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Super LEEDS in Kenya 2012


Super LEEDS
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Hello

I'm still going through my photos and trying make them look better than they are and hide my poor skills but have done some from the first couple of days so thought I may as well make a start.

If you look in the Planning forum somewhere, you'll see I was pretty much set on a itinerary for quite a while but there was some last minute drama and I cut "Acacia Camp, Swara Plains" from the itinerary opting for an extra night at both Royal Mara (MNC) and Country Lodge in Nairobi. I'd like to say it was because I thought spending more time at Royal Mara would be better and then having the extra night in Nairobi allowed for a full day in the capital city to see the sights and taste the delights..... but..... I didn't fancy the risk of visiting a place I didn't really know much about and had reports of being run down. There you have it the truth. However, the extra night at RM and in Nairobi worked wonders for the trip so I only have the minutest of regrets of not being more intrepid :D judging from the last review on TA of this place, I would still like to think this place is some kind of hidden gem.

Here's the final plan - from 20th June 'til 4th July:

1 night Country Lodge, Nairobi
1 night Sopa Naivasha, Lake Naivasha
2 nights Malewa Wildlife Lodge, Kigio Conservancy
1 night Sarova Lion Hill, Lake Nakuru
3 nights Fig Tree Camp, Masai Mara
4 nights Royal Mara, Mara North Conservancy
2 nights Country Lodge, Nairobi

The whole trip was booked through Glorious Safaris and their MD, Shadrack, who we used and got to know during last year's trip in February when we visited Mombasa and the parks more closer to the coast. Our driver/guide was also again Patrick who was kind enough to drive us around in his new jeep having been in his minivan last year. Perhaps a sensible choice since June can sometimes be a very wet month and the rains had already been very heavy in the past weeks.

We flew this time with Brussels Airlines from Manchester to Brussels to Nairobi (via Bujumbura, Burundi B)). The BRU to NBO flight then quickly flies back to BRU which allows those getting on at Bujumbura to fly out to Brussels, I suppose. I always thought Burundi to be a big NO-GO zone but was surprised how popular a destination this was. A lot of white people disembarked here with an equal amount joining us on the flight to NBO. The number of white people visiting a place is how I gage popularlity. Perhaps I need to look into the safari capabilities of this small country which shares Lake Tanganyika, espeically since a european operator stops off there.

In general, almost, Brussels Airlines were a great airline to fly with. We had an even newer Aerobus on the flight back which had some pretty awesome touchscreen, in-flight entertainment screens and a huge amount of leg room, even for my 6' 3" frame. The only let down, and for me a major gripe, was that on the final journey from BRU to MAN, Brussels used a plane too small for their passengers' luggage resulting in 14 checked items being left behind in Brussels to allow the plane to take off! I was fine, but the wife's got left behind and, trust me, I got to hear about it.... A LOT..... until the suitace was delivered the next afternoon. Surely its inexcusable for an airline to use a plane that is too small, knowing full well where their passengers are flying from. They allow you to take 2 x 23kg suitcases on longhaul flights! To say this was the only negative to impact our trip, I think we were pretty lucky :)

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Judging by all the replies thus far :ph34r: I feel I just say the report has been delayed due to ST turbelence. There's a problem with uploading images, or at least my images, so I can't link to them. GW is on it.

 

I'm on safari in Barcelona next week too so there may be even more time before I can update.

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We're lurking, we are lurking... but waiting for you to get to at least the Kenyan bat before saying anything :P

 

Safe travels in Barcelona and hopefully the pics will catch up with you by the time you get back.

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Oh my, thanks, Sangeeta. Forgot about my bat. Will need to make sure I consult the journal I kept in order to get all the juicy and boring bits in.

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Barcelona? Hop over to Lisbon and I'll buy you a beer :)

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Would love to, mate, but since its the 'r lass' 30th, she'd probably kill me!

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We're just getting comfy here and thinking "Leeds writes better than Billy Bremner" and "he must have really got an earful about the luggage -been THERE .... Risk of being the intrepid trip planner of the household." .... And then you are off to Barcelona, leaving us with a tantalizing glimpse of Burundi and the promise of adventures in Nairobi." No comments should be a relief!

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Paul not sure if that's a compliment :lol: and please don't oversell the report, there's no more on Burundi unfortunately.

 

Image gallery all sorted but I don't think any of them are as clear as on my PC. Any way, I think I'll crack on.

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June 20th: Nairobi

 

Our flight landed late at night and our time in the airport was pretty uneventful apart from waiting for our luggage which seemed to be on the last cart from the airplane. Though we're always a pair of drama queens at this point, even if our suitcases were to be the first ones off we'd be cursing something or other! Having climbed up the gangplank into the terminal, we were a little confused as to which way to go being almost the first ones off the plane so we could not assume the sheep position. Luckily, we turned left and then kept going. The signs said passport checks were both left and right but left proved to be the best choice since there were only a few people already in the queue and then they opened a new desk just for us. I paid for both visas in sterling (£30 GBP each) as opposed to dollars, even though I was carrying some green.

