Another amazing cat-full safari in Kenya

Old Mar 30th, 2023, 01:15 PM
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Old Mar 30th, 2023, 01:40 PM
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I am so enjoying your trip report. Brings back great memories. Thanks so much!
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Old Mar 31st, 2023, 12:39 PM
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Time to move on to Naboisho. We did have one more cheetah sighting leaving for Naboisho but it was devouring a gazelle it had just killed so all my photos there are pretty gory.

It was a short drive, maybe 30-40 minutes from Kicheche Bush to Kicheche Valley camps. As I mentioned earlier, I'd been to Naboisho before and had not the best of experiences. Whether due to the guide or just bad luck, I'm not certain, but I was somewhat skeptical about how my time here would be. It ended up being the best three days of the safari, I think. I was just so happy the entire time. I realize there that I'd been really happy most of the trip, which was so different than the fear/sadness/grief I'd experienced the last three years. I felt good.

Minnie the camp manager at Kicheche Valley has to be among the sweetest woman I've ever met. Her manner is so gentle and pleasant, her way of working with her team is hard to describe, beyond you get more with honey than vinegar. What a well-oiled machine she has created there. Everyone was smiling, knew me by name the minute I arrived, and quickly swooped in to welcome me and make sure I felt at home right away. There aren't many vacations you take that have that immediate effect. Nothing seemed too big of a request, and they all seemed to know what I wanted or needed before I asked for it. Iced coffee? No problem. That mosquito bite looks angry, try this ointment. You like club soda with lime, have you tried a Malawian shandy? I was really being spoiled.

After lunch I was introduced to my guide Twala. I was sharing a vehicle with a couple from the UK. He was a new photographer and neither had been on safari before. I was worried that Twala wouldn't be able to balance newbie with veteran, and that I'd be bored. He asked us what we were most interested in and I wasted no time saying "the cats, you can never show me enough." The couple agreed, they'd been at two other camps before and hadn't seen enough cats there, and no leopards at all, so they were eager. This would work out well. That said, we also had a lot of sightings that weren't cats that were pretty special too.

On our first evening game drive, we were met with a pair of honeymooning lions. They were still early in their week away, so were mating every 5-7 minutes. Initiated by the female and over in a jiffy, the whole science of it is fascinating. She gets surly when the male pulls out because of barbs on his member that stimulate her egg. Then she immediately rolls over and all four paws go up just like when human women have in vitro, to make sure the sperm gets to the egg. I learned all that from Twala, so there you go, 6 safaris in and I'm still learning!

Here they are in flagrante delicto


Our handsome prince


We met up with them again the next morning further away than where they were. Here the female is paws up post-coitus.

What was a bit sad was that this male's brother was nearby, and followed at a close distance the whole time. He would not participate but as a bonded coalition, he would not leave his brother. The more virile, alpha male of the two gets to do the mating.

Lots of elephants in Naboisho, including this little family with a very new little one. Twala said it was under a month old because the ears were still pinned flat against the top of its head.





I'd never seen any buffalo-lion encounters before, and I know they can be harrowing and dangerous, especially if there are young cubs around. Buffalo will kill the cubs if given the chance because they know they'd only grow up to be a threat to them.
Here, the Enesikiria pride lioness watched a parade of buffalo stream by while her sisters and a bunch of cubs were behind her, hidden in some bushes. But even the hiding lions were watching these buffalos very closely. A couple of times it felt tense as the buffalos would stop and stare down the lioness, and once a splinter group of buffalo snuck behind us and toward the bushes, sending the cats hidden there scattering. But in the end nothing happened other than a lot of close observation.











Later that afternoon we saw the Sampu Enkare pride also confronting buffalo, this time just a grumpy old bull. There was a lot of round and round the bushes and a lot of this lioness' siblings came in from various angles to stake it out, but nothing happened in the end. Twala said these lions were still too inexperienced to know how to take down a buffalo (although it is done, the famous Marsh Pride lionesses were known for that)



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Old Mar 31st, 2023, 12:47 PM
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Some birds from Naboisho

Little Bee-eater


White-backed vultures




Martial eagle


Oxpecker clearing ticks off a Cape buffalo


Not a bird, but a handsome waterbuck, looking pretty regal

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Old Mar 31st, 2023, 12:51 PM
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There was one bull elephant we kept coming across. Sometimes he was alone, once he was with another male, once he visited with a small herd of elephants long enough to ascertain no females were in estrus, then he moved on. I loved this shot of him, with his trunk casually resting on one huge tusk.



More so than any other time in Kenya, I saw tons of eland. These are the biggest of the antelope species, and they are particularly known for the dewlap, or flesh hanging from their necks. They also make "clicks" when they walk. If you're close enough you can hear every step they take. This one eland stuck his head in a bush and came away with a crown. We imagined the female in the second shot was letting him know how ridiculous he looked.




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Old Mar 31st, 2023, 01:06 PM
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On an evening drive, we came across a large bachelor herd of Thomson's gazelles, all "fighting". It did not appear to be serious but rather more like practice or something to pass the time. It was kind of crazy to see them all head-butting like this.



Naboisho has a couple of very large (40+ members) prides. One is Ilksiausiau. We came across them one night as they were all responding to the call of the pride male about 1/2 mile away. But not before stopping for a drink. When they all met up again, there was much greeting and cleaning of each other, seemingly whether they wanted to be cleaned or not!











My favorite sighting at Naboisho was when we headed out on our last early morning game drive. Twala had heard a pride overnight coming from a certain direction and took us right to the Ilksiausiau pride again. It was a very cool morning and these not fully grown sub-adults were very rambunctious. I'd say there were 15 or so and all of them were wired up like they were on a sugar high. Lots of playing, play fighting, stealing of a coveted stick (as if there are no other sticks to be had!). The similarities between how they played and how my two house cats play were hard to believe. We were with them from about 45 minutes before sunrise to just after the sun hit the little riverbed where they were playing. Then it got too warm and they headed for a nap.

















