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Trip Report First Annual Festival of Wildlife, Masai Mara, Kenya

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I'm BACK! Landed just a few hours back and then dad drove me home before going on to Luton. Spent morning catching up with Pete who has now had to pop to work. :(

It really was all too wonderful for words and exceeded my highest expectations. :D

A friend has already asked if I met Jonathan Scott, as you know, his presence as one of the experts was one of the driving forces behind my desire to go.

Yes we did see him but so much more than that - it wasn't just a case of meeting the experts during their specialist lectures, workshops etc but also a case of them sharing tables with us at all meals (rather than sitting off on their own or not attending) and chatting to us during the few breaks between activities.

So! What else?

I not only met Jonathan and Angie Scott but also chatted to them several times and have an entry in my little memory book (of peoples messages abd signatures) by the man himself.

They are a very charming couple. Jonathan in particular is very very open, genuine, friendly and down to earth. Angie is much more beautiful than the photo I saw of her before the trip revealed. A little shyer and less gregarious but also very genuine and charming. And I discovered when finally finding out which of the two had taken which images that it's HER images that I love the very best though of course I like Mr Scott's stuff too!

The Wordlife Worldwide staff (who organised and ran the whole thing) were great and also very friendly. We got to know them well and I enjoyed chatting, joking etc with them all.

The itinerary changed a lot because Mark Carwardine was forced to cancel 2 days beforehand when his doctor assessed an eye problem as much more serious than Mark thought and very strongly recommended against flying after the emergency operation he performed. So Ian (Nina Bailey's husband, business partner), who was there on holiday, was drafted in and the itineray changed for everyone. And I also adjusted my itinerary further as I realised what I enjoyed most and wanted to do more of. Hence I did do some photographic specialist drives but actually did 3 art safaris instead of the 1 I had booked for.

Also met and chatted lots to David Sheperd and have much much much more to say on that later.

Spent most time (in terms of experts) with Jonathan Truss who lead the art safaris and who is a lovely bloke. He was very encouraging and had me painting and sketching for the first time in a very very long time. Also one of the most entertaining people I have met for a long time. It was just wonderful sitting and painting in 3 varied locations or simply watching the real artists at work.

Was also able to spend time in one to one chats (on both the relevant subjects and on personal stuff) with Nina Bailey (photographer and trainer) and Lynn Hughes (editor of Wanderlust magazine).

Went on a game drive with the camp manager who was able to show us to see "Kike" the cheetah - and surprise surprise - she STILL has her three cubs with her - practically adults!!! But following that sighting (which we had crossed the river to see - when it was so low we drove over dry rocks to cross) we were stranded on the wrong side (about 12 of us) when the river suddenly rose (following strong rains the previous nights the waters of which were finally making their way down into the river) and were flown back to camp!!! David Sheperd was with us and it was all tremendous fun. He said the elephant sighting we had IN camp the previous day was the BEST ele sighting and interaction he had seen in all the years he's been visiting Africa and it was very clear he meant it. Likewise when he saw Kike and her cubs in that golden light and thought about the paintings he would create, he was in tears. Really.

An adventure!

Game viewing far far FAR exceeded my expectations!

Didn't see a leopard (though other guests did) but was more than delighted with the sightings I had which included two cheetah brothers, lots of marsh pride lions (I am soooo sorry I forgot to ask after Solo), some non marsh pride lionesses with 7 cubs, more eles than I believed possible including a one week old baby! And plenty else too.

Met some wonderful fellow guests (and some nightmare ones) - more on those at a later date.

Personally didn't spend much time with experts on birding, african sun and bush walks though still shared some meals and chats with them too.

I have to say that sleep and rest was in scarce supply - lots of late nights, very early starts (and yet my body woke me up earlier than necessary even then) and very very very very full days. That first day, after working the morning of the 1st, then travelling and flying overnight, transferring airports, waiting for 2 hours in the hangar, flying to Governor's, checking in, going straight out on a long game drive, coming back to camp and meeting people in the bar before dinner and then Jonathan and Angie's first lecture after that - we were dead on our feet!!!!

As for Governor's - well it's a nice enough camp and was PERFECT for this special festival. Staff and service was excellent and driver/guides good. Setting also wonderful and lead to some incredible unbelievable sightings. Tents were nice enough BUT I hated their decision to offer only kerosene lamp light in the tents - most guests were finding it very hard to SEE anything in enough detail except during the middle of the day. Did go twice to Little Governor's which also has a lovely setting but similar issues. However, I surprise myself by saying I would book here again because the viewing was so excellent.

Oh, there was an auction in aid of David Sheperd Conservation Foundation and I bid on a balloon safari. I think because most who wanted to do it had already booked and paid I won it for £50 and enjoyed that on my last morning!

Last day was also tiring with my balloon flight, a long game drive, lunch and goodbyes, then the flight to Nairobi and a long sting in a restaurant there for a last dinner, then the LONG LONG LONG process of checking in at the airport and passing through the myriad security checks... and flight home and then the drive in rush hour London.

I don't know why I'm not asleep right now. Infact I think I shall take a wee rest after I post this!

I don't know when I can get photos or more info posted yet but I'll try.

Kavey

PS SL I raised a silent toast to your mother during my visit. I hope she heard.

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