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Going Round Mt Kenya - Kenya Trip Report December 2006

Going Round Mt Kenya - Kenya Trip Report December 2006

Jan 9th, 2007, 12:51 AM
  #41  
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Namibia is on hold for the next two weeks - then I'll try to sort it out.. we should still be on for April.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 10th, 2007, 08:03 AM
  #42  
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Oh, and September Patty... so we'll be back to you scouting for us then? ;-)

The drive to Shaba was "uneventful", although the road from Isiolo to Archer's Post is well worthy of mention. It is being relaid though. Julius told us that there was little game in Shaba and rather oddly blamed it on a movie that had been made there, involving explosions. Since Shaba NR is near to one of the areas where the British Army do their exercises and the Kenyan Army have a big base there, I wondered if something had got mixed up - but since he'd very recently spent a couple of days at Sarova with not much to do but catch up on the news (while waiting for Patty) I'll beleive him but admit I'm puzzled why they would allow a movie to be shot in Shaba.. hmmm

Sarova was a bit of a shock coming after Elsa's Private House. Luckily there were only 16 guests the night we were there but the number of buildings, the enclosed rooms and the perfectly fine but comparatively "canned" service were all a bit of a shock. The swimming pool is talked of in places in glowing terms and it's nice... but I won't talk negatively about the Sarova because it was jsut a very strange eperience coming back to "civilisation" like this. The riverside setting is beautiful and the place looks very, very nice - sort of treehouse style without being built on trees. There are vervet monkeys, baboons and birds aplenty, and crocodiles in the river. I had a very nice walk around the property by myself. It's okay, but I can imagine it being used for a corporate event, and there's a TV in the bar (placed so you can ignore it, but it's there). And many things reminded me of the Stanley (also a Sarova now) which is fine, but not quite right for Shaba. I doubt I'll visit here again but if I had to no problem. Upstairs rooms have a better view I think.

Shaba the reserve is really very, very pretty... and so, so photogenic. We didn't seem to be having a lot of luck with light but we still got nice pictures from there. We only went on a short evening drive and stuck to the main roads - still wary after Meru.The grass was long but we saw our first gerenuk - eating on four legs as most would be because there was simply no need to put in the effort with eveything so green - oryx, reticulated giraffe, impala and a couple of crowned cranes. Birding looked promising too, although nothing we hadn't seen in Meru. If you could spend time and get closish to some game here you'd get some great photos. Our plan had been to travel all the way to the far east of the reserve and then visit Joy's Camp for a sundowner (Emma from Elsa's had arranged it for us) but that plan was scuppered, so we'll never know what we might have found with the time. It's the only place I've felt I can't really say I visited it properly. It reamians an attractive place but I'd love to know if this "film" stuff was true...

Next day we had a nice breakfast (much better than the Stanley!)and then packed and left for Samburu. We had debated having another drive in the morning but Nam Wan wanted to visit a Samburu village for shopping (and I felt she had some unfinished business with the Maa speakers from last year). She won! We went into Samburu via Archer's Post and the village we visited is just past the school on the right if you are going in.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 10th, 2007, 09:56 AM
  #43  
 
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Wait, I'm confused, who's scouting for who? I think you're planning a more northerly route, is that right? Ours is more to the south but perhaps we'll have some overlap.

The shock you describe is similar to what we experienced when we arrived at Ol Tukai on our first trip.

Sorry you didn't get to experience more of Shaba. It really is such a stunningly beautiful reserve.
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Jan 10th, 2007, 04:40 PM
  #44  
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I meant scouting Tsavo Patty - and remember we have "one other place" to be determined ;-)

Yes, I do feel like I haven't really visited Shaba - certainly not the way I wanted. Did you hear any stories about "explosions" while you were there, by the way? It's a strange story.
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Jan 10th, 2007, 04:50 PM
  #45  
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Patty ... We are both talking about Kenya 08 rather than Namibia 07, right? Better check or this exchange could get ever more confusing!!
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Jan 10th, 2007, 05:24 PM
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we waited at the intersection of buffalo springs and the road to Shaba while waiting for Patty's van so we could caravan to Elsa'a and really noticed the British military coming from the road to Shaba. I asked Ben about them and he said they practice up in that area.

i hope you will have more to report on the samburu village shopping trip
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Jan 10th, 2007, 06:29 PM
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Oh, you meant September = you Kenya