 

Following the life-or-death situation with waiting for our suitcases, we made the short walk through some random questioning by the customs bloke towards stepping on to some real Kenyan soil. Patrick was waiting for us with a sign but his broad smile was what us pick him out of the crowd and, after some quick hugging and greetings, we were away! Woohoo. (the car park for the airport is a ridiculously small place!)

 

I'd heard so much about the infamous Nairobi traffic but there was none to be seen and we were at our hotel, Country Lodge, in Upperhill, just off of Ngong Road. There was some security outside, which is to be expected since its sister hotel, The Fairview, is only next door and the Israeli Embassy is also a neighbour, but not that much. Just a simple check of the vehicle and where we were heading was enough for the chain-controlled gate to be lifted.

 

The hotel is very businessy. You could be anywhere in the world; there's nothing particularly Kenyan about it. The rooms are very minimalistic - I remember someone likening them to an Ikea brochure - which meant it was perfect for us as we just wanted to sleep in a clean, quiet place. I just thought I'd mention this so anyone thinking of staying here could get a better picture. Breakfast (cooked, cereal, fruit etc) is served in-house but all other meals (if you're still here to need them) have to be gotten from elsewhere. Typically, guests would go next door to The Fairview but there is a very limited delivery menu from which you can get sandwiches and pizza, for example. This food comes from The Fairview but if you ask for anything outside of the set menu you will get a big fat "No". Yep.... no chips :(

 

Check-in was swift - luckily the wife now keeps my passport number on her phone since she's now wise to every hotel/lodge/camp requiring this on arrival. However, there were no porters or a lift on our side of the hotel so Patrick and I had to lug the suitcases to our room which was fortunately only on the first floor - is that second floor for our friends from across the pond? I think I'll make a comment at the end of the report about over-packing.....

 

I'd snook a small bottle of wine from the plane to give to Patrick but that shows how much of a good friend I am..... he doesn't drink! It'll have to save for my dad.

 

Sorry, this is the best photo we have of the room for some reason. Perhaps tiredness got the better of us after almost 17 hours on the road, so to speak. (doesn't look clear, does it? I have shrunk the pic size in the post to help)

 

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There was a sink and cupboard with a safe in just behind the picture taker, as well as a toilet and great shower behind a sliding door. All windows did open and had insect-proof mesh so they could be left open if required. It wasn't particularly hot so we didn't bother. Even though there was nothing to sing and dance about in the room, it was really quite spacious and plenty of working space if you were that way inclined. Anyway, we slept very well that night, setting our alarms for around 8am to meet Patrick at 9.

 

Wildlife seen:

 

a medium sized bat flying around the 'asphalt' on departing the plane

 

Nothing else. Apologies, I was scouring the bushy areas along the road for something, anything, but no honey badgers, snakes or foxes (do they have foxes in Kenya?).

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June 21st: Nairobi to Lake Naivasha

 

The plan for today was to visit a supermarket and then be on the way to Lake Naivasha where we would be staying one night in the Sopa Naivasha, The reason for the supermarket visit was to buy some anti-mosquito products such as a Doom plug-in due to my dread of being bitten - I get the biggest of bumps and they itch like mad! This might sound a little out of place but I thought I'd just share some workings of my mind.

 

However, since I was with the missus, food comes first and we were off to breakfast. My main resolution this trip, aside from a few safari-based ones such as "spending more time just sitting and watching or waiting as opposed to driving on", was to eat less. Plain and simple. So, this time, I stuck to my word and had some bran-type cereal topped with strawberry yoghurt. The wife had a lovely smelling omelette and beans :(

 

This time I had no help in the lugging of luggage, which is really weird because I'm a great tipper! Having checked out and gotten our suitcases into the Landcruiser, we were off to a supermarket that wasn't a Nakumatt: Chandarana. It was a small place on the road to Naivasha somewhere, but had everything. We picked up some Doom spray and a plug-in as well as some great tasting Fanta drinks. The Fanta 'abroad' is a lot less fizzy that than in the UK - reminds me a lot of an Indian fave of mine, Marinda. Or Dharmendra, if you're Punjabi :D The wife also picked up a few of those small tubs of Pringles which were stored in the water cooler box, which was already kindly stocked up with lots and lots of bottles.

 

Before we got there though, I think its worth a mention that the security presence was a lot more evident in the day time. More hotel security outside both hotels as well as armed guards along the road. We were stopped for several minutes as we tried to LEAVE the hotel area which I thought was a little ironic since we made it in with hardly any fuss :s I can't recall what the offical said to Patrick but he spoke to the wife and I, asking what we had in our luggage and where we were going. I'm not sure if I'm alone here but I start to get uptight very quickly in situations like this.

 

Remember that traffic I was talking about, and how we didn't, for some crazy reason, see any at around midnight?? Well here it was. Ngong Road was already packed but when we approached the turn into Kenyatta Avenue....... :o I won't go too much into it other than to say, its bad. Its slow, smelly and bad. I'll leave the discussion on the proposed cure to the traffic to others who know more but 'they' are planning to lay a road through the north part of the Nairobi National Park to act as a bypass for all the truck coming from the coast. I think there's a long thread on ST already about it.

