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June 2009 - Mara, Singita Grumeti, Migration Camp, NCL


richardafrica
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Here is a trip report from last June when I was in Kenya and Tanzania. Hope you enjoy.

 

Kenya

 

Took an early morning flight on Qatar Airways to Nairobi. Arrived at NBO with plenty of time for the afternoon flight out of Wilson to Olonana, my base for the next 3 nights. I have been to the Mara once before, and was really looking forward to the return visit. Soon I was picked up by my quide, and a very friendly couple who were going to be my vehicle mates for the next 3 days. Olonana is a very nice camp overlooking the river. I really enjoyed my first night back in Africa, even with the hippos seemingly having fun just outside my room all night. The service was excellent, and I really liked the camp. All of the rooms are overlooking the river, which are usually filled with hippos.

 

I liked our schedule at this camp. We would get out first thing in the morning, and arranged for breakfast to be had in the Mara (usually at the river with a nice view of the surrounding area). Return to camp around 1 pm, have a nice lunch, relax for a couple hours, and get out for the evening game drive. There is no night drives in the Mara. The camp is about 15-20 minutes from the gate, and there were a wide variety of birds along the way. Overall game viewing for the 3 days was pretty good. We did see a variety of lions, cheetah (including one munching on a kill), a nice leopard who posed for us on a rock, a brief sighting of Rhinos (who were very shy), and lots of regular game. One night on the way back to camp we had an excellent sighting of a Serval on the road. It walked right towards and past us, not like my other brief sightings.

 

Overall a great camp, with a good location, and excellent service. Would definitely recommend, and hope to return one day.

 

Tanzania - Sasakwa Camp, Grumeti

 

I like how you can get in a morning game drive in the Mara, catch the late morning flight out, and connect into Tanzania, usually in time for an afternoon game drive. "And Beyond" arranged my flights, and I appreciated having someone waiting for me at Kili to take me through customs into Tanzania, and get me on my flight to Arusha and onwards. After a quick stop in Arusha we were soon on to Manyara to drop some people off, and that on to Sasakwa airstrip. The planes in Tanzania seem to be the usual 12 passanger type. It was about an hour to Sasakwa, and I arrived to a great surprise. My guide Adas was there to greet me and explained that he would be my private guide for my entire visit to all 3 Singita Camps... it was excellent to have a private car (at no extra cost).

 

Sasakwa is an absolutely wonderful camp, the nicest I have been to in Africa. It is on a large hill overlooking the plains. The view is amazing from either your room (and private plunge pool) or the main lodge area. The rooms are like private cottages, and very nice. Meals are excellent, and you have multiple choices for each meal. If you want an option different from game drives, you can play tennis, other games, go horse back riding, or take nature walks. They also have a resident wildlife expert who can join you on game drives.. in this case Richard Estes (who did join me on one drive, and had a wealth of knowledge).

 

All that is great, but the reason I am here is for the game drives, and trust me the game around Sasakwa was great. Unfortunately I missed the majority of the migration (hadnt arrived yet). We did though see some advance groups of about 500 animals each. We also saw a wildebeast go down, and when we went to investigate found it caught and killed by a snare... very sad to see. While the grass was a little high, we were able to see a lot of game in my 2 days. There are a couple of local lion prides, as well as multiple cheetahs. The Singita part of Grumeti is a private concession, so you only find vehicles from the 3 Singita camps. They all work together, which is excellent for sightings. They also limit the number of vehicles at each sighting, which I really liked, especially after being in the Mara. Having a private vehicle allowed me to spend time where I wanted to go, in this case spending time with Cheetahs. We found a female cheetah early one morning and spent about an hour with her before she got up, and went for a walk. We were able to follow her, leading up to stalking and chasing some Gazelle. Unfortunately she missed out. Realizing she was still hungry we decided to stay with her for another 2 hours, awaiting another hunt. She didnt disappoint, and was able to take down a small Gazelle with her second hunt. Others probably wouldnt have had the patience to stay with one animal for about 5 hours, but it certainly paid off. Adas was great, and we were excellently positioned for each hunt for a great view.

 

Let me say that there seems to be excellent year round game in this area. Sasakwa is a wonderful camp, and if you want the best, it would be for you...

 

Singita - Sabora Tented Camp

 

Sabora Tented camp was my favourite of the Singita Tanzania camps. It is situated in the plains, about a 30-40 minute drive from Sasakwa, and Faru Faru. The camp was my favourite because it is situated right in the middle of the game viewing, and I prefer the open tented camps to lodges. The tents were nice, with a lot of privacy. I am told when the migration is in the area, it is all around the camp, and sometimes in the pool. Unfortunately, as mentioned I did miss the migration. While the camp is not as nice as Sasakwa, it is also much better priced. The service that one expects from Singita is there, and from the other travelers, it seems they get a lot of repeat customers. Tents 1 or 9 offer the most privacy, as they are on the far ends of the camp. If you are traveling with a family, there are connected tents that you can use. In the middle of the tents in a lounge / library that the 2 tents share. Meals were excellent, and after traveling for so long, I really liked the ability to choose your own meals, with a wide selection of choices.

