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Super LEEDS in Kenya 2012


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PT123 - you know, I don't think I saw a single ranger vehicle during my entire stay in the Mara (main).


pault - read back a few pages, it was thee who declared there was plenty of "useless" information being given on here! You're right with the BEFs - that are just outside the Fig Tree car park is constantly a hive of activity.


The structure in the last pic taken at night is the Shaurihii Bar. A platform built around one of the fig trees that give the camp its name. You can get good view of the nearby Masai Mara plains across the Talek River. Just to the left at the bottom is where the bush baby food is placed each night.


Atravelynn - I wonder if the weather or rather the terrain had been safer, if they would have risked getting stuck trying to get closer....

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An entertaining addition to your report SL!


I don't know what's happened to the Mara I know and love. We went east to Tsavo this summer and didn't visit the Mara at all but in my previous visits I don't think I've ever seen any more than 5 or 6 vehicles at a big cat sighting and perhaps no more than 10 vehicles at a river crossing.

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That terrain around Fig Tree looked familiar, including the cattle in the background of your giraffe shot. I recall seeing some grazing along the route to and from camp.


Nice to know the genet and bush baby still join you around the campfire, probably generations of bush babies and genets. Thanks for the latest update.

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  • 3 months later...

June 27th: Fig Tree Camp


Today was to be our last day at Fig Tree and the wife decided to have a lie-in meaning it was just Patrick and I on the AM drive which ran from 6.15 - 8.30 as today was the day of our nature walk.


Maybe not as long as you're used to be it was still sufficient to see:


- 3 spotted hyaena

- a cheetah in the long, long grass which I spotted (perhaps due to my elevated position)

- 3 male lions who had just finished feeding on something and were enjoying a drink from a puddle in the road (2 younger than the other but all 3 without prominent manes)

- 2 jackals trying to get at a thommie fawn which I managed to catch a little of on video








Spot my cheetah




One of the lions seemed to have taken a battering - maybe they were hunting buffalo





The wife was already at breakfast so I jumped in :) we had some time to kill before our walk at 10am so went to explore a little around our room which led us to walk as far as we could along the Talek River in both directions from our tent. We saw lots of birds as well as a massive army of ants which were to get their revenge on me for intruding their march. On getting back to the tent after our expedition, I suddenly had a sharp pain on my right shin and my left forearm. Not sure what to think, I rolled back my clothes to find some rather chunky 'soldier' ants attacking me!! Man, did they pack a punch.






We made our way to the main area in order to start our nature walk. We were introduced to our Maasai guide, Patrick by the 'funny' receptionist who described Patrick as a "tall fellow" perhaps on purpose since she knew I was taller (considerably) and also that tallness is something held in... high esteem in Maasai culture. As I have pointed out earlier, the fact that the walks are not promoted, it was no surprise to find we were the only ones on it and we were soon on our way out of camp via the back service gate.


On our way out we were checked by a large troop of baboons making their way through camp. Atravelynn: maybe the baboon that took a fancy to you was one of them! But we were soon out of the huge gate and into the area on the other side of the Talek.


On the walk we saw:


- a bachelor group of impala that had taken in a lone Thomson's gazelle

- 2 mice that were chasing each other around a tree

- small dung beetles and other insects

- a very large elephant herd in the distance across the Talek






Since it was one of those 'tame' kind of walks, it was more about getting to know Patrick and he let us in on a few Maasai superstitions [perhaps I should use a different word] after I spotted several holes in the ground with a ring of dirt around them. We were told these were ant holes and that if we saw these there was to be a little rain but if we saw a big trail of ants there was going to be "big rain". We'd seen both, so what did that mean?! :o


Also, something that was quite funny was that if a bird calls in front then there is an animal in front of you, if the bird calls behind you, there is a person behind you somewhere. He mentioned this when a bird called behind us and then laughed when, as we were walking back to camp, we saw a person walking along the road!


I'm not sure if he was pulling our leg or not :D


We also shared information about our countries, cultures and home-life. On hearing we were from England, Patrick said he loved the British since they made good steel and asked if we had ever heard of a company called the BBC. They provided a World Service radio broadcast from which they got all their news since the local news agencies/government were useless.




