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Kenya June 2011 (Laikipia and Masai Mara)


PT123
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We visited Kenya in June 2011, and I am waaaay past due on the trip report; (truthfully, I am woefully behind in both reading and writing trip reports!). We are fortunate enough to be returning again this year which I am starting to get really excited about, so I thought that I’d better catch up on reading everyone else’s reports and do my past due trip report. This is fun and is getting me more pumped up for this year’s trip.

Part One - Nairobi:

We arrived via BA at 9:00 p.m. and were met by a representative of Gamewatcher’s and transported to the Norfolk. While waiting for our luggage we chatted with a fellow who turned out to be a senior person from the Tusk Trust which was quite interesting. All was quiet at the Norfolk by the time we arrived and we had a couple of drinks at the bar to celebrate our return to Kenya and then turned in.

 

Camp 1: Porini Rhino Camp - Ol Pejeta

The next morning we were off bright and early to Wilson and a flight to Nanyuki. We stayed for three nights at the Porini Rhino camp on a stay for three/pay for two deal. This was our first time in the central highlands area and we were both quite excited. Also, I had read a lot about the Ol Pejeta conservancy and wanted to support their efforts. I am very impressed with Ol P's balanced conservation model (the development of concurrent revenue streams for the local community from tourism, agriculture and ranching). Hopefully this will reduce the economic pressure on local residents as the Conservancy will generate jobs and income even if tourism levels drop off from time-to-time due to macroeconomic or political developments. This in turn will hopefully continue to foster an environment for continued wildlife restoration. It took about an hour to drive from the Nanyuki airstrip to the Rhino camp. We had to stop when we entered the conservancy for the driver to complete the necessary paperwork and this gave us about ten minutes to stretch our legs. While waiting, we saw about 15 or so superb starlings all lined up on a wire. The sight was well, superb! We then jumped back into the Range Rover for the remaining 25 minute drive to the camp. We drove past Sweetwaters to the more northern part of the conservancy through mostly scrub acacia landscape.

The Rhino camp is quite nice – only six tents and a dining tent. Our tent was directly in front of a watering hole and in the afternoons a steady parade of animals came to drink (waterbuck, Impala, several giraffe in a group and the odd elephant or two). While my wife napped I joyfully sat outside watching the animals and relished being in Kenya. The tents are quite nice with large, comfy beds and a good sized shower. The staff at the camp was very friendly and efficient. Our guide was ok, not great. It seemed that he was training another individual and they spent more time talking than spotting. Overall game viewing was good during our three day visit but at night the other visitors would detail what they saw and it seemed to be quite a bit more. This is the only time at a camp/lodge that I was ever tempted to ask for a different guide.

 

 

It’s funny but looking through the pictures that I took and the notes I had taken we really saw great deal. I am a huge rhino fan and I saw several. Logically, I really have no reason to complain but emotionally, this is the camp that I am the least enthusiastic about because we just didn’t click with the guide. Porini also has a set schedule which includes visits to the Chimpanzee sanctuary, the four northern white rhinos that were relocated from the Czech Republic, and the Ol P Conservancy headquarters. They are not very happy/flexible if you want to deviate from their program. As agreed by all of the guests sharing our range rover we wanted to skip seeing the northern white rhinos and the chimp sanctuary as we came to see animals in the wild and had a limited amount of time to do so. After a lot of back and forth with our guide and camp manager, we split the difference by skipping the white rhinos and seeing the chimps.

At the conservancy headquarters I got to feed and touch Baraka the blind, black rhino. Although I was absolutely delighted I was a bit conflicted as this was a wild animal that is now kept in an enclosure. As he is blind he wouldn’t survive in the wild so I guess it’s the lesser of two evils. The rangers at the conservancy were terrific and very patient answering my questions – I learned a lot. I was glad to get to meet some of the front line soldiers that are protecting rhinos from poachers. They have my respect and admiration. The chimp sanctuary was very interesting but be forewarned, it can be quite disturbing as they have an education center with graphic displays about bush meat. We got to walk around the Ewaso Nyiro river on the opposite side from the chimps. This was really cool, walking through the riverine forest (very peaceful, no animal sightings on our side except a couple of bush bucks). Apparently you used to be able to take a boat ride on the river through the chimp enclosure but this was discontinued because the chimps would throw rocks at the boat. I don’t know why the image of chimps pelting tourists struck me as a bit humorous but I feel like they may have lost a source of entertainment. After we got back to the parking area we were talking with a couple of the workers at the sanctuary who told us that we arrived about an hour after a pack of wild dogs had been on sanctuary grounds. So close!! We set out to see if we could locate them but no luck.

