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Sept Kenya Private Drive/Fly


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Hi Lynn,


Brilliant report!!! A totally enjoyable read - not just photos but all the fabulous moments and details. Lovely!!! You had some great cheetah luck with this coalition of 3 boys. I've heard that they are known to take down wildebeest during the migration time. So, i guess they are good hunters.




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What a report! Very good news from Kenya ... which is good news. Very interesting statistics, great pics.


It would be interesting to get some more info on your self-driving experiences. Something you enjoyed?

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Thank you Hari, it would have been nice to see the cheetahs hunt. Far from hunting, when we saw them there was no prey anywhere. Before finding them we actually spent several hours looking for them in an area that Raphael expected them to be, based on conversations with other drivers, and that area had abundant antelope. The cheetah brothers had abandonned that area in favor of the plains very near Fig Tree. But there was nothing for them to eat as far as the eye could see. So the next day they returned to where we had been looking for them originally.


Peter from Germany, I did not self drive, I just had a privately guided vehicle to myself. I did see some self drivers, though. In the Mara they kept tabs on the guided vehicles and joined in to view the sightings. I only witnessed a few obvious self drivers in the Mara and am disappointed to state their behavior was poor to atrocious. (It is also likely that I never even noticed the well behaved self drivers.) The ones I did see often went off track.


One made an absolute spectacle of itself by speeding to the edge of the river and screeching to a halt when the wildebeest herds were gathering at the very edge of the water on the other side. A woman got out of the vehicle and ran around it several times waving a roll of toilet paper to deliberately attract attention. Then she squatted behind the vehicle. The only saving grace was that I don't think she left any paper litter behind. After she completed her duty the vehicle sped off. Truly vulgar and disgusting and worst of all it could have upset the thousands of wildebeest across the river. If a couple of plovers looking for food at the water's edge could cause a massive stampede away from the river (which I witnessed), an intentionally disruptive vehicle and occupant running around certainly could. The wildes don't need to expend any more energy than nature already causes them to expend.


What would solve any self driving violations along with violations by guided vehicles would be a Crossing Cop! Kind of like a Crossing Guard for school children, but with a different focus. I'd want the cop to be able to levy fines or confiscate vehicles.


At each of the bandas I saw a self driving family. They behaved very appropriately. I think self drive and bandas would make a great economical combination.

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*I was pleased that 5 other vehicles pulled up along with us just before sundown to view a Secretary Bird in a tree top. This was a picturesque photo op and it was nice to partake in this non-predator sighting with others.





* Private viewing for all other birds, except one ostrich family with about 15 2-month old chicks, where another vehicle passed by briefly.




*While watching a pair of jackals for about 10 minutes, another vehicle stopped for a moment and then moved on.



*I wished I could have shared my bat eared fox pair sighting with other vehicles. During the 30 minutes that we sat with them and took many photos, at least half a dozen vehicles passed by these highly visible creatures that were conveniently sitting near the road. Only one vehicle even slowed down to check out what we were looking at. So, bat eared foxes had no other vehicles.




* We drove along the Talek River in an area that Raphael knew was good for leopard. We searched with no vehicles in sight for about an hour when a relaxed leopard on a limb came into view and photo range. For 20 minutes we enjoyed the sighting alone as the leopard occasionally changed positions, opened and shut his eyes, and eventually stretched and hopped to the ground. About that time two other vehicles approached on the opposite side of the river. We tried to point out which way the leopard went, but it had disappeared.





* Later in the day we joined 7 other vehicles watching a leopard on the move. That was too many for me and besides, the leopard was heading into thick brush. I managed one photo. As we left, I counted 15 vehicles converging on the scene of where the leopard had once been. I remarked at the stark contrast between the 15 vehicles and our peaceful morning sighting of a leopard.




* We watched a huge troop of banded mongoose, all scattered over flat terrain. One other vehicle approached, stopped for a few seconds, and did us a huge favor. It caused a group of 5 mongoose of all ages to assemble in picturesque form as they observed the other vehicle.



* Zero vehicles encroached on our antelope and wildebeest sightings.


Thomson and Grant comparison shot










Coke's Hartebeest




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* Occasionally one other vehicle was around for giraffe and zebra.














Mara Sarova

Enroute between Fig Tree and Serena we used Sekennai Gate and made a stop for fuel at Mara Sarova. What a huge place this is with lovely grounds, bridges, and a place to go fishing. It was nearly 100% occupied so the only room they could show me entailed a 15 minute stroll through the expansive property. The tented camp room looked great and views from it were of brush covered terrain. On the roads we took that passed near Sarova, we saw hardly any vehicles—maybe 2 at most.



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Lynn, your photos are wonderful - makes me want to be back there again!