 

Not long on our journey once we were free from the congestion, the wife and I suddenly became aware that there was something quite amazing happening outside. The Great Rife Valley. I had read about descending into the valley numerous times in others' reports but seeing the start of it in person was truly breathtaking. Even for a very cloudy day, the view seemed endless. My picture doesn't do any where near the level of justice it requires.

 

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The pic was taken as a curio shop situated along the road to Naivasha which I'm sure many of you have stopped at. Out of the countless curio shops along this stretch of road, it appeared people only stopped at this one! It was very popular and had a very long viewing area. There was lots of birding to do too as well as watching a lovely looking hyrax who was sitting still on the other side of the ledge.

 

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The sign "from Israel", other on our trip told us it was from Turkey.

 

Following recovering from the views, we were treated to some freshly roasted corn on the cob (50 KSH each) which also helped me boost my paltry Swahili skills. Corn (or maize in Kenya) is hindi :) 2 'corns' would be hindi mawili. However if it were 2 people or lions, for example, it would become WAwili. Very tricky :s

 

We didn't purchase anything from the shop despite using the restroom facilities. I also wasn't in a haggling kind of mood.

 

One the road again, we continued to enjoy the great view - I would like to say most views in Kenya are great so I hope you know what I mean. We had a partial view of Mount Longonot but it was mostly shrouded in cloud. Further along the road though I spotted several herds of zebra and it felt like the safari was beginning to really start though today was more a 'take it easy' day to act as a buffer should we have been more worse for wear after the long flight.

 

The quality of the road out of Nairobi towards the west was actually quite good and we were surprised how quickly we were at the lodge.

 

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On first impressions, from the car park, you can't really make anything of Sopa Naivasha, despite the presence of this couple wanting to check-in before us:

 

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We were escorted past reception in order to check-in on some extremely comfy settees whilst enjoying a tropical fruit cocktail. I think there were cool flannels too to help get refreshed. Check-in was pretty swift again, despite having to fill in a large form, with the attendant going through the various times for meals and also the need to dial 0 after sunset for a security guard to escort you to dinner due the likelihood of being molested by a white-tailed mongoose. Oh, or a hippo. We were lucky enough to see the latter that night but not the former.

 

The lodge, or resort, has around 100+ rooms in groups of 4: 2 upstairs, 2 down. All have balconies which overlook the vast grounds, but there is no direct view of Lake Naivasha which borders the property. A bit like having a pond at the end of one's garden, I presume, but on a huge scale. Even though there were quite a few people staying here, it never felt crowded except for the pre-dinner drink where an Italian woman was barking at her group of travellers. I think she was running through the itinerary for their trip, but just VERY loudly, in the middle of the bar.

 

Our room is the hidden one at the top-left. I think I preferred the upstairs than the downstairs.

 

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We were helped with the luggage this time and shown around our room.

 

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Not very tenty, I know, and there was even a largish TV but the balcony had a great view of the resort gardens with a large group of waterbuck towards to the back, closer to the lake, so were getting closer and closer to where we wanted to be. The bathroom was pretty large too, with a shower that always threatened to flood the whole room! No mosquito nets.......

 

We had some time to kill before our boat trip on Lake Naivasha with a local company and I'm glad we did since I wanted to get out and explore. I was hoping to spot more of our colobus friends but they wouldn't show until we were about to leave :( Reticulated giraffe that are said to wonder the grounds too. It was very quite whilst we wondered around; just us and the wildlife. It was surprising not see anyone else there too. What I did notice was there were positively lots and lots of these beauties.

 

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The waterbuck, despite them being used to seeing humans, were their normal jittery selves, so we maintained our distance and just watched.

 

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Since I was a new birder, I was proud to have spotted these birds, guessing they were a kind of parakeet. I was told later that day when on a walk that they were called Finches Lovebirds but I think I misinterpreted the accent and they are Fischer's Lovebirds, of course. Very nice, none the less.

 

After much frolicking, it was time to get a move on and we met Patrick to be shipped to our boat ride. I wasn't sure what to make of this, even though it was my idea. Shadrack just told me it would cost about 4500KSH for both of us so I wasn't sure what to expect other than a break from the norm, perhaps. I'm glad I did it.

 

It was just before we left the lodge gate that I spotted a pair of giraffe.

 

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The company we used was called

 

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and they seemed to be set in grounds that were shared by a camp site and quite a few (Meru?) tents on wooden platforms. Reading a TA post the other day, I think this was Crescent Island Camp. They were very busy, with a large Indian family turning up to be told they had no room. The cost was actually 5000ksh which was only a little more than what Shadrack said it would be so I didn't argue. I wasn't in a haggling mood. We wouldn't be sharing anyway so I was happy.