Not September = me Namibia

Got it finally

I didn't hear any stories about explosions but there have been several films shot in Shaba though I don't know when the most recent one was.
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Jan 10th, 2007, 09:00 PM
  #48  
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It shall be done Joyce...
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Jan 12th, 2007, 04:08 AM
  #49  
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So the village visit. I have a feeling that our perspective on village visits is slightly different from the norm. Firstly, we're there to shop - which has surprised the "villagers" both times. Secondly, we can bargain and are not too uncomfortable about it. Thirdly, we come from a country where tourists go on "village visits" like this and so we EXPECT things to be contrived.
The Samburu village visit is indeed contrived, since there is a kind of script, but refreshingly some of the Samburu (like the masaai last year) don't follwo the script, so we had a couple of guys who were obviously not too keen on the jumping and really didn't get very far off the ground (and for some reason the men of this village are a little on the short side for Masaai anyway)and a woman who was loudly complaining about something during the dance - as with Joyce, Nam Wan was sent to dance with the women while I videoed it (I guess they found that white men really can't either jump or dance and so kind of gently discourage it). The rhythms and chants are genuine enough and it took Nam wan quite some time to get into the "groove" - it's one of those where you have to feel the rhythm in your pelvis if you're ever going to get it...but I thought she was doing okay by the end. In fact I was a little surprised she was so relaxed and enthusiastic about it all. After the dance we ewnt into the boma and were introduced to the schoolchildren and their teacher. This was a bit corny and I was going to tell Ben (the Samburu who guides visitors) that he shouldn't bother with the talk becuase we were here to shop - but I thought he teacher might be offended somehow so gave him 500 shillings and tried to get one of the kids to break off from his "hungry and in need" look ... got him, too. We then went into the house which Ben claimed was his own - and I'm sure it is. He told us that it was made of dung and sticks and skins, and and I commented that I ahd noticed the Samburu incorporate some modern materials into their houses too - mainly yellow plastic, which is presumably from an aid package delivered at some time... or perhaps they buy something that always comes wrapped in yellow plastic ...?? nam Wan posed for a picture with Ben in the hut and then we were ushered towards the shopping area. They had a pretty good selection and there was the same story as last year about each family having their own goods and us being steered to the elders' goods first. Nam Wan selected a couple of dozen things while I chatted with Ben and some of the other guys - who were getting a bit interested in us now (whether because we were obviously big shoppers or because we were obviously so relaxed and comfortable there I don't know) and asking Ben to ask us some questions. Nam Wan got back with her items and of course Ben wanted us to negotiate piece by piece. I told him we'd negotiate for "lots" buit not piece by piece or we wouldn't finish until sundown. We didn't negotiate much for the pieces sold by the old blacksmith, who was clearly important, and that went down very well, but really the rest of the shopping was rather overprices, even after cutting the prices by half. We were happy in the end though - so much so that Nam Wan paid 700 shillings for a 100 shilling ring (I already ahd the price down to 300 so I think she had taken a shine to one of the ladies, but she denies this and claims it was just that we'd spent enough time bargaining). Ben got our address and we his (we sent him a postcard later) and we were sung off to our car like great white hunters in a 40s Hollywood movie.

So it was fun, we got some great video and we had done most of our shopping already while contributing a considerable amount to the community... which I think is a good idea if you want to keep reserves like Buffalo Springs and Samburu going (although we didn't overpay massively I hasten to add). I think I like the Samburu even more than the Masaai of further south and I'll have to spend some more time with tehm at some point.

At the gate to Samburu Julius started telling us about the lioness and the oryx calves. I'd seen the Saba Douglas-Hamilton film about it and so knew more than Julius about what had happened (which he tried not to be miffed about - smartass mzungu) but I found out that Nam Wan had never heard the story. Of course she loved it. Did you know they took away the second of the oryx calves and it was raised in captivity and that the lioness has never been seen again... that's the story. Strangely some local people seemed to think Saba Douglas-Hamilton had been a real bitch just leaving them to die but others understood why she did it.... in any case it may be a subject you can get a group of safari guides a bit worked up about if you have the time and inclination.

kimburu is offline  
Jan 12th, 2007, 04:35 AM
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Thanks for the village post, same samburu village and ben was also our guide. i hope you at least let them make fire for you. i think that was my favorite part of the village tour.

