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trip report Masai Mara- Mahale

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My Report in one section-
Much easier to read...enjoy

Masai Mara- Mahale July 30-August 17
1. - Let me start by saying what an Amazing Trip we had. The cast in this Wild life adventure is Renee the beautiful and always ready to go wife, our dear friend Sandra [our single supplement] the lady who has endured all my photos and stories for years and now wants to see it for herself –
And me, Thomas the mad traveler with wanderlust
that goes way back to being an army brat!
So many months of planning, dreaming and waiting for that big take off –
Were free and ready!
After all these years of not being able to go at Migration time and now
to finally get the chance to see the Chimpanzee’s of Mahale!
With all my favorite tools in hand
[Minolta Konica Maxxam 7d -2 camera bodies, many memory cards,
EPSON P 2000 for storage. A variety of lens ranging from
35-80, 80-300, 100-400 to capture every beautiful moment.
Well the drama begins – At the Dulles airport our take off was delayed with mechanical problems for over 4 hours, which caused us to miss our straight
Amsterdam to Nairobi connection.
[Trying not to be upset and filling the hours with way too much bad pizza]
It became a very intriguing international reconnection –
Amsterdam to Istanbul -Egypt and finally Nairobi.
2. We arrive at 4 something in the morning and are picked up and taken to the always inviting & legendary Norfolk hotel
[Hit the bed hard for some serious sleep]
We have lunch and meet our tour director Tomas [who has my father’s eyes-
We are off to a better start now]
The afternoon we take a fast tour of Karen Blixen’s house and estate our friend Sandra has never been to Africa and loved it -I barely remember having been to the property 14 years ago [our first time to Africa] Off to Giraffe center a good first step for Sandra to meet the wild life. [Many thrills to come]
We plan to eat & run but end up staying into the evening at the wonderful Tamarind restaurant -everything is so good their- nice to come back.
3. -Early pick up for the Wilson Airport-the view from the plane as we arrive sets the tone. [Wildebeests can be seen all over]
We met Dixon who will be our guide/driver for our whole stay in the
Fantastic Masai Mara.
We get in our Rover and get prepared for a long drive to our camp –
To our surprise it’s just minutes away.
Mara Explorer is a very small Special camp in the middle of the Masai Mara reserve – it has just 10 secluded tents and let me tell you they are extremely cool! As we sit down in the lounge area with the deck over looking the Talek River -drink in hand and getting all the details on the camp, I had to stop to take several pictures of Waterbucks carefully crossing the river and a small herd of elephants with a baby crossing as well.
Stop me I’m in heaven now!
We go to check out our tents and meet Ducan our personal butler [the tent and it’s furnishing fit so harmoniously into the natural environment -the perfect home for the next 5 nights. [Under the platform deck was also the home to 30 - 40 Mongooses who at first weren’t too happy to see Renee and I]
They ran over to Sandra’s tent to give her a scare.
We found out later from Duncan that they keep the snakes and bugs away-
Sounds good to me- and they sure were cute.
We settled in, one very happy large extended family.
By the way food at the Explorer was fantastic as was everything –
Afternoon game drive- Dixon didn’t talk much but was very interested in showing us the Big 5 [which is fine, but we like seeing it all –
Tell us about the birds/insects/flora & fauna]
I told Dixon how much I was interested in seeing lots of the Spotted Hyena and if possible the hard to find Honey Badger. [One trip to Africa I made the whole trip focused on the Hyena- So many guides don’t pay enough attention to the wide scope of fascinating animals in the wild.] In my research I knew we might have better luck with the Honey badger from our next camp at the Mara Safari Club.
We saw zebras, giraffes, a crown crane and a small pride of lion’s with a fresh kill. [3 baby cubs] Wow! What a day.
I didn’t tell you, not only did we have a great shower in our tent but a claw foot bath tub out on our deck- I love a great tub! Can it get any better!
4. -Early game drive with a packed breakfast and Wildebeest crossing on our minds we began our day. [We had heard so many people talking about getting here and missing seeing the crossing-
I guess those crazy Wildebeests just don’t perform on command.
The key to the crossing it seems is to wait. [No one in our small group
is good at waiting]
We missed the crossing going off to see another place they like to go in from-how frustrating it can become! Road warrior at heart we kept going from place to place and VOILA! Saw a crossing –then saw them come back over again –those poor Wildebeests get really confused- we loved it -a double cross!