 

Our captain was Anthony and he really knew his birds, which I suppose he would have to since Lake Naivasha is a haven for birds and birders alike. I'm not sure when the best time of year is for this kind of activity but there were lots and lots when we were there. Birds that is; again, the lake was pretty quiet with us only passing 1 other boat. There were quite a few hippo too :)

 

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As we were watching the pied kingfisher devour its fish lunch, I spotted a thin green snake in the water but it was too quick to get on to dry land before my wife or Anthony could see it. Anthony said it would have been a green mamba. I thought to myself at the time that the green mamba is arboreal so it was unlikely. Anthony was however very adept at steering his boat. We were approaching some thick bush with only a small opening and he made it through without touching the sides. What was more spectacular was the many hundreds of pelicans that awaited us on the other side.

 

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After cutting through them, we made our way towards land and were pleasantly surprised to be told we'd now have a walk on Crescent Island :D being a tight git, this meant great value for money! Our guide was Peter and he showed us around the 'island'. There were lots zebra, waterbuck and impala as well giraffe and even cape buffalo. There were small numbers of thomson and grants gazelle and we so a lone gnu. Lots of birds again with the lovebirds making another appearance, a pair of hoopoe and also lots of plovers screaming their lungs out. Peter told us they have no predators here, not even leopard. I got to practice some Swahili out with him too which was fun and very much a necessity at the time: Peter, cho kiko wapi?

 

I can't say it was a great place but still enjoyable all the same; allowing us get close to the almost tame game, particularly the giraffes which made for some great memories. Peter waved us good bye as we sailed off back home. Note the double wave - is this a Kenyan thing?

 

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On our way back, Anthony stopped the boat and started whistling really loud. He hadn't seen a pretty girl, well, not that kind, but a very pretty fish eagle which he proceeded to 'bait' by throwing a fish into the lake. Funnily enough, the eagle didn't move and Anthony had to manoeuvre the boat in order to retrieve said fish :lol: it didn't take him long to spot another which I had no idea how he did it since the bird was halfway down a tree behind at least 3 other trees! This was one took the bait. I videoed whilst the missus photoed - still need to go through my videos. This was the best we got. Light is really important to photography....

 

 

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Anthony managed to call another eagle after this and I wish I had just watched as opposed to filming.

 

On returning to the lodge, we got ready for dinner and enjoyed the more cosy atmosphere:

 

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I tried out the Doom plug-in that night - I didn't get bit.

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Have just tried, and here, displays perfectly in your post, and when I embed the image...

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Yeah its fine now, all on its own eh? Win-Win!

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June 22nd: Lake Naivasha to Kigio Conservancy

 

I'll split this post up I think to finish off Sopa Naivasha before ranting on about Kigio.

 

I was up at around 6am, quite surprisingly, and the sun was already up and the day was waiting for me - that's what it felt like in my malerone-influenced brain, anyway. The wife stirred a little and asked what I thought I was doing. I told her there are animals outside our room who needed my attention! She concurred but would not be joining me until after breakfast at 8am :) it took me a while to get ready, getting my camera stuff together into my satchel and I was out by around 7am, again alone in the gardens with the birds and waterbuck. This time however, I spotted something else, a lot smaller, darting about amongst the bushes which I was very happy to discover was a pair of dik-dik, one being braver than its partner to stay around for a quick snap.

 

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After having fun on my own, I soon missed my wife, I mean, felt hungry and headed off to breakfast to tell 'r lass about everything I'd gotten up to. This was sufficient for her to want to come explore with me. This time, I was glad there was no one else around as the vision of the 2 of us traipsing around thinking we were stalking the dik-dik to get closer perhaps wouldn't have gone down well :lol: at point, we almost tripped over 2 female waterbuck in the bushes, not knowing who was more frightened as they bolted off! A visitor at breakfast who was soon scared off by the chef posed rather aptly staring at a sign that spelled his downfall.

 

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After enough hunting, the 2 of set about exploring more of the lodge itself

 

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and stumbled upon a set of swings which before I could stop her, the wife was enjoying! We were tracking a group of guineaufowl at the time which got away. There was a stone path that lead towards the lake so we decided to follow it since we could hear hippo noises in that direction and it wasn't long down this path before we met Samson, a kind man who worked as a security guard at the resort. I'm always cautious when people suddenly want to walk with you, even if they are members of staff, but despite his weak English, I'm glad we bumped into him. Samson was generous enough to take us to a young giraffe which was down near the lake and we could walk within a few feet of. The wife got really close as I took the pictures but it was a great experience to be so close to such a big animal and find that it makes next to no noise.

 

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Samson also told us that there was too much water in the lake due to the rains - I'd heard water from the Mau forest was also the cause of this [more on this later] - which lead to the water coming so far in land that they were no longer able to walk to the jetty. The rain had also caused the ground to soften around some huge trees causing them to simply fall over.

 

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Samson escorted us back to our room where we proceeded to empty it and check out. Anthony, our room attendant, helped us with the suitcases from hell and we were quickly with Patrick again. It was at this point the wife asked where her bag of toys was - she had brought a carrier bag of toys to hand out to children we would meet along the way. Telling her it was her bag was futile so I dashed off to the room. I'm only telling you this because on the way back, I decided to take another route to the car park and was lucky to have a brief encounter with the colobusses (colubii?) again!! Not having my camera was not good but I was still captivated on how human-like they once you spend a few minutes just watching. Fascinating.

