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OL PEJETA AND THE MARA 2010


samburumags
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I have never written a report like this before and certainly not one to be read by people who know more about the subject than I do and certainly not with photography which people who are experts are likely to see but here goes. It was another wonderful outing in Kenya and I just wish I was back there.

I was uneasy about travelling on my own but I can honestly say that I never felt lonely once. At both destinations, Sweetwaters and (dare I say it) the Ashnil Mara Camp I was welcomed with open arms and felt more at home than I do at home!

After overcoming the mind boggling security which Nairobi airport now offers, finger printing and photographing passengers, I was met by my friend and guide Peter from Somak who I have known for about 10 years. It was great to see him again and he drove me through the horrendous Nairobi traffic to The Serena where I was to stay one night. It was a lovely day and so after a short nap I spent the afternoon by the pool indulging in a couple of Tuskers.

I flew to Nanyuki on a Cessna caravan and, after a short drive during which we spotted lions mating, arrived just in time for lunch. When I entered my tent, which was large and well fitted I found to my great delight a complimentary bottle of wine, there was electric lighting too and so no problem for charging cameras and phones .After leaving my luggage in the tent I immediately met a beautiful waterbuck eating the hedging around my tent and looking very happy to be amongst humans!

I was fortunate to have my own guide for the drives at Sweetwaters and we certainly saw plenty of wildlife that afternoon. Being a big cat fan our first encounter was with lion,

 

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followed by elephant, Zebra’s both Grevy’s and Hybrids, a fabulous Fish Eagle, reticulated giraffes, rhino both black and white and the lovely little dik dik’s. I was taken to the Rhino Conservancy and there I met Baraka the blind rhino. Baraka (the name means blessing) has been given his own enclosure and considering his problems he seems a very happy rhino. I was able to feed him suger cane and scratch his nose which was quite an experience.

 

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We then drove to the Chimp conservancy and spent some time viewing the chimps in the trees and on the ground. They also have a vast enclosure and it is wonderful to see how well these orphans are and how caring the staff are.

On the way back to the lodge we saw a pair of steppe eagle – what a bird – unfortunately he was too far away to get a good shot, how I wished I had cameras like my ST friends. There were lots of vultures of course, lilac breasted rollers, and a helmet shrike another bird I had not seen before. Apart from the gazelles, water buck, eland, tommies and giraffe I was surprised to see so many warthogs with young. I dont know what the collective noun for warthogs is but there were certainly hoards of them.

Had an early dinner and sat outside my tent with a glass of wine watching giraffe and rhino at the water hole It was an extremely cold night but the two hot water bottles made the bed beautifully warm.

 

 

 

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I should be watching this space too for your report along with glow in the dark eles. Interesting you mention the baby warthogs. Never had I seen so many tiny, tiny babies. Seemed like every mother had 3 babies the size of rats. Photographing these skittering little pig-rats was not easy, especially because they liked to keep a distance.

 

A group of wart hogs is a sounder. Thanks for having me look that up. When I saw a bunch of vehicles in the future, I'm going to refer to them as a sounder. Actually, I like wart hogs, so not sure who I'd be insulting.

 

A private guide to kick this off at Sweetwaters, way to go!

 

You had 2 hot water bottles? Maybe that's why I never got one. You were hogging them. No pun intended.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Samburumags:

 

Well done on the report so far, and congratulations on getting the photo-posting mastered.

 

And yes, just add a reply to continue your story.

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Excellent report - I look forward to reading more. It sounds like you had a delightful time!!

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Rhino at the waterhole?!!? You said that very casually, as with your first sighting being mating lions.

 

Is there a story behind the "glow in the dark eles"?

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Pault I had more than one sighting of mating lions they were all at it! No significance to the glowing eles I am just trying to copy all these clever folk with their brilliant photographic ideas on Safaritalk! ;) Part 2 hopefully coming up this afternoon.

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And now to continue...............

Sunrise over Mount Kenya from my tent was magnificent, took one photo as there was not time to wait for a better light.

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Up at 5.15am for tea and 6.30am drive. Set off hoping to see more cats but it was not to be. Saw a pair of Steppe eagles on the nest again . Fabulous birds with an enormous wing span. Its such a shame I havent got a big lense. Animals were a little sparse on this day but the sunrise over Mount Kenya was stunning. Returned to camp to a huge breakfast and stole some bread to feed to the birds outside the tent.

 

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Lots of activity around the waterhole with elephant, zebra, various gazelle and impala, waterbuck dozens of warthogs, giraffe and later on a lone rhino.

Tea at 3.30pm Drive at 4 but hakuna simba leo. However we watched a herd of Elephants with babies for quite some time in a beautifully green marsh area.

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We also spotted white and black rhino. We returned to camp around 7pm and it was so cold I could not enjoy my G & T ice and slice so had a hot shower and a lovely glass of red wine.

I was given a new swahili name at dinner, my guide Sam told the staff that I was to be called Mama Simba and it stuck with me throughout the holiday.