 

Game drives:

We did a total of seven game drives including one night game drive. Generally speaking most of the drives were not in the same area as Sweetwaters and therefore we seldom saw other vehicles. At all sightings except one we were the only ones there. Highlights of our game drives include:

 

Day 1: On our first drive we saw two black rhinos, loads of reticulated giraffe, zebra, elephant and all the usual suspects.

 

- An evening game drive (miserably damp and cold). As we set out just before dark we drove along the top of a valley where we looked down on about a dozen reticulated giraffe grazing on high trees as well as an elephant or two. Later in the darkness, we saw a mother cheetah and two cubs. We watched for about 15 minutes as they were harassed by a black backed jackal. The cubs thought this was great fun taking turns giving chase to the jackal. No sooner would they give up the chase then the jackal would circle back and dart up to the mother and cubs. Although the cubs enjoyed the game, mom seemed annoyed.

- Day two: We started off seeing several bat-eared foxes hunkered down against the cold morning air. In addition to good general game viewing, we had another great black rhino sighting with a mother and calf. We observed for about fifteen minutes and I couldn’t have been happier. Additionally we saw eland, Jackson’s hartebeest, Grant’s and Thomson gazelles, warthogs and Impala and grevy’s zebra (plus a couple of cross breeds).

 

- Day three: we were parked watching a very large and muscular cheetah lounging about and grooming when he suddenly perked up and keenly focused at something far off in the distance. We watched as he closed the distance and repositioned himself. He suddenly took off in pursuit of a juvenile zebra. Man was he fast! This is the first time I’d seen a cheetah run full speed over open land, it was jaw dropping. The cheetah chased his prey into a brush area and didn’t immerge so we assumed he got him and enjoyed his meal under cover.

Later we saw a lone white rhino with its horns removed. This was the first white rhino that I’d ever seen and it struck me how much bigger and tank like they are than black rhinos. We also saw a few oryx from a distance. Again another first for us and I was struck how beautiful their face masks were. I love east Africa!! The next day we flew from Nanyuki to the Mara.

 

Conclusion, a really good camp and good general game viewing with great rhino sightings as well as the chance to see reticulated giraffe, oryx and grevy’s. It get’s coooold so layers are needed. Part two (Masai Mara: Kichwa Tembo/Little Governors) to follow.

 

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I wonder what advantage it was to the camp to make you stay on their schedule as it seems unusual at this standard of camp. Perhaps they want people to donate to the various conservation efforts and if they make them visit those centres they are more likely to donate?

 

Bad luck on the wild dogs, that would be really annoying.

 

What is the creature on the island?

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G'day Twaff. That's the funny thing, we offered to make the payment to support the northern white rhinos and chimps (it was about USD 20 each if I recall) because we all supported these efforts but had a finite amount of time to see animals in the wild.

 

Re the wild dogs: I was a bit frustrated but generally philosophical about missing them because it didn't even cross my mind that I would have been lucky enough to see them. I was in happy rhino afterglow so all was well! The animal on the island is a cape clawless otter. I don't know why my pictures don't come out full size; I must be doing something wrong.

 

Have a great Monday and cheers from soggy Boston.

 

Paul

Edited by PT123
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I've not seen an otter on my recent travels, how lucky are you? As far as the small size of the photos, I think it has to do with getting the link from the bigger size not the thumbnail, but I'm sure Game Warden will advise. I'm a bit (lot) computer illiterate, sadly.

 

Well I do think that is a small black mark against the Porini camp (only small - but irritating).

 

Looking forward to the Mara.

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PT123, re the photos you have uploaded them straight to the post as attachments, for them to appear in post large size, you need to have them in your gallery. Follow the prompts in my signature line. Matt.

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Um, the creature on the island looks very much more like a Coypu to me than a Cape Clawless Otter. Coypu are commonly seen in the swamps near the chimps.