 

At 9:50am, we were off to Kigio!!

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You can be intrepid in Kigo this time and intrepid in Swara Plains next time.

 

Colobus in Lake Naivasha!? I didn't know that. Nice birdlife on the lake. How/when did you arrange your boat trip with Marina and do you recall about when it started and ended? About how much time did you walk on Crescent Island? Was it just you two in the boat, with the guide, right? The photo from the curio shop is really lovely scenery. Your dik dik chase was successful according to the photo.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Reading, but having keyboard problems so not commenting yet... liking it.

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Enjoying this and looking forward to your Kigio section - and why Kigio no longer has rhino?

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I'm enjoying reading this and looking forward to more.

 

 

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Since I was a new birder, I was proud to have spotted these birds, guessing they were a kind of parakeet. I was told later that day when on a walk that they were called Finches Lovebirds but I think I misinterpreted the accent and they are Fischer's Lovebirds, of course.

 

Well maybe not quite, there shouldn’t actually be any Fischer’s lovebirds Agapornis fischeri at Lake Naivasha this species should be a purely Tanzanian bird found from the Serengeti westwards. However thanks to the wild bird trade a number of populations have become established in Kenya either from escapes or deliberate releases, often these birds are hybrids with another originally Tanzanian species the yellow-collared Agapornis personatus and I believe this is the case at Lake Naivasha so these birds are probably in fact Fischer’s x yellow-collared lovebird hybrids. I thought you might be interested, beautiful birds all the same.

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You can be intrepid in Kigo this time and intrepid in Swara Plains next time.

 

Colobus in Lake Naivasha!? I didn't know that. Nice birdlife on the lake. How/when did you arrange your boat trip with Marina and do you recall about when it started and ended? About how much time did you walk on Crescent Island? Was it just you two in the boat, with the guide, right? The photo from the curio shop is really lovely scenery. Your dik dik chase was successful according to the photo.

 

Thanks for your understanding, Atravelynn!

 

I think the colobus may be related to the lodge in some way since no one else in the area mentioned having them. Patrick said he thought Sopa fed them too, but we only saw them grazing in the nearby foliage.

 

Patrick said they always used Marina and we just turned up and booked it. No wait time, as soon as we paid, we were off with the boat captain, Anthony. Sorry, I should have made it clearer: it was just me and my wife in the boat along with Anthony, which was of course great! I'll check the time on my pics.... we started around 3.20pm and were done at 5.15pm.

 

We spent around an hour on Crescent Island with Peter our guide - again just the wife and I. For 5000KSH (about 40 quid or 60 bucks) + tips, I think we got a good deal. Private boat trip and guide on C Island.

 

Reading, but having keyboard problems so not commenting yet... liking it.

 

Thanks, Paul.

 

Enjoying this and looking forward to your Kigio section - and why Kigio no longer has rhino?

 

Hopefully get that sorted soon!

 

Well maybe not quite, there shouldn’t actually be any Fischer’s lovebirds Agapornis fischeri at Lake Naivasha this species should be a purely Tanzanian bird found from the Serengeti westwards. However thanks to the wild bird trade a number of populations have become established in Kenya either from escapes or deliberate releases, often these birds are hybrids with another originally Tanzanian species the yellow-collared Agapornis personatus and I believe this is the case at Lake Naivasha so these birds are probably in fact Fischer’s x yellow-collared lovebird hybrids. I thought you might be interested, beautiful birds all the same.

 

Thanks for this, inyathi, its very interesting. I suppose the world over we're seeing foreign species turning up in the unlikeliest of places. Just knew there was something dodgy about those fellas.

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Really enjoying the little details in this report and I feel that I'm travelling the roads with you. I wish I could express what a joy reading everyone's reports is to me; the different styles; the different details; the special guides met, it is all so enthralling.

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I wish I could express what a joy reading everyone's reports is to me

 

You just have :)

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June 22nd: continued (Kigio)

 

When booking this trip, I was stuck to fill 2 nights worth of time between Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru so I did what was logical and look at google maps. Slap bang in between these 2 places on the road that joins them was a large green area - got to love those green areas - labelled Kigio Wildlife Conservancy. Having never heard of it, a quick search lead me to their website (www.kigio.com) and my curiosity was soon piqued, prompting me to ask Shadrack to see if he could book us in. They had room, so our itinerary was complete (for now).

 

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Before we arrived, and since we would be a little early due to Kigio not being too far from Naivasha, we stopped a small 'service station' behind a petrol station where I ordered 3 Fantas and the wife enjoyed a very nice vegetable samosa (for 30KSH!) from the Rush Indian Restaurant and Bar. Patrick refuses to have anything with chilli in it - and these were a little spicy! - since it is one of his greatest fears having worked with an Indian family before he became a driver/guide where he was asked to share their lunch frequently. The fear that chillies played second fiddle to would make an appearance later in the trip......

