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Just back from Kenya


Safaridude
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Back from a great trip from Kenya. Here are my initial impressions. I will write a full report in due time.

 

Tsavo East – we explored the southern portion of the park. There was adequate game from Voi to Aruba Dam, where most of the game drives in Tsavo East take place. The park was very, very green, and the animals had dispersed. Of course, drought and poaching have taken a toll as well. Good elephants near Voi; two cheetahs near Aruba Dam; sizeable herds of fringe-eared oryxes near Voi, Aruba Dam and Satao Camp. Noticeably scarce, compared to 15 years ago, were gerenuks and elands, which are heavily poached for their meat. The birdlife was absolutely incredible, though there were no vultures anywhere (being poisoned throughout Africa).

 

Tsavo West – the vegetation in the northern part was very thick. The game was definitively sparser than 15 years ago even accounting for the dispersal and the thick vegetation. The southern part of Tsavo West was absolutely stunning to look at. It is probably the biggest and best preserved East-of-Rift Valley savannah left in Kenya/Tanazania. However, again, the game was sparse. Last year, there were 100,000 + head of cattle in this area of the park. We went all the way down and across to Lake Jipe. From the Kenyan side, the lake looked pretty pristine still, although I understand that it is heavily populated on the Tanzanian side.

 

In the four days spent at Tsavo East and West, we only saw one patrol car.

 

Lewa Conservancy– it was my fourth visit, and I can honestly say that Lewa does not take a back seat to anyone when it comes to game density. After seeing a depleted Tsavo, Lewa was a real “upper”. The three cheetah brothers (estimated to be 11 or 12 years-old now) were very conspicuous. A leopard was found on a wide open plain. Where else in Africa are you practically guaranteed rhino and Grevy’s zebra? Other northern game found are reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich and Beisa oryx, all in abundance. Lewa is an absolute paradise.

 

Kalama Conservancy (just outside Samburu) – the Saruni Samburu Camp is situated 7 km from the northern boundary of Samburu Game Reserve. There wasn’t much game around in the conservancy area, but I loved the location because once you enter the reserve, since other vehicles tend to stay very close to the river, you have the whole northern area of the reserve to yourself. Lots of Beisa oryxes, gerenuks, and elephants in Samburu. Elephants are still very relaxed there. Due to the drought, most but not all buffaloes and waterbucks perished, but there are survivors. Ewaso Nyiro River was flowing. Two lionesses by the river. A female cheetah on a failed attempt on a scrub hare.

 

Flying over the Mau complex on the way to the Mara was absolutely shocking. About 80% of the forest is gone. The recently begun effort to re-plant trees will have to be monumental to have any serious effect.

 

Masai Mara – It was a privilege to visit the Mara during the off-season. Aside from the Musiara Marsh (where Governor’s Camp operates), vehicles were sparse. It was the greenest I have ever seen the Mara. The drought particularly affected the hippos, buffaloes, waterbucks and topis, but there were still plenty of them. We saw lions on every drive… four different prides in all (Billa Shaka, Marsh, Paradise, and Disney). A cheetah mother and cub survived an approach by a whole pride of lions in the Musiara Marsh area. Finally saw a few vultures. By the way, Rekero Camp is one of the best-run camps in all of Africa with very good vibes (not fancy but very personalized service).

 

Ruma – It’s a lovely little park with beautiful Balanites trees and some incredible examples of whistling thorn (single-branched and some reaching the height of 15-20 feet). We did see a breeding herd of roan and a single territorial bull. These are the last roan antelopes found in Kenya. Also, we saw two Jackson’s hartebeests (these found in Ruma are the closest to the true Jackson’s hartebeests found in Uganda). Unfortunately, KWS translocated some hybrid hartebeests from Laikipia, so it is very likely that the Jackson’s hartebeests will inter-breed with them. The topi is the dominant herbivore at Ruma.

 

Flying over many parts of Kenya and also spending time driving through parts of Nairobi, Voi, Taita, etc., it is amazing how the human footprint has increased significantly in this country over the last 21 years since my first visit.

 

More to come later. Oh, and there was no Twaffle sighting, unfortunately.

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Safaridude, you must know that we twaffles are very well camoflaged. I agree with your comments about the Mau, a disaster. Lewa is a gem and I'm glad it is in good health despite their recent poaching incident. Look forward to reading more in due course and seeing photos.

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.... I saw four lesser kudus in Tsavo West. Three in the Ngulia area, and one just north of Ndolwa. I did not see any in Tsavo East, as we stayed primarily in the open savannah. We drove by Voi Lodge, which is a great habitat for them, but didn't see any. Along the Galana River in Tsavo East, they are locally abundant, but we didn't go there.

 

Agree about Meru... but soon it won't be true as the reintroduction of Grevy's zebras is failing. Of the 20 + that were moved from Lewa some years ago, only 7 females (no stallions) remained as of late '07. So, it is only a matter of time before they are all gone unless KWS does something. Meru has a strong lion population relative to its size, and the Grevy's zebra stallions were heavily preyed upon.

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I'm sorry about your lack of Twaffles, but bolstered by your positive comments on the Mara.

 

Do you know if the Lewa cheetah brothers have any girlfriends?

 

Tsavo:

The lack of vultures is really disturbing as a result of the poisoning and also the noticeable lack of certain antelope due to poaching.

 

Thanks for the info.

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I'm happy to read you had a good safari. Very disheartening about Tsavo--hope there is some recovery there soon.

 

Looking forward to more details.

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Safaridude, I've look at my gps tracks and my flight went more to the south of the main Mau escarpment and I wonder if yours did also. It covers the worst of the deforestation which makes the problem look even worse. I wonder if a flight over the northern areas would not be so scary although that downplays the crisis the forests are in.

 

I agree that tree planting needs to be quick and plentiful but even then it will be some time before any result is felt.

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Glad you had a good trip and thanks for your impressions!

 

We saw vultures in Tsavo East in September. Gerenuks too but I have no point of comparison except to 2008. In general the game was sparser than our previous trip which I had attributed to the drought. We saw maybe 7-8 lesser kudu in the Galana River area.

 

Looking forward to more.

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Lynn, a female cheetah with cubs has been sighted at Lewa recently. It will be interesting... those 3 males are so old and beat up that I can't imagine they have too many years left on them, but then again they are some of the biggest, most confident looking cheetahs I have ever seen.

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Thanks for the updates, Safaridude. Welcome back!!!

 

Look forward to your full Rekero update, when you get the chance. No rush, though ... take your time!

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