I loved this little guy for his flat ears!




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Old Mar 31st, 2023, 01:17 PM
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Twala could not find a leopard for my vehicle-mates. And he only found one cheetah. The theory is that Naboisho right now is just SO full of lions that they are intimidating all of the other cats. In my 3 full days here, I saw nearly 75 unique lions. That's a LOT.

This cheetah was not known to any of the guides and was very skittish. I took this at the full length of my lens. I asked Mara Predator and Mara Cheetah Project if they knew who it was and they didn't. MCP asked for more of my photos so they can catalog him. He might have come in from the Serengeti and hadn't yet realized how many lions are in Naboisho.


Our bush breakfasts with Twala became something of a joke. We would arrive at the spot and he'd get out and confirm the area was clear, especially behind the designated bush that would become our loo. On each day, we'd laugh because a different animal would be standing not so far away watching us do our business one by one, as if to say "so that's how they do it!" One day a giraffe, another a zebra and the last day a mother-baby vervet monkey. This baby monkey was the tiniest monkey I think I've ever seen but it was SO fearless!






And with that, my time in the Mara had come to an end. I was crying before I even left camp. Minnie gave me a hug and a stern talking to about remembering to enjoy the beauty and good things in life again. Then she asked me when I'd be back, lol. I was delivered safely to Nairobi by SafariLink and enjoyed a day room, with a meal and shower at Four Points again.

For those interested, both Kicheche camps were similar in tent set up but I think Valley was probably more recently renovated, it felt newer. Menus were much the same. I liked the camp layout better at Valley, but can't articulate why. It is overlooking a valley and has a tremendous view for lunch. I found Twala to be an excellent guide, very patient and extremely knowledgeable. I would definitely rate him in my top three along with Ping at Enaidura and David at Offbeat. They just really, really know their stuff. I made Twala laugh when I left because I told him I didn't think there'd be much left for me to learn, and yet he taught me so much. I was so grateful for that.

I'm currently exercising restraint. I so want to book for next February. I already have my camps picked out and I love it there that time of year, but I also have a list of other places in the world I'm dying to get to. Safari budget doesn't allow for a lot of other travel, so it's a tough call. Stay tuned....

Thank you for following along!
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Old Mar 31st, 2023, 01:40 PM
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Old Mar 31st, 2023, 05:09 PM
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Great pictures. What kind of camera are you using?
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Old Apr 1st, 2023, 11:32 AM
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Amy, I thought my pix were awesome ... until I saw yours!!!!
Absolutely INCREDIBLE. I could gush about every one of them. Bravo!!!~

I'm so glad it was such an amazing trip for you. Thanks for taking us along!
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Old Apr 1st, 2023, 01:56 PM
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Absolutely fantastic! Our mini-safari at Kruger makes me want to do your Mega-Safari. The photos and descriptions are jaw dropping. I’m getting up there in age and only wish We had started seeing Africa sooner.
Thank you so much for posting this I’ve gone through it several times.
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Old Apr 1st, 2023, 02:19 PM
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Thanks, Jackie. I was using a Sony RX10 iv.

Thanks, Songdoc. I'm sad that I've finished the trip report, because now it feels "over". Just have to think more on the next one! Thank you for coming along!!

Thank you, TPAYT! I hope I've inspired you. Happy I could take you along!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2023, 10:53 AM
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amyb: I'm curious ... how many pix did you take? (I took more than 3,200)
I think one of the "secrets" of being a good photographer is sharing only 5 - 10% of the photos.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2023, 01:19 PM
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Songdoc, I took about 4,100, which is a bit low for me for 10 days on safari, but at Sarara I didn't take too many since it was so experience-based and I wanted to respect the Samburu as my guide had requested. Some rainy weekend I'll start on my photo book!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2023, 01:08 PM
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4,100!!!!! WOW.
I'll have to up my game! ;-)
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Old Apr 4th, 2023, 05:32 AM
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I always have Continuous Shoot on, so I may end up with 10 of a simple photo. But when a lion yawns or a leopard jumps, I get the whole sequence!
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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 04:22 AM
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There is no way to tell you how much I enjoyed this amazing and informative post. I cancelled our first safari to Africa in 2019; life happened and I am now dreaming of a solo trip..

I am now planning a first, and probably once in a life time trip, and it is overwhelming, so many questions/decisions. ​​​​It's fantastic to have your detailed review, and out of this world photos, to lean on; I may still be overwhelmed but there is no stopping the feel good smile that's plastered on my face this morning.

Thanks again!
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Old Apr 8th, 2023, 08:03 AM
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cjd, you made my day. I'm so happy you enjoyed it and I really hope you go and fall in love with safari like I have. I'm happy to help you navigate the planning stages, I know it is overwhelming. Please reach out via private message if you'd like.

By way of update, I've started planning the next one. I reached out to Richard last week and he's currently whipping up some magic for me in January.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2023, 11:32 AM
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O...M...G!! I've just had an early afternoon "happy, happy hour" with this report. Your photos and descriptions are, as usual,, fantastic and envy-making (in a good way!).
So, only 9 months util your next safari?

Condolences Amy on the passing of your Dad. Thank Heaven you could "restore /reset" in your favorite place on Earth
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Old Apr 22nd, 2023, 01:01 PM
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Thank you so much, CaliNurse. I’m glad you enjoyed!!! And now that you mention it, I just put a deposit down yesterday…January this time, so just under 9 months!! ;-)
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