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Debating Itineraries - Mara & 1-2 of (Meru, Il Ngwesi, Amboseli)

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Which option would you pick? I think options 1 & 2 are the top contenders, but we’re still all over the map!

Option 1: 2N Meru, 2N Il Ngwesi, 3N Mara
Option 2: 2N Il Ngwesi, 2N Amboseli, 3N Mara
Option 3: 3N Il Ngwesi, 4N Mara
Option 4: 3N Meru, 4N Mara

-FLYING in between each region. Each trip prices about the same. Lodgings (same for each Option):
-Meru: Offbeat Meru
-Laikipia SE - Il Ngwesi: Tassia Lodge
-Amboseli: Tortilis or Amboseli Porini?
-Mara: Offbeat Mara

-Want to see the most numerous types of animals, without it’s being insanely crowded.
-Would the types of animals be similar in Laikipia - Il Ngwesi & in Meru? Would we have the chance to see more unique “northern” species like Retic Giraffe & Grevy’s while at Tassia?
-Are Mara & Amboseli similar enough to skip Amboseli (due to its crowdedness) & pick another park in its place?

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    Important variable--WHEN are you going?

    Meru is lovely and if the lesser kudu is a goal, then you must go to Meru. I even saw Grevys in Meru but Meru has far far fewer sightings and much less animal density than the other places you mention.

    The best place for northern species, especially the gerenuk, and especially seeing the gerenuk on its hind legs in typical feeding fashion is Samburu.

    The following will make it appear that I am a paid spokesperson for Samburu. I am not.

    Samburu has the second most animals of Kenyan parks, with the Maasai Mara holding the #1 spot.

    When I've been to Samburu (and Buffalo Springs is just on the other side of the river, so staying in either is fine and you can visit both fairly easily) in the dry season, there have not been many vehicles around gerenuk, Grevys, etc., other northern species. There were lots around predators at times.

    A comment from my 2010 trip report that included Samburu:

    Overall, I’d break down the vehicle encounters in Buffalo Springs/Samburu as:
    85% of the time, no other vehicles in sight
    10% of the time, other vehicles were visible as we drove
    5% of the time, we shared sightings with at least one other vehicle


    As part of my Kenya trip, I kept specific track of vehicle #s. Here is a summary of Samburu and vehicle #s.

    * A larger herd of about 50 oryx offered great views...we shared the sighting with two other vehicles for about 10 of our 20 minutes.

    * I recall sharing one sighting of two standing gerenuks with another vehicle briefly. Otherwise we had every single gerenuk to ourselves.

    *. At each of those elephant sightings between 1 and 3 vehicles came and went during about half of our viewing time. The other half of the time we were alone with the elephants.

    *From a distance we watched a lone mother ele and a baby that Ben estimated was only a week old. In the 10 minutes they remained visible in tall grass, no other vehicle was in sight.

    * There were 3 other vehicles near the springs, spread out over about a quarter mile where we saw Grevy and Burchell’s Zebra.

    * For all our bird sightings and photos (except the young ostrich with the eles where there were 3 vehicles for the eles) no other vehicles were around.

    * Our first lion pride sighting of about 5 members, including lionesses and cubs, was shared by up to 4 other vehicles, with some coming and going.

    * A pride of 6 lions that included one young male also had up to 4 other vehicles, with some coming and going.

    * A different pride of 6 lions was positioned to attract a whopping 8 other vehicles, so we did not linger. This pride was spotted right near the entrance to Sambura Simba about 10 minutes before the 6:30 pm park close. So everybody passed them on the way back and that contributed to the crowd.

    * Ben expertly spotted a dead African hare that attracted the attention of another vehicle besides ours.

    * The next afternoon we were behind a vehicle, both of us advancing slowly, when Ben stated, “There’s a live hare. No other vehicles

    * Of the many dik dik sightings, a few pictures resulted of these shy creatures and no other vehicle was ever present.

    * No vehicles around Grant’s Gazelles either.

    *We saw one distant female Greater Kudu across the river. Nobody else around to share this elusive sighting with.


    * We drove to where a leopard was beautifully posed on a termite mound …When we left, about 3 minutes later, I counted 11 other vehicles. That’s a lot but all behaved in an orderly manner.

    *A little later in the day we encountered the leopard again. I counted 10 other vehicles negotiating the maze of tracks through the brush to see the leopard hunt.
    ---
    But what Samburu does not offer is rhino. Il Ngwesi gives you a good shot at rhino. Even the Mara has possible rhino sightings.
    -------

    Now in Meru, "I saw 5 other safari vehicles in all of Meru, actually there were 4 separate vehicles, but we encountered one twice."

    Your question:
    -Are Mara & Amboseli similar enough to skip Amboseli (due to its crowdedness) & pick another park in its place?

    Occasionally a gerenuk is seen around Amboseli Porini, an animal that would not be seen in the Mara, but other than that mammal, species are about the same. And you might see rhino in Mara.

    What Amboseli offers that none of the other locations in your plans offer is possible views of Kili. It is also good for eles. But you'll very likely see ele in the Mara. If you are into maximizing species, Amboseli does not add more species.

    To maximize species if you have no more than 7 nights, I'd do 2 Samburu, 2 Il Ngwesi, 3 Mara. Is it possible to add another night or two? Whenever you have goals to see certain species, it always helps to have more time for them to show. The further away from the dry season you travel, the more important the extra time.

    For a more relaxing trip with less moving around and with species variety, your best chance at rhino, and minimal crowds, I'd do Option 3.

    For a more relaxing trip where minimizing crowds is paramount and you really want to see the beautiful and elusive lesser kudu, I'd do Option 4.

    For the most animal variety of the itineraries you listed, I'd do #1.

    If you wished to see the sorts of animals I spotted along with vehicke #s during 3 nts Meru and 4 nts Samburu in Sept 2010, plus 8 nts Mara, and 2 nts Aberdare, here is an illustrated report.

    http://safaritalk.net/topic/5948-sept-kenya-private-drivefly/

    If you do tune in, the first statement about my tremendous accomplishments on this trip is true only in a humorous sense.

    Good luck with your plans. Anything you are considering would be a good trip, it's just what is best for your desires.

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    I'd recommend Option 1 or 4. At Meru, you'll see some of the subspecies you'll only see in the northern part of Kenya (Samburu being the other location.) Those include gerenuk, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe and Grevy's zebra. There are only 7 Grevy's in the park at last count, though. I really enjoyed Meru and saw lots of wildlife with few other vehicles around. The landscapes are stunning, as well. There is a rhino sanctuary within Meru NP, as well. I was at Offbeat Meru for 2 days and wished I had stayed another day. I then traveled to Offbeat Mara for four nights and also had great sighting in that area. We went into the Masai Mara Reserve one day on an all-day trip. It's a long way down to the Mara River, though. What time of year are you planning to travel?

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    Meru and Laikipia will be less busy than Amboseli or the Mara (or Samburu for that matter).

    There will be some species overlap between Meru and Laikipia. You should see reticulated giraffe in either location. As ShayTay mentioned, the number of Grevy's zebra is very low in Meru. I don't know the number of Grevy's on Il Ngwesi but I've seen Grevy's elsewhere in Laikipia. Gerenuk and Somali ostrich are present in both areas as well.

    If you don't mind moving around, I'd go with option 1. If you'd like a more relaxing pace, I'd go with option 4 as I think there's more of a contrast in habitat between Meru and the Mara vs Laikipia and the Mara.

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