See the difference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coypu

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_clawless_otter

 

Long interesting (sad) history about coypu in Kenya.

 

As for Porini, they're pretty much the only group of camps I know of in that price range that keep to strict schedules and refuse to deviate. Very much like a pre-made package tour. Two days Laikipia, Two days Amboseli, Two days Mara, and you've gotta follow the schedule!

 

Anyone who's been to similarly priced camps in Kenya (or indeed SA) would find this very frustrating.

 

Next time you want to visit Ol Pej, maybe check out Kicheche Laikipia Camp. Run by Andy and Sonja Webb, two of the most interesting, knowledgeable, experienced, hospitable, loving, lovable people you'll ever meet. Haha. And all three guides there are KPSGA Silver, and the top two, Andrew and Mohammed are preparing for Gold. Mohammed is especially good with birds, and both of them are two of the best guides I've come across anywhere in Kenya.

Andrew, in particular has an extremely interesting life story.

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Um, the creature on the island looks very much more like a Coypu to me than a Cape Clawless Otter. Coypu are commonly seen in the swamps near the chimps.

See the difference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coypu

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_clawless_otter

 

Long interesting (sad) history about coypu in Kenya.

 

As for Porini, they're pretty much the only group of camps I know of in that price range that keep to strict schedules and refuse to deviate. Very much like a pre-made package tour. Two days Laikipia, Two days Amboseli, Two days Mara, and you've gotta follow the schedule!

 

Anyone who's been to similarly priced camps in Kenya (or indeed SA) would find this very frustrating.

 

Next time you want to visit Ol Pej, maybe check out Kicheche Laikipia Camp. Run by Andy and Sonja Webb, two of the most interesting, knowledgeable, experienced, hospitable, loving, lovable people you'll ever meet. Haha. And all three guides there are KPSGA Silver, and the top two, Andrew and Mohammed are preparing for Gold. Mohammed is especially good with birds, and both of them are two of the best guides I've come across anywhere in Kenya.

Andrew, in particular has an extremely interesting life story.

 

I'm glad you posted this as my first impression was "that's a Coypu!", then I thought it can't be this is Africa -but a quick Internet search has revealed the history of this "illegal alien".

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Nice report Paul!!!

 

I've spent a couple of nights at Sweetwaters camp and was also somewhat coerced into visiting the chimps and rhino sanctuary. I would happily have donated funds and avoided this waste of valuable time though my daughter enjoyed the very close contact with Baraka the blind Black Rhino. In an attempt to gain some additional time "out in the field" we booked a night game drive which, apart from revealing numerous Cape Hares was a complete disaster. The driver and accompanying guide with lamp seemed not the least interested in what they were doing and it left us with the feeling that we had been completely ripped off. I hear a lot of good things about the Laikipia plateau but my very limited experience has been somewhat poor to date!

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AB, thanks for the correction. Our guide had identified this as an otter and I had no reason to doubt him as I've never seen a cape clawless otter (and had never even heard of a coypu)!

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Thank you Rainbirder - It's too bad that one can't just opt out of these visits and spend more time in the field and I'm sorry to hear that the night drive was unproductive!

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Part 2: Masai Mara (Mara Triangle)

We landed at the Kichwa Tembo airstrip and were greeted by our guide from the previous visit, Mr. Benedict Kalului. He is a great guy with a warm, outgoing personality and a terrific guide. We were both very happy to see him and hear the he and his family had a good year. From the second the plane door opened and I smelled the air and heard the “work harder/drink larger/our father” call of the ring necked dove I felt like I was home. We did the short dive to the camp, unpacked and headed to the pool. I lounged around with Tusker in hand overlooking the plains (with occasional views of giraffe, buffalo, topi and elephant) and truly felt at peace. This is the happiest place on earth for me.

 

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As we left camp and drove through the forest at the beginning of our first game drive we were greeted by a massive bull elephant grazing on the trees. We got quite close to this big fellow but fortunately he was more interested in food than us.

 

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Soon we were out of the woods, through the gate and into the reserve. We had fantastic luck, on our first game drive we saw a group of three black rhino browsing in some somewhat dense bushes. We observed them for about ten minutes with two other vehicles and then moved on.