 

Game viewing usually begins right when you leave the camp, and as all 3 camps share sightings, there is usually a lot to see. I am told on almost every game drive they can find lions and cheetah, with leopards usually more difficult to find. I was lucky again on my drives to see a lot of both, including a lion kill. There are 2 large prides in the area, so there is usually a kill every couple of days. There is also a lot of regular game, and we had some good sightings all around. I took advantage of going out early, and having breakfast on the plains. Relaxed during the afternoons, and back out on game drives in the evening.

 

I would definitely return to Sabora.

 

Singita - Faru Faru

 

Faru Faru was about a 45 minute drive from Sabora, and is in a different area by the river in cabins overlooking either watering holes, or the river. They have an excellent view of the valley, with a lot of great viewings of Black and White Colobus monkeys. My room was nice, with the ability to open up the large windows overlooking the water holes. Overall service was excellent, with again very friendly and helpful staff. It is very different from the other Singita camps, and I can see why a lot of their returing clients go to all 3 camps.

 

One evening drive we heard about a lion kill of a Zebra, and we went to investigate. This lead to a first for me, in that there was a lion up in the tree. We got some great pictures of that lion, and the rest of the pride having their feast, including a tug of war between 4 different lions.... you can expect what happened when they all pulled in different directions. Overall there was again lots of game, and some very large herds. You can see why the lions / cheetah eat very well, and Singita Tanzania's expectation of a kill sighting every day or 2.

 

And Beyond Migration Camp

 

Went to the airport for a short flight to the migration camp. It was only about a 20 minute flight. Met my new companions, and with the bad news that the migration was not around, and that it was in an area that we could not get to. We were greeted at the camp by our "butlers" singing. Migration camp moves with the migration, so I was not sure what to expect. I have to say I was impressed. While the tent was much more basic that what I had at Sabora, it was all I really needed. A good place to sleep, shower. For some reason the bucket showers seemed to last a lot longer than those I remember from Kenya. Food was good, if somewhat limited in choices, if you care about that. The camp was fairly full, which was great, as there were a lot of interesting people with lots of stories to share on game drives and over meals.

 

Like Singita, there was a lot of resident game in the area, which was nice. As we didnt have the number of vehicles out that Singita has, we had to find our own sightings. There were a lot more vehicles here, so we could follow the Mara rules of finding game, by looking where the other vehicles were stopped.

 

Overall, another great camp, and a place I would definitely recommend, and would return to. Hopefully next time the migration is in the area, but even if it isnt, there is usually a lot of game to see.

 

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

 

My final stop, and under an hour flight. I was only here for one night, so would just have the evening game drive. Stayed at the North camp, which still had excellent views of the crater. I did get a chance to see the other camps, and tree camp looked like a great place if you were going with a group or large family. I would just recommend that people with mobility issues understand there are stairs and climbing at that camp. My cabin was excellent, and it was a nice place to end my safari. Meals were great, though for some reason I wasnt feeling too well at night and skipped dinner. I have to give the manager credit. She came looking for me, and when I explained that I wasnt feeling too well (altitude maybe?) I soon got a call from the doctor, and my butler who delivered something to eat to my room. Excellent service I have to say...

 

The lodge was about an hour and a half drive from the airstrip. After checking in, we had time to eat lunch, and were soon off for the afternoon drive. Going down was not too bad, and we were soon on the floor. Maybe it was the afternoon crowd, or off season, but for whatever reason there were not many vehicles there that afternoon. Lots have been written here on the floor, so I wont go into details, but overall I was pleased with the sightings of game, including a lion family playing, rhino sighting, and an excellent serval sighting. I have to say this was one place where I regretted not buying a better camera for, as my vehicle companions had the long lenses, and took some great photos, which I couldnt with my camera.

 

Overall a great place, and while one day was enough, you might want to consider 2 for a morning visit to the crater. The camp was great, though its probably not a place I will return to.... kind of reminded me of African Lion Safari (drive through place we have in Canada with some game). I more prefer the wilder areas.

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You made great use of your time at some top of the line locations, with widlife to match. Nice going hanging around the cheetah. Good thing you did not have to use the doctor's services.

 

You got to go with Richard Estes? Wow!

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Richard,

 

Good report. What was the landscape like around the Singita areas? Lots of open savannah? I always had the feeling that poaching and legal hunting in the Grumeti areas put a dent on the animal populations there? Wrong assumption?

 

What was Qatar airlines like? I've heard a lot of good things about it - with Emirates changing their frequent flier program rules and regulations, I may start shopping around for other options in the near future.

 

Cheers

Hari

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Yes, Richard Estes was quite the character. My guide didnt seem to get along with him, which was quite funny (maybe it was an act, idk). Very knowledgable though.

 

Hari, I went to Singita Grumeti as I was guessing for the Migration to be there... which unfortunately it wasnt. I do have to say though, the resident game was excellent. It was a wide open area, and the great thing about having the only 3 camps in the area all Singita, they shared sightings. Lots of cats, and for you, they say they have excellent and consistant cheetah sightings.

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You got to go with Richard Estes? Wow!

What's the big deal about that? Richard Estes lives on my bookshelf. :)

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Mine, too! In fact it is just two from my feet at the moment. It was a gift from my travel company as 'frequent traveller' ,

 

I've been with them since the company started.

 

 

Jan

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A little funny conflict as an undertone to the fine wildlife viewing would add some entertainment value to the trip.

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  • 8 months later...

It worked, and we appreciate having the photos embedded in your current report. Really adds to the atmosphere. :)

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