 

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Kigio Wildlife Conservancy is a private conservancy owned by approx. 215 different land owners set on 3500 acres fenced on 3 sides and protected on the fourth by the Malewa river. Kigio means something that is hard to locate, where as Malewa means zig-zag or "how someone walks after 5 beers" (George). The accommodation is made up of sites at 2 locations: Kigio Camp and Malewa Wildlife Lodge. Really, they are both lodges as the camp is made up of large rooms with purely thatched roofing and the "camp" in the name came from the conservancy originally offering camping only.

 

At Kigio Camp though, the 'walls' that lead to the outside balconies, overlooking the Malewa River, are made up of the meshed canvas we are used to (and love) whereby you need to unzip to get out. At MWL, the river was viewed through large glass windows and access was gained through wooden glassed-doors. All buildings in the conservancy are said to be built from only local materials except for some wooden parts of the structure that are made from eucalyptus, from Australia! We were told they were trying to promote this particular tree for construction though I'm not sure how successful it has been other than in the conservancy.

 

Kigio is not really a cheap place to visit. We stayed during their high season and the cost was $226USD each, per night. This included everything except drinks and game drives (day or night) which were priced at $35 each, per drive. Walks, fishing and even biking were all included, as well as the normal 3 square meals. They offer free wifi though in the main areas - it doesn't quite reach to the rooms and you get no phone reception there either except when out in the bush/plains.

 

There are 2 kinds of accommodation at MWL: you have the river suites and then you have the normal suites (without a river view, set in the bush). You do not pay any different for the type of accommodation you select, even if staying at Kigio Camp.

 

The main (and only?) gate was a short drive from the main road, and was manned by 1 guard. We were later advised that the security of the whole 'ranch' was carried out and controlled by local community members, so already we were seeing that this business was run very closely with the people who live around the land - just how it should be. Most of the food was grown locally too and shipped in on motorcycle :) From the gate, it was a VERY bumpy ride to the lodge over roads that looked like they were more like rocky river bottoms than surfaces designed for vehicles.

 

I'm not very good at describing 'land' but Kigio was made up just about every type from small swathes of savannah dotted with bushes with various heights of grass; thick bushy regions; rocky outcrops; as well as truly jungle type of terrain with bush almost as high as I am - the wife completely disappeared at times during our walks :D

 

Despite the bumpy drive, the views were magnificent. Particularly when we suddenly came upon an opening of a valley/meadow type landscape that was full of animals. Rothschild giraffe, zebra, eland, impala, waterbuck and even a few gazelle. However, the first animal we saw was the warthog (pumba or ngiri) which were in very high numbers all over and possibly some of the biggest specimens we had ever seen!

 

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This probably because Kigio has no lions. The major predators would be around 8 leopard and between 20 and 30 spotted hyaena (2 clans). This might not be everyone's cup of tea - but then I don't drink tea - though it meant walks were very much on the cards. There are no elephants or cheetah either, however there are 200 buffaloes which we somehow failed to see during our stay. In a way, retrospectively, I was glad as it proved even when shooting fish in a barrel, one can still miss - in other words the animals were wild and not just on show like a safari park.

 

Anyway, after several stops including one to allow Patrick to kindly pop the roof for us, we eventually (3.5 miles in 45 minutes) made it to the lodge. We took so long from the gate that they even sent out someone on a motorcycle to find us! This gentleman was called Steven and he was a resident naturalist at Kigio. It was kind of funny and surreal when he approached us and asked for me by name. Not sure why, it just was.

 

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(The reception area is on the upper floor, with a kind of circular seating area below, with soft cushions and large pictorial books available. A chillaxing place :D)

 

On arrival at the lodge, we were met by George who introduced himself as a guide, our guide, for the next 2 days(ish). He sat his down and we were plied with another tropical cocktail and cold towel, whilst he went over the rules, activities, times etc. One thing he tried his best to convey was that we were "the bosses", we could anything we wanted, any time we wanted - we just had to tell him. Just one thing.... "the bikes were at Kigio Camp and were no good; fishing was boring and you might be lucky to catch a talapia or crayfish in 5 hours; and day game drives are no good since night drives are more exciting, stick to walking"! I found this hilarious but didn't laugh in case George misunderstood.

 

We also ran into a potential sticky point when George said the drives were $55 USD!!!! Today, I was up for some haggling and jumped on poor George. I told him the website still says $35 US and I also have an email from someone I contacted before booking to confirm the prices, and they said it was 35 bucks too. George being "just the guide" needed to get this confirmed. I showed him the email and their website, using their free wifi. He told us that their bookings are handled by a company in Nairobi, and they also maintain the website. I didn't dwell on it, mostly because I just felt like they would honour our earlier discussions (and their rates page), which is exactly what happened.

 

Some good news was that we were the only guests in the whole conservancy!! I already had an inkling of this since their website allows you to check the number of bookings on a given day. The confirmed my checking too that 2 rooms were booked tomorrow so we would have to share all of this on our second night, but Kigio Camp was empty again. The day before and night after us, both places were nearly fully booked so a great bit of luck for us, which I can't stress enough.

 

After filling out the usual form, we were swiftly shown the 'main area'

 

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The view we would have to put up with for a lot of the time.....