 

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After a short while we came across at first a lioness and then a cheetah at the base of the escarpment where the land starts to slope upwards in somewhat rocky terrain. We had good general game viewing including a few more lions, eland, topi, elephants, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, ostriches, hippos in the Mara, etc. and another cheetah during the rest of drive and headed back to camp. Another exciting development is that there is a new (western style) latrine by the Mara so no more trips into the bushes with TP and plastic bags!

 

Day two was another good day of general game viewing with lots of adult and adolescent lions doing all sorts of things (sleeping, mating, grooming each other, etc.) as well as another good cheetah sighting.

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In the afternoon we went to a hyena den (evil looking little creatures).

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No cat or rhino sightings but we had a lovely time watching a baby giraffe nursing from its mother. On the way back to the camp we struck gold and had a great leopard sighting where we got to watch him walking and lying on the opposite side of a small gorge. As always, I got a bit flustered on the rare occasions when I see a leopard and have yet to get a decent photo of one. We sat there for about ten minutes with two or three other cars. At that point it was almost dark and we needed to leave the reserve and return to camp.

 

Day three started out lightly raining but no big deal. We hung out for about fifteen minutes with a soggy cheetah that was curled up on the ground waiting out the rain. It didn’t seem that she had any intention of moving so we left her in peace. As we drove away we could see a medium sized groups of topi and zebra all intently looking in the same direction.

 

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This meant that there was a cat in the area and perhaps it was hunting. We took a circuitous route and got in front of the topis, thomis and zebra and there was a lone lioness sauntering along without a care in the world. No matter how many lioness I see it never fails to strike me how powerfully built they are and the air of confidence with which they carry themselves.

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We trailed her for about a half hour hopping that she would hunt but eventually she went into the riverine forest by the Mara and we lost sight of her.

 

We also saw a couple of crowned cranes doing a mating dance which is quite graceful and reminded me of the ballet; some giraffe necking; a nice if all too brief view of a serval cat sitting in the tall grass next to a puddle in the road waiting for some unsuspecting bird to land for a drink of water; orbi; and one more sighting of a mother rhino and calf. This was my last real sighting in the Mara and I was ecstatic as apparently she has had a calf for three consecutive years. Based on a comparison of pictures that I took in 2010 versus 2011 I’ve seen her on two separate trips and hope to see her again this year!

 

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By this time the sun was shining and we headed back to camp. This was a great drive as we left a bit later and stayed out a bit longer than normal so we really didn’t see any other vehicles on the entire drive. When we got back to Kichwa Tembo it was past the time that they serve breakfast and it seems that the other guests were either out or having a siesta in their tents as the main building and pool area were virtually deserted. Our waiter/butler had set up a table covered with a white table cloth and rose peddles by the pool so that my wife and I could have brunch in the sunshine looking out over the Mara as the occasional animal passed by. This was indescribably fantastic and quite romantic. Needless to say we didn’t want to leave KT.

 

As we were leaving the camp heading over to Little Governor’s we saw a snoozing lioness in the tall grass adjacent to the access road to KT. We stopped for a minute to watch her and along came the world’s luckiest gazelle. He unknowingly strolled within a couple of feet of her while she slept. We were sure that we’d see a kill as this was lion room service. About a minute after the Thomi passed by the groggy lion woke up and looked around. The quizzical expression on her face seemed to say “did I just miss something”?

 

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As usual the triangle delivered and then some! I was overjoyed to see five black rhino and leopard as well as the very reliable lion and cheetah sightings. And as usual we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at KT. Now off to a new camp that we hadn’t visited before and our first ever drive on the “other side” of the river.

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Thank you, PT123, for this timely--for me--report. After much dithering and (t)waffling, I am in the process of booking 2 nights Laikipia, 4 nights Mara for next month.

 

"in the process" = I need to get to the bank and wire the money tomorrow or Wednesday.

 

Next time you want to visit Ol Pej, maybe check out Kicheche Laikipia Camp. Run by Andy and Sonja Webb, two of the most interesting, knowledgeable, experienced, hospitable, loving, lovable people you'll ever meet. Haha. And all three guides there are KPSGA Silver, and the top two, Andrew and Mohammed are preparing for Gold. Mohammed is especially good with birds, and both of them are two of the best guides I've come across anywhere in Kenya.