You can see the back service gate of the camp in this shot.




Its hard to describe but we really enjoyed the walk but it wasn't 'that' good. Maybe this was because of the experiences we had at Kigio, I'm not sure. Patrick was great, a really nice guy. Would I book it again? Perhaps, if it was with Patrick and also if we could perhaps request that we could have a more strenuous time of it with a more likely chance of 'hyaena and dik-dik', otherwise perhaps not. Would I recommend it? For $20 USD each, its not that much on the scale of things and it would depend on your experience and your expectations. If you're a noob like me then yes, do it, its a great break from driving around and you will learn something of the more intricate, often hidden elements to being in the bush :)


On getting back to our tent after thanking Patrick for the walk, we collected our laundry which cost 2200KSH (or 18 quid) for around 20+ items. Not bad for the middle of nowhere :lol: I know you all want to know the key info like this.


We'd agreed to meet our Patrick at 3.30pm for the afternoon drive so we had a bit of time to kill after lunch which meant some drinks at the bar and a nap. It also meant trying out some of the "fun features" of my camera.






On our way out, we spent some time with a much scarred hippo who was lolling around under the walk bridge that joins the camp to the car park across the Talek, before jumping in the jeep.




We didn't see much in this drive other than the normal plains animals other than more silver-backed jackals. I've always time for jackals, especially when a hammerkopf sneaks into the shot.






What I had failed to notice was that Patrick was rather quiet on this drive, perhaps because I was a little tired too, I'm not sure, but after what seemed like ages of driving without seeing anything...... BOOM




He told me afterwards that he was intent on showing me a leopard since this was his last 'proper' day of driving us on safari as at Royal Mara we'd be in their vehicle with their guide. On top of him not showing us one last year in Tsavo after my constant badgering :) I was almost more happy for him than us seeing this beautiful cat.


In my gallery, after this pic is a photo of a small yellow bird which I included since this bird of constantly bombing the leopard, who was sat out in the open. Exactly as we had seen with "my" lioness on the previous day.






A fitting end I thought. A perfect end however would have been to have seen black rhino since we were in dense bush and on the drive back I thought I had seen one but for it to turn out to be a small elephant well hidden in the bushes. A good spot :D but not quite! I'm just kidding, leopards are always perfect for me. I could have said purrfect.... but I didn't :)


On our way back, we gave up the chance to see lions and drove by since there were already around 30 vehicles there, instead to spend a few minutes relaxing with a sleeping hyaena, again just outside of camp, who slept soundly despite us and the rain. Had the ants caused this?!






After dinner, we were lucky to spend lots of time with the genet feeding. The colour of their coats and the length of their tails is amazing.




After missing the hot water yesterday, I made an enquiry on whether I could get any today. The receptionist called over one of the night watchmen and he explained to me how it worked and I couldn't quite grasp it other than the fact there was nearly always hot water, it was just when they put it into our tanks and whether it got cold through not being used. Anyway, he walked us back and performed some magic with a pipe that fed into our tank at the back of our tent. You may, along with most of this TR, think why I'm mentioning this... I just want it recorded that a nice guy did a nice favour for us rather than saying you should have showered earlier!


As we approached our tent, the wife and I noticed immediately that the river was making a lot more noise tonight. It wasn't hippos, it was the water, there seemed to be more of it and it was positively roaring. The watchmen said it was probably due to the rain in the hills - I swear this is a reason used the world over. But I knew better..... small rain at the end of the game drive; huge rain causing the river levels to rise. The ants!!


Regardless, I didn't like the extra noise. My wife and Mrs Oklahoma next-door both loved it and said it was soothing. White noise! Blue language, more like....


To correct my earlier point, this is a perfect end to the day:



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Not heard from Lion Fanatic for a while (despite losing to Bradford...) but his encouragement to share video forced me to check my videos out and try my hand at uploading to Youtube. Hope this works.......


Please crank up to full HD if you can.



These were the 3 male lions we saw on the day above.