 

Day 3

The weather was decidedly cool on the third day. Of course I had forgotten that Ol Pejeta is nearly 7,000’ up and I could really have done with a bit more in the way of warm clothing.

Saw a Kori Bustard, Tawny Eagle and Lilac Breasted Roller, lots of Grants Gazelles and Eland not to mention herds of Tommies, several elephants and hippos.

As a I have mentioned before I have been to Kenya quite a few times but have never seen a kill. Well this time I did but not quite the kill I had imagined. As we were driving up a hill we disturbed two warthog piglets. They raced up the hill in front of us and break-neck speed only to be met at the top by two jackals – could see everything clearly with my binos. The jackals played with the two piglets for what seemed like hours. One jackal thought he had killed his victim and lay it down on the road so he could help his mate dispatch the other We could not believe our eyes, when after the second piglet had finally succumbed, the first got up and started to run away! The poor little chap didnt get very far of course and soon we watched the two Jackals trotting of with their prize. Exhausting viewing and not particularly pleasant to watch.

 

The best part of day three came in the late afternoon when, after watching spotted hyena, and buffalo we came across a pride of 18 lions. What a fantastic sight. We spent almost two hours watching until they moved on. The rangers told us that the male was a huge black maned lion which I would have loved to have seen but no luck there.

 

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I must say that Ol Pejeta was full of wonderful wild life and beautiful views. There was an amazing variation of landscape from bush areas to plains and dams full of water and water birds There seems to be a good rhino population both black and white. There are healthy, very healthy looking prides of lions and the bird population is stunning.

 

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samburumags - the report is going really well and you've got uploading and linking to photos well and truly mastered! With regard to better lenses etc, sometimes it's better just to take in the scene with all your senses, and not be restrained behind an SLR...

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samburumags- Thanks for the pictures! We also just returned from Ol Pejeta and the Mara staying at the Porini Rhino and Porini Lion camps. We didn't any luck with Lions the 2 days we were there so it's good to see your photos.

AnnaH

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Thank you for your kind remarks, there are more lions to come !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I should clarify.. We didn't see Lions at Ol Pejeta but lots of lions in the Mara!!

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I cant believe what has just happened, I have spent all afternoon adding to my report and I clicked on Preview report and tried to erase a photograph which was in the wrong place, guess what the whole thing disappeared, so here I go again!

 

Day 4.

Woke up with a nasty cough and a cold. I intended to have a light breakfast but they say feed a cold, so that is precisely what I did. Bacon, eggs, sausage, tomatoes toast and coffee.

Today was the day of the cheetah and we saw several and spent a lot of time with them. Naturally we saw all of the rest of the inhabitants of Ol Pejeta as well but two new additions for me were the Coypu and some Bush Pigs.

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Day four was just one of those safari days when the animals decide to "go abroad" so apart from the usual impala and gazelles it was a quiet viewing day.

 

Day 5

Arrived at Nanyuki airport for my flight to the Mara. Spoke to the pilot of the Cessna Caravan and was invited to join him in the jump seat. That was really exciting. I met my guide Francis and we waited for two other passengers, a young German couple on honeymoon. Standing beside our vehicle I noticed this tall handsome Maasai. Big Cat Diary followers will know who I mean, it was Jackson and I was introduced to him and had a photo taken.

 

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Immediately we left the air strip we saw a pair of lions doing what comes naturally (there seemed to be a lot of that going on on this trip!) The temperature in the Mara was perfect it was the first time I had been warm in four days!

I really must say at this point that the Ashnil Mara Camp was by far the best camp I have ever been to. The facilities, service, accommodation and food were second to none. There is no visible high fence as some people have reported and the camp cannot even be seen from beyond its boundary. Having read all the damning reports I must say that in my opinion they are unfounded. If this was a rhino breeding area then I agree it is a shame they were disturbed but they have found another spot and so no harm has been done. I will probably be unpopular with the anti Ashnil party but I would not hesitate to recommend this camp to my friends. There now Ive got that off my chest back to safari

 

 

On our afternoon drive we went down to the river to see if we could view a wildebeast crossing. There were lots of gnus around but none were taking the plunge. We did see however lots of hippos and dead wildebeast along with a large croc and several storks. On the riverbank we watched a lioness with two year old cubs. After leaving the river we came upon a beautiful cheetah with a tommie kill. She stood guard whilst her cub had his fill and we realised that the tommie had been pregnant and the cheetah cub was eating the baby. Immediately after leaving the cheetah we spotted a leopard high in a tree. Here again with limited photographic skills I was unable to photograph this gorgeous cat because the sun was right behind the tree. Through the binos it was a lovely sight and as I had photographed leopard before on both still and video I was not too upset about being unable to do so this time

 

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The next day would be the second morning that my German companions would arrive at the landrover late, this time by half an hour!

Today we saw a cheetah with 6 beautiful cubs, elephant, vultures on a kill, warthogs, giraffe and various gazelle and impala. The range wardens allowed us permission to go off track to photograph three fantastic male lions, asleep of course. After the drive I had a drink with my guide who told me about his 16 years in the business and his family life.

 

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Sorry two photos the same but I dare not erase any!