Glad you did a lot of shopping there, they were probably still grumbling about those cheap americans that were there the week or so before you. In hindsight i should have bought more beaded jewerly cause i've given most of it away to friends.

we didn't get the story at the gate about the lioness and the oryx calves.
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Jan 12th, 2007, 11:46 AM
  #51  
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Joyce..I will leave the story about the oryx and the lioness for your guide on your next trip. It is an amazing story.

We did get to see them make fire, but the guy who was showing it couldn't do it quick enough for his fellow il moran and so he grabbed the sticks off him...

Yes, both you and I get Nam Wan's point now... and every gift comes with a story about where it was bought and a bit of inofrmation about the Masaai way of life... so it's worth so much more than something bought in a gift shop or at a gas station ...even if it is/appears to be the same stuff. The money isn't much really in that context.

Hopefully this weekend I can make some progress with this report. I know there are people who want to know about "new, improved" Sweetwaters and about Tusk Camp...

Hmmm... actually, since there are already so many trip reports about Samburu - including two recent ones, why don't I just skip a lot of detail?

I can say that in the end we saw the usual stuff (and that's very good). It looked like it was going to be really disappointing for the first two days and then on the final day we saw everything we had hoped for... we went out into Buffalo Springs - towards the Swimming Pool if you are familiar with the area - and the elephants were coming back in reasonably large numbers - they hadn't been to Angola after all ;-) We also finally got to see gerenuk who were feeding on their hind legs at last - presumably because the bush cover is less in Buffalo Springs (in Samburu, as in Shaba, they had just been feeding on all fours because there was so much browse around). And we found three cheetahs out at the Swimming pool, just getting ready to either hunt or retire for the night - not as exciting as a chase or a swim, but really nice seeing the pussy cats getting dressed up for the evening. We couldn't get any good shots because the grass was so long and we didn't want to disturb them by getting too close (I could have done with one of BillH's 500m monster lenses too) but we arrived at teh best time and saw lots of good cat interation and communication as they decided when and where to go. They seemed to be three fully grown cubs, but Julius thought one was the mother - I'll trust him on that, since our video is inconclusive behaviour-wise and I certainly don't know yet how to estimate the ages of full-grown cheetahs from appearance alone.

Before that we'd twice seen groups of three lionesses (and the back of a single lioness) but no males, and a good selection of various game, but mostly in lowish numbers - it was actually rather like on the plains of Meru but with more vehicles (many more vehicles). We'd seen a few elephants but nothing like the numbers I'd expected, and only someone else's sniff of a leopard. I like the park a lot - the only drawback is the number of vehicles there, although we managed to stay out of people's way most of the time, in Samburu there was no way if you found anything that you weren't going to have at least a couple more vehicles drawing up alongside within 5 or 10 minutes). On the bright side there were more eyes are so more things probably got spotted. Buffalo Springs seemed to be a lot better as far as vehicle concentrations go, and so I was glad that's actually where we had our best luck (one of the groups of lions was there too) contrary to expectations and the experience of others.

In retrospect I think my expetations were very high and I am being a little negative about game sightings - we saw a lot in Samburu/ Buffalo Springs - there are animals all over the place and a fantastic selection of birds too. It's a kind of heaven, really - except heaven doesn;t have as many vehicles.

The Serena is grudgingly recommended. It's fine, the setting is great and the location is very good for getting out and about. The rooms are pretty good and the chalets are attractive and set up so that you can't easily see one verandah from the next... in fact the best thing about it is sitting on your verandah by the river with only a low wall between you and the reserve, spotting the birds and monkeys... and in the dry I am sure a lot more besides. But they DO have an electric fence except for along the river and the place seems to be situated just outside the non-populated part of the Buffalo Springs Reserve, so you will see Samburu with cows when you drive out, or a couple of people walking down the road drinking a Pepsi. Service is also not up to Serena standards we've experienced elsewhere (it's quite impersonal) and they do still bait leopards. actually they keep quiet about this - it is not advertised or included in the briefing when you check in. Shame? An effort to add a bit of a surprise for people? Certainly made my eyes pop when I was scanning the opposite riverbank with my binoculars in the twilight and came across a leopard apparently hanging on a rope from a tree... of course it was hanging on the meat they had hung - playing around. Again, I make it sound bad and it's fine. There are many good things to see and do there and away from the pool it's really quiet and atmospheric. I doubt other places are really much better.... it's kind of symptomatic of Samburu I think.