The day was full- a plump crocodile with his mouth wide open, Tawny Eagle, 2 Ostriches, vultures, a Tobi keeping watch standing on a hill, lovely Impalas, and to end our day a couple of male lions in the field with great golden light on them. Click happy.
5. – Where are the Hyenas? I can’t believe the amount of Lions
in the Mara proper. [Wildebeests beware]
Went to a Masai village, what incredible faces these people have- I was taking photos like crazy while Renee and Sandra shopped -I’m sure the Masai thought he’s out of his mind- how right they are.
Sandra spots a Hyena. I’m so happy, but the pictures are few-we see grand Elands and a huge pride of over 30 lions [as the sun sets in the Mara.] We saw was one of the female lions trying to carry this fresh killed Wildebeest off to a better hiding spot for some good eating –and the cubs jumping and playing over it –and taking a few bites themselves.
6. - Here are my thoughts on Wildebeests, they will cross anything- Today they were flying down a ravine with a stream at the bottom-
We got out of the rover to watch-
Hundreds tearing across- it was unbelievable. Sandra spots a Leopard,
This girl is good!
We follow it for a while; just how many photo opportunities can I blow? Oh well, there’s always another day to mess up. Large Marabou Storks were ominously holding court at the end of another day in the wild –
These birds are truly dressed to kill in black & white.
A Regal Secretary bird high up in a tree made a nice dark silhouetted shot.
My Epson P2000 adaptor for charging stopped working.
Afraid to store any more photos without the ability to charge the unit
[I know the units fully charged so I let it be and keep all the new shots on
the many memory cards I have.]
7. -One of the great things about a camp like the Explorer is you really don’t have to go out to see game and have an adventure. It’s all around you, we saw twenty or so Guinea Fowls from our deck. As well as Hippopotamus, Olive Baboons, Reed Bucks, and a cool Hamerkop all while reading from the deck. Today we visited our sister camp Mara Intrepid- it’s a much larger camp, better suited for families or those who would want a pool and a large gift shop. [It really is nice but give me small & secluded any day- great bar there!]
Today we got to see a large herd of Elephant and of course the usual stars of the day, Wildebeest and Lions!
8-10. It’s time to leave this great camp and terrific team who took such good care of us and made us feel like one big happy family. Ducan most be the name to have in the Mara- we had 2 -both great guys [Duncan in the dining room was a wild man and had us laughing all the time.]
The trip to the Mara Safari Camp was on some really rough and roads.
Thank god Dixon who may not be great guide is one fantastic driver and has the get-up and go spirit to get you in the just right spot to take a photo [no matter how many vehicles are in your way.] Go Dixon! We saw and stopped to help so many vans/rovers stuck in the mud.
We have 3 nights at Mara Safari Club. It’s an old established camp with a crew that cares and some great fattening buffets –We ate way to much!
The camp is under new ownership and is getting a major facelift soon-
Please, just don’t change the people! The prices I’m sorry to say will change.

I kept asking where are the Hyenas? Their here!
Everywhere…the babies are so alert they look up into the rovers,
They see YOU- not just the vehicle. They come running tireless with that strange
eerie wailing call at night- we saw them carrying legs and bones in there
mouths, just walking along.
This area was teaming with predators like Lepards, Cheetahs, and lions.
We even saw 3 white Rhino with a mountainside as a background.
These 3 were raised by humans and are returned to the wild during the day.
One evening we were driving along - I spotted the cutest Dik Diks
2 adults with a baby, we kept getting closer and they never moved.
I said they must think were a predator-A short time later we realized there were Leopards in the bush also- and we probably saved the Diks DIKS by distracting the Leopards. [Duh! Aren’t we dummies]?
No Honey Badger to be found on this trip- but what we all did see!
Perhaps another journey to South Africa for the Badger?
11.- Say Good bye to the Mara and all its charms!
Arusha here we come…we stop at the Cultural Heritage center but are to tired to shop [how can that be]
The Arusha Coffee Lodge is great just what the doctor ordered; I don’t ever want to leave this huge bed and big tub-amazing accommodations. As things are going to perfectly, our return to Arusha has us staying at another place. [what happened?] Many phone calls later
they tell me they will try to restore our booking at the Coffee lodge [but it’s is all booked up now - hope we can come back here- we love it!]
12-15 Transfer to Airport for charter flight to Mahale.
Looking out from the plane the arrival to Mahale is spectacular,
Lake Tanganyika is vast and clear as a bell.