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Yep, my nightwear, and scarf, for the cold mornings. Our room attendant laid them out like this. Great welcome home after dinner.

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Well knock me down with a feather! It's alive!


Great read and not a bad day at all.... with two perfect ends. The messages revealed by Patrick's bush wisdom sounded like nonsense but they turned out to be like a riddle that made perfect sense in the end. Some nice photos - great accompaniment to the words.

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Really happy to see this fun report continue, very enjoyable.

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Thanks, pault and twaffle.


Reading everyone else's prompted me into action! So glad I kept a notebook.

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Good you decided to continue! Love your writing style. Can only imagine what would happen to the poor guide and other people in the camp if you, Pault and Bibi ever went on a safari together


Great stuff, keep at it!


He already thought the same. I thought back that the answer might be double divorce papers. :P

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Yeah, he already (publicly) shot me down on that one.


Thing is...... we'd still have each other, pault!

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Yeah, he already (publicly) shot me down on that one.


Thing is...... we'd still have each other, pault!


:D What a beautiful thought! You haven't been shot down - just need to know that you can live with the consequences and that I'd be enough for you.

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28th June: Fig Tree Camp to Royal Mara


Up at 5am today for a 6am meet with Patrick. The wife again deciding to have a lie in. All was pretty quiet until my friends the jackals provided us with a bit of look and things started to liven up. I'm not sure if I said this before but I honestly felt jackals were a sign of good things to come for us on the this trip. Just like the previous day, not seeing anything for ages before a jackal (and a hammerkopf) before the leopard.








We encountered a family of elephants quietly browsing before bumping into a huge herd of buffalo. My notepad says "200-300" which is pretty useless but there were lots! There were lots of young too but hard to spot in the high grass.




As we driving along after spending time with the eles and nyati, there was a family of helmeted guinea fowl with some very small (cute) chicks in front of us. As we drove along, expecting them to dive into the grass, the birds refused to give way! Eventually, after a few minutes of driving extra slow, the guinea fowl scattered with the adults going one way and the chicks another, but we were able to get past. Looking back from my standing position in the jeep, I asked Patrick to quickly stop. What had we done!?! The chicks were tiny, in the long grass, away from their mum - it wasn't good. As time went on, I - we, I was blaming Patrick at this point to make myself feel better, of course - felt worse as we could see the adults scouring all over and calling their babies. Just as we were about to leave, forlorn, the mother popped out from the grass with her babies in tow :D woohoo




You can clearly see mum looking back at us with the evil eye.


We made our way back towards camp feeling like we'd saved the world. Patrick took a route along the Talek and we encountered numerous hippo pods but stayed with one when we saw a youngster who was loving life and kept jumping into the river after climbing out on the bank.




Sorry that's the best pic I have of the hero as I was having too much of a laugh enjoying his antics, I didn't quite get a flattering pic. The hippos were some distance away too since the banks for the Talek where we were, were very steep and high.


I again spotted some adorable bat-eared foxes (BEFs) - perhaps the same pair we left to go see the cheetahs for as they were also in the same area outside camp.




We had a little drama here again too. There were too male thommies fighting (butting?) and were making lots of noise, which in turn attracted one of the local hyaena clan to come and investigate. The spotted hyaena was clearly trying to take advantage and tried its best to 'lope' in and take one of the males whilst they were busy. I say lope as even though they may be moving fast, its hardly a form of running that hyaena have :lol:


Anyway, as I've said before, the area near the car park, is chock full of gazelle, impala and topi who were all quick to spot the intruder and raised the alarm meaning the males stopped their quarelling and the hyaena then had to lope off. I don't have any pics of this but my notepad says I have video so I will look into uploading this later.




Back in camp, I met the missus for breakfast and also said some long goodbyes to our neighbours from Oklahoma and their family, exchanging email addresses so we could keep in touch - and we have! Hi A&B :)


After packing up, we were on our way out of the Talek gate, towards Mara North Conservancy!


To be continued.......


- fun in the mud

- Royal Mara - more long grass?!

- a visitor at our lunch in the bush

- Leopard Gorge - just a name right?


