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Trip Report Rekero Camp: A shortened visit

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The good part is that a whole bunch of tests have found nothing especially seriously amiss. The bad part is that I cut short a safari and round-the-world trip after only a few days. Here's the report:

I started out in Salzburg, a cheerful enough city that had perfect weather during my stay, where the highlight was seeing the opera Cosi Fan Tutte as part of the Salzburg Music Festival. The flight to Nairobi via Zurich was ho-hum (SWISS is an excellent airline, though no one will miss the crates they currently use on the Nairobi route), and the House of Waine was a welcoming place to spend the night before heading to the Mara in the morning.

It rained just a little while I was at Rekero, but any rain is welcome. Grass is scarce, the rivers down or dry, and it's not the time of plenty that is more typically the case her in late August. The great herds of wildebeest are elsewhere; maybe the new grass from this rain will bring them back to this part of the Mara.

Rekero Camp has a prime location, on the bank of the Talek River. No need to go on a game drive to see plenty of creatures: from the riverbank in front of the lodge I've seen hundreds of zebra crossing the (semi-dry) river, dozens of topi, more dozens of hippos in their pool just up river, a slender mongoose, 712 Thompson gazelle,

The focus here is on game viewing, and the guides are superb. The camp is especially well known because Jackson Looseyia, the camp's co-host, was one of the presenters on the BBC's Big Cat Diary program(me). (In fact, Nigel Someoneorother, who produced the show, was a guest in camp while I was there.)

I was able to go on 3 game drives, and all were productive. One of the many joys of the Mara for me is seeing so many different species of herbivores blissfully mingling, and there have been ample opportunities for that. Zebras, eland, topi, hartebeest, Thompson's gazelle, warthogs, and impala might all be hanging in the same area. Of course, that creates a virtual cafeteria for predators.

Here's a brief video of a few cats, all of which had just successfully hunted: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ac85GOFu-0U

One highlight/lowlight was coming across a cheetah who had just successfully hunted a Thompson's, and the cheetah was munching away at the unlucky gazelle's hindquarters. Alas, the sorry victim was not yet dead, and the cheetah eating while the legs were twitching was a gruesome sight indeed. Much more pleasing was another cheetah and her cub who had just taken down an impala, but these cheetahs had done the killing job efficiently. We were about 20 meters from them when they decided to take full advantage of our vehicle, and they dragged the impala under our back wheels to dine and relax in the shade. On another drive, we found the stunningly beautiful leopard that they call Olive sitting up in a tree.

OK, I do have a few gripes about the Mara compared to places I've been in Botswana and private concessions in So. Africa: I hate the semi-closed vehicles. They are just awful compared to the open vehicles -- I find them really restrictive. As much as I dislike the type of vehicle, even worse is the numbers of vehicles. When you have 6 or 8 or 10 vehicles around a cat, it's lousy for the people viewing, and it must be miserable for the cat.

Back to Rekero: This place puts to rest the theory that most people on safari are 1st-timers. All but one of the guests here are veterans of safaris, and most have been to Rekero before (for one couple, it's their 10th visit.) Bookings here are strong for this year, but some winds of change are blowing. One of the co-owners is getting out of the business. His daughter (Dudu) and her fiance (Jono) are doing the camp managing this season, and the hope is that the other co-owner (Gerard) will become primary owner. (I probably have a few facts wrong, but I believe that the gist of it is correct.)

The tents are simple but pleasant. Safari showers, solar-powered lighting, ample storage space, and space in front of the tent to sit and relax. The main lodge is functional if a bit dark, and one of the best features is the view from in front of the lodge up and down the Talek.

I had not been feeling great when I left home, and headed to Salzburg hoping that things would improve. After 2 days at Rekero, it was clear that something was wrong. I decided that I needed to return home.

I am very, very glad that I had my mini laptop (netbook) with me. I brought it primarily to back up videos from my camcorder -- didn't expect to have or need internet access during the trip. But when I needed it, I am awfully glad it was available. I was able to get wireless access, and because of that I was able to sort out arrangements to fly back as expeditiously as possible from Nairobi to Boston. The folks at Rekero contacted my ground agents, Cheli and Peacock, and they were also top-notch in making things smooth between Rekero and the Nairobi international airport.

(I did lose a couple of days at Rekero, a couple more at Ngala, and 2 nights in Hong Kong. Was I unlucky to miss out on that, or was I lucky to have had the opportunity to enjoy the first part of the trip? All a matter of perspective, comrades.)

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