The camel rides at teh Serena are to be recommended if you are me and to be avoided if you are Nam Wan. The camel is big and rude and scratches itself if it feels like it -prepelling you forward - and the saddle is pretty authentic and rough, with just a bit of wood to hold on to. Also, the ride takes you out towards the local Samburu village, along the river, and once you get out there it all feels quite "real" (good for me, very bad for Nam Wan, especially when she got two big acacia thorns stuck in her leg). If you want small camels with comfortable, safe seating and a route that never takes you far enough away that you can't just jump off and stroll over to the bar, choose Sweetwaters. My (uneducated) advice would be that if you want a gentle taste of what a camel safari would be like (without the walking) choose Serena. All I can say is that I enjoyed it but I do know why people walk most of the time on a camel safari.

Here are today's tangents or "asides". After Meru, where you always stopped or at least waved and said "morning" when you came across someone, it was quite a shock to be rebuffed when I asked a couple who we were stopped next to on a game drive while Julius exchanged sightings with a friend if they were looking for the lions too Everyone in that area was looking for the lions that morning because the rangers had seen them at 5.30 and the drivers had heard about it at breakfast). Once I realised what was going on... and nobody had found the lions yet ... I thought it was a polite thing to say ... like "good morning - nice day". But they cut me dead. Since I was not looking particularly wild that morning and hadn't given them the evil eye or anything, my question to Miss Manners would be... was this perhaps perceived as an embarrassing faux pas in the context of a rather crowded area of a reserve? Would the correct reaction to being face to face at three feet been to have stared determinedly the other way, as they were trying to do? I may actually be looking for an answer here. ;-)

And about "Hunting with Henry"... Julius kept his radio off for most of the trip, which was good because neither of us really like it and the end result was always going to be a pack of minbuses. However, Samburu was proving very disappointing and although we were covering the ground and following the leads he'd picked up, no-one was having much luck at all with either cats or elephants. So he decided to hunt with his old friend Henry and occasionally with a third vehicle, and we had a "radio hunt" for about an hour every drive after that. I really don't like having the radio on but in these circumstances - really once the big cats lay down you couldn't see them at all - we must have stopped to check out pale coloured boulders in the distance 15 times! One day we drove past location A and 60 meters of so later Julius stops and says we have a flat and he'll have to change it. We were tempted to get out and stretch our legs, but since the grass was long and it would obviously be a distraction to him keeping an eye on us, we didn't. It took 5 minutes or so to change the tire and we carried on with our drive. About half an hour later henry came on the radio to say he'd found the lions and so we turned right, right again and found a crowd of minbuses right at Location A... they were only 10 meters or so off the road and so they must have been able to see Julius change the tyre...one had a fresh wound that looked like it had been inflicted by a horn too, and so might not have been in a good mood. So do think before you get out of the vehicle next to long grass - even if you have broken down -there really are bad-tempered lions lying in it.

Anyway, the radio hunt was a success for us three times out of four - although the cheetahs were a pure chance thing and actually nothing to do with the radio - we were both heading that way because of the elephants and Henry happened to have got in front of us because we were in raptures over the gerenuks. Given that I guess in the circumstances I was glad we did it, but in normal circumstances I think I'd rather miss some things than have the damn thing on all the time. On balance maybe the way it was done - for shortish periods between friends, in a reserve where we were going to keep on coming across other vehicles anyway - was all right. If what people say about some drivers having it on all the time is true, people are missing out - it's a rush hunting and finding big cats, even with noise and static, but it wasn't such a rush when we arrived and found that there were already five vehcles there and the lion was walking down the road being pursued by a mini-convoy - especially when the first vehicle got too close and the lion went off the road and disappeared into the bushes. This is "old news" but I thought I'd mention it.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 13th, 2007, 02:08 PM
  #52  
 
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Very interesting, especially the tangents. You’ll need a better hat on your next trip. I almost don’t have time to read trip reports, but I might be able to go to Kenya in June.
Nyamera is offline  
Jan 13th, 2007, 03:26 PM
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Wow! Great report and beautiful pictures. I really loved the little tortoise family - so cute. And your river adventures brings back memories.

Sound like a great trip - thanks for taking the time to report!

Cyn
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Jan 13th, 2007, 03:48 PM
  #54  
 
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Your Samburu and Buffalo Springs account and comments are very helpful. Three cheetah are a wonderful find, among the other gameviewing successes.
atravelynn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 08:41 AM
  #55  
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Glad you are still here all .... and NYAMERA! An announcement! I'm so honoured it is on this thread too (or is your strategy to hide it where no-ne will ever find it?). We will be keeping our fingers crossed in Bangkok.

