it makes a strange boxlike shape on the Security X ray machines. That’s it! I am packed with the other non-essentials such as a change of clothing, soap and razor and such like needed to satisfy sensibilities even in the Bush.

Our route looked like the title. We were coming round the mountain. The mountain of course being Kilimanjaro, ‘the cold friend’ of the people and the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest free standing mountain in the world at 5,895 metres (19, 341 feet). But we were not planning to climb it, just go around it and it became a frequent sight on clear days as our journey progressed.

As we were transiting Kenya we had both jumped through the Hoops and got our Kenyan Visas by email. We were good to go when the day came.


That was the plan. Now follows the reality.


I used Loganair from home on IOM to Manchester

We had both booked flights with Ethiopian. Myself from Manchester and CT from LHR and we were to meet up in Addis Ababa (ADD) for the final leg into Nairobi.

All in all it went surprisingly well. I had long layover at Manchester due to plane times but I made myself small and tucked up with a good book in the very accommodating Cafe Nero for the six hour or so wait until Check In. I could not do On Line Check in but when the time came I found that I had already been checked in by a friendly staff member. Thanks Laura! Through security and to the gate where I had to smile when at boarding time a set of scales and an official arrived and proceeded to weigh and count everyone’s hand luggage. One item and 7Kg. I was well clear due to Loganair already having forced me to be minimalist and anyway I detest having to lug things around airports for hours. We boarded on time and I took my reserved seat on the new Airbus 350 and got comfortable for the long flight. We arrived on time in heavy rain. This seemed to surprise the flight deck who could not find the right word when announcing arrival details and muttered ‘the weather is cloudy’ or was it ‘lousy’?

Met with CT as planned and easily made our connection as the onward flight was running late. It was still raining. Arrived NBO and after an anxious wait for my bag which chose to be last down the chute we met our transport for the 3 hour drive to our overnight stop at Hunters Lodge at Kiboko on the main Mombasa highway.

We checked in and had a light dinner and a beer before retiring. My luggage was wringng wet. Remember that rain in ADD? So do I.


This is a wordy diatribe so I will end it with a couple of photos of our first beds of the trip. They were really comfortable and I slept well and woke to explore the attractive grounds for our first birds on the checklist.


Hunters Lodge. Kiboko, Kenya.





To be continued.


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August 10th 2023. Having woken and had a pre breakfast exploration of the grounds we confirmed our choice of Lodge was a good one. We had passed by several times on our way to Kibwezi for Tsavo East and Chyulu Hills and had noted the wetlands and the Lodge grounds set in a small stand of trees but never stopped. It’s very nice, set back from the main road so quiet and private. After breakfast the two others in our group made contact and said they would wait for us to join them in Kibwezi for some last minute shopping before heading north to Ithumba where we were to spend 4 nights at the DSWT ‘release stockades’ that we have regularly visited since 2009.

After the picking up of fresh veg from the many stalls and some local Gin to sustain our inner needs we set off north on the newly tarred B7 to the turn off at Ikutha to continue to the Ithumba  gate where we were waived through to  KWS Ithumba HQ. Having signed in and agreed a time to call to pay our Park Fees we set off for the traditional ‘old’ Camp to prepare for the evening meal. Then it was off to the Stockades for our first evening lock down and to renew our friendship with Benjamin and his team. I do not propose to give a blow by blow, day by day record of our four days. The routine was much the same each day. Early morning milk and release, Midday Mudbath and evening return. Just the players changed.  I was so pleased to meet my dear friends and adopted orphans after an enforced absence of six years as and when they appeared.

I like the old camp as it is home to many other animals such as..


Dik Dik   and



The beautiful Lesser Kudu.

I can show a few snaps out of interest of some main players that I knew and my stay was complete when Lualeni, who I have known for most of her 19 years, came by with her two calves Lulu and Lexis. It was very hard to control the urge to approach them too closely as they are now almost fully wild and, though it hurt, I knew I must now step back.


Lualeni at 19 years old now with Lulu leading and Lexis behind as they arrived but reversed on departure.




Wendi. An old stalwart and mother of Wiva, Wimbi and Wema. Rumoured to be the worst mother of all. But we all love her.



Matriarch of her group. Yatta with, I think, Yetu.



Laijuk with daughter Lilli.



Gawa, one of Galana's calves I think at the rear right.



There were two bulls frequenting the stockades and this is either ex orphan Chaina or an un-named wild bull which we nick-named 'Fred'.


At the mudbath we met Nasalot with Noah.1-KT202300672.JPG.6ad0ba896324e5c04109ac24189f890f.JPG


While Benjamin had words of wisdom with a wild bull who wanted to join the party.


"No way here!"


We enjoyed our stay and the company, bi-pedal and Quad but on our fourth morning it was time to move on. The staff at Ithumba old camp had worked hard to look after us as had the army of Keepers under Benjamin’s lead but we had some distance to drive to our next stop in Shimba Hills NP which also has links to the Sheldrick family. So we made fond farewells to everyone including our co guests Lani and Greig who were heading for the coast and so would no doubt pass us en route as we would ‘waste time’ birding on the drive down to Lugard Falls. And so they did.  On over the new bridgeand a little used track to Aruba dam and eventually the exit at Bachuma Gate. There were compensations on our slow progress with a rare sighting of Cheetah and some close encounters with Gerenuk which frequent the area just north of the river.




After exiting the park  we took a nice tar road south from Samburu for some miles before turning off for Shimba Hills when the road deteriorated badly as it climbed to Shimba Lodge. We got turned back on the gated private track to Shimba Hills Lodge and had to return some distance to the Park Gate to buy permits for our two night stay.

Finally arriving after a drive of 300km we were quite impressed by the Lodge and although we were not ‘ensuite’ the rooms had nice balconies and abundant bird life. Bush babies visit the Restaurant as do the delightful Red footed Coastal Squirrels.

 Our tale with continue shortly.



Tsavo to Shimla Hills..JPG

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It is very good to see your photos taken at Ithumba. I was there last Sept. Brings back great memories. Going back next July.

