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Mara Trip Report - September 2010


richardafrica
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I have always wanted to see the great migration. Last year I went to Tanzania in June, and while I was in the right area for that time of year, they were unfortunately a little behind schedule. Thus I started planning this years trip. After some research, and reading a lot of good reviews, I chose Serian for this trip, and stayed 8 days, 5 at their main camp, and 3 at the mobile camp.

 

Sept 7

 

For my flight into Kenya, I took Qatar Airways, and we arrived shortly after noon (allowing me to catch the afternoon flight to the Masai Mara and avoiding staying over in Nairobi). As I didnt have a visa, I was lucky to be at the front of the plane and was 2nd in line. With their new rules for fingerprinting, the process was taking about 5 minutes per person. Would not want to be at the back of the line. Once through immigration, I changed some money and found my driver (arranged by Serian) to take me to Wilson for my afternoon flight to the Mara. Things went smoothly, and I was back in the Mara for the 3rd time in 4 years.

 

Jonathan was waiting for me at the Governors airstrip, and we had a nice game drive back to Serians main camp, seeing a variety of animals including a nice lioness near camp with 3 cubs. I liked Jonathan and knew he would be a good guide for my next 8 days. After checking in at the camp, I was soon drinking my first Tusker in over a year. Shortly after I met Kavey over pre dinner drinks, and we had a great conversation. It was really nice meeting someone from Safaritalk / Fodors, and putting a face to a name. It was unfortunately her last night, but she filled me in on her great trip. Serian has one large table for dinner, so it was nice to meet the other guests, and hear their stories. Its one of the things I really like about Safaris. Dinner was good, and plans were made for a full day trip the next day to go and try to see the migration.

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It's great meeting up with other Safaritalkers. (Especially in Africa...)

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Sept 8

 

One of the main reasons I chose Serian was because they included a private vehicle in their rates. After a number of safaris, this is something that I really appreciate.

 

We decided to do a full day tour, and try to see some of the migration. The day started off very well with some time with the lioness and her 3 cubs, who were enjoying a morning meal.

 

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Shortly after Jonathan spotted a hyena running towards something. We positioned ourselves to watch the show when the hyenas arrived.

 

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After stopping for breakfast we moved into the Mara, and had a game drive towards the migration. After checking out a couple of the main sites, there didnt seem to be anything happening. Following a couple of long lines of Wildebeest, we set ourselves up and waited for a couple of hours. Unfortunately they did not decide to cross at that time. While waiting we were able to watch some hippos playing, including one who decided to munch on a dead Wildebeest.

 

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As we were sitting at the crossing point, we literally saw 100 dead Wildebeest float by... putting things in perspective.

 

We moved over to one of the main crossing points where they were massing up for a potential crossing. There wasnt a lot of room, and our car was positioned in the second row, meaning I could really see a lot. We waited for a couple of hours for someone to give up and leave, which no one unfortunately did. As I was there for 7 more nights, and really couldnt see anything, we decided to leave. The timing was good in that every day at 4 pm or so, there was a huge thunderstorm. We barely had time to cover the vehicle when it hit. I dont know how Jonathan got us home, as I couldnt see anything. Later that night a couple who had stayed at the crossing point (they had a spot to see) indicated that they crossed during the rain. I was really happy for them as it was their last night and they really wanted to see a crossing.

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It's great meeting up with other Safaritalkers. (Especially in Africa...)

 

Yes it is GW. I also met up with another Safaritalk member who promised a trip report as well. She was disappointed she missed Kavey by one day...

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Looking forward to this report, great start. Thanks Richard.

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Sept 9

 

Somehow I knew today would be a great day for sightings. We started off and soon found a lioness with cubs less than 1 day old. We didnt spend time with her, so as not to disturb (or to attract attention from other predators). When we called in the find, all the camps who are in the area agreed to leave it alone for a month or so. If any guide was seen in the area, they were to be fined. I was told they had a lot of problems in the past with disturbing new born lions cubs.

 

Shortly after that we found another couple of lions munching on a recent kill.

 

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With some excellent eyes (meaning checking the binos for what another car is looking at) we soon spotted a female Cheetah and her young cub. She looked hungry, so we decided to wait things out. The other car lost patience, and after about an hour she started moving. I have to give Jonathan credit as he understood positioning, and when we had an idea of where she was going, we moved to a good position out of the way. You can see how things transpired, and we were in an excellent viewing position.

 

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It was a great sighting, with no one around. It got better though when a couple of baboons came over, and tried to kill the young cheetah. The mother protected the cheetah, and it was quite a chase for about 5 minutes. The young cheetah didnt have the stamina, so the mother was always getting in the middle. Jonathan was quite concerned the baboons were going to get the baby, but luckily they didnt.

 

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After the chase, we followed the cheetah for about an hour as they both went back and retrieved their kill (which the baboons didnt seem to notice). Nothing else seemed to be going on, so we went back for a late lunch at the camp.

 

Our afternoon game drive was good for general game, lions, etc. One nice sighting though was of a hyrax!!

 

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Hi Richard,

 

Great reading this report - can't wait to get back to Serian and the Mara.