We are greeted and meet the other travelers to this remote location.
[We wait for another plane with 2 more guests before we get on our boat to take us to Nkungwe tented Camp. Our new home has raised tents on the beach,
Beat the camp director is dry & darkly funny. Luck is to be with us, as the Chimpanzee’s seem to favor this camp over the others. Every day they came right behind the camp, once a big male was in front of our tent #3 under a lemon tree having a bite. Another time there were 15 in a tree next to tent #7. I can’t believe how beautiful the forest is here. One long trek in the forest had me alone with the hackers by a small lovely stream watching a fast mating. [I told the hackers I knew what was happening] Later our group watched as the Chimps went on a wild hunt for food! Yes, they eat berrys and leafs but sometimes a nice fat red tail monkey gets got too. The sounds of them going after there dinner was like nothing I have ever heard - WILD. They can be so gentle and sweet [just like us humans] then change in a moment to show you just who is in charge. And charge they do –right at you [sometimes with a stick] screaming so loud it shakes the trees. What’s really funny is they really seem to enjoy us watching them.

[Mahale truly was a highlight as is Nkungwe tented camp]
The tents are new, the food is good home cooking.
The crew is delightful and we couldn’t have been happier, Afternoons a large Warthog runs on the beach and shy Golden Baboons
come down to drink at the lakes edge,
And when the need to jump in the water came they took us
to a special spot for snorkeling
Under a gorgeous tree that hangs over the water.
Each night we sat around a bond fire and had our drinks & told our tales.
Further down the lake are about 10 Hippos
Beat says we have a Leopard
but the prints in the sand are all that gets seen.
The trekking can be hard but how rewarding it is.
When you come here you really have left it all behind- how very nice it is!
16.- One last trek a good breakfast and on the boat we go-sad to leave a place so very special. Beat surprised us with a packed lunch -
good thing our charter plane is late. Big Good Bye to Mahale!
Luck is still with us! Were back at the Arusha Coffee Lodge
for a great dinner & peaceful nights sleep. Off to the Heritage Cultural center
in the AM for Shopping with a capital S.
[Good stuff here and you can bargain with them!]
We have day rooms for our very late checkout and flight back home.
WOW! What a trip.

Masai Mara- Mahale July 30-August 17
1. - Let me start by saying what an Amazing Trip we had. The cast in this Wild life adventure is Renee the beautiful and always ready to go wife, our dear friend Sandra [our single supplement] the lady who has endured all my photos and stories for years and now wants to see it for herself –
And me, Thomas the mad traveler with wanderlust
that goes way back to being an army brat!
So many months of planning, dreaming and waiting for that big take off –
Were free and ready!
After all these years of not being able to go at Migration time and now
to finally get the chance to see the Chimpanzee’s of Mahale!
With all my favorite tools in hand
[Minolta Konica Maxxam 7d -2 camera bodies, many memory cards,
EPSON P 2000 for storage. A variety of lens ranging from
35-80, 80-300, 100-400 to capture every beautiful moment.
Well the drama begins – At the Dulles airport our take off was delayed with mechanical problems for over 4 hours, which caused us to miss our straight
Amsterdam to Nairobi connection.
[Trying not to be upset and filling the hours with way too much bad pizza]
It became a very intriguing international reconnection –
Amsterdam to Istanbul -Egypt and finally Nairobi.
2. We arrive at 4 something in the morning and are picked up and taken to the always inviting & legendary Norfolk hotel
[Hit the bed hard for some serious sleep]
We have lunch and meet our tour director Tomas [who has my father’s eyes-
We are off to a better start now]
The afternoon we take a fast tour of Karen Blixen’s house and estate our friend Sandra has never been to Africa and loved it -I barely remember having been to the property 14 years ago [our first time to Africa] Off to Giraffe center a good first step for Sandra to meet the wild life. [Many thrills to come]
We plan to eat & run but end up staying into the evening at the wonderful Tamarind restaurant -everything is so good their- nice to come back.
3. -Early pick up for the Wilson Airport-the view from the plane as we arrive sets the tone. [Wildebeests can be seen all over]
We met Dixon who will be our guide/driver for our whole stay in the
Fantastic Masai Mara.
We get in our Rover and get prepared for a long drive to our camp –
To our surprise it’s just minutes away.