Andrew, in particular has an extremely interesting life story.

 

armchair bushman, I'm going with Kicheche, so glad to read this. Do you know anything about the guides at Kicheche Mara Camp? I've stayed at Bush Camp and James was my guide, but KBC was, alas, fully booked for all my nights.

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You really did have a lot of luck with rhinos this trip! Fabulous. You saw such a good variety of animals at Ol Pejeta - but it's always never quite as enjoyable if you are not totally comfortable with your guide. Did you get to see Mount Kenya or was it too cloudy?

 

Just to be devil's advocate Porini might argue that fixed schedules are "greener" by reducing the number of vehicles they need to use and that they also eliminate the need to argument and the risk of one group bullying another into doing what they want. But I like the other way.

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Thank you, PT123, for this timely--for me--report. After much dithering and (t)waffling, I am in the process of booking 2 nights Laikipia, 4 nights Mara for next month. "in the process" = I need to get to the bank and wire the money tomorrow or Wednesday.

Next time you want to visit Ol Pej, maybe check out Kicheche Laikipia Camp. Run by Andy and Sonja Webb, two of the most interesting, knowledgeable, experienced, hospitable, loving, lovable people you'll ever meet. Haha. And all three guides there are KPSGA Silver, and the top two, Andrew and Mohammed are preparing for Gold. Mohammed is especially good with birds, and both of them are two of the best guides I've come across anywhere in Kenya. Andrew, in particular has an extremely interesting life story.
armchair bushman, I'm going with Kicheche, so glad to read this. Do you know anything about the guides at Kicheche Mara Camp? I've stayed at Bush Camp and James was my guide, but KBC was, alas, fully booked for all my nights.

 

Not addressed at me, but Daniel is very good if you can get him, Leely (and if he is still there). Benjamin was our guide, but I think he is permanently at Valley Camp now.

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I think any of us would be pleased with those rhino sightings, and nice photos as well. I think your captions for the lion who missed the gazelle were very apt, and very funny.

 

I know exactly what you mean by the Mara being a happy place, it is for me as well, despite all its draw backs.

 

Pault, I think you are being very nice about Porini, but I think it a load of twaddle making people follow such a schedule as I can't see that it is that much greener than wandering to a different part of the park. I know you are playing devil's advocate, but it just feels convenient for the guides and camp and lacking imagination. But that is just my view, of course. :D

 

Leely, glad you've come to a decision on your trip, sounds wonderful.

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armchair bushman, I'm going with Kicheche, so glad to read this. Do you know anything about the guides at Kicheche Mara Camp? I've stayed at Bush Camp and James was my guide, but KBC was, alas, fully booked for all my nights.

 

Guides at mara camp are just as excellent. Daniel is the head guide and is one of the longest standing employees at Kicheche. Muy excellente! Otherwise, Joseph is a legend, David is great, Jimmy (so as not to be confused with KBC James)also very good.

I believe Benja and Mika (both excellent) are now permanently at Valley Camp (naboisho).

 

Rainbirder In an attempt to gain some additional time "out in the field" we booked a night game drive which, apart from revealing numerous Cape Hares was a complete disaster. The driver and accompanying guide with lamp seemed not the least interested in what they were doing and it left us with the feeling that we had been completely ripped off. I hear a lot of good things about the Laikipia plateau but my very limited experience has been somewhat poor to date!

 

Sweetwaters guides are somewhat known for their lacklustre guiding on Ol Pej. Also, quite sure sweetwaters do NOT use red filtered spotlights (lets not start that whole discussion again), despite the conservancy-wide rule. Again, the guiding quality at most of the smaller camps, is quite often higher and more engaging than the larger camps/lodges.

 

Just a disclaimer: I do not work for Kicheche. but I cannot recommend the Kicheche laikipia guides highly enough, especially Mohammed and Andrew.

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Thanks for sharing PT. Just like Leely, this is good timing for me too since we're going to the Mara next month and its a good gage of grass levels and game viewing. Hope to have a portion of the luck you had with rhino! Good going.

 

Always wondered why Porini were so expensive and was told because of the product/service they offer. Shocked to hear they are so rigid in their schedules and not knowing an otter......