 

Great luck with tiny Lion cubs, a cheetah and her cub fetching themselves a meal and lots more that I await to read......... so, these predator sightings were outside the reserve?

 

Cheers

Hari

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Richard, what a day on safari … amazing.

 

One question though, why did Jonathon call in the lion cub sighting if there was a risk that other guides may not respect the "off limits" view point?

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Thanks Hari, I knew you would like the Cheetah interaction. It was near our camp, so inside the Mara North area. I am still amazed that cars would come up, snap a few photos, and take off. Our patience really paid off. Unfortunately this "privacy" didnt last when we went into the main Masai Mara. But I did expect that with high season and all, so no real surprises.

 

Twaffle, Jonathan called in the sighting to our camp. Later that day the camps that are in the Mara North all agreed to stay away from the cubs / mother. They actually closed the road off to where they were. The valid explanation given was that with new cubs, many cars would go there, and make the mother uncomfortable. She would than move the cubs to another location, but that the move could be dangerous. This is why they lost a lot of cubs at other times. So you have to give them credit (as long as everyone follows the rules). The fine for the guides was like $100.00 USD.

 

Not a good image, as we didnt stay long.

 

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Wow, some tremendous images in the chase series. Great!

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Richard,

 

Fantastic Cheetah hunt action picture. I was in a similar position and saw almost exactly what you did in the Mara North Conservancy a few months ago with the Cheetah jumping on the hood of our vehicle to spot the Gazelles and then taking off. Unfortunately I did not get one useable picture of the actual chase despite being very well positioned so am envious of yours. What lens & settings did you use?

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Great pictures, Richard. We had a similar experience with a lioness with new cubs in the Masai Mara last month, where possibly because of the number of vehicles showing up, the lioness moved to a new (and more secluded) den after one day. She seemed fairly relaxed in the new den, but as we left the next day, I don't know if she again moved or not. There are definitely no secrets in the Masai Mara, and what one guide finds will be eventually transmitted to all the guides in the area.

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Richard,

 

Sorry that you didn't get to see a crossing. We've been to Tanzania and Kenya and have seen a lot of nervous beest lurking at the water's edge but none took the plunge whilst we were there. Of course when we got back to camp many of our fellow guests were telling stories of the crossings they witnessed. This is just another excuse to return (as if we needed one).

 

Fantastic cheetah pictures. After seeing the baboon chasing the young cheetah, I was happy to see a nice soothing hyrax!

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AKR1, I used a canon 7D and 100-400 lens. Shot in both raw and jpeg. These are the jpeg shots, as I havent had time to spend on the raw ones yet.

 

PT123, I ended up seeing at 12 different crossings over the next 7 days... stay tuned for pics..

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Tremendous cheetah action and you did a nice job of capturing it on camera. Don't think I've seen a baboon chasing a cheetah before. Some tense moments. I wonder if I saw the same lioness and cubs. I was in the Talek area. She was in a remote area without other vehicles.

 

A dozen crossings is outstanding!

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O no!!!! He found me!!!

 

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Maybe I can stare him down....

 

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Alright, lets go on the offensive.

 

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Let me try my scary face!!

 

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Dont look any further if you are expecting a happy ending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life doesnt always work that way...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sorry, it's late in the evening, but what is that, a juvenile baboon?

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Richard, you were in the right place at the right time, many times by the look of things. Well done on some excellent series of pix.

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Aah the newly born lions!

We saw them just a few hours after they'd been born on our last morning drive on the way to the air strip.

We were actually looking for the older three lion cubs from your earlier photograph, as we'd seen them several times and thought it'd be a nice last morning.

Instead Samuel and Dennis stopped us by what we thought was a lone lioness.

No other cars around, we were a bit confused.

Then we saw the first cub. Tiny, with eyes tight shut.

We soon saw that there were three.

We stayed a while.

S&D didn't call anyone to the sighting but over time, other cars did come to see what we were viewing.

I was pleased that all that came (and soon went away again) showed good behaviour, no one went too close to the bush where the mother and cubs were located.

We sometimes moved back a ways to let another car in, they'd come, look and go and we'd be able to resume position.

It was incredible, these tiny cubs.

The mother kept licking them and moving them about and seemed to be practising lifting them in her mouth.

The birth was so recent the fur around her passage was still bloody.

At one point she lifted a cub, took it on a short walk, had a look around, then came back. And did same with a second cub and came back.

Note, at this time, there were NOT many cars there at all, I think 2 but it might have been 3.

She did not seem disturbed by the cars.

Samuel explained that she would likely move them that night, and they would be out of view for next couple of months, while they were small and vulnerable.

I am surprised your guide took you there the next day and called the sighting in - I wonder if our guide didn't call it in as he was going on leave the next day or whether he also had or whether he'd told Jonathan so you could see it and then it would be called in?

No idea.

I do know that our guide was very much about following the rules to protect animals, he more than once had words with guides who were misbehaving or allowing their guests to misbehave.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I hope those lion cubs are doing well. The baby baboon did not do so well. Some amazing shots, Richard. Apparently this lioness is not as tolerant as the one in Samburu that mothered an oryx calf.

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