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Postcards from Kenya


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This a really lovely report: so evocative of the feelings being in the bush engenders and with some wonderful pictures. Meru sounds my kind of place, I must try to visit some time.


Thanks you so much for sharing.

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Wilddog, given your recent trip report … I think you'd love Meru.

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  • 2 weeks later...



I struggle with the words to describe adequately the emotional rollercoaster that can be the reality of "safari".


A stormy sky streaked with pinks and apricots flags the unseasonal coming of another rainstorm.



Moving through the early morning chill we spend an enjoyable half an hour watching three lionesses and their eight young cubs, all living in the croton bushes five minutes from camp. One intrepid cub shows his future leadership qualities with his braveness and curiousity, boldly approaching our vehicle he stands and stares us down. Another small cub clambers up a tree, hanging by one paw until finally dropping back to earth with a thud.


Early morning is such a wonderful time to watch the young animals and we are inclined to stay longer but realise that if we move now, they may spend much of the day in peace with no vehicle intrusions. This quiet place is not frequented by other camps 4x4, close as it is to the Serian mobile site and off the beaten track.


Moving a short distance onto the ridge we stop by some hartebeest, tussling to test their strength. The joy of the fresh morning induces a trance like state and all the small herd begin to leap and dance, hartebeest and Grant's gazelle together as the smaller animals get drawn into the confusion and excitement.



Morning delights continue, a hyaena tinged with silver walks across the plains; young giraffe bulls test their strength with necking and Thomson's gazelle hustle and bustle about their business.



Into this seeming paradise walks our nightmare.


A magnificent young lion sits in the morning sun, lush grass around him. His head is raised and he looks intently into the distance. We take a portrait of him, enjoying his youth and vitality before the horror of his situation becomes apparent. He pulls himself to his feet and lurches forward and I look at his hind leg to see why he is so lame and cannot comprehend what I am seeing. There is nothing below his hock save a tangle of bone, sinew tendon and bloody flesh. Gone, his magnificent, large lion paw is not there. He hobbles off, painfully putting the raw stump on the ground and sadly we watch him go to his fate, our hearts sickened by what we see.



We report his condition to rangers and hope that he is shown mercy soon. Although later that day Alex Walker describes a lion still surviving in the Serengeti with a similar amputation so who knows what this young lion's prognosis is.


Numbed by the real life drama we have witnessed, we find ourselves isolated from the beauty surrounding us and it isn't until we find another two lionesses with four small cubs that the chill around us lifts and the cycle of life once again returns to youth and beauty.

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The fear was palpable as the reverberations seem to shake the canvas of the dining tent. The candlelight flickers as if in rhythm with the lion's roar. The conversation stops and furtive eyes glance outside, through the open tent flaps. Someone laughs as if to break the spell and we slowly continue our meal.



Lying in our tent later that night I am aware of the noises surrounding us, the hippos coming out to feed, the rustle of who knows what, the silence broken by grunting and always the distant calls of lions.


The Nkorombo campsite is what I call safari luxury. Traditional Meru tents, camp beds (very comfortable), outside wash basins, inside bush shower and toilet. Perched right on the edge of the Mara River, the hippos serenade night and day. Storks and herons feed along the banks and meals are served in a large open tent by candlelight. The food is superb and tales around the campfire are unbeatable.



This morning we leave camp early with our bush breakfast, eager to check on our resident eight cubs, just in case that big male lion should have come across them during the night.


We search the bushes in vain and although we find the three lionesses sitting under a tree some distance away, there is no sign of the cubs.




Despite our morning being filled with wonder, including leopard and cubs, serval and caracal, our minds are distracted by the thoughts of our little lion cubs.

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We report his condition to rangers and hope that he is shown mercy soon. Although later that day Alex Walker describes a lion still surviving in the Serengeti with a similar amputation so who knows what this young lion's prognosis is.


Hi Twaffle, sadly this young male was found dead beginning of February. He was one of the 5 young Marsh/Bila Shaka Pride male lions ... around 3,5 years old.


It is believed that his leg was chopped off by a croc while he and his brothers crossed the Mara River.


Thanks for this remarcable report and the stunning pictures!

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Peter, I am so grateful to know what happened to the lion. Thank you. We surmised a croc attack as well.


 I have caracal evidence but not great. Will post pix later today but it takes so long.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some more photos from drives in the Mara Reserve at various times. I've just grabbed a selection and processed quickly or I'll never finish this report.

We saw many hyaena, at various times of day. Quite a few cubs as well as youngsters learning their trade. I like hyaena, despite their reputation.