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“I do not propose to give a blow by blow, day by day record of our four days. The routine was much the same each day. Early morning milk and release, Midday Mudbath and evening return”

Do you manage the early morning milk and mud bath. Back in IOM?:D


Seriously, I didn’t realise you had such close links with these elephants, very touching to read about 

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Thank you. Lucky you @NancyS


Part three, when a Damsel comes to the rescue!



To answer @Tony I do have a long standing relationship with the Elephants of Ithumba following my adoptions and we/I are very lucky to have been able to visit several times. This was CT and Emmy’s third visit too so they fit into the routine well.




I am wondering how much detail I can use as the bulk of my photographs and trip are ‘bird centric’ with only ‘lip service’ to what may be of general interest to Safari goers. Let me see how it goes for now.

Shimba Hills Lodge is, quess what?, located in the little visited Shimba Hills National Park and is quite close to the Indian Ocean. Safari goers tend to shun it as relatively isolated, this was my own first visit, and it does get a bad press from time to time as elephant are now quite scarce and the remnant parcels of Sable and Roan Antelope under pressure. But it is quite lovely being a mix of Montane Forest and open Savannah and I will make an effort to get back.

I had been advised that the Lodge was a bit run down and there is no doubt it could do with some tender loving care in places. It will have been hit hard by the drop in tourism these last few years. First with the security situation around Mombasa and then the Pandemic.

We liked it and found it to have potential for ‘real’ safaris as well as the abundant and special Avi fauna it is also home to.



1-DSCN8196.JPG.36aec6311f295476bc6ecef8ab5c4c14.JPG1-DSCN8211-001.JPG.d6ad6da88e4f617ac32ad2cdbb44a19e.JPGThe Restaurant was excellent and the food good. Rooms were clean and the beds comfortable. The view over the Waterhole was very good and in the dry season would be quite attractive to wildlife.


1-DSCN8198.JPG.a9039036b3d964d58a9202790420d547.JPGAnd look who came to call on me.





We could give this part of the report a sub title of “A Fair Damsel rides to the rescue of a poor Knight in trouble” which is a neat Role reversal in these egalitarian times. This came about when one of our party, not your scribe, discovered that he had left his Camera Battery Charger at home and this threatened his whole trip. In feint print I now write with some trepidation “Trip Advisor to the rescue.”

I had by chance invited a fellow TA correspondent to join us for coffee at the Lodge as it is only a short drive from her home in Mombasa. So a couple of mails and phone calls and a new Charger was purchased and the Fair Damsel (I risk certain death at her hands for calling her that.) kindly brought it with her.  That’s what real friends do.

 And we had a nice chat and a pleasant cup of coffee by way of a bonus for us all.


This had a knock on effect in that we could not go far from the lodge that afternoon but as it was pouring with rain all day this was no real hardship.


I re-invented my much used habit of ‘Birding from my Balcony’ with modest success but of necessity much emphasis is on the word ‘Birding’ as we were two to three stories up and only giraffe could reach that high and they were conspicuously absent.

So I am afraid you are going to have to suffer some bird photos if only a few.



Bandits in the Restaurant.



It's in that green bush!! That one there!



Of course it is!




Fischer's Turaco.


And now for something completely different.




Cross banded Tree Snake. It's harmless.



Brown-veined White species.




Little Yellow Flycatcher. That IS its name. Birding can be so simple.Describe what you see and give it a name.


Not all the time though.


This Martial Eagle is out of Uniform.



All in all we had a productive stay here and our next journey will take us over the border and into Tanzania to the fabled Usumbara Mountains.

There may be a slight delay with the next update as I don’t want to get too far ahead of my alternate thread in Big Year.

Edited by Galana
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Part 4. Turn right and cross the Border for the Usumabaras.



Sounds simple doesn’t it. Well in practice it really was.



As the map shows we foresook and ‘African Shortcuts’ and headed down to the coast and the main tar road.  Transiting Diani Beach was an eye opener. Once ‘the place to be’ on the coast, Elsa the Lioness once frolicked on the beach with Joy Adamson here, it is now very run down and has seen better days. Soon we were motoring swiftly south through lush scenery with views of the Indian Ocean to our left with light traffic only and in a little over two hours we had driven the 110km to the “One stop” border crossing at Lunga Lunga.

Formalities were quick and easy, or so we thought, stamped out of Kenya and Visas on arrival and a welcome smile into Tanzania. Except as we re-joined the car we learned that ‘the system was down’ and the car insurance and permits could not be printed and issued. So we had a cup of tea and waited, and waited, until after about two hours Emmy sweet talked a young lady (he would win Gold if this was an Olympic event) into bypassing “the system” and hand written documents were re-invented. We were not alone as several large Lorries all set off together in what looked like a Juggernaut Grand Prix.  Karibu Tanzania.



Over the border we covered the next 100km more slowly to admire the views, and spot the odd bird as I regained familiar territory around Tanga. Then down to the busy little town of Muheza and the turn off up to Amani in the Usumbaras. After a little bit of shopping and ‘change money’ into TZ shillings (TZ is about 2,400 to the $$ and 3,000 to the ££.) and we started the long climb (3,000 feet/920 metres) into the Eastern Usumbaras. The road was good gravel at first but as we got higher it became rougher and steeper when we entered the Reserve proper. “Gladys” our faithful Garmin even found a mapping error where the cartographer has lost his way in the number of hairpins as shown in this photo. 1-KT202301528.JPG.f8a098a295269f974a78293efa6088bc.JPGHowever we arrived in Amani ‘village’ where we paid our permits to the friendly ‘David’, all of US$10 each, and continued on to find our lodge. Amani Forest Camp, Emau Hill, where I had stayed once before and liked it a lot. The directions read ‘proceed 2km and take a left turn at our sign’.

Wrong!  That way would send you off the cliff. You make a RIGHT turn, which of course we did. Up a very tight steep track terminating in a small car park a few km further on where we were warmly greeted by the staff. There was a mix up in the booking but we were soon shown into the tents that we had booked that had been relocated from where I remembered them to a less formal layout which combined more privacy with nice shady  trees around.



