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Twaffle - here's a subjective question but could you give it a shot? Would you say that the mobile portion of your recent trip was the thing that made it really special? Or do you think you would have enjoyed it as much had you been based at Serian for the entire trip, been completely flexible to come and go as you wanted, but had to come back to home base every evening?

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Yes, Sangeeta, that is my question too. From my very limited experience in the Serengeti, a seasonal camp is tops.

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Twaffle - here's a subjective question but could you give it a shot? Would you say that the mobile portion of your recent trip was the thing that made it really special? Or do you think you would have enjoyed it as much had you been based at Serian for the entire trip, been completely flexible to come and go as you wanted, but had to come back to home base every evening?


I was going to avoid answering this for a while but given Atravelynn's and Leely's responses I think I should try. :(


I think I would have had a wonderful time if I had been just at the main camp but staying at the mobile camp lifted the safari beyond the ordinary. If I had stayed the 6 nights just in the mobile camp I would have been ecstatic … the more wild feeling suits me but may not suit everyone.


What would I do next time? Ideally, a combination of both. If it wasn't possible I would be tempted to split my nights between two areas but would then lose the feeling of continuity and the building up of a good team atmosphere between driver/guide/me. This is important because you get all the small talk done early on, then can relax and concentrate on animals, conservation etc. Your guide knows your style of viewing, what you're prepared to sit and wait for, what animals you're happy to stop for (i.e. some birds) and it all appears seemless. Every time you have to change to a new camp and guide, you have to start again.


Serian is ideal in that you can do the combination without changing operator, guide, driver etc. but I would hate to miss out on the mobile on future trips, now that I've experienced it. Bottom line though, it depends on why you go on safari. If it is a combination of wildlife viewing, environment, feeling out in the bush etc. then the mobile really adds something. Perhaps staying in a lodge would give you the same opportunities to see the wildlife, provided your guide was equal, but maybe the overall feeling of being on safari would be different.


I really don't think that I can answer your question adequately but for me the combination was ideal but if I had only one choice then I'd take the mobile!

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Twaffle, wouldn't the mobile and/or fly camp be ideal if one wanted to get a head start in the morning from within say the Trans-Mara or the Talek or where you are staying overnight? It would be a long drive just to get to those areas from the Serian lodges.

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Hari, yes I think that is true. However, the one advantage with Serian is that it is in the area of the MNC close to the reserve and you can go to the triangle or the NCC side with equal ease, and I did take my most spectacular sunrises in the MNC, not in the reserve itself as well as there being plenty of game on the drive to the gates which was really only about 45 mins with stops for game viewing. Coming back to camp, as long as you are out of the gates by closing time, you can dawdle through the MNC because there are no restrictions.


I think that is why I like the combination. If you stay at Serena or Rekero, good options though they are, to get to the other side of the river is not very practical so you limit choices. Realistically though, there are so many combinations to get the best out of the Mara that no one decision will mean that there isn't a better one either.


Although I would like to visit Rekero one day, I would probably only do it in combination with Serian and only if the mobile wasn't available (because ....had decided to head off to Meru with it! :( )

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Your very evocative description of the mobile had already kinda sorta given you away, Twaffle! B)


Thank you very much for that thoughtful assessment.


Leely, were you at Nomad's seasonal camp in the Serengeti? Did you ever do a report on that? If so, could you repost the link?

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Twaffle you might have missed the butterfly, but it's a great shot of the grass which I think is Themeda triandra.

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Thanks Twaffle. I think I could have guessed your response.

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Thanks for your response, twaffle. I'm still dithering about where to stay in the Mara. I am really having a difficult time making heads or tails of location if one is traveling off-season--the conservancies, different areas within the reserve itself, etc.


Sangeeta, I stayed at Nomad Serengeti nearly four years ago, so I have no current information, I am afraid. However, the combination of a relaxed and rustic environment, a charming staff and high-standard guiding made the camp unforgettable. I wish my pocketbook could always stretch for a seasonal or mobile. Short-drops don't bother me! B)

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Leely, I've put another response on your recent thread on F's. I hope it helps somewhat but I agree that it is confusing trying to find the best camp at the best price. With any luck, you won't hear about the sightings you missed out on by not going to camp B or C because you chose camp A! :D

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My last night at Serian came too soon but the best dinner was saved till last. I was the only remaining tourist in camp so dinner was just the remaining researchers, gap students, Mark, Alex and Sawa and me(not even attempting to spell that darned Irish name! :P ) and we had an hysterical time. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun but it all came to an end far too soon. I took quite a few photos on my daughter's little point and shoot but all these have been lost. I managed to have some from the disk recovered, but the last day's camp pix have all gone. :(


I sadly walked back through the dark (with askari) to my tent and listened to the guitar softly playing from a nearby tent as I went to sleep.