Dikdiks were everywhere but notoriously hard to photograph. This little girl was heavily pregnant and stood still for at least 30 seconds.



I alluded to the fact that the beautiful impala are very hard done by when it comes to photographs. I tried very hard to make a good variety of impala images this trip, but don't have anything too spectacular. I did like this youngster sniffing the flower though.



Clouds and landscapes are always fun to photograph.



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And everyday Daniel and Kimathi would set up the two chairs and little table, spread the wonderful buffet across the tailgate of the Landcruiser and we would share breakfast or lunch.




A closeup of one of the many flowers on the plains with Daniel walking in the background. Always something interesting to photograph in the Mara! :D



Many birds of course, and I've only included a few here.






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The Mara is justifiably renown for its variety and number of cats and on this trip we were very lucky. Apart from the 8 lion cubs near camp we saw the 4 lion cubs past the Talek river along with over 30 other individual adult lions over the week. 4 leopards, 13 cheetahs (we saw some more than once, but 13 individual animals), one caracal and one serval. Can't really complain. These following cats were ones we saw in the reserve, cheetahs later.



YES, there is a leopard in there somewhere!! The only traffic problems we encountered were around leopards and the crowds were out in force around the Talek river looking for them. Good place to avoid in future trips.

This is what they were looking for. I didn't have enough firepower to get in closer, well I could have used my TC, but unlike many other drivers, Daniel and Kimathi didn't want to stay too long amongst all the other vehicles as it was against Reserve rules. Good for them, pity some of the others weren't so caring.



The caracal in heavy bush right outside our mobile camp. A treasured sighting, even if not the best photo opportunities.



Another leopard around the Talek river, also with attendant crowds.



The serval, another treasured sighting.



So we didn't share the caracal or the serval sightings, or the cheetahs or the lions with cubs … why? Because everyone was off looking at leopards!! :D

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CATS GALORE (cont'd):


Later we attempt to find the cubs again and still we find only the lionesses, the two lactating females heavy with milk. No anxiety amongst them, no sign of a kill, no sign of cub carnage but no sign of cubs either.


Returning in the evening we choose to sit with them awhile. They appear relaxed and calm but surely their teats are full and sore.


Then they begin to move, looking around and searching the horizon.



One female walks a short distance and looks behind her. The others are moving with a steady pace, walking with intent. We follow discreetly, watching and waiting. The lead lioness starts a low gutteral call, repeating it again and again.


From the bushes we searched diligently earlier there is a sudden eruption of cubs. Galloping with great enthusiasm are 5 little bodies. We look at each other in dismay, only 5? Wait, here come 3 more and our family is complete.



The reunion is joyous and we spend some wonderful time watching the cubs' pleasure at being back with their mothers.











Sheer indulgence to post so many pretty average photos, but the scene was so happy and although it was getting dark I was so pleased to capture the reunion and all the play that image quality became secondary to the experience.





Of course, in the Mara as with other wonderful safari destinations, along with the sad, the traumatic, the horrific comes the joyous, the remarkable and the amazing … and always a silver lining.


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Very sad about the lion and the paw. The pain threshhold of these cats has to be tremendous.


Great job on the caracal and serval, a combo of rarities. What's really amazing is you had a leopard playing decoy for your private viewing.


The impala flower sniffer is just adorable. Never saw a dik dik that appeared to be pregnant before!

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A caracal, a serval, 8 cubs... man oh man...



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Game Warden

Wow, what a day...

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Thanks everyone. The general Mara Reserve photos were taken over a couple of days, but certainly that day with the lion reunion was very special.

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Lion reunion = very, very special. I've only just caught up and what a show! I was whimpering like a hungry puppy. Love it all - the little table is a true Mara touch and I bet that photo, with the empty seats, causes all kinds of longing.


Re..."or I'll never finish the report.." Sorry, but that would be a problem, how? :lol:

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Love it all - the little table is a true Mara touch and I bet that photo, with the empty seats, causes all kinds of longing.


If you only knew how much … but probably you do! :)


Re..."or I'll never finish the report.." Sorry, but that would be a problem, how? :lol:


Because I don't want people to be bored and say "for heaven's sakes, won't she ever finish".

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When all is said and done, the last day anywhere is a sad affair. Nkorombo campsite is isolated within the mad tourist mecca that is the Masai Mara National Reserve. The river sweeps past, mellow slightly dirty pools of scum encrusted water one minute and raging torrents the next. The night is diamond encrusted velvet skies, no electric lights dim their brightness. Night sounds are close and all enveloping, no fences to separate us from the wilderness we crave. You can believe that you are alone in the world, wild and free but encircled in an enveloping feeling of comfort and friendship. You don't need music playing to hear melodies soaring in your imagination and vibrating through your heart. You don't need the stomping of feet dancing to hear the rhythms of an ancient world, you only need to close your eyes and dream.