We were booked for 3 nights here. The first day we spent following some trails around the Camp seeking birds which included Fischer’s Turaco and more common sunbirds etc., and in the afternoon we took a ride further into the forest in the hope of more open views. Grey on the bottom.. For the following day we added a local guide to the party and this was more productive with some nice birds on the track shown in grey at the top.



Half-collared Kingfishers.


Mountain Squirrel.

We actually returned there at dusk for Owl’s and Nightjars without success but did find three species of Chameleon and a neat little endemic frog. As well as moths. We really did enjoy our stay here and it is thoroughly recommended. Nice tents, quiet and delicious meals.






Usumbara Peacock Frog. Leptopelis vermiculatus.


Usumbara Rhinoceros Chameleon.


Usumbara Two horned Chameleon.


Walker's Owl moth. Erebus walkeri

But it was time to leave and whilst I, and Gladys, knew the way it was down the hill by the track we had arrived on and then on the tar again getting ever further north and west. Our destination was Mambo View Point in the north of the West Usumbaras, where we had booked accommodation at the previously lovely Mambo View Eco Lodge and where there had been talk of problems following a change of owners.




We needed fuel for us all so stopped at a nice looking swamp that Emmy knew and managed to find some nice birds to add to our list including the beautiful Taveta Golden Weaver.1-KT202301562.JPG.84284dc952ce88e4f1bc6df3d6c8e882.JPG

We then climbed into the hills from Mombo to Lushoto where the tar ran out as usual and continued on reasonable and scenic roads through very fertile hill country for another 50km to Mambo View where we were warmly greeted by the new owner and shown to our bungalows.

As you may guess from the Lodge title the site is perched high on a cliff with splendid views, on a clear day, as far as Kilimanjaro 200km away.




The lodge is very nice, I had been before, and is centred in fertile land studded with protected forest areas where we were hoping for more birds and were moderately successful. It was also fun to meet many local folks walking the trails on their way to market their produce and we could not resist buying some fruit from them to take back to the lodge to supplement our stocks. This trip changed my total conception of what an Avocado should really taste like when fresh. Delicious and so different to the wizened but very expensive offerings at home.



Mmmm! Delicious.


Garden Inspector. Precis Archesia. I wonder if they really DO inspect the crops?


Eastern Double-collared Sunbird.


Green patch Swallowtail. Papilio phorcas.



We had a good time here despite our earlier misgivings but all too soon it was time to pack and move on. We planned to leave by the dodgy road down the Mtae cliff and hoped it had improved from our previous experience shown here.





OOer! CT looks at what Tony has done. Should have gone to Specsavers!

To be continued.

Edited by Galana
corrected text.
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It was fine. He just took the wrong line and fell in the hole.

Solution. Gather large stones, put in hole. Jack up car, put in more stones. Repeat until more or less level. Engage brain and drive out.

Appoint CT to fill in hole.1-1stdisc382.JPG.abbcc80b229c1038cf891561bbac9871.JPG

In looking for these I discover I had videod it. Now I can upload I might do so.

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Part 5. Onwards and downwards.


Well we are all well briefed on that road down the mountain so it simply remains to go and see how it is today.

We can see our destination on the northern horizon some 180km distance as the Pied Crow, or in this case the White-naped Raven, would fly but will it be a case of so near and yet so far?


A bit of cloud cover is welcome as we put our trust in Emmy and go off the edge and head down that squiggle.



As Traks shows it..


And of course we have birds to distract us as in less that 14km we have stopped to photograph a Giant Sparrowhawk with its breakfast in a nearby tree on a hairpin. No problems.


Then it was on down the hairpins to the missing bridge where the promised diversion was simply down into the thankfully dry river bed, along a bit and up the other side to pick up the ‘road’ once more.


Once back on track on flat ground and gaining the tarred road at Mkomazi (not the NP which actually lay behind us) but the village our progress speeded up considerably. Indeed including comfort and fuel stops, Diesel for the truck and bananas for Emmy who runs at one per 20km, we first pass Same (pronounced ‘Sarmay’) and eventually the snarl up that is Moshi. In all, our run that day was 312km which overall we covered in just over 7 hours as we drew up at the lovely Meru View Lodge in Usa River for our three night stay.


This is a lovely lodge, my first but hopefully not last visit here. Staff are great, we are in Tanzania, and the owner extremely friendly indeed. Comfortable cabins spread in spacious grounds just a 100 metres from the gates to Arusha NP.



Next day we entered Arusha NP, a much overlooked gem, and spent a productive day in birding and amidst ‘proper’ safari wildlife. Everything from Ellies and Buffalo to the local sub species of Red Duiker.


Flamingo and other waterbirds at Momella Lakes too.



On our return to the lodge we were hailed by our Arusha based Tour Operator, Achmed Phillips, whom I had met previously and knew well. He had dropped by to share a few drinks with us so dinner was put on hold for a while as the staff were kept busy bringing a constant supply of refreshment. Talking with old friends one has not seen for six years is very thirsty work.

Next day Emmy had business in town, he deserved a day off after yesterday’s drive, and so we were able to discover just how nice Meru View Lodge is with several extremely birdy encounters for our growing list.




All too soon it was time to move on again for the short positioning drive to Karatu and an overnight stop at another new lodge, recommended by Achmed, known as Eileen’s Trees which was very nice too. Extremely friendly staff of course with a special mention for Veronica who conspired with me to provide a special bottle of Wine at Dinner to mark CT’s birthday as a thank you from Emmy and I for his patient company.


The lodge is set in quiet grounds well back from the ‘Safari town’ of Karatu and comprises about twelve bungalows which for some reason are named after vegetables. I was in ‘Lettuce’ and CT next door in ‘Spinach!’ There is a small swimming pool, a very good restaurant on the ‘first floor’ and a pleasant sitting out Patio for drinks etc.,1-1-DSCN9395.JPG.b61190d7b9a4bc671536dd9025a8b9b7.JPG1-1-DSCN9396.JPG.10c52e96fc1d778ad494dbc5f1997e6d.JPG1-1-DSCN9397.JPG.ef6bed55118a74bca8fc4c9397c423f5.JPG1-KT202302170.JPG.78f423e0f5e8225b758f23ec63a3605c.JPG

A final bird of this drive was Fischer's Lovebird encountered neat Mto wa Mbu.


