Another amazing cat-full safari in Kenya

Old Apr 27th, 2023, 06:52 PM
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May I ask, for January, will it be a return to Kenya, or, at last, your long-ago (the pre-covid world!) planned trip to Zambia?

Decisions, decisions. Longing to return to beloved places, yet wanting to learn about and visit somewhere else, reminds me of this childhood song:
"Make new friends, and keep the old.One is sliver and the other is gold."
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Old Apr 28th, 2023, 05:32 AM
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Originally Posted by CaliNurse
May I ask, for January, will it be a return to Kenya, or, at last, your long-ago (the pre-covid world!) planned trip to Zambia?

Decisions, decisions. Longing to return to beloved places, yet wanting to learn about and visit somewhere else, reminds me of this childhood song:
"Make new friends, and keep the old.One is sliver and the other is gold."
It is indeed a tough decision to make but mostly budgetary at this point. Safari costs have really escalated post-covid and Zambia the way I'd planned to do it is pretty out of reach at the moment. I may save it for a milestone birthday in a couple years. January is a return to Kenya, but with a focus on rhinos at the start (Lewa where I've never been, and Ol Pejeta which was my first stop ever in Kenya in 2014) and then end at Kicheche Valley in the Mara. I've chosen Lewa Wilderness, which was the camp Anthony Bourdain stayed at on his last completed episode prior to his death, so there's a bit of nostalgia there too.

After this one, though, back to the rest of the world....Turkey, Jordan and Egypt are on the top of the list. Maybe if I write it out you all can hold me to that!
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Old May 4th, 2023, 08:41 AM
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amyb lovely. just lovely.

I, too, loved watching the lion cubs just play. One of our favorites was when one had a wildebeest tail and kept running around the pride with it. Sometimes another would chase him. We declared that he was playing capture the flag with the tail.

photos are terrific. Would love to hear of your comparison with Porini camps. I don't have a trip planned, but when people ask me my favorite place, Africa is tops.

thank you for sharing.
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Old May 4th, 2023, 05:11 PM
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Thank you surfmom! I’m so glad you enjoyed. The first lion cubs I saw on this trip, I posted a video to my Facebook for folks back home and said “to me, this here is everything!” Such joy, so much cuteness!!

I would really only compare Porini to Kicheche for an apples to apples comparison. Sarara is a completely different experience and Laikipia Wilderness was sort of different, not really like for like. Porini was a good way to get my feet wet in Kenya but I haven’t looked back since then. Kicheche is really a cut above without being Richard Branson type luxury or riddled with guilt over plunge pools or tubs, and I think worth the difference in price. Tents are better appointed and better quality. No bucket showers! All guides are silver level and you can recognize that if you’ve been on safari before. The little things like lining up shots, watching for shadows and light, preferring to be out on their own rather than following the crowd. The food was also much better. I had two instances of breaking down in Porini vehicles, losing almost 2 full days on safari, so obviously I was not impressed with that! I know many people have had good luck with Porini, but I wasn’t one of them. Obviously since I’m going back to 2 Kicheche camps, I’m a fan. The only other places I’ve returned to are Offbeat Mara (which I’d still go back to!) and Emakoko in Nairobi (ditto!).
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Old May 5th, 2023, 03:27 PM
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amyb thanks for the comparison. We had good luck with the Porini's - we really liked our driver and guide. Some of it is location - we saw amazing cats - lions, leopards, and cheetahs.

We stayed at some higher end camps that we didn't like as well. And I do think they raised their food game between 2017 and 2021 - our food in 2021 was terrific. One of the other more "luxurious" camps had a buffet that was out for a couple of hours - which meant that the food was cold or overcooked a la buffet style. We weren't impressed. That camp was also the most crowded in April - it was full, while the other camps were getting ready to shut down for spring season.

