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Sept Kenya Private Drive/Fly


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Night drives seem to be a new facility at the |Serena, wel certainly never hsd the opportunity a few years ago. I( was offered a night drive for the same cost at Sweetwaters but my budget was a bit restricted and the red wine was very good after dark in the bar!!!

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At the zoo is a great reference. With enough red when it could "all be happening" at the bar.



River Crossings



Before and after the swim




1st River Crossing in evening:

After waiting at the river for about an hour and watching the wildes run off, we departed the crossing point since it was nearly time to leave the park. We noticed a lot of commotion across the river and realized the wildes were crossing at a point where vehicles and observation were very limited. I wondered if that was just coincidence or if the wildebeest chose a time and place that minimized vehicle interference. They do not cross in the dark, but just before dark, the number of vehicles diminishes. There were about 6 other vehicles watching with us.




2nd River Crossing:

The next morning we arrived at the river about 7:30 after spending some time with nearby lions, and secured a nice spot along the bank.




Other vehicles came and went, but I counted up to 46 cars on both sides of the river.




We had a lunch box so we could spend all day at the river waiting. Here’s how bathroom stops were handled. During the wait I observed several people relieving themselves next to their vehicles. What I did was this: at about noon when we were the only vehicle for a couple of hours at the river and there were no wildebeest on our side, I stepped behind the minibus. One stop sufficed for the day, but I did not drink as much as usual. Raphael stepped out once as I recall.


The herd mentality and unpredictable behavior of the wildebeests is both fascinating and bewildering. A herd of thousands may stampede toward the river, halt at the edge, take a drink, advance a few steps, get scared off by two plovers, and tear out of site into surrounding trees and brush, only to repeat the process 10 minutes later.




After about two hours of waiting we were rewarded by the largest crossing Raphael had ever seen. As is often the case, several zebras took charge, moved to the front and crossed, which set the wildebeest in motion.








For 45 minutes thousands upon thousands of wildebeests galloped to the river and swam across.





That is a hippo swimming behind the line of wildes in the bottom picture











There was some drama as groups of young wildebeest who had successfully crossed gathered on the other side of the river and called for their mothers. Eventually some of these youngsters swam back across the river to locate their mothers and family. The zebras that initially crossed and galloped away later returned when they realized they did not have all of their family members. They too swam back to find them.




Depending on where the animals crossed, climbing the banks could prove difficult. The wildebeests and zebras who had made it could be seen peering over the banks and encouraging the rest of the herd. There was one mother and calf that were really struggling with their final ascent and they gained the sympathy and support of all the onlookers. When they finally succeeded and galloped off, a cheer arose from the parked vehicles.




Of the thousands that crossed, we detected only one that collapsed along the opposite bank and died. The crocs were not around so exhaustion was the only enemy.



Edited by Atravelynn
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3rd River Crossing:






About 2:30 a wildebeest-led crossing began. They did it without any zebras in sight. This crossing lasted about 20 minutes. Once it ceased, there was a mother and calf that really wanted to get across. They bravely entered the water and swam to the opposite bank alone.





Edited by Atravelynn
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4th River Crossing:



Around 4:30 one more small group of wildebeest crossed in a rockier area that required some cliff diving. They were all across in 15 minutes with about 12 vehicles watching.








We had seen 3 crossings in one day and for a couple hours during midday, we had been the sole vehicle observing the tentative herd that advanced and retreated on the opposite bank. Perseverance and a lunch box can bring great rewards. Some luck is needed as well. To compare, in my previous 3 Mara visits (in Aug), I had seen two river crossings that each lasted 5-10 minutes.




Going in and coming out

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And not ONE gnu bothered to cross when I was there !

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As is often the case, several zebras took charge, moved to the front and crossed, which set the wildebeest in motion.


Well, as you know,

Zebras are reactionaries,

antelope are missionaries.....

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As is often the case, several zebras took charge, moved to the front and crossed, which set the wildebeest in motion.


Well, as you know,

Zebras are reactionaries,

antelope are missionaries.....



Now what are you implying Pangolin?????? :)

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Simon and Garfunkle philosophy. At the Zoo...

That could be a theme for your next trip report.

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Other vehicles, sightings, and photos

Overall, I’d break down the vehicle encounters throughout the Mara, with the exception of waiting at the river crossings as:

80% of the time, no other vehicles in sight—pretty good considering the landscape is mostly flat and it is possible to see for miles, viewing vehicles on the horizon

15% of the time, other vehicles were visible as we drove

5% of the time, we shared sightings with at least one other vehicle


* Enroute to the Mara Triangle we waited as a herd of elephants lumbered across the savanna for a drink in a small pond that was formed by the abundant rain. No other vehicles.




*There was a pride of about 9 lions hanging out near where the wildebeest exited the river. We witnessed a little stalking but no serious hunting.



The cubs were more interested in chasing vultures or playing together than hunting wildebeest.



The proximity a likely crossing point that meant that up to 13 vehicles could be present in the general area, but they were spread out over a wide region. A sleeping male lion from this pride attracted a row of 6 vehicles, all staying on the track.





* We happened upon a cheetah one afternoon with one other vehicle. The cheetah was on the move and we enjoyed it about 5 minutes.




* Near dusk I spotted a serval near the road. There were no other vehicles during the bulk of our 2 minute sighting of this mobile cat. One other vehicle arrived for the last few seconds of viewing.




* We spent 15 minutes watching a warthog family at a distance with nursing piglets. It was an unshared sighting.