Our stay here was excellent but sadly short as it was designed for a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s dusty drive over Ngorongoro and through the Serengeti and boy did we need it.

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A great itinerary Fred, really enjoy reading about this quite different trip. Certainly not what most tourists do. I have very fond memories of Arusha since it was the very first safari NP I ever visited.  Looking forward to more!

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2 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Looking forward to more!

There IS more.

I first visited Arusha NP back in 1993 and the lasting impression to this day was of a family of Giraffe asleep by the roadside as we drove down to JRO in the dark for an early flight home. I returned in 1996 to climb Mt.Meru. It's a nice park.

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Part 6. The expensive drive through Hell.

There must be cheaper ways to be choked by dust whilst getting every bone pummelled and one’s eyeballs rattled in their sockets but this must be high up the scoreboard. Now I KNOW I only have myself to blame for traveling in August which I normally avoid like a plague but circumstances outside my control dictated I do this. The bare bones of the trip had been put together pre-covid for a quieter time and the penny did not drop that I had changed the seasons to ‘dry and dusty with frenetic activity’ or I would have gone back to the drawing board. We had had it easy accommodation wise apart from noticing a slight upward adjustment in prices but this drive came as an eye opener. Message to my Carer - If I ever even think of doing this drive again in August please cease my medication, as it plainly is not working, and put me outside for the Hyenas. Been there, done that!



It started well, we even had time to return to Eileen’s when one of our party forgot his hat. The road to Leonare Gate is now smooth tar and the numbers of folks milling around the car park was not too bad. The NCA people were helpful and took my $$s with a smile and a thank you when the Card payment of U$188.80 was authorised. We were not buying the road just paying to drive 100km of it. That’s nearly $2 a km. Jee whiz.




So up the switchback gravel road we went to attain the crater rim and by now we were on high alert for oncoming and passing traffic.



We did the usual stop at the Crater viewpoint which was crowded so we did not linger.



As is my habit I made another stop at the memorial stone for Michael Grzimek and his father out of respect before we continued on our dusty way around the crater rim in heavy traffic to start the descent to the vast plains below. The air was full of dust trails from other vehicles and to complete the problem the road surface was frankly awful. How the wildlife that inhabit this area have not died out from lung disease is a miracle. Perhaps the giraffe that are common on these slopes get more benefit from their height than the scientists realise?

After four hours, including stops we arrived at Naabi Hill interchange where we left the NCA, and our US$190, behind and entered the Serengeti. Here the TANAPA Staff welcomed me and even asked me to join them behind the desk and take a seat whilst they worked out how much this poor man should have to pay to cross the land under their protection. He may get a free Visa at Immigration but as sure as God made little apples he was going to have to pay here. After the computer had given the matter some deep thought it spat out a figure that was less than NCA, by all of $4. Was’n’t that nice of it?

But the drive WAS 10km shorter.



We lingered from exhaustion and ate our packed lunches in the shade and met a lovely chinese/american couple on their Honeymoon as well as sharing our bread with an opportunist Grass Rat and some Rufous-tailed Weavers.


Refreshed both physically, mentally and spiritually, we continued our drive seeing some wildlife at times including our first ‘lion jam’. Well we thought they were enjoying the elephants coming to drink and splash in the swamp but when we stopped we noticed the cameras were all trained in the opposite direction where, with some effort and a little imagination a pair of lion could be made out in the deep shade and long grass. Really??


I felt sorry for the Bull ellie going to all that trouble to besport himself just to be ignored.


At Serenera the car was running hot, were’n’t we all? But this was serious, so we stopped and cleaned out the air filters and pipes and topped off with fresh water before driving the rest of the way up to Ikoma Gate. This road was less busy but the dust still hung like a pall in the air.




Our self-inflicted masochism came to an end as we turned off the main road and took the track to Ikoma Tented Camp. A nice camp of about 26 tents set around a central area and Restaurant. Nearly as nice as its sister camp ‘Robando’ where I had stayed previously (which was closed) and with the same excellent wildlife opportunities to be viewed from one’s tent.


We had most animals in view by day



1-KT202302567.JPG.b85705d6fe3ab87c1cc4750d8d495ed6.JPGand had to watch out for Buffalo after dark. We were escorted from the restaurant after dinner by a brave Askari armed with a torch and a bow but no arrows. The buffalo seemed unimpressed and just kept on grazing and we returned the compliment by declining the Ox tail soup at dinner.

Staff were very friendly under the watchful eye of Jessica and Alex and meals were ample and nourishing. No regrets staying here. Lots of birds to keep us busy when sitting outside our tents.

BUT we had NOT stopped paying.

We were accosted by a Ranger from Ikoma Wildlife Management and relieved of another US$118 just for being there two nights.

So rather than pay TANAPA to re-enter the Serengeti next day, we had had more than enough dust and massage for now, we decided to go on a game drive in the WMA instead. Well we HAD paid to be there so why not? This so worried the Ranger that we had to take him with us ‘in case we got lost’ but he had a strange idea of guiding or vigilance as his snores from the back of the Cruiser scared a leopard. We cannot remember his actual name and we referred to him as “Sleepy”. He did wake up when we came upon two people harvesting ‘live’ wood and promptly confiscated their axe. Quite a productive outing all round.



The buffalo were back in camp tonight as well and we were quite sorry to leave Ikoma and may well return in less dusty times.




The little bird is a Bleating Bush Warbler. I think he was bleating about the crude paint job.

Question how does one get to Ndabaka west gate on Lake Victoria for less than US$185? Join me in the next instalment and find out.


Edited by Galana
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Part 7.