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Well, my wife would have stopped for the bat-eared foxes, she adores them. Brilliant pictures.

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*I wished I could have shared my bat eared fox pair sighting with other vehicles. During the 30 minutes that we sat with them and took many photos, at least half a dozen vehicles passed by these highly visible creatures that were conveniently sitting near the road. Only one vehicle even slowed down to check out what we were looking at. So, bat eared foxes had no other vehicles.

I'll never understand the attitude of not taking the time to watch such beautiful little creatures. It's not like they are super common and always about either.

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I think the problem may be that a lot of folks are on a 3-day or 4-day safari, and don't think they'll ever make it back to Africa, making them feel like they have to see all the "biggies" like lions, etc. while they have the chance. Too bad they don't know how much they are missing by doing that!

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It all depends on your definition of "biggies" I guess. I'm glad to see there are some other bat eared fox fans and their wives who would have joined me in that sighting.


Not to brag, but I once saw 8 bat eared foxes at one time and 13 in a day. Unfortunately I managed zero decent photos from that skulk of foxes. That's what a group is called; at least it's one term that can be used.

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Entering the Mara Triangle--Mara River


Mara Serena

I don’t recall my room number, but every room has a nice view that may include the vast wildebeest herds during migration months. When the light was right, the golden grass dotted with distant black wildebeests looked like chocolate chip cookie dough.





Every single room was occupied during my stay. Even at peak capacity, the operations hummed along nicely, the restaurant accommodated guests without a rush (one night even offering menu service instead of a buffet), and the staff took time to interact individually with guests. I found Serena to be a very professional outfit.


Me at Mara Serena


As an added bonus, the wildlife on the grounds was as plentiful as I recall—birds, agama lizards, rock hyrax, warthogs, impala, and bushbuck.



One day I even requested returning early at about 10:45 am to allow extra time with the resident animals.


Rock Hyrax playing Tree Hyrax on Serena grounds




Speckled Mousebirds on Serena grounds




Paradise Flycatcher on Serena grounds



Baglafecht Weaver and Grenadier on Serena grounds


A relaxed male and female bushbuck were an especially fortunate sighting, as these are usually shy, elusive, and obscured by brush. I wanted to share this lucky find with some of the pool enthusiasts who were lounging in their cabanas. I approached a couple cautiously on one of the stone paths and motioned in the direction of the bushbuck. I smiled, pointed, and said, “Bushbuck.” Not knowing their first language, I limited my interaction to the one key word. Perhaps “Bushbuck” is a vulgar insult in their native tongue because they glared at me until I retreated far away from their cabana. Then their glance returned to their magazines and I don’t think they ever saw the Bushbuck.




In all fairness to this couple, the lovely gardens and pool, along with the bar service and good meals, could entice visitors who wanted a relaxing luxury getaway, regardless of the natural history aspects of the environment. I encountered a few people who mentioned that they had opted out of yet another game drive in favor of relaxing at the pool with a drink.



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I really like your bushbuck photos, I'm still waiting to get one worthy to post. Looks like the marabou buffet down by the Mara but the river looks low, perhaps deceptive.


I'm guessing that the pool guests aren't Safaritalk members! :D

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Your baboon encounter really sounds quite frightening, so glad the guards were on the ball and arrived so fast.


Loving the photos and report!


We too stopped for bat eared foxes and spent a good half hour with them. Likewise, we often spent long periods of time with a jackal family and pups, probably about an hour the two longer stops. Most other cars drove past, or paused for 5 minutes then went on.


But we found these smaller animals just as fascinating as the larger ones, more so infact, but perhaps that is just us!

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Twaffle, I sort of cheated with my bushbucks in the Mara since they were residents of Serena like me. That's why I was surprised there was not a group gathered for photos. In the hour I spent observing the bushbucks, nobodya else seemed to notice. You'll likely get some opportunities for bushbusk in Aberdare. They were everywhere and sizeable and decent photos were possible.


Kavey, the small canines must not be an attraction. I don't get it!

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Well, I have to be with the crowd here about the Bat-eared Foxes and the Bushbuck, although Bushbuck do come to the Serena every day to drink, so maybe they are too easy. Yours appear to be less shy than others, but the animals do seem to come a lot closer when there aren't many people around.


Twaffle, the best guarantee of Bushbuck to photograph is at one of the Aberdares lodges or Serena Mountain Lodge - they are salt fiends, especially the males. But there are lots in the Aberdares in general, as Lynn said.


It still doesn't make a statistic worth anything, but for what it's worth your observations on self-drivers in the Mara and at other parks match my own.... and friendly vs boorish too.


