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Kenya trip review and photos

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Here is yet another Kenya trip review and photos !! (late August 2005)_

Samburu photos : http://www.kodakgallery.com/BrowsePhotos.jsp?&collid=793111082106&page=1&sort_order=0

Masai Mara photos :
http://www.kodakgallery.com/BrowsePhotos.jsp?&collid=857514082106&page=1&sort_order=0

Migration river crossing photos :
http://www.kodakgallery.com/BrowsePhotos.jsp?&collid=111588972106&page=1&sort_order=0


Having visited Kenya and South Africa on a few occasions, we decided to limit this Kenya safari to two locations but stay a reasonable period at each place. This was the best decision we made – far more relaxing than spending most of the time in a vehicle and a plane ! We decided on 4 nights at Samburu and 5 nights at Mara – in both cases at Serena hotels.

Before we left on safari we spent two nights in Nairobi with friends. They live in a nice suburb of the city (NOT like the city center) – throwing small pieces of meat into the sky and watching kites swoop down and eat the meat before it hit the ground was an experience ! We also got a private tour of the Sheldrick elephant orphanage one afternoon and visited the elephant and rhino we have adopted. If you at in Nairobi definitely try the Indian restaurants – much nicer than the ones in the UK !

On the Monday morning we took the early Air Kenya flight from Wilson airport to
Samburu. One reason we chose the Serena lodge was that it is on the Buffalo Springs side of the river. Last year we stayed at Intrepids on the Samburu side and were not allowed (without paying extra park fees) to go back and forth across the river. Now you can switch between the reserves as you wish. The Samburu Serena far exceeded our expectation although part of this may be down to the fact that we were upgraded and were given the best table in the restaurant ! I am convinced the reason for the special treatment was because we booked directly with Serena hotels and that we were staying for longer than most people.

Our driver for the 4 days was Yasin – he was superb. My 11 year old daughter sat in the front with him and had a running commentary. Even though we are a family of four, we were given exclusive use of an open sided Land cruiser until the last day when a single traveler joined us.

The game viewing was superb – even better than last time we were here. The only downside ( as mentioned on some other threads) is that it can get a little over crowded with vehicles. However, the Buffalo Springs side was much quieter than the Samburu side. The highlight was definitely leopard spotting. Whilst we have seen leopards in the past, the sightings have not been that great. This time we were spoilt seeing SIX different leopards in the four days. Three of the sightings were excellent with the leopards walking right past our vehicle (see photos !). We also saw 3 or 4 lion prides, 2 cheetah sightings, a civet cat, loads of elephant (there may actually be too many in this park – the vegetation is struggling) as well as all the usual antelopes etc …The only disappointment is that a pack of wild dogs had been seen a few weeks earlier but they seem to have moved on …

We then flew directly down to the Mara Serena – it’s about a 90 minute flight taking in the various stops at other Mara camps on the way. We choose the Serena because of its location near the river crossing points (Liz – thanks for the advice !) but also because it’s on the West side of the river in the Mara triangle. No other camp / lodge is within two hours so as a result it’s much quieter with less cars than the rest of the Mara. Even in peak migration season, the maximum number of cars around lions, cheetah and rhino were 2-3.

The real highlight of the trip was the river crossings. Last year we waited on the East side of the river and nothing happened. This time on the first and second mornings we went down to the river straight away and both times witnessed a crossing within 5 minutes ! The second crossing was really special. We got down to the river at around 6.40 and were the ONLY people there (apart from one park ranger on the other river bank) when 5,000 wildebeest started to cross. By the time it finished half an hour later 4 or 5 more vehicles had arrived from Serena but the other bank was still empty. The reason for this is that it was too early for anyone from other lodges to get to the crossing points as you can’t drive in the park until 6.30. I took so many photos it was unreal and have 30 minutes of video footage that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life !

The other main highlights were searching for and finding rhino and cheetah – both now worryingly scarce in the Mara. It is so much more rewarding searching and finding them ourselves rather than via a radio ! Admittedly you need to have a decent amount of time on the park to allow this luxury … Most special was finding two cheetah (brothers) after 5 hours of searching over two different days ! We had about 20 minutes with them with not a car in sight.

Even after so many trips to Africa I still get the thrill and am ready to book up again next year. Maybe by then I’ll have the patience to write the longer more useful reviews that the other posters on this board manage !

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