In the morning I had an early breakfast in camp and set off on the hike up to Suguroi Hill on the escarpment where Alex has a treehouse for visitors to stay in.


A short walk from the Serian main camp brought us to THE BRIDGE. I had been fearing this moment for some time as I don't like these swinging bridges, have a phobia about seeing through the surface I'm walking on and just felt traumatised by the thought of the thing.



But what is a girl to do, we have our pride. I was being accompanied by 2 Maasai warriors with spears, 2 warriers with bows and arrows and Kimansi with his stick. That was a running joke, "Kimansi, what are you planning to do with the stick? Thrust it down the throat of an attacking lion?" He just smiled at me in a dignified manner! :D So I stepped onto the bridge without a second glance, wiping the sweat from my brow and hoping the warriors couldn't see my trepidation. In fact I even stopped casually half way across and looked up and down the Mara River in an interested manner just to prove my courage (no one could see that I had my eyes firmly shut!).


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We passed the Ngare tents and headed off along the edge of the Mara river. I was keen to see anything around, large or small, but would prefer not to see the king of beasts without my roll of toilet paper (a la Mad Mike). I was a little taken aback when the first thing pointed out to me was a large print from a big male lion.




I had had such good luck out on safari drives with many big predators but now I was actively discouraging these sightings and by this time I felt that I had a fairly good relationship going with the "safari sighting gods". So marching on in a confident manner, albeit very close to Daniel, we proceeded through the bush.


A duiker sped away from us, far too fleeting a view for photography but a spider's web in the grass, covered with dew made an interesting photo with the spider lying in wait.



We saw many skeletons, this giraffe amongst them. Although the grass was green it wasn't particularly high so we had a clear view of the surrounding country.


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My fearless warriors.



Looking towards the escarpment as we climbed the gentle slope.



As we neared the treehouse, the views across the surrounding country was beautiful. Looking towards the Aitong hills.



Looking in the opposite direction. You can see the Mara River winding through the bush. This land is all leased by Alex as a walking concession and there aren't any roads. It feels very wild and free.



Daniel looking across at the view from the tree house.


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After a time of recovery and exploration amongst the boulders and trees surrounding the tree house (for me not the others) we headed back down the escarpment.


We hadn't seen much in the way of big game going up but coming down we came across some giraffe who weren't too interested in sticking around.



I had wanted to go down nearer the river to get some photos of the hippos from a lower angle than I had achieved so far but Daniel said it was too dangerous. We approached the river from the top of the bank but that was as far as I was allowed to go. Quite thankful for that decision as it turns out because we looked down from the bank and surprised a hippo on the river's edge who was very battle scarred. He was staying out of the river because the fish would have been picking at his wounds … a very painful thing.



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All along the walk we came across beautiful flame lillies.



But all too soon we arrived back at the Ngare tents where we were offered drinks. I refused as I knew the staff were getting ready for arriving guests and I reckoned they had enough to do. I did accept an offer to look around the tents and grounds because I know I'll never be able to afford to stay there. Alex has done a nice job to make a small camp fit into the surrounding country and feel luxurious without being pretentious. I'd be happy with the mobile camp, however.



Looking at the deck overlooking the river.


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That bridge again!



Daniel crossing in a much more confident, striding way than I could manage.



The other warriors melted away into the bushes and Daniel, Kimansi and I walked back past the vegetable garden and into camp. I went back to my tent to start the miserable task of packing before lunch. How I was ever going to fit everything back in I didn't know, but somehow I managed.



My tent and view.



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Well, that was it really. After lunch I went back to the tent and checked my gear and then I went and said a few good byes to anyone who was around.


Kimansi, Daniel and I then started off for the drive to the Musiara airstrip and although I had my camera out and ready I had lost the photographic spirit of safari and just felt tired and depressed.


I think Daniel picked up on my mood and the three of us travelled in silence down to the Mara, which was looking particularly lovely that afternoon. I was thankful that no one was alighting from the plane to start their safari, that would have been too cruel.