Your migration horror story ranks right up there. Someone should have taken a photo and posted it on the Mara Triangle blog.


You are just seeing so much! And your photos are getting better and better - the second Secretary Bird one is a real beauty.

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Thanks Paul!



Wilde on the right has spotted a lion, notice the bulging eyes. Similar to my eyeballs with the agressive baboons.


The rooms were attractive and comfortable with their spherical boma motif. The Maasai themed vibrant array of painted colors and artistically placed window-sized cutouts, positioned in the walls for lighting and ambiance, reminded me of the wall on Laugh In, the popular and edgy TV show from the 70s. (For a nice visual: http://www.go-safari.com/Masai%20Mara/MaraSerena7.jpg )


I was expecting Joanne Worley to pop her head through one of the windows and belt out her signature resonating note. Or maybe Judy Carne with her famous Sock it to me” line. (“Very interesting but stupid. You bet your sweet bippy. Say goodnight Dick. And that’s the truth. Phtttt.”) My apologies to those unacquainted with Rowan and Martin. But I liked Laugh In and I liked my Mara Serena room.




And the shower was even better. Mid-shower on my last afternoon I decided I should also wash my hair so I reached out of the shower stall for the complimentary shampoo. I grabbed a bevy of bottles and once again was without my reading glasses in the bathroom so I couldn’t distinguish among the many toiletries. I used a bit of everything, figuring the fragrant, sudsy concoction might approximate one of the 14 spa treatments that were listed in the room’s literature. The first thing my husband said to me when I got home was, “Your hair smells really nice,” and the next thing was, “What’s so funny?”



Your mane smells nice. Did you shower at Serena?

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I have the same problem with reading labels in the shower. I've taken to marking the shampoo one so that I can recognise it with my 'unglassed' eyes.

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I have the same problem with reading labels in the shower. I've taken to marking the shampoo one so that I can recognise it with my 'unglassed' eyes.


Now we know the meaning of your motto! :D

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I have the same problem with reading labels in the shower. I've taken to marking the shampoo one so that I can recognise it with my 'unglassed' eyes.


Now we know the meaning of your motto! :)


I didn't connect the dots, but you are very clever. :D

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What a brilliant report Lynn. Gosh I wish I was back. Our experiences with regard to "joining other people" are very similar I also had a table to myself and was looked after particularly well by all staff at each location and although everyone said hello and goodnight I was never asked to join a crowd (like Shirley Valentine) and never felt alone for not doing so, I spent hours on my own with my binos and camera and that was good enough for me.

Speaking of your lady with the fancy dress we once encountered a young lady on a bush walk in high heels, boob tube and mini skirt - I was also sorely tempted to take a photo but husband who was with me on that occasion said it could cause trouble so I have no proof of the "sighting" :D

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Mark the bottles in advance, how simple and how smart! That's clarity in thought in thought for ya.


Maybe the well dressed lady thought the high heels, mini skirt, and boob tube would attract wildlife into the open so it could admire her beauty. If there was any evidence of success I'd be packing a khaki boob tube on my next trip.

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Those really were the colors at dusk before a night of rain


Mara Serena Night Drive

It was $90-$100 worth of good fun and nocturnal species. I booked the night drive for my first night of arrival because it was furthest away from a full moon and I have found night drives to be more productive when it is darker. Night #1 was rained out after 20 minutes, so I went the next night and ended up with a private trip. The professionalism and enthusiasm of Paul and Simon (driver and spotter, I forget who drove and who spotted) was equally abundant whether there was a carload of 6 or just me. A ranger joined us as well, providing 3 pairs of trained eyes to pierce the night.


Paul and Simon told me it would be easy to remember their names. I agreed with them and chuckled at the coincidence. I realized my laughter was misplaced when they explained, “You know, Paul and Simon are both from the Bible.” I was thinking more along the lines of “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Graceland,” which may have been well before these young men’s time. Anyway, they did a great job and mentioned they do the day drives for Serena too.


It is true you do not leave the Serena grounds, but those grounds encompass a large area and any animal that roams the Mara could appear. In our 7:10-8:55 pm outing (which delivers you back just in time for the latest seating of the evening meal) we had nice views of:


Many African Hare

Many Dik dik

1 baby Bat Eared Fox

1 White Tailed Mongoose

1 Spotted Genet

2 Jackals

2 Hyenas


That’s similar to what I’ve seen on some night drives near the wilds of the Zambezi River. We did have very dark, cloudy skies for most of the night, which I believe was helpful.


I took no night time photos.



Edited by Atravelynn
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Love the zebra in front of the coming rain storm, very evocative.

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Paul and Simon...


Well, at least it wasn't all happening at the zoo.

I do believe it

I do believe it's true.

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