And so it was that we said our farewells to the mobile camping team, Isaac, Moses, Dominic and the others as they dismantled the camp for the off season, leaving the bush to recover before the migration. We set off after a very early breakfast, lunch in the back, for the journey to the main Serian camp and the Mara North Conservancy.


One last request for Daniel to please find us the three cheetah coalition, so renowned for the hunting prowess and believed to be up on Bila Shaka. We had already looked long and hard for them to no avail, just as we had looked for the cheetah and her six cubs.


Perhaps we should be grateful for what nature gives us.







Lions seemed to be everywhere, yet who could complain.






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We wandered over and around Bila Shaka, back and forth and found nothing. It was hot, a steaming humid heat from the build up of thunderclouds which were a feature of every day in the Mara. When the sun hid behind the dark clouds and a breeze sprung up, the drying sweat cooled us quickly and brought sweet relief. Short lived, the sun would burst out again and our shirts would stick to our backs and moisture would trickle down our faces.


Our lunch stop under a large spreading tree provided a chance to relax. The river below us provided plenty of entertainment and in the thick bushes on the far banks we could hear the sounds of an elephant feasting although we never caught a glimpse. Behind our vehicle the dry ground opened up to some low hills covered in a scrubby type of vegetation. Nothing stirred here. Small termite mounds dotted the ground and we were able to walk about freely.




We moved on and continued with our search finding a few little surprises along the way.







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Oops, forgot to sharpen my raw images, oh well. :lol:

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Once again we approached Bila Shaka. There is a slight depression bordered by sparse trees. On our side were many termite mounds littering the moonlike landscape with rocks everywhere and on many of those mounds stood topi standing like sentinels. And on some of the larger mounds 3 or 4 topi vied for dominance. Under the trees herds of eland sheltered from the sun, tails swishing back and forth. As passed them we left the rocky landscape and moved onto the wide open, flat grasslands of Bila Shaka. Devoid of animals apart from slowly circling vultures, catching the thermals and moving high into the sky. Stopping, we all reached for our binoculars and began to scan the plains. Not a car in site, all at lunch at this time.



Daniel found them. You can tell when he has seen something really interesting, all the muscles in his back go still and there is an intentness surrounding him. I dropped my glasses and waited. "I've found them" he said. Then seconds later his voice raised a note "they've caught something". "They've killed a topi, a large one and they've only just brought it down". We approached carefully and found a reasonable position where we could observe them without stressing them. They were panting, making desperate attempt to gain their breaths. Sides heaving two lay in the grass while one sat up watching for any danger. As we watched, one began to feed, then another. Without any obvious signal, the sentinel would be replaced by one of the feeding cheetahs and this way they would rotate so that always one cheetah was watching for danger and two fed.





Vultures circled.






Whilst others waited on the ground.





The heat and the raised body temperature from the hunt was too much for this boy and he came and took shelter in the shade of our vehicle.




The other two fed, but the one by our vehicle kept scanning the horizon.










An hour and a half we had them to ourselves. Then the afternoon guests from Governor's could be seen in the distance … and we left.



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Loving this report Twaff.

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As usual mind blowing photographs. It always amazes me how the guides can spot things at such distances, I know my eyes are not the best in the world but hey these guys are fantastic.

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Game Warden

If I ever get to Kenya, Twaffle you are planning the logistics of my trip from start to finish...

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If I ever get to Kenya, Twaffle you are planning the logistics of my trip from start to finish...


Lets have a GTG at Alex's camp - ask for bulk rates.

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If I ever get to Kenya, Twaffle you are planning the logistics of my trip from start to finish...


Lets have a GTG at Alex's camp - ask for bulk rates.



I'd be in that. Dikdik, you and Alex especially would get on! Pragmatists to the end. :)


GW, you are young (ish) and have plenty of time to fit in a Kenyan trip.


Thanks Samburumags and everyone for the nice things you've said.


You know, I feel quite emotional writing and relating my trips. I really live them again, it is like I'm there.


One year ago on Sunday Dad died, it seems hard to believe a year has passed. How strange then that I've managed another safari and lived it again and again. You never know what is round the next corner, behind the next tree or over the far distant hill. :lol:


'The Last Resort' by The Eagles is my constant companion when editing safari photos … seems kind of apt!

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