We now tear ourselves away from Ikoma and ‘Sleepy’ to head for Lake Victoria, the reasons for which are almost lost in the mists of planning some time back.  Part of my original plan was to visit the basic but pleasant “Serengeti Stopover Lodge” by Ndabakka Gate or failing that ‘Little Okavango’ on the lake side that is owned and run by the folks who own ‘Tent with a View ‘ in Saadani NP on Tanzania’s other coast on the Indian Ocean. Neither being available for some reason at the time of booking I overlooked that perhaps we could just as easily head for Kenya from Ikoma where the Masai Mara was but some 70km to the north, albeit needing a somewhat longer drive to cross the border at a legitimate border post. But my fixation with Lake Victoria was fortuitous as otherwise we would not have discovered the delights of our next stop, Speke Bay Lodge.


To avoid another dusty, bumpy drive through Serengeti (and save the US$185 fee) we elected to drive outside the NP and take the T17 which looked like a fairly direct road west from Ikoma Fort to eventually meet the main T4 tarred road that runs more or less along the Lake shore some 110km away at the town of Bunda. 110km??  Phfff! Simple. Well not quite but it was enjoyable nevertheless particularly the part that transited Grumeti Conservancy. We were soon enjoying dust free views of antelope in relatively traffic free peace and quiet.



The views of the area were also quite pleasant as we drove along through rolling plains on a decent gravel road. Lots of wildlife and birds and it was FREE! We passed a party of Rangers who seemed to be spraying the herbage and after engaging them in the African habit of eating the news it seemed they were spraying to keep down ticks.

Interesting and we were to meet these chaps again in a few kilometres where after stopping to photograph an elusive Sunbird



 I heard Emmy start to open his door to try to get closer views and as I glanced over to his side I saw that we were not alone and were being watched. I had just muttered ‘Stay in the car Emm!’ when he looked right and saw what I had seen in the shade of a bush on the opposite side of the road.



Ooops is not quite what he said but he stayed in the car.

Actually we need not have worried as just after we had taken a few photos the lion got up, ran over the road in front of us and made itself scarce. Huh? Just then the team of rangers walked into view some distance off and it became apparent that our cowardly lion was running from them.

So we proceeded on our way much amused at having a cat sighting free of crowds and free of charge.


Not much further on we reached a hillside at the foot of which was a nice swampy pool with a few Zebra drinking and, oddly, a lone Safari truck parked nearby.

1-KT202302657.JPG.0b73765790eabc2fae3c90ee6e8fc169.JPGWe looked for a way down off the road but failed. No matter as just ahead was a true Zebra Crossing. Well lots of them actually.







We stopped to record the scene and it became apparent that this was a big herd on the move as more and more poured over the hill top heading our way.

I switched to video mode as a few snaps did not portray what we were seeing. Here s the link.


Soon after that we must have left the protected area and ran into road improvements which weaved through small villages as we dropped down rolling roads towards more fertile and greener land. Happily we were making good progress and soon gained the small village of Kizu/Nyamuswa where turning left got us back onto a nice tar road down to Bunda where we stopped to eat our lunch before joining the main road south towards Mwanza with Lake Victoria shining to our right.

We paused near the small muddy estuary of the Grumeti River to watch a few animals and birds just before the Ndabakka Gate into the Serengeti before proceeding the last few kilometres to the turn off to our next base at Speke Bay Lodge. I had paid a brief visit some ten years ago but memory had dimmed just how nice it was. We enjoyed the approach road as it meandered through nice green parkland to the lodge set on the banks of the lake. We were made very welcome by the co-owner, Jan, and shown to our Rondavel shaped cottages each set with its own patio area on its own part of the lake frontage.



Inside was surprisingly spacious and well fitted out and clean.

Birdlife in the grounds was impressive as we could hear the booming call of Eagle Owls nearby.

1-KT202302745.JPG.20ebe8bf803103024b4acda88d14f1bd.JPG Meals were taken in the covered restaurant or outside weather permitting. We had struck lucky here and settled in to enjoy our stay with eager anticipation. There were bikes to hire and activities on offer included a visit to a nearby fishing village and organised walks but I was happy with the birds and the resident family of Dwarf Mongoose on the lawn in front.




Even snakes.


and aquatic Monitor Lizards.


We really enjoyed a relaxing stay here which we mainly spent walking and birding in the 82 Hectares of the property.

A lovely place to which we will happily return.



Edited by Galana
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Happy to read your TR Fred and would have loved birding with you around Lake Victoria but this was my favorite part by far until now :lol:

On 9/18/2023 at 3:21 PM, Galana said:

The buffalo seemed unimpressed and just kept on grazing and we returned the compliment by declining the Ox tail soup at dinner

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21 hours ago, TonyQ said:

That lodge looks lovely @Galana

It was. A gem that I am already making plans to return to..

19 hours ago, BRACQUENE said:

but this was my favorite part by far until now :lol:

Stay tuned.

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Part 8 which depending on length may well be in two parts:



First the drive back into Kenya to our chosen base in the Masai Mara.

speketomara.JPG.74b2142328bb3a58d8c94728a3c63c5f.JPGWhen we reach there you may note from the 'grey' traks that we are less than 50 miles from Robanda that we had left only four days earlier.


Much as we would have loved to have stayed longer at Speke Bay we had a schedule and a plane to catch in Nairobi in four days time so we settled our very reasonable account and having vowed to return we set off for Isebania and the Kenyan border some 160 km north. The drive took us passed Ndabakka gate into Serengeti once more and we stopped to watch a couple of Hippo feeding in a local Shamba





as well as some disconsolate Wildebeeste who looked like they had just got some really bad Gnus..

On back over the muddy stream that is all that is left of the Grumeti in dry season and through Bunda on a very good tar road. The road wound through lovely hilly country and progress was good. The road dropped back down to lake level as we crossed the Mara River Estuary on a nice modern bridge. The difference here between the muddy Grumeti and the wide Mara was very marked indeed. The Mara was a typical wide and deep river with attractive large areas of Papyrus etc., lining the banks.

1-KT202303134.JPG.88c88bf1e2bd57efcbc3c4cad4ba7184.JPGWe all remarked on this and wondered about the birding prospects here if only there was somewhere to stay. A place to be explored at our leisure on another visit.