Mara Explorer is a very small Special camp in the middle of the Masai Mara reserve – it has just 10 secluded tents and let me tell you they are extremely cool! As we sit down in the lounge area with the deck over looking the Talek River -drink in hand and getting all the details on the camp, I had to stop to take several pictures of Waterbucks carefully crossing the river and a small herd of elephants with a baby crossing as well.
Stop me I’m in heaven now!
We go to check out our tents and meet Ducan our personal butler [the tent and it’s furnishing fit so harmoniously into the natural environment -the perfect home for the next 5 nights. [Under the platform deck was also the home to 30 - 40 Mongooses who at first weren’t too happy to see Renee and I]
They ran over to Sandra’s tent to give her a scare.
We found out later from Duncan that they keep the snakes and bugs away-
Sounds good to me- and they sure were cute.
We settled in, one very happy large extended family.
By the way food at the Explorer was fantastic as was everything –
Afternoon game drive- Dixon didn’t talk much but was very interested in showing us the Big 5 [which is fine, but we like seeing it all –
Tell us about the birds/insects/flora & fauna]
I told Dixon how much I was interested in seeing lots of the Spotted Hyena and if possible the hard to find Honey Badger. [One trip to Africa I made the whole trip focused on the Hyena- So many guides don’t pay enough attention to the wide scope of fascinating animals in the wild.] In my research I knew we might have better luck with the Honey badger from our next camp at the Mara Safari Club.
We saw zebras, giraffes, a crown crane and a small pride of lion’s with a fresh kill. [3 baby cubs] Wow! What a day.
I didn’t tell you, not only did we have a great shower in our tent but a claw foot bath tub out on our deck- I love a great tub! Can it get any better!
4. -Early game drive with a packed breakfast and Wildebeest crossing on our minds we began our day. [We had heard so many people talking about getting here and missing seeing the crossing-
I guess those crazy Wildebeests just don’t perform on command.
The key to the crossing it seems is to wait. [No one in our small group
is good at waiting]
We missed the crossing going off to see another place they like to go in from-how frustrating it can become! Road warrior at heart we kept going from place to place and VOILA! Saw a crossing –then saw them come back over again –those poor Wildebeests get really confused- we loved it -a double cross!
The day was full- a plump crocodile with his mouth wide open, Tawny Eagle, 2 Ostriches, vultures, a Tobi keeping watch standing on a hill, lovely Impalas, and to end our day a couple of male lions in the field with great golden light on them. Click happy.
5. – Where are the Hyenas? I can’t believe the amount of Lions
in the Mara proper. [Wildebeests beware]
Went to a Masai village, what incredible faces these people have- I was taking photos like crazy while Renee and Sandra shopped -I’m sure the Masai thought he’s out of his mind- how right they are.
Sandra spots a Hyena. I’m so happy, but the pictures are few-we see grand Elands and a huge pride of over 30 lions [as the sun sets in the Mara.] We saw was one of the female lions trying to carry this fresh killed Wildebeest off to a better hiding spot for some good eating –and the cubs jumping and playing over it –and taking a few bites themselves.
6. - Here are my thoughts on Wildebeests, they will cross anything- Today they were flying down a ravine with a stream at the bottom-
We got out of the rover to watch-
Hundreds tearing across- it was unbelievable. Sandra spots a Leopard,
This girl is good!
We follow it for a while; just how many photo opportunities can I blow? Oh well, there’s always another day to mess up. Large Marabou Storks were ominously holding court at the end of another day in the wild –
These birds are truly dressed to kill in black & white.
A Regal Secretary bird high up in a tree made a nice dark silhouetted shot.
My Epson P2000 adaptor for charging stopped working.
Afraid to store any more photos without the ability to charge the unit
[I know the units fully charged so I let it be and keep all the new shots on
the many memory cards I have.]
7. -One of the great things about a camp like the Explorer is you really don’t have to go out to see game and have an adventure. It’s all around you, we saw twenty or so Guinea Fowls from our deck. As well as Hippopotamus, Olive Baboons, Reed Bucks, and a cool Hamerkop all while reading from the deck. Today we visited our sister camp Mara Intrepid- it’s a much larger camp, better suited for families or those who would want a pool and a large gift shop. [It really is nice but give me small & secluded any day- great bar there!]
Today we got to see a large herd of Elephant and of course the usual stars of the day, Wildebeest and Lions!