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It sounds like they really need to rethink what they're doing at Porini. Nothing is more annoying than being told where to go, when to go, what to see etc.

 

But it sounds like the Mara more than made up for it, Paul. Very nice to have two lovely rainy season reports coming in at the same time. Those rhino sightings were superb. Keep it coming!

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You saw 5 rhino in the Mara Triangle?! I believe I was told there were 11 total in 2010. You are a rhino magnet.

 

Could you post the animal on the island photo in larger form? I never heard of a coypu either.

 

Interesting comments on Poirini.

 

Thanks for the report. So what if it's from a previous year?

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Hi Leely:

I thought that Laikipia and the Mara were a great combination on one trip given the different topography, temperature and localized animals in the Laikipia/Samburu region. I hope that you have a great time and look forward to reading your trip report and seeing pictures. Where are you staying in the Mara?

 

Hi Paul T:

Unfortunately no views of Mount Kenya, I was a bit disappointed but this just gives us another reason to return to the central highlands. I agree with your point on the possible benefits of the set schedule. My wife and I and the two ladies we shared our range rover talked things over and all amicably agreed that we wanted to do more drives in lieu of seeing the northern white rhino/chimp sanctuary and I agreed to pay the entrance fees for the missed visits. In Porinis defense, our guide and the camp manager were quite sincere in their desire to educate the guests about conservation and the efforts at Ol Pejeta so from that perspective I appreciate their dedication and point of view. In our case they were preaching to the choir!

 

Signed…another Paul T

 

 

Hi Twaffle:

Thanks for the kind words especially about my poor point-n-shoot pictures much appreciated coming from you! I totally scored on the rhino sightings on this trip!

 

Hi Super L:

Have a great time in the Mara. We are going later this year and cant wait! I am disappointed about the otter misidentification (otterly ridiculous if you ask me).

 

Hi Sangeeta:

Thanks! One more bit to write (now that Ive finally got the knack of imbedding the pictures). In all honesty, I would give Porini another visit. The camp was really good and the drives were long. In all fairness they quite clearly publish the itinerary and I knew it before I booked, I just hoped that there would be more willing to be flexible.

 

Hi Lynn:

I think the rhino population is slowly rebuilding which is great. Heres the conspicuous coypu. He looks like a water rat but is kind of cute.

 

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Heres a couple of the Rhino pictures from Ol Pejeta because I couldnt help myself:

 

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Edited by PT123
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Part Three: Masai Mara: Narok

We arrived at Little Governors and really liked the tents as they are a bit more upscale than KT. They are arranged in a semi circle around a marsh area (with buffalo and hippo) and a wooded area directly behind. This means that elephants routinely pass right through the camps and right between the tents. When this happens the askaris keep all of the guests in their tents. No sooner had we begun unpacking than along came the elephants from the forest to the marsh for a drink of water. It was quite the adrenaline rush to be sitting in your tent looking through the mesh screen at an elephant pulling up bushes at the base of your tent.

 

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When all was clear we set off for our first game drive. We had about a three or four minute walk along a forested walkway to the river escorted by an askari. We then walked down a somewhat steep flight of steps and then took a flat bottomed boat across the Mara to the other side where the range rovers were. I have to admit being a bit nervous at first thinking about what lurked below the waters but getting the hippos eye view from the river was pretty cool.

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Once in the vehicle we drove for a couple of minutes through the riverine forest to the marsh and eventually onto the plains. In the forest we spotted a couple of dik diks and some dwarf mongoose before reaching the marsh area. Once in the marsh area we saw lions, lions and more lions. Two males, (Clawed and Romeo of Big Cat Diary fame), several females, a couple of adolescents and loads of cubs. The pride was at least 20 strong.

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We hung with them and then made our way towards the open plains and saw a lone female with several small cubs (about two months old) and a lone male that was about a year old on the fringe of the forest. Other notable sightings included colorful saddle back storks and some frolicking banded mongoose (mongeese?), BB jackal and bat-eared fox.

 

 

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On day two we set out and hung with the marsh pride as the sun rose with the escarpment in the background. This was quite breathtaking. We then checked in with the lone female and cubs for a bit before heading off to Rhino Ridge. Along the way we spotted a cheetah.

 

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No rhinos to be had on rhino ridge but the ridge pride was there and was looking good.