But not today as we still had 60km to the border as well as unknown territory to traverse to our destination. It had transpired that none of us, Emmy included, had any idea of the exact location of our chosen camp, Tayari Luxury Camp, and their helpful website made no mention of where it was other than ‘45km from Narok’ and ‘4km from the Park Gate’. Which gate of the many would that be then?

So to get us ‘close’ I programmed ‘Gladys Garmin’ to get us to Narok hoping that as we got within range, 45km short, we would get a better idea.  Ha ha. They do say that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. Maybe today is the day we put that to the test?

Anyway it was time to leave Tanzania and cross the border into Kenya and as we approached the town it seemed the Isebania Border Post was not as clearly signed as others we have used.

Emmy’s normally sharp eyes could not pick out a suitable building so I just suggested the age old method of continuing until we were stopped, either by the usual ‘Crocodiles teeth’ barrier or remonstrating officials which is what we did.

And it worked. We found both simultaneously and not a shot was fired as a man with a big gun at the slope directed us to pull in and park by a small kiosk outside a somewhat larger non-descript building in which was a door was marked “Entrance”. It looked like we had found the Immigration Officer or maybe he had found us?

Either way we quickly had our Passports stamped by both Tanzania and Kenya in the same office and that was that.  Emmy took a little longer with the vehicle formalities, insurance etc., but after a cup of tea at the convenient cafe we were on our way back into Kenya. Gladys indicated that we left the main road and struck off on a decent tarred road eastwards and that is what we did. Sadly the tar ran out in about 30km and ‘traks’ warned that the road ahead was not good but as there was ‘only’ 100km to go we suffered the ‘African Massage’ cheerfully as we drove along the C13 heading east for Narok. The road was not that bad but we were very happy to read that Narok was ‘only’ 40km ahead as we reached a turn south onto the C14 and where we asked two youths if this was right for Sekenani Gate. They either misunderstood or were telling porkies. It was the road down to Talek Gate but we were not too lost as our map showed another junction lay not far ahead.

Except there was no sign of it when the Garmin showed we were where it should have been. Either that or the map was wrong.

By now the sun was getting low and dusk was fast approaching but pressing on south we met several ‘safari’ vehicles coming our way and one of which suggested we press on and just before Talek Gate there was a track we could take that paralleled the Game Reserve boundary. And so it turned out. See map below. Clue. It’s one of those dotted lines.



Oh well it’s going in the right direction so it’s either that or a night in the bush. Just as it petered out and grew fainter we were passed by a white Subaru going at speed. “Follow that car!” Which we did. Straight into a river crossing where happily the way across was marked with a couple of ‘withies’ showing the firmer ground. We could still see the tail lights of the Subaru so gave chase and followed as best we could. Luckily by the time he pulled over at what was probably his Shamba, we could see the lights of some sort of settlement ahead. After negotiating few more kilometres of interesting bits of track the settlement proved to be Sekenani and there was the tar road. Left up the C12 for 4km and we had the sign for Tayari Luxury Camp on our right. We were there. And dinner was ready!


Map of our actual trak as driven.



We were shown to our ‘tents’ which were more or less standard and set on raised platforms with ablutions at the rear. The added luxury was maybe the creaky floorboards which would give notice of any uninvited guests.


A welcoming place run by Ether with meals taken in a communal shed with small bar and adequate stocks of cold Safari Beer. Our home for three nights so I shall break off here as too much excitement is not good for me.


In any event as I had not visited Masai Mara before now so it will be a good place to halt this narrative so that my report, whether good or bad can have a full post to itself.

Edited by Galana
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>>as well as some disconsolate Wildebeeste who looked like they had just got some really bad Gnus..


I see what you did there :rolleyes: Groan!


Loving your adventure!

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Part 9.

The Masai Mara. 31st August – 1st September.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.

 I won’t continue Mr Dickens' famous introduction but I feel it is quite appropriate in accurately conveying my personal first and last impressions of the Masai Mara. I am well aware of the high regard many folks hold of this part of Safari land and of the effect that some of my comments may have but must emphasise that these are my own views which are very mixed indeed. In summary they match Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s little girl with the curl “who when she was good she was very very good but when she was bad she was horrid.”


These quotes are not bad from somebody who failed his English Literature matriculation over sixty years ago but you don’t wish to know that.... You want to read about the Masai Mara and I must press on.

This was my first visit as, being aware of the stories of crowds and bad behaviour, it held little appeal. But it lay on our planned route back to Nairobi so perhaps it was time to go and see for myself? Why not?

We had two full days to enjoy what we could of the undisputed excellent game viewing so on our first morning it was into the car and off to the Gate bright and early with packed lunches. We appeared to have picked up an extra body in the shape of Jackson the Tayari night watchman who it seems also moonlights as a Guide during the daylight hours. (Can one moonlight in daylight?) Entry was smooth and easy and we were immediately seeing wildlife so no complaints there.

This is what our game drives look like and we covered quite an area from the gate south and west to the Tanzanian border and over to the Mara river.


First day in red and the 2nd in black.


Our first big cat was in the shape of a lion moving her three young cubs and we had close views prior to the arrival of other cars. How did they know? Well it turned out that Jackson was texting his pals.


One cub was playing up and mum lost him in the bush and had to return to retrieve him. We left them in peace.


Next we had a nice ‘ellie moment’ as we headed towards a distant adult and calf who it turned out were actually coming up the same track towards us. So we killed the engine and sat tight to let her make her own decision whether we were a threat to be avoided or could be ignored. She decided in our favour with the result that we had a nice close encounter as she walked by.



Only 20 minutes later we ran into a posse of vehicles ranged around some scrub where a leopard was purposefully strolling towards cover. Nice to see a leopard but not so nice with all those cars jostling for a view.


1-KT202303236.JPG.f85e6e9529c80fc53baeeed704a06458.JPG1-KT202303241.JPG.0a73352306e4a58c80691085d987c0cc.JPGThis is where a long lens works well as one can crop them out. We left them to it.