8-10. It’s time to leave this great camp and terrific team who took such good care of us and made us feel like one big happy family. Ducan most be the name to have in the Mara- we had 2 -both great guys [Duncan in the dining room was a wild man and had us laughing all the time.]
The trip to the Mara Safari Camp was on some really rough and roads.
Thank god Dixon who may not be great guide is one fantastic driver and has the get-up and go spirit to get you in the just right spot to take a photo [no matter how many vehicles are in your way.] Go Dixon! We saw and stopped to help so many vans/rovers stuck in the mud.
We have 3 nights at Mara Safari Club. It’s an old established camp with a crew that cares and some great fattening buffets –We ate way to much!
The camp is under new ownership and is getting a major facelift soon-
Please, just don’t change the people! The prices I’m sorry to say will change.

I kept asking where are the Hyenas? Their here!
Everywhere…the babies are so alert they look up into the rovers,
They see YOU- not just the vehicle. They come running tireless with that strange
eerie wailing call at night- we saw them carrying legs and bones in there
mouths, just walking along.
This area was teaming with predators like Lepards, Cheetahs, and lions.
We even saw 3 white Rhino with a mountainside as a background.
These 3 were raised by humans and are returned to the wild during the day.
One evening we were driving along - I spotted the cutest Dik Diks
2 adults with a baby, we kept getting closer and they never moved.
I said they must think were a predator-A short time later we realized there were Leopards in the bush also- and we probably saved the Diks DIKS by distracting the Leopards. [Duh! Aren’t we dummies]?
No Honey Badger to be found on this trip- but what we all did see!
Perhaps another journey to South Africa for the Badger?
11.- Say Good bye to the Mara and all its charms!
Arusha here we come…we stop at the Cultural Heritage center but are to tired to shop [how can that be]
The Arusha Coffee Lodge is great just what the doctor ordered; I don’t ever want to leave this huge bed and big tub-amazing accommodations. As things are going to perfectly, our return to Arusha has us staying at another place. [what happened?] Many phone calls later
they tell me they will try to restore our booking at the Coffee lodge [but it’s is all booked up now - hope we can come back here- we love it!]
12-15 Transfer to Airport for charter flight to Mahale.
Looking out from the plane the arrival to Mahale is spectacular,
Lake Tanganyika is vast and clear as a bell.
We are greeted and meet the other travelers to this remote location.
[We wait for another plane with 2 more guests before we get on our boat to take us to Nkungwe tented Camp. Our new home has raised tents on the beach,
Beat the camp director is dry & darkly funny. Luck is to be with us, as the Chimpanzee’s seem to favor this camp over the others. Every day they came right behind the camp, once a big male was in front of our tent #3 under a lemon tree having a bite. Another time there were 15 in a tree next to tent #7. I can’t believe how beautiful the forest is here. One long trek in the forest had me alone with the hackers by a small lovely stream watching a fast mating. [I told the hackers I knew what was happening] Later our group watched as the Chimps went on a wild hunt for food! Yes, they eat berrys and leafs but sometimes a nice fat red tail monkey gets got too. The sounds of them going after there dinner was like nothing I have ever heard - WILD. They can be so gentle and sweet [just like us humans] then change in a moment to show you just who is in charge. And charge they do –right at you [sometimes with a stick] screaming so loud it shakes the trees. What’s really funny is they really seem to enjoy us watching them.

[Mahale truly was a highlight as is Nkungwe tented camp]
The tents are new, the food is good home cooking.
The crew is delightful and we couldn’t have been happier, Afternoons a large Warthog runs on the beach and shy Golden Baboons
come down to drink at the lakes edge,
And when the need to jump in the water came they took us
to a special spot for snorkeling
Under a gorgeous tree that hangs over the water.
Each night we sat around a bond fire and had our drinks & told our tales.
Further down the lake are about 10 Hippos
Beat says we have a Leopard
but the prints in the sand are all that gets seen.
The trekking can be hard but how rewarding it is.
When you come here you really have left it all behind- how very nice it is!
16.- One last trek a good breakfast and on the boat we go-sad to leave a place so very special. Beat surprised us with a packed lunch -
good thing our charter plane is late. Big Good Bye to Mahale!
Luck is still with us! Were back at the Arusha Coffee Lodge
for a great dinner & peaceful nights sleep. Off to the Heritage Cultural center
in the AM for Shopping with a capital S.
[Good stuff here and you can bargain with them!]
We have day rooms for our very late checkout and flight back home.
WOW! What a trip.

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