We're off to meet friends for lunch before going to see The Hobbit :D will try finish this day soon.


Kwaheri, for now

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Super duper Leeds, as I was lazily scrolling around the ST site this am trying to avoid the TV news; I came up your report - you have quite a sense of humor (how did I figure that out after my TR beginning!) and am really enjoying your Kenyan Safari.


I am also quite happy you've taken months to finish ~~ well not even close to finish I suppose.. :rolleyes:


So that takes quite a bit of Stress off me. I won't finish' til you do...& make that a LONG lunch!


Lovely & fun ride around Kenya... very enjoyable, G.

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Thank you, graceland. I'm not sure I'd like the pressure of finishing my TR which is preventing yours from being complete!

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Fig Tree Camp: would I stay here again? Yes!


That's all I need to say, right? The tents were perfect for me and the location is great for game: antelope, hyaena, elephant, giraffe, lions, hippo and even cheetah etc etc. All this in perhaps the wrong time of year to be in this area. Imagine during and just after the great migration! The area around the Talek river is said to be a hotspot for leopard too though we had no luck in that area.


There's wifi (not very good) for those that need that kind of thing. There's normally Safaricom reception too but it was down for most of our stay before coming on during the last day.


OK, so on to Royal Mara in the Mara North Conservancy. I thought it would have been good to have gone through the reserve but apparently the roads were not passable that way and we had to leave the Mara (main) and then travel north-west-ish. I can believe this since the "roads" in the park were of the fine cotton soil meaning getting stuck was a high possibility. Nevertheless, we still managed to have some fun in the mud :D Just past the town of Talek (I think), the road was intersected by a flood - looked like a river to me! - and then after that the road was a muddy hell- hole. Needless to say, we got a little stuck after slipping a little. I think we would have been fine had a large truck not just been through and churned the whole thing up.


Pic: truck, water running left to right and then the mud beyond on our road straight ahead.






The wife and I alighted to errr help [read: take pics :D]. We were lucky some guys with shovels were at hand to save the day. With some excepentionally positioned rocks we were soon out, though my trainers were caked (again). A quick asante sana shouted to the helpful Kenyans, we were soon on our way. Thinking about it now, these guys were just stood around so I don't know if they were tasked with this job. Patrick didn't say so but I'm not sure. Not that it matters; I wish I had had something to give them. Money didn't quite seem right.


The journey, after this, was a long one, over some horrid roads again but more of the rocky kind rather than the sticky, messy sort. We only travelled around 40km but it took several hours.


We traversed a few conservancies whose names I didn't note but I'm pretty sure Olare Orok was one. The land was very flat on the most part with very short grass which maked seem like perfect cheetah habitat. Maybe it was but there was a lot of human activity in the area too - lots of Maasai villages/settlements.


Soon we passed the marker for the MNC, and the grass levels were still looking good :D however, when we encountered the Royal Mara sign, it was like a different place with high levels again :( my heart sank (again) and I was a little angry this time. Not sure who at - probably myself.




We met an RM driver on our way, Julius, who had been sent out to meet and chaperone us into camp. Patrick asked him about the game around here and he said guests that day had seen 2 leopards and lots of lions so there was no need for us to worry. That helped! Also, I knew that Patrick would not be driving us at RM but one of the resident guides would be taking us out meaning they would know the land and 'be in the loop' in terms of game sightings and regular haunts. Which proved invaluable allowing us to start each day in a 'perfect' way :) Radios are not used here, but mobile phones.


The camp is located on a bend of the Mara river, a peninsula, if you like, on the western edge of the conservancy, with 8 tents so its a 'small' place. I was told the management tent is used for guests should they need to offer a 9th place. Being surrounded by the river meant we were surrounded, day and night, by around 150 hippos with lots of different families/pods sharing the area.