 

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There were two females and seven cubs. In the first hour of this drive we saw about 40 lions. Wow. We then headed off and crossed the Talek to another strip of forest in search of a leopard. We knew we were in the right area by the number of vehicles (about eight). We had some good views of the leopard as he wove his way through the woods and he seemed completely unphased by the numerous vehicles jockeying for position. (Hats off to our guide Joshua who aptly anticipated the leopards route and did a great job positioning us.) The entire encounter was only about five minutes but no complaints here as we got some pretty good close-up views of the leopard.

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We then set off for breakfast in the bush and along the way came across a nomad coalition pride of three males (plus a couple of females) that had recently killed and partially consumed a hippo. I like to think that Im officially a seasoned safari goer now that I can recognize the foul smell of dead hippo before I see the victim. It just stays with you (blaaa!).

 

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The leader was the biggest lion that I had ever seen in my life. He was just huge. Apparently it was Notch (Big Cat reference again, apologies) and his two sons. From what we were told he was dethroned from his pride and has no set territory so his coalition roams from south of the Tanzanian boarder to the rhino ridge area.

 

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We then drove off for about 20 minutes to a scenic spot for breakfast and then back to camp. What a morning: a bit under 40 lions, a leopard and a cheetah in one drive. Talk about bang for the buck!

Edited by PT123
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Last installment...

 

 

In the afternoon we covered quite a bit of ground and had good general game viewing. We went down to the crossing point across from the Serena. It was fun to have seen it from both sides of the river. No wildies here yet as it was still green in the Serengeti and they hadnt munched their way north. Then we headed up to the northern border of the reserve to the Musiara gate.

 

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Apparently there were lots of wildebeest and zebra down from the north a week before, but it had rained up north and they made their way back to the green grass. We did see two lone individual wildebeest which we suspected were going to be easy pickins for the lions.

 

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On the way back to camp we sat about an hour or so with the single female and her cubs that were resident just outside of the Musiara swamp area. We enjoyed watching the cubs frolic.

 

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We also had some nice sightings of a very large bull elephant, African Fish eagles, a Marshall eagle and saddle-billed storks while we were there.

 

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Then it was a last visit with the marsh pride and back across the river to camp. The next day it was back to Nairobi and then back to reality!

 

In terms of the sheer volume of lions seen the Musiara swamp area cant be beat. The sightings in this section of the Mara were plentiful and our guide didnt need to do much spotting as he knew the area and animals so well. If you are looking for guaranteed game viewing (lion, cheetah and maybe leopard) this is a great area to visit. When we visited there werent too many other vehicles at the animal sightings except the leopard. The fist Marsh pride sighting there were three other vehicles and at most other sightings we were alone (ridge pride, Notch, lone lioness with cubs, etc.). The camp was very good and Id stay there again. Now the downside; this is a magnet for Big Cat Diary groupies. While I enjoyed the program Im not obsessed with it and dont know every animal and their histories. In all, I appreciate these peoples enthusiasm but they seem to focus (obsess) on just a few individual animals. I was also a bit disappointed as the animals are so habituated. At times it didnt feel like I was in the wild but felt more like a game park (a bit zooish). The main exception being Notch he was huge and looked like a real bad a** cat!

 

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Our next trip cannot come soon enough! Until then Ill have to content myself by catching up on all the other trip reports posted on ST…

Edited by PT123
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Top Notch towered over his female companion. Thanks for the enlargement of the island creature.

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Enjoyed the report very much, thanks.

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When I first saw your image of the rodent on the island, I thought you were pulling my leg. That had to be a Nutria which are so prevalent and destructive in Louisiana that the state government actually has a bounty on them . Then I saw the Wikipedia reference that said the Coypu and Nutria are the same thing. I will have to go back and look at the actual annual expenditures by the state but its over a $1m per year that they pay in bounty. I think its $3-$4 per tail. The nutria has done a great deal of damage to our coastal wetlands and is right there with hurricane as being the biggest culprit with our huge problem of Coastal erosion.

 

Now that the alligator has made a big comeback in our state from the endangered status, the rodent might be brought back under control. I am curious if they have the same destructive habits in Africa.post-17105-0-37768900-1336888869_thumb.jpg

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