Edited by Atravelynn
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You are bringing a more realistic view of the hysteria surrounding vehicles in the Mara during the migration. Not saying that some behaviour is shocking, that 40+ vehicles at a crossing point isn't horrible, just that the reality of the wildlife safari in the Mara doesn't come with a necessary addition of lots of tourists.


The grass looks very high in some of your photos, perhaps before the migration has passed through?


PS, I've written the first lines of my trip report in anticipation … do you think it is too early? :)

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Some of the tallest grass was close to the crossing point. The lion cubs in tall grass were right next to herds of wildebeest. The good rains may have something to do with the grass height.


Nothing wrong with getting an early start on your trip report, Twaffle. But you may find that events on the ground change your title and focus.


Samburumags, you may not have seen swimming wildes this trip, but you had a cornucopia of great sightings! I saw no rhino and hardly any photo-worthy hippos, and only 2 black backed jackals, and just one average hyena pose photo this trip. That's what makes each trip so exciting. You never know what will pop up.



* We watched a herd of zebra move from the horizon to the waterhole next to us for a quick drink. During the half hour, one other vehicle stopped briefly. Other zebras had 0 other vehicles.




* Herd of about 25 eland with no other vehicle in sight.



* Private viewing for all the antelopes and giraffes.





* Zero or one vehicles at about 5 hyena sightings




* A half day search for a rhino yielded no rhino but a nice croc and a baboon family shared with one other vehicle.





* We were briefly part of an atrocious leopard hunt that resulted in no leopard seen by me (although Raphael got a glimpse of the cat on at a distance on a high in heavy vegetation) and one fender bender between 2 of the other 12 vehicles.


* We spent 20 minutes with 2 pairs of bat eared foxes and no vehicles and then the rain began.




Top photo shows a Thomson Gazelle in the rain


* On the way back to the park entrance we spotted a male and female lion near the road. A herd of wildebeest grazed contentedly behind them, apparently aware that a mating lion pair are not hunters. No other vehicles.






*Our first and only leopard tortoise, just before exiting the park was all to ourselves. The tortoise marked the end of the safari.


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Great report!


Animals, vehicles, shampoo and all.

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Mara to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport


Drive time from Serena, stopping frequently for game and 40 minutes for lunch and breaks = 8.5 hours. Only 3 hours out from Nairobi were expansive fields with giraffe and antelope. Our Sunday trip had noticeably little traffic until we got about 90 minutes from Nairobi. Raphael remarked we would have had more cars other days of the week.


The time had flown by from my excited arrival at the Olekiombo Airstrip in the Mara to my parting gesture of presenting the farewell gift of chocolate covered cranberries (and the beanbag) to Raphael.


Wisconsin produces enough cranberries to provide every person in the world with 26. Raphael got more than 26 AND they were chocolate covered.





I take satisfaction in knowing that as a result of my safari, somewhere in Meru an agama lizard can bask in the sunlight.


“Stay free, where no walls (or porcelain bowls) divide you. You’re free as the roaring tide (or swirling flush) so there’s no need to hide!”

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Fantastic report. Glad you enjoyed the Serena but amazed that is where you chose to stay I thought you would have been more of a tented person. I enjoyed my stays in the Serena but find that compared to the tented camps it is a bit like a hotel and to be honest with my gammy leg I didnt fancy climbing that hill to the bar every night! It was full anyway so, as you may remember, that is why I went to the Ashnil. Wish we could have met but maybe someday as I am now determined to return despite my moans of being too old and this would be my last one! NEVER

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SamburuMags, Serena won me over due to its location and cost. Fig Tree was tented though. Perhaps we can meet at a tented camp some day in Africa. We could hike to the bar, no matter how far, together.


Just realized I omitted the Mara Bird list. It will have to appear as an epilogue, mostly in photo form.


A few of the more interesting birds in the Mara:



Helmeted guinea fowl



Superb Starling



Wattled Plover




Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture




Lilac breasted Roller



D’Arnoud’s Barbet & Burchell’s Starling




Fish Eagle



Ground Hornbill family




Yellow Throated Sandgrouse


Ostrich Family (Raphael’s favorite bird)



Sacred Ibis

White Browed Robin Chat

Paradise Flycatcher


Common Bulbul

Speckled Mousebird

Whiteheaded Mousebird



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Right, Warden! My next task--the birding forum. Seeing as how this report took nearly 90 days from my arrival home to "The End" and seeing as how the bustle of the holidays is upon us, I'll give myself 45 days to complete all the bird stuff.

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Wonderful Atravelynn, so sad that it has ended. But I'm sure that your next journey is in the advanced stages of planning! :D


Perhaps you can begin the trip report for that one, so like me you can get in early!!! :(

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Lots of lovely pics, Lynn...... Migration, cats, birds, other plains game and lots lots of good stuff.


Thanks a lot for sharing,


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Thanks Hari and Twaffle. There really is just a hint of sadness at the completion of a trip report that pales with the sadness at the completion of an actual trip.

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Thanks Hari and Twaffle. There really is just a hint of sadness at the completion of a trip report that pales with the sadness at the completion of an actual trip.


If I spent much time anticipating how I would feel the first few days after a safari, I might never actually go.

Well, not really, but sometimes it feels that way.

Edited by Pangolin
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Hair of the dog, Pangolin, by thinking about or planning the next adventure, no matter how far off.


I just discovered that phrase came from the practice of treating bites by a rabid dog by placing a hair from the rabid animal in the wound.

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Good therapy advice, indeed. The adventure planning part, that is.

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Lynn, this was a really great report along with all your great photos! I really enjoyed reading it.

You're quite a story teller. Thank you so much!


So, where's next for you?

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