We were greeted and briefed by James, the camp manager, who gave us the lowdown of activities, rules and timings, as well as the usual cold fruit juice. We asked about night drives and were told these were possible but not today for some reason we weren't filled in on. At Fig Tree, when haggling with the gift shop worker, Sadera, he told us that his brother "Pere" (Perray) was the manager of RM so I was surprised to meet James telling me he was manager! After the briefing, I asked James so you have anyone called Pere here to which he smiled and said "that's me, James Pere"! Hardly apt for me to say "small world" but you get the picture :lol:


Anyway, the camp kind of has 2 main areas: one where we had the briefing where all drives start and end; and one at the other end, on the bend of the river with another dining area, bar and gift shop. The rooms were in the middle of all this. There's no pool here, guys! The camp is completely open so anything may come and go, including the resident herd of eland that don't run away when you walk by.


There is 'security' always at hand in the form of the rangers Stephen and Ferris, and guards Moses and Francis. All great guys! There was lots of opportunities for chats as you're not allowed to wonder around camp on your own due the chances of running into any wild animals. Hyaena, hippo and baboon are very common visitors. We had a mouse run up to us too one night... be careful guys.


The tents:




Tents 1-8 are all named in Swahili of the local fauna. We were given Simba! As you can see, all are on raised, wooden structures with canvas walls and ceiling. They are HUGE! Split up into 3 parts: the massive bed with wardrobe, desk and coffee table; the sink area; and then the sections off toilet and shower areas. The great thing about the tents is if you look closely, there are intricate carvings of animals just about everywhere.




This is the sink area:




The sinks had a clear plastic lining with carvings of hippo and dolphin inside.


Outside the room on the platform were 2 sunloungers ad another coffee table with 2 chairs but the best thing was a clear view of the river and the resident hippo pod. So we could at least see who was keeping us up all night :D


We were introduced to out room attendant, Simon, who said laundry was free but that we couldn't submit any underwear. Ha, no arguments there.


I've probably missed something but enough right, I'm hungry, so off to lunch. A bush lunch on the plains!




Julius took us to lunch along with 2 other guests: an arab couple here for 1 night before going back to Nairobi. They had only come since the friend they had come to see in Kenya insisted they go - they were not liking it! After sharing the vehicle and close proximity at lunch, the wife and I shared the same feeling about them :@ on the way they were literally shouting at the animals we happened to see. During lunch, the guy was shouting "give banana", asking the staff to feed a baboon trying to muscle in on the food..... On the way back, I asked Julius to tell me that we would not be sharing a vehicle with these 2 for game drives too. he said not to worry and that everyone was fed up of them too - they were constantly shouting at the animals!! What the......


Anyway, food.




The chef said we have burgers or lamb chops.

I said errrrrr.........

The chef said you want both don't you.

I raised my plate and smiled.


Lunch was great, with fresh salads, cold drinks and barbecued meats! We had good views of zebra, topi on their look-out mounds and a big male baboon.






We were loving our time at Royal Mara already, even the worry of game viewing being difficult again was ebbing away. Which meant we were itching to get out after lunch so we hung about with Moses waiting for our guide to pick us up.


Our guide was Jeff and he seemed to know every inch of the conservancy and was very knowledgable with a great grasp of English. Jeff's very friendly too so it makes the getting-to-know process a lot shorter so we could just relax in his company. We're still in touch on Facebook.


We were lucky having a great drive and the vehicle to ourselves throughout our stay of 4 nights. We saw all the usual plains game as well as wildebeest which we hadn't seen at all in the Mara main. They were not in great numbers but a few "lost" fellows here and there. I spotted a Jackson's widow bird doing its jumping thing too!






We drove through a small wooded area which can be good for leopard but instead we came across members - females and several large cubs - of the Cheli pride. They were all doing what their kind do best in the long grass, apart from one cub who was very interested in us. I counted 9 but we think there were probably more that were more well hidden or in deeper sleep!




We left them to it as it was getting a little overcast and dark before approaching a road that seemed to cut through a hill - hold on, I recognise this! It was Leopard Gorge.




There were 3 vehicles already in the gorge but all I could see were these guys on guard duty.




A nice, American lady asked us from one of the other vehicles (from Kichche I think) if we could "see it". Can you?




There was a leopard in the tree! It moved along the branch so we exited the gorge and drove up the side to get a better view.