Its such a tough call. And reading your trip report has me aching to go back! Trying to figure out if we can plan a 2024 trip. ◡̈
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Old May 6th, 2023, 04:48 PM
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I don't have anything to compare it to, but I could not have been happier with the four Porini camps I stayed at. Excellent food and guides. Several of the guides were skilled photographers with cameras and lenses far better than mine, and their attentiveness to light and angles were the reason I got my best photos. But Amy, obviously, your guides were awesome, too because your photos are spectacular!























and the rarest sighting of them all ...



the elusive pygmy Hawaiian lioness ;-)






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Old May 7th, 2023, 09:39 AM
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@SongDoc and @sufrmom, I had a guide in Moscow who suggested a fabulous Georgian restaurant to me. I went that night and it was, quite simply, the best meal I ever had. And to this day, I have yet to leave a meal that leaves me feeling like that one did. When I told her the next day how good it was and that I was going back that night, she said “No, I will recommend someplace else for you, when you find perfect, you don’t try to repeat it, you go on to find a new perfect.” And she’s right. Usually when I repeat something it falls short. A few years later I had a really really good meal in Florence and we went back to that restaurant later in the trip and everything about it was horrible.

All through COVID I felt like the reason my 2018 safari was so good was because it was going to be my last for a while. The travel gods gave me something to last a while. Trying to top that is an effort in futility, which is why I forced myself to go to new places in February and again this January. But, there’s always the possibility none will stand up to that one, so I have to start treating them like children, I can’t have a favorite child. That’s the danger of succumbing to the safari bug, while it’s so great to go, there’s the chance you may come away disappointed…but a risk I’m willing to take! With safari there are so many variables you can’t control. Heavy rains can mean tall grass, early or late migrations, fewer or more births. Timing is everything, you can wait for cheetah to hunt only to find they’ve done it after you drove off or you can pull up just as it kicks off. A guide can have an off day or he can conjure up the sighting of a lifetime.

Long essay just to say, that’s why I’ve been mostly quiet about my Porini experience. I know a lot of people have been very happy, but I wasn’t. It was hard to see past that, but was part of the reason I went back the next year, to different camps, because I was still SO HOOKED. And I realized every single trip for each of us is different. What I think was fabulous (that black leopard) may not be for others (the girls I was sharing a vehicle with were over it after the second game drive).

To anyone who asks, I say “GO!, whenever, however you can, first time, 10th time, 100th time. If it’s calling you just get there.
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Old May 7th, 2023, 11:12 AM
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Amy: That was a profound -- and BEAUTIFULLY written -- message. Thank you!!!
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Old May 9th, 2023, 05:46 AM
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amyb lovely story. although I will share something funny relating to that (and totally OT to Africa). We were in Dubrovnik and spent the day out on a sailboat. They took us to a restaurant (on one of the outlying islands) where I had the best grilled chicken breast. Just grilled with olive oil and salt and pepper. May have been that I was hungry or the setting or whatever. My daughter and I proclaimed it "the best chicken breast EVAH!" We ended up in the same restaurant the next day with a different boating tour. And, OMG, it was just as good!

We were back a year later with different family and ended up there again. We had hyped it and expected to be disappointed. We were not! I think I've decided that they must go out back and chase the chickens down and that they are truly fresh. still the best ever in our family.

But.... I know what you say about safaris. Every one is different. And you have to learn that they are magical in their own way. Reflecting back, at the time, I would have said that our second safari wasn't as "amazing" as our first. I've come to realize it was because our expectations were higher, we were dealing with the stress of covid (what it one of us test positive, who goes and who stays behind?), and we had a tight itinerary. (had to squeeze a trip in-between college internships ending and start of next school year). I think I was unable to relax as much because of the underlying stress. I've also learned that two nights back to back to back is too much and you need at least one (if not more) 3-night locations. And that as amazing as Amboseli and Samburu are, staying on the main roads all the time and not going off-road (like in conservancies) gets tiresome. So, actually, those are good 2-night locales. But I look back at our photos and read my trip report, and we had an amazing time. Just different. We had a spectacular leopard sighting and I have amazing pics of him (rim-lighting, turned backwards looking at me, totally in razor sharp focus). And we had the gorilla trek, which was amazing and unique. But reflecting back, I think it is important to not be rushing from point A to point B, but to breathe. And sometimes different camps hit the sweet spot for different people. I like to listen to what everyone says and take it all in. So I get that Porini's didn't do it for you.

(But I will also admit that one of my favorite photographers was in residence at Porini Lion at the same time we were. I was totally fangirling. And would have approached him to say hello. But he was with clients. Speaking Chinese. So I would have been too intrusive. but I still fangirl'ed.)

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