 

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We then made our way to the room, following George and his colleague carrying our burden. Don't give me any hassle please - I TIP WELL :(

 

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We were staying in the honeymoon suite which was quite a long walk on a well defined path through dense, green bush and tall grass since it was at the end of all the river suites. Since it was out anniversary, I thought I'd try my luck in booking that particular room. The only difference with this suite was that it had an outdoor bath on the balcony! Being the only ones there, I suppose it wasn't hard in getting that suite.

 

The room was huge, looking like a house from the outside. Electricity was on all the time, powered by a generator.

 

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Though hot water was only available twice a day, provided through a wood fire just outside the room. Very eco-greeno.

 

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The rooms included 2 shukas (Maasai shawls), an umbrella and an electronic safe which we had to have George set up for us. Initial thoughts on the room was that it was perhaps a little too big but we weren't going to spend much time there but it was a little 'open'. The thatched roofing seemed it would allow in all sorts of creepy-crawlies :s and it did. I'm ok with the normal moths and things but each day we'd find some new kind of monster prowling our room. From beetles to these weird green ant flying machines. I know you all share my concerns.......

 

After getting settled in which took a few minutes, we were back out along the trail to the main area to badger George on what we could do before lunch at around 1pm and the afternoon bush walk. George looked a little shocked which he later confessed was down to guests normally not wanting to do anything when they came to Kigio so imagine his surprise where we said we wanted to do a full day's worth of walking tomorrow :lol:

 

George said "let's go to the bridge". So we did.

 

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The "bridge" was a wood-metal effort that spanned the Malewa River to the government land on the other side. It was blocked/closed halfway along a few years ago because the lodge used to receive intruders who would try to rob the guests. We spent quite a lot of time here, enjoying the views, looking out for hippo which George said were common in this location (not today) and also rarely they would see otters here. We mostly spent time just getting to know each other. I found out that Kigio was actually a very popular place and Virgin holidays frequently sent a lot of customers here. Amongst all the gassing, we were lucky to see not just 2 brown crested eagles, but 2 brown crested eagles mating!

 

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It was very hot stood out in the open so after what seemed a long time, we decided to head back for a cool drink before lunch. This was when we met the waiter, Philip. Philip was great, so easy to talk to and the food he brought out was the best (in my opinion) we had all trip. Lunch today was ginger and carrot soup, chicken curry and rice with a chocolate swiss roll and treacle for dessert. The portions were just right, not too big, but perfectly filling without leaving you bloated :) Philip asked us to choose what we wanted for dinner since we were the only guests we could have anything. We weren't sure what to say; what does one say?! I opted for the chicken curry again, taking the easy way out, but this time with mash. The wife had pasta or lasagne. After a little more exploring, it was soon time for the bush walk with George.

 

GEEK WARNING: I used an app on my phone called Google My Tracks when on walks as well as some drives later. The app logs your position via gps every few seconds and then when you have an internet connection, can show you them on a map as well as give stats like time taken, distance and even altitude.

 

We set off directly from the main area. Initially we stopped off at a few bushes and plants George described medicinally, like the Sodom Apple (poisonous, but can be used for toothache; dik-diks eat them for moisture since they don't drink water like a normal animal!). We also found some aloe vera (or was it just aloe?) that George proceeded to eat and the wife rub on herself......

 

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I was immediately impressed with the bush walks since George was constantly stopping and asking if we knew who made this track or who left these droppings. For me, I don't have to see animals on a walk for it to be good but to see and understand tracks so this was great :D the grass was very long but soon the view opened out and we could see the river again as well as a huge flattop

 

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As we approached a bend in the river, I saw something sitting on a large rock in the middle of the water. It was a shoe! Ideas on a postcard please.

 

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We got closer to the river at a part of the bend that was called The Beach - since there was a large sandy area we could walk around. There were lots of tracks: hyaena, jackal and something that completely bamboozled George. My guess was that it was jackal with a limp but he didn't agree.

 

George's knowledge of all flora and fauna was amazing. We saw many small birds and he knew all their names - well I think he did, he could have been saying anything, the scoundrel! I take advantage of people's ignorance far too readily, so its not something I wouldn't have done :lol: Note to self: never become a guide, it would be fair. I never asked George his age but I always thought it to be around 23. Looking back and at the pictures, I think he was younger still, which is impressive for his level of knowledge! The wife and I both already felt privileged not only to have met him but to have him to ourselves. Its amazing what a chat on a metal rope bridge can do.

 

On this walk we saw most of the plains game we had already seen but at a distance. Wildlife we did get closer to was a tree hyrax we heard jump from a its rest after we disturbed it; 2 Sykes monkeys hanging somehow on a cliff face across the river and a tic I found in my shoe. Since the grass was so long and we were walking animal trails, George did say we'd encounter these blighters; and we did! We'd find several of the stuck to our trousers which meant quite a few "monkey breaks" for ourselves as we de-loused ourselves. This only happened when walking through the longer, greener grasses and not all the time.