The cat then climbed down the tree and sat on a rock allowing us all to get a great view. I just want to note there was 6 vehicles at this sighting as I remember Jeff saying 1 of us would have to wait out turn due to the rule of 5 vehicles on 1 sighting being strictly enforced. There were no rangers around but it was good to see there an honour system in place that worked!


I just want to to say at this point that I closed my browser somehow and lost everything so far. However! there is a "view auto saved content" feature I have used before which restored everything. GREAT FEATURE, GW!!


The leopard didn't seem intent on doing anything and since it was getting dark, we headed back. On the way we disturbed a hyaena suckling her young one and had a good view of a tawny eagle.






Jeff asked us what we wanted to do for the rest of our stay as we could do anything. Game drive, walk, Game drive was our plan with a night drive some times too. Jeff said we can't do a night drive today but will do it tomorrow. He didn't give a reason but we didn't ask either since we'd had a great drive with a aptly named gorge performing to its namesake :D


Before dinner, Stephen (assistant manager) told us he was sorry we couldn't go on the night drive today as they have a surprise in-store for us during dinner! This made the wife happy but I'm a bit different and told Stephen its not a surprise now is it! It took him a few seconds and then he realised what he'd done :lol: I then asked if it was for our anniversary and he then came clean and said yes. Again, wife happy with a song-and-dance with cake but me... sorry, mate, its on the 30th, today is the 28th :lol:


The evening meal was set in the open, around a pit fire which was nice as it gets really cold. Dinner was a whole 5 course affair, which we both duly indulged in despite thinking it was too much we didn't want to be rude in saying no. After the first 3 courses, we soon realised everyone else at the camp had said no and were only having the salad and the main! Oops. Next time, we did the same.


James came to see us and said they'd delayed our surprise now for a couple of days :D


Sleep came easy and was only disturbed by hippos who sounded like they were in the 'tent' with us and also a hyaena party that had run into camp during the night. Man, does it get cold!!


NB: I just want to point out, I was no way ungrateful in my handling of RM's kind gesture for our anniversary. It was my idea! Shadrack (Glorious Safaris) had asked them to make a 'fuss' if possible on the 30th after I had requested it so I was already in the loop on this one! No Maasai feelings were hurt during the implementation of this surprise. Anyway, hadn't Stephen spilled the beans, it would have been on the wrong day lala salama

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"VIEW AUTO SAVE" is my favorite feature!


But back to Kenya & Royal Mara - nice place to end up~ I loved Leopard Gorge when we hung out there 2010 - and the "camo"" leopard in the tree. Always a pleasant and sureal surprise to find one!


You have had a Most Excellent Journey, Super!

Great pics too....

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Thanks, graceland. Almost done I think.

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Thanks, graceland. Almost done I think.


Now, Wait a minute Super....you went LAST summer??? - and I am just now reading your report! Jeez, where have I been; I thought everyone RUSHED back to log onto ST; immediately produced great pics, current animal encounters and now I see YOU ALL just have good memory banks.


LOL...Well in ~ JUNE 2013 ~ everyone can read my GREEN SEASON report - I'm finding a 13 yr old wiz kid to "photoshop"for me meanwhile! :D


Do love to hear about Kenya; no matter when.....(years later, haha)



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Ooh, last summer as in June/July 2012, this year! So only a few months late.

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Mr. Leeds, thanks for the latest installment. I haven’t visited the MNC before but have looked at staying at the Royal Mara in the past so I particularly appreciate this part of your report. Great to hear that you saw a leopard in the famous leopard gorge and that the guides take the rules seriously.


PS –


They should have fed the obnoxious man from the middle east to the croc.s!

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Hey PT123


I really recommend this place. Great setup, great staff.


I can still hear "give banana". Even the wife got miffed at it and she normally doesn't get as riled as me, especially whilst eating :lol:

Edited by Super LEEDS
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GREAT report SL gosh it brings back memories of when I used to do the road trips, you really see and feel Kenya. I fly now, getting too ancient for the Kenyan massage and anyway it gives me more time with the animals. Interested in your RM portion as I am looking for another camp in the Mara for next year.

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Love the baboon at the lunch table :D

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