 

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Talking of going off track, I cannot remember when the ruling came into force but it has certainly gone a long way to improving the savannah. No unsightly churned up tracks anymore. My guide told me that there was an on the spot fine of 1,000Kshgs for off track driving without permission and a good thing too.

 

So that will do for today in case I lose the lot again. Well what do you think of it so far - what do you reckon this lion is saying?

 

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Edited by samburumags
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Control Z next time, should cycle you back to before your mistake... cracking photos of the cheetahs, and who's that cracking young lady standing next to Jackson?

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Great report and really nice photos! I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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This report is a great encouragement for the next company that wants to put up a monster camp in a sensitive area of the already overdeveloped Maasai Mara using an Environmental Impact Assessment mentioning wildlife found in Samburu.

 

Here’s a photo of the Ashnil Mara Camp’s impact on the riverine forest:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2550...=o.255077467198

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Nice photos and sounds like a great trip.

 

Let's not use this thread to criticize certain developments. Plenty of space for that elsewhere. This is a trip report.

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Agree with Pangolin, Nyamera, please feel free to start a new topic, or add to an existing thread about your concerns. Matt

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Samburumags,

 

What at teriffic report - FANTASTIC photos, I felt like I was on the trip too!! Just great pictures of the supurb starling, cheetah and lions. I really like the pictures of the lion pride. They looked good and healthy. This made my Friday night! Thank you.

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Enjoying the report and the photos, looking forward to more.

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Nyamera, I agree there should be no more building in the Mara, but Ashnil is now up and running and employing lots of local people so I fail to see why this campaign is still going on. I will be happy to discuss it with you on another post.

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Final Episode - phew

 

 

German couple had now left so only myself and Francis

 

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! We watched 7 balloons take off from the Mara Serena area and spent a while watching 3 cheetah. We then followed a single lion who was obviously looking for the rest of the pride.

 

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We went down to the river hoping to see a crossing but most of the wildebeast had been and gone and we saw lots of bodies being devoured by storks and crocs. Not too pleasant a smell around the river so we moved on.

 

Going back along the track where we had seen the lone lion we passed an area where the rangers are in-filling a large hole and beside all the rubble and earth there was a huge flat bed trailer, an ideal spot for a tired lion to have a sleep and keep an ear out for the rest of the pride.

 

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Driving through a bushey area where the grass was quite green we found a rare plant which I believe is normally found in the northern parts of Kenya. I found it in the guide's book and its name is Amaryllidaceae so it must be part of the Amaryllis family.

 

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We saw the amorous lions again today and I had a close up view of a lone lioness eating a wildebeast carcass. Photographic coverage of this event and the love birds is on video.

We made our way back to camp but lion spotting was not over for the day. We found two more, sleeping as usual in the middle of a grassy area and without a care in the world. I had never heard lions purr before but believe me they do.

 

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On our return to camp I sat in the late evening sun watching the hippos in the river. Contrary to reports none of the trees and bushes have been cut down between the river and the camp so there are only a couple of spots on the terrace where you can actually see down to the river.

 

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Back to camp for a sundowner before my last dinner. Being a bit of an old softie the lump in the throat had started by now (and it is doing it again as I type this).

 

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Had another superb dinner, finished my glass of wine and got up to leave. I was told by my waiter that I had to sit down again for a moment and I am sure you can all guess what happened next. I could hear them tuning up in the kitchen! The door burst open and the entire staff it seemed came in to the strains of Jambo. I must add here that this was the first time I had heard it since I arrived in Kenya this time. They presented me with a beautiful cake which I shared with the rest of the diners - and the lump in the throat was bursting!

 

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On my way out of the dining room I was invited to have a drink with the bar staff and the manager Richard and one of the bar boys gave me a hand carved rungu. Here the aforesaid lump burst and I retired quickly to my tent for a good old howl.

 

Well that was it my safari for 2010. I thought because of advancing years it could be my last but NO WAY I will return as soon as I can, well you just have to don't you agree????????

 

Kenya nchi nzuri,

 

Nchi ya maajabu

 

Kwa heri Kenya

Edited by samburumags
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Nyamera, I agree there should be no more building in the Mara, but Ashnil is now up and running and employing lots of local people so I fail to see why this campaign is still going on. I will be happy to discuss it with you on another post.

Samburumags, the fact that the camp is up and running and that there isn’t much of a campaign against it will make others with similarly destructive plans decide to go ahead. That’s why it’s important to avoid Ashnil Mara Camp. You started the discussion in this thread and I said what I had to say. I suppose there are other Safaritalkers that had to say the same thing and that I’ve saved them from having to be unpleasant.

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Thanks for this great report and beautiful pics!

 

I love to read such reports about Kenya and the Mara in particular. With all the negative news and information popping up left and right (and it is of course very important to getting and discussing those), it is always a great pleasure to see the beauty of this country and wildlife ... and to listen to people enjoying it!

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Now you can never wonder how other members know your real name...

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Ok Matt point taken but I dont care who knows my name I am that young attractive thing in the photograph !!!!!!!

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