Waiting to get rid of me.



The Mara from the air.



Leopard Gorge.



A wind farm on the Ngong Hills as we approached Nairobi.


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That was really the end of the safari, it only remained to stay a night at Macushla and catch my return flight on the following day.


I ended up leaving my power board and the blown chargers along with a book I had been reading. The beads from Kazuri weighed me down but I'm glad to have them here at home.


I often think about that safari and wonder what I would change and what I would do the same.


I certainly would go back to Serian and the MNC, no question. Would I want to change to different camps? The only one I would consider would be Rekero some time in the future … none of the others offer more than I feel I got this time.


Would I go back to the Mara given the bad press it seems to be getting at the moment? Undoubtedly. What I learned first hand makes me very hopeful for the future of the region, it won't be easy but just because it will be a hard road, it doesn't mean it shouldn't be travelled.


Would I return for such a short trip again? Well I've done it twice now and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. In fact, I would rather come for a week and spend it in one location than come for 3 weeks and rush from one place to another. I would have liked a bit more time, of course who wouldn't, but I wouldn't not fly that far just because I only had a week.


Things I wouldn't want to compromise on in the future.

Private vehicle ... a must if you want to see the most an area has to offer.


A local guide/driver ... I noticed the difference in the Mara and Lewa between having a private guide who visited all the major parks versus a guide situated in only one location. Even though all the guides I've had were knowledgeable, the locals had an inside understanding which led to many better sightings which we found first, rather than being 'tail end charlie'. This is of course, only my viewpoint.


Avoiding as many of the roads as possible. I've done the driving thing, and I'd do it again if I went to a new country just to see some of the various locations, but for short safaris nothing beats a flight.


Things I will ask of my prospective camps in the future.


Are they legal? (Given the recent information on the percentage of illegal operators in the Mara district, I think this is an important question.)


Do they support local communities in a proactive way?


What have they put in place to enhance their area rather than degrade it? (i.e. water management, power, waste, impact on surrounding environment)


What do they do to help the conservation of their area?


Do they actively support conservation of flora and fauna or do they feel that providing $/bed night is enough?


There are many more things I've thought about, but this is a start for me anyway.


Am I planning another safari? You bet, always. Where to go … I would really like to see the calving down in the Southern Serengeti but would be happy to return to Kenya and personally follow some of the pro active things being done to reverse some of the conservation trends of recent years. I would also like to spend more time talking to local guides and camp staff about how they, as Kenyans, feel about utilisation of wildlife, hunting as well as for meat and hide. It would be interesting to see how they feel the Kenyan efforts at conservation are going versus some of those in other African countries.


With apologies to Rod McKuen's "Love's been good to me"

I had been a traveller

I almost walked alone

Hiked an awesome pathway

And really felt at home

All in all I'm happy

The reason is, you see

Once in a while along the way

Safari's been good to me

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That's All Folks!









PS … thanks for taking the time to read it all.

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I wish I could post my comments ABOVE that definitive THE END. But I can't. I made it across the bridge with you and your warriors and am sympathizing with the wounded hippo.

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PS … thanks for taking the time to read it all.


All the thanks belong to you,Twaffle.

Never visited the Mara, but your report's brought me closer to it than anything else I've seen or read.

Like finishing a good book - sad that you've reached the end but enjoyed every moment on the way there.

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Fantastic Twaffle


Cant wait for September, just sorry I am a bit too long in the tooth (a bit like your hippo!) to do it your way. I yearn to hear, smell and see the sounds and sights of the Mara and Samburu again, and that wonderful cooked breakfast after an early morning drive, scrummy, the sundowners, sounds of the lions in the dark and most of all the wonderful people.

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I forgot to add a few animal tallies:


lions: 56

cheetah: 8

leopard: 3

bat eared fox: 10+

serval: 1

hyaenas: too many to count

reedbuck: 4

spitting cobra: 1

black rhino: 1

white rhino: 2

bushbuck: 2

genet: 1

dwarf mongoose: 6

over 100; elephants, buffalo, impala, zebra, topi, giraffe, Thomson's gazelle

not quite 100 but plenty; grant's gazelle, hartebeest, wildebeest, jackal, mongoose, eland, water buck, hippo


plus many birds and insects and animals I've forgotten.

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