Brunch was in the bush under a handy shade tree.


Afterwards we headed over to the Mara river and came upon a few trucks on the western bank (in the Mara triangle although we did not know that at the time)

1-KT202303257.JPG.2667e2b26c7ce1ef76ff43d92dfb3d75.JPG and as we continued upstream we noted a few Wildebeeste and Zebra down by the river. We parked up and witnessed a mini version of a ‘crossing’ for which the area is famous.


Well that was a bonus if one is seeking to score a point. From the flurry of foam and action it seems as though a Croc got lucky too.


1-KT202303308.JPG.ecf281d70baed24e968480981e973456.JPGThere were certainly some big ones about to cause a few drinking Zebra to be cautious.


A small herd of Wildebeeste came by but avoided the river as we watched a superb Eland watching us take his photo.


1-KT202303333.JPG.dd3ea5f0211c77bd6fbf9c938216817f.JPGEland are often shy but this one seemed at ease.


Our travels took us right to the border with the Serengeti where we posed for a commemorative photograph as we noted on the GPS that we were only about 50 miles from where we had been a few days earlier at Ikoma Camp.


1-KT202303342.JPG.ad72c41dde8cbff5e88ef023c3a27634.JPG1-KT202303345.JPG.578f20100102b876026fb5e39a44b4dd.JPGWe also felt that Uganda ought to be allowed a presence at this auspicious place so Emmy unfurled his National flag as he posed with his vehicle.

It was getting quite hot so we turned for home which lay about an hour north and on the way found a couple of lion sound asleep with the remains of a Zebra but one of them was obliging enough to raise his head for a photograph.

1-KT202303402.JPG.e80a368a01b4597b84767805acde9340.JPG1-KT202303415.JPG.649f97c9171828db59216b2bf68cc8f8.JPGWe had the usual bumpy and dusty drive to the gate and felt reasonably pleased at what we had seen today. Dinner was a buffet of soup, Meat and a couple of Beers before we turned in to the tune of the local Hyenas singing.


Our next day started with us trying to get a Purple Grenadier to stay still in the light of dawn to get a decent photo.


Then on to the Gate for Day two of our visit to the Maasai Mara. We had seen lots of antelope, elephant and a few lion and a leopard so ‘the Mara’ had produced the goods for us already so we wondered how today would go. We drove around to the east down a lovely lonely valley which I quite liked and met only one vehicle in two hours. Plenty of antelope including lots of Eland and a few birds which I won’t bore you with.


1-KT202303472.JPG.cdcb96c8efc31af36dd6eb6f4b85268e.JPGThere was a lovely view to the south as we topped the watershed of the small stream and made our way down the other side. I quite enjoyed the peace and quiet and after another hour or so we eventually stopped under a tree for brunch and watched a few Buffalo quietly grazing in the near distance. Hard to make out in among all those bushes.


We continued our drive and about an hour later bumped into a jam at a recent Cheetah kill. We parked up carefully at some distance even though some arriving cars did their best to push in and block our view. The Masai Mara at its worst.

1-KT202303533.JPG.a1747e4995c16cea2769af36d86fca32.JPG1-KT202303534.JPG.d0b6581233f82ece97e1d5ad9b486a5d.JPG1-KT202303535.JPG.ad9ec90085aaa8e0feca9e7f84aff666.JPG1-KT202303536.JPG.16a404a78798be19e6d159df5d4171f5.JPG1-KT202303549.JPG.4d15cb500aed43154e299762b3576218.JPG1-KT202303555.JPG.ed5e029672cda86b6cd6466a75f7760e.JPG1-KT202303570.JPG.0a5a703bb1f57c2dd05d1b9597b8501d.JPG1-KT202303576.JPG.9d52bce5d74d9bed3a3b03b834eede54.JPG1-KT202303580.JPG.0b12c22530486061c41ce2c5f9c4af87.JPGOur long lens did the trick for some decent pictures but again we did not outstay our visit of about 10 minutes before moving on. That would be a hard act to follow!

We arrived back at the Mara River at the bridge where one crosses into the Mara Triangle. Jackson had heard of larger gatherings of Wildebeeste but after discussion we decided not to bother to enter even though there was no additional entrance fee. Instead we headed upstream in the direction we had taken the day before and lucky that we did.

A posse of vehicles on the far bank were trying to glimpse a leopard resting in the scrub below. Emmy and Jackson’s Eagle eyes found it and with guidance, as it was well camouflaged, we got some very dodgy photos that showed most of it.

1-KT202303609.JPG.a552af3f03b049b13147e516a9823ae5.JPG1-KT202303613.JPG.85f9ece9f57fa3fa90c9b87dbcc315a4.JPGHere are a couple taken ten minutes apart as we watched and waited. Vehicles came and went but our

patience paid off when after about another 30 minutes the cat came out of cover and gave us a hard stare and a lovely photo.

1-KT202303614.JPG.c10a71bb00f4ee7a7caf4bfce6f0bcf8.JPG1-KT202303615.JPG.4c4da0064d4e3d7db7c601fff56b73b0.JPGIt was still nervous of the folks on its own side of the river and eventually moved to turn round and keep a watchful eye in that direction. We got more decent photos if not the right pose but we are not complaining at all.

1-KT202303626.JPG.1884135f5aa2896a42eee2e59ca1ce49.JPGThen a car above upset it and it bolted along the river bank below the rim too fast for me to get a focussed view before it gained more dense cover out of sight of everyone.


The afternoon was well advanced so we decided to head for home well satisfied with what we had seen. There is no doubt that the Masai Mara deserves its good reputation as well as its bad.



On our way to the gate we met a small herd moving towards the distant river and also enjoyed a close encounter with some ellies that appeared on the skyline and approached us quite closely. Not a bad second day.1-KT202303655.JPG.8876b38b9cdf1d7a0879a3036fb1b035.JPG1-KT202303656.JPG.33b09a62aff8fb2f6a56dd49905e5175.JPG1-KT202303657.JPG.764ae2c2012d3892bff215f6deaefd7a.JPG1-KT202303658.JPG.25f6e87e48850ef0b395b8166bd19a7b.JPG


I think I will end this here and recount our return to Nairobi in a new post in a couple of days.


