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Trip Report Mara trpi report - April/May 2011

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Background -

I have posted a couple of brief trip reports in the past 3 years so some of you may remember me. I was born in Kenya but moved to London 9 years ago to study at university and then work in the City. I go back to Kenya at least once a year and always go on safari. I've now done at least 50 different trips in my life.

I recently took a three month break from work and realised a life long dream of going to the Mara for a safari greater than 3 days - I went for 2 weeks in April with my brother and then took my Mum and Dad for 4 days in May after they saw my photos from my first trip which convinced them to come.

Camp -

I stayed at the Mara Intrepids on both trips. In my opinion it is in the best location in the Mara and I found no faults with the camp. The camp has 32 luxury tents which have some of the nicest beds and bed linen I have ever slept on! The quality of service was great and as I stayed there for long everyone knew me by name and treated me almost as family. I even used to play football with the staff at the football pitch outside of camp (which is unfenced!)

Food -

Not that this is particularly important to me, but just to mention that I was doing a sugar allergy which required me not to even touch sugar for the time I was in Camp. The chefs were amazing and ensured that the entire vegetarian buffet was sugar-free to the extent that they made sugar free bread rolls especially for me.

Animals -

As some of you may know, April/May is not always the best time to go to the Mara due to the long rains / length of grass / lack of migration etc... but there are other factors as described later which for me makes this a great time to be there. Also, any time in the Mara can be great if you have a good guide and some luck, which we did!

I am a cats person so here is a summary of what we saw (I'll give names where possible in case anyone is interested):

1st trip (2 weeks):
Lions - 90 different lions (most seen on numerous occasions) including the Marsh pride, Ridge Pride, Paradise Pride, Notch & Sons, Double Crossing Pride, Ol Kiombo Pride and some satellite males and females.
Cheetahs - 15 different cheetahs (most seen more than once) including Honey's boys, Saba and cub, and Alama and 2 cubs
Leopards - 5 different leopards including Olive (seen about 8 times), Olives 2 older cubs Paja and Nkayoni, a 6 month old cub on Paradise Plains, and a shy Leopard near Serena Pumphouse.

2nd trip (4 nights):
Lions - 63 different lions, Marsh Pride (16), Paradise Pride (21), Notch's Sons (3), Ol Kiombo Pride (23)
Cheetahs - 2 females
Leopards - 3, Olive, her older male cub Nkayoni and her 7 month old female cub

Observations:

2 weeks at one camp - I had the most amazing time of life in these 2 weeks. There was no pressure to see animals on any one game drive. We got to follow individual animals over the 2 trips and see how they interact with others, where their territory is, and their struggles to get food. We also got to build a great rapport with the guide to the extent that now he emails me every couple of days to let me know about my favorite cats.

The Mara in April/May is beautiful - The lack of cars in the Mara at this time, makes it in my opinion an amazing time to visit especially if the Migration is not of great importance to you. Especially on our second trip, there were whole game drives where we would see a maximum of 1-2 cars. Even popular areas such as the Marsh, Paradise and the Talek area around Intrepids had very few cars. This made it more difficult to see the cats as there were less cars looking for them but sightings were so much more rewarding.

Your guide is very important to the overall experience - Our guide Dominic was amazing. While not the oldest and most experienced guide at camp he was by far the most enthusiastic and willing to go the extra mile, We would always be the 1st car to leave and the last car back at camp and he was willing to drive to places that other guides may not be willing to. Because of this, we saw some things I have not seen in my previous 50 safaris.

Pack a picnic breakfast - We did this every day and even thought we left camp at 6-15, this gave us a chance to stay out till 12-1 if there was anything interesting out there. This also allowed us to travel long distances to seek our own game or try out new areas. Through this we saw some cheetah kills by staying patient and being out there.

Patience (and luck) is key - Staying with the same animal for hours is so rewarding if you have the time. We got to observe hunting behaviour, kills, interaction with other pride members in the case of lions, feeding behaviour, and other things that you would not otherwise notice. We stayed with a mother cheetah and her 2 hungry cubs for 4 hours and witnessed her stalk once unsuccessfully, stalk and kill on her next chase, finish eating their kill, chase the vultures away, go for a drink and then find a place to rest because we were patient and had a picnic preakfast and stayed with her.

Intrepids for leopards - In my opinion, Mara Intrepids has the best location in the Mara, especially for leopards. Olive (the famous leopard from Big Cat Diary) has her territory right there and she has three cubs of different ages.

Animal Highlights - numerous but will concentrate on the ones that touched me

Olive - Those who know of this leopard will know that she is a special leopard. She has 2 male cubs aged approx. 20 months and a younger female cub aged approx. 7 months. She is unique in that she interacts with both sets of cubs. She is also not concerned about cars in the slightest. She is the 1st leopard that I have spent significant time with as she lets you into her life if you don't disturb her. We saw her on numerous occasions, mostly within 5 minutes of camp. In fact we once saw her whilst having a drink at the camp bar walking on the other side of the river. Spending this much time with a leopard and her cubs in the absence of numerous cars was a special privelage. Check the photos and videos if I can get them up and you will see what I mean.

3 kills - I have never seen a chase let alone a kill in all my safaris so to see many chases and 3 kills was a great experience. Again see photos and videos. In particular, 1 cheetah kill which I described above was out of this world. The cheetah mother actually dragged the kill to the front tire of our car and ate there with her cubs. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Male lions - At the moment there is a bit of upheaval amongst the lion prides in the Western Mara due to Notch and his sons who make up a dominant coalition of 5 lions. From my knowledge they control about 5 prides now having kicked out the previous pride males and killed the cubs. They are magnificent lions and basically go where they want and do what they want in the Mara. Despite this, we still saw about 18 mature male lions which is an amazing count. A once in a lifetime experience was seeing 3 of Notch's sons stalk, and chase a lion from the Ridge Pride. we saw the whole scene from the begining and believe it or not a hippo saved the Ridge male from certain death. The sounds were incredible. I have all of this on video so will share with you.

Rhinos - We saw rhinos 6 times across the 2 trips. I believe they are getting easier to spot.


Help with uploading photos and videos -
I've never done this before but would like to share my photos and videos with you. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Any other questions -
I'd be happy to answer any questions about the camp, guides, animals, Mara, weather etc... or if you have any questions once I've uploaded photos and videos then please just ask.

All in all an incredible experience

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