 

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My phone told me it took us 2 hours to do this 1.67 mile walk. I think George was testing our fitness and more so our willingness with this walk before deciding the plan of attack for tomorrow. I think he still didn't trust we were a very active couple.

 

On the walk, George gave me the low-down on the white rhino that were resident here a few years ago. The KWS removed them following the sudden death of 1 rhino. (I googled "Kigio Rhino" before I left and found a medical report on this - I'll try find the link again after posting this). The post-mortem found the rhino died from a kind of heart disease or heart attack; there were large fatty deposits around the heart. George said the KWS gave Kigio an ultimatum: bring in some simba (lions), or lose the rhino.

 

His explanation was that the rhinos had it too good, they had no reason to run or move around as there was no predators on their tail, so to speak. So, the rhinos would be scared of the lions and then run around, keeping fit and not gain lots of fat around their hearts. I, personally, don't quite buy that a lack of lions would cause a rhino to become obese. I'm not saying I know anything, but my thinking was that at Lake Nakuru the white rhino is doing well and I've never heard of them being harassed by lions... so I'm not sure. I'd like your thoughts on this please.

 

Anyway, I'm glad they don't have any lions as walks are major product for Kigio. The rhino that were taken away, were taken to Lewa and one of them was about to give birth when we were there, so they are still doing well, I'm glad to hear. George joked that they offered to have a man on a motorcycle dressed in a lion costume chase the rhino around :D

 

I just want to mention something interesting George told us about dik-diks. Patrick told us how sensitive a creature the dik-dik last year but the interesting point new to us was that if one partner were to die, the other would not just mourn itself to death but commit a form of suicide by passing over a V-shaped bush or branch in a bid to get stuck thus becoming an easy meal for a passing predator. Amazing.

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After the walk, we went to our room to freshen up as well as grab the shukas since it gets really cold after dark and then hung about the main area with a drink. After another lovely meal, we went on our first drive in a bid to catch a glimpse of the elusive chui (leopard) or even fisi (spotted hyaena). What we saw was a little different :D

 

Philip told us these 2 birds came to roost ever night in the dining room roof. Starlings?

 

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The vehicle used was not quite open, but had a roof to protect against the possibility of rain. There was a seat on the bonnet (hood) for the spotter - as is more common in south African safaris, I think.

 

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This night drive started of very spectacularly, with George almost jumping out of the jeep in the first 3 minutes.. "CARACAL CAT". The cat stayed with us for some time, and it was actively hunting. It slunk off leaving me with wishes I had a camera more adept at photos in the dark! This was our first ever caracal and we couldn't believe our luck.

 

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Then we saw our first ever secretary bird in a tree a few minutes after

 

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followed by a few cape hares, an owl that was walking around on the ground only like owls can do and then our second caracal cat!! This one unfortunately didn't hang about for pics like the first one. We also saw all of the plains game we had seen during the day, as well as seated giraffe.

 

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Not a great pic but I wanted to show you how close Kigio is to the main road and "reality". The light you can see in the distance are the weigh bridge used day and night by trucks coming from and going to Uganda.

 

The drive was pretty quiet after the extraordinary start - no sign of hyaena despite visiting den sites, which we thought had moved, or of the handful of leopard on the reserve. I'd better not play the violin strings too much sing pault might kill me this time; apparently 2 carcal cats is a big deal........ Joking aside, we loved this experience. We had a driver who was accompanied by George (who was more excited than us 2 put together) and the spotter with the lamp on the front of the vehicle. One thing I noticed different to our first night drive last year at Sarova Salt Lick was that there were not as many bats flying around. We saw hundreds last time, trying to catch moths attracted to the lights. That was February though, which was VERY hot. Perhaps too cold for them?

 

On getting back to our room, I used the Doom plug-in and spray as there were several creatures crawling on the floor :s but we knew where we were and that we had to live with it... right? George tried to reassure me by saying the mosquitoes here don't carry malaria anyway. The bed had 2 hot water bottles due to the sudden drop in temperature - my phone told me were 6500 feet above sea level. Kigio was the only place we noticed a considerable drop in temps at bed time.

 

I couldn't sleep that night and I guessed it was due to the malerone which I stopped taking after that. Something else that kept me awake was the tree hyrax!! I can't copy what I wrote in my journal.... I have never heard a noise like that in my life; we thought something was in the room with us! It must have been on the roof. It sounded like someone screaming before changing to another even stranger sound - the thing was making 2 different noises so we thought perhaps 2 different animals were having a row over some kind of land dispute. Imagine that every 10 minutes over 2 hours :blink: after that stopped, we heard normal things like crickets and cicadas, as well as hyaena and a large male leopard.

 

Quote of the day - George: "green mamba's are not dangerous".

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Really enjoying the little details in this report and I feel that I'm travelling the roads with you. I wish I could express what a joy reading everyone's reports is to me; the different styles; the different details; the special guides met, it is all so enthralling.

 

Thanks, twaffle. I think I talk too much, to be honest so hope I'm not boring everyone.

 

I wish I could express what a joy reading everyone's reports is to me

 

You just have :)

 

I was about to say the same thing! :)

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