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10.  Going home.


All good things come to an end and one even wakes up from Nightmares eventually so here is the final part with, if space permits, a few comments and statistics. Sadly (or maybe not) there are no pictorial records for this part of the trip so it may look a bit naked.

We packed up at Tayari Luxury Tented Camp and after an exercise in bad PR and Management we paid over a further $3 ‘due to exchange rate fluctuations’ demanded by Benson this morning and said our good byes to the helpful staff. Jackson had spent some time washing the travel stains off our faithful Land Cruiser and it looked good.

Our homeward flight was due to leave NBO (JKIA) at 18.30 so there was no particular rush although we would allow lots of time for Security and Check in etc., as well as Nairobberie's infamous traffic.




Our route was straightforward and good tar all the way but mostly previously untravelled by us.


Our first surprise came in Narok when we met a traffic block where two people in some form of military fatigues and bearing Rifles waved us off the road to park up which we did. Huh??

Hijacking never crossed our minds so we waited until some chap wearing ‘civvies’ came up and demanded to see our receipts for Maasai Mara entry fees. I asked him why he thought we had been in the Park, now some 55km distant, as the road we were using was a public road that had many and various destinations. He alleged he ‘knew’ we had. I then asked him for ID which he refused so I waived over the ‘military’ and asked them. Turns out he was from Narok Council and they were checking for Fee dodgers.  I had better things to do than delay our journey by winding up a rude and petty official so I showed him our receipt which he wanted to keep. He was disappointed. After a conflab with a colleague we were waived on with narry a smile or even a ‘Safari Njema’ from him although the ‘military’ had broad grins.

After leaving sunny down town Narok we drove through quite pleasant country with the landmark mountain of Suswa growing larger on our right as we approached the Rift Escarpment and the main road between Nakuru and Nairobi. We did a brief comfort stop just before the road junction and stocked up with bananas for Emmy’s layover in Nairobi.

Then we joined the multitude of traffic crawling up the steep escarpment road  that is lined with all sorts of stalls for the delight of the unwary tourist before joining the new expressway that led towards Nairobi. Progress was slick and fast and so much better than I had seen on previous visits. We were bowling along at a brisk but legal pace when Emmy said to look out for a Bank or ATM as ‘we’ needed some Kenyan currency for the Tolls ahead. So Gladys Garmin was asked to search and she was up to the job. Off at the next intersection, through some leafy suburb and there was a Bank just where she said it would be. We were now in funds so drove back to the Expressway which was really impressive and the welcome product of all the road works we had endured for years. Praise where praise is due.

Having paid our tolls we missed the correct lane for the airport and went down the wrong slip road. After being blocked by assorted side roads we were stuck with a very frustrating view of the airport but no sign of how to get there short of breaking down the security fence and racing over the runways.


Again Gladys helped us as the little map shows and we got to the security gates for inspection before finding the parking spot that we had left three weeks earlier. Our trip was done. A nice Parking attendant gave us a longer stop than our permitted hour so we went and sat in a small cafe restaurant and indulged in a nice ‘Mango madness’ Sundae.

We then bid farewell to Emmy and after working our way up the queue to the entrance to Terminal 1A we were then told that Ethiopian had been switched to T3 so we had to join that queue now and start again.

Check in went well as did security and our plane boarded on time. I will spare you the transit at Addis where CT would leave for LHR and I for MAN. My plane left about 45 minutes late but caught up again so that my connection time on arrival at MAN of 2hours 35 was looking safe. Well it was until having swiftly passed Immigration with my ePassport it was over an hour before the luggage carousel even started up. And guess what? Loads of luggage but no sign of mine. Lots of happy folks picking each bag that came by before replacing it on realising it was not theirs. But no sign of mine until I started to plan to leave it in order not to miss my flight.

I had even paid a £ for a trolley as it was quite 20 minutes walk from Terminal 2 to T3 check in. I gave myself until 10.00 as ‘decision time’. You guessed it. I was just firing up to go at 09.57 when up popped some late bags including mine. I cut a swathe with my trolley (oh for wheels like Boudicca’s chariot) through those darn folk who persist in wandering along in line abreast over the interlinking bridges where of course the travellators were not working as usual. My donation of £1 to Manchester airport for the non-refundable trolley was well spent as I gained the Loganair check in just as it closed at 10.20. For once Security was quiet despite my carry on getting selected as usual for examination and I was cleared through to the departure gate. Phew! The plane left reasonably on time and after the usual short hop I was home on the Isle of Man and a long awaited hug from Lady G. The trip was done and it went well.



Overall mixed feelings. Mostly good but sadly my fears about the Maasai Mara were well founded. Been there done that. I doubt I will be going back any time soon. Despite the good sightings it was not a good fit or experience.

On the other hand I can’t wait to get back to Tanzania. I suppose that we get conscious that each visit may well be the last one but I have had so many ‘last trips’ to Tanzania that there is always room for one more and I don’t think it will be too long before I am back.



Stats. Overall we drove around 2,500 km, not counting game drives etc,


 All very good for the money paid. Costs varied markedly of course from area to area. At a guess I would say we averaged about US$100 per bed night. Beer prices varied considerably. From US$3 to $6 which was in no way linked to the liquid volume of the bottle. Local Gin was the same price although some places denied having stocks and offered UK brands until pressed harder. The one bottle of wine for CT’s birthday was US$30.

Birds seen.

I run lists for each country so the checklist for Kenya shows a total of 185, with 12 new to the country and 1 lifer and for Tanzania 269 with 26 new and 4 lifers. A basic attempt to strip out birds seen in both countries seems to indicate a trip total of 324. The five ‘Lifers’ being Cuckoo Finch, Karamoja Apalis, Fulleborn’s Boubou, Kilimanjaro White-eye and Zebra Waxbill.




That’s it.







Edited by Galana
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What Tony said.🙂

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thanks @Galana for sharing your trip. great fun following you along!


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