I went to Sweetwaters/Ol Pejeta with fairly low expectations. We were only going there because we had had to cancel our planned visit to Il Ngwesi. In turn, Sweetwaters (and another night at Elsa’s Kopje) had only been selected as a replacement because my wife had an understandable fixation with seeing a place with the same name as her (Nam Wan means sweetwater in Thai). However, I was very pleasantly surprised by Sweetwaters and (especially) Ol Pejeta in which it is located. While it is clear that Ol Pejeta used to be a farm, down to the hedgerows in places, it is definitely not a farm now. There is quite a lot of game and a number of laudable initiatives, all of which you can help to support while enjoying yourself enormously.

We had booked a tent in front of the waterhole of course, but when we arrived were told they only had a twin tent (5) that would not be ready for a few hours. They were very apologetic and offered tent 19 instead, which had a double bed. I didn’t think that 19 sounded like a good deal but went to check it out and found that the location down there was quiet and that there were zebra and impala right in front of the tent. I also worked out that because of the position of the fenced driveway into to Sweetwaters, most animals would come this way to the waterhole. We decided to go for it (the waterhole had very little action anyway it seemed) and it was an excellent decision. Most of the animals do come that way and in fact a lot of animals hang around in that area (tents 17-21) for most of the day and night - it’s a kind of gathering spot before and after visiting the waterhole and salt lick. So it can actually be a better place than the waterhole for seeing the animals. From our tent we saw zebras suckling and fighting, gazelles and impalas stotting (and an excited zebra apparently trying to stot with them - they’re not very good at it, by the way) impalas practice-fighting, and a gang of mixed herbivores seeing off a lone hyena. We also saw a bushbaby and a significant number of birds - nothing too exciting for the twitcher but very pleasant nonetheless. There were also an amazing number of warthog young (what is the young of a warthog called? I forget.) which I assume is because of the lack of lions - explained later - and absence of cheetah (except for Toki, who is doing very well and living a completely fee life now, if anyone was wondering. The best thing is that there are animals nearly all day and night and the whole time the backdrop is Mount Kenya. White-tailed mongooses and buffalo also come this way after dark on their way to do their stuff at the waterhole and the giraffes come to drink via a break in the bush directly in view, so there’s time to get your camera and take up a position behind a tree or in the hide that functions as a bar sometimes (the waterhole bar was not open while we were there - presumably because the very wet weather meant there were not so many nocturnal visitors).

The tents appear to be the same as they ever were (from other people’s photos) perhaps with new bathrooms and there are certainly too many of them (40 now). They are a little close together too, but they are nice inside and we were not ever annoyed by the sound of someone else inside their tent. Not to be confused with the $400 + per night tented camps but nothing at all wrong with them as accommodation. Service is very good and the food is fine. The drawback is that it is used by the tour groups and you never quite know what you are going to get... again more later.

There are a lot of activities on offer at Sweetwaters, some of which are a bit different, and having been here I’d recommend it as a “rest stop” during a long trip when the morning and evening game drive routine might get a little repetitive. We only did one game drive with Julius here in over 2 days. For us the length of time was perfect.

Did I mention it's a very pretty place?

On the first afternoon we asked Julius to take us to see Morani the tame rhino at 4. We arrived at the same time as a Chinese group (ever see someone wearing a suit on safari? I have!) and a few others - Julius told us this was a busy time because Morani comes up at the rangers' post to have his early evening snack of sugar cane and vitamin-infused kibble, and it would be better to come back the next morning. As it turned out Morani had smelled some rhino that day and was in a very bad mood, so nobody was allowed to get closer than 3 meters and he had to be fed constantly while people were there. Apparently Morani is really upset by the scent of other rhino - both a natural thing and perhaps a bit personal in Moranai’s case since he was castrated in a fight with the last rhino he met. We didn’t stay long but we had a look around the little display about Ol Pejeta and its animals that they have there. It is set up for kids but is quite interesting all the same - go and have a look if you are there.

We then went on a short game drive, seeing some things but nothing really interesting except for a couple of breeding Jackson’s widowbirds (during breeding season the males grow a very long tail and display by bouncing up and down in the grass as if they have a little trampoline down there - very entertaining and very pretty). While we were watching the second one Julius saw another of his sandy rocks in the grass but this one suddenly got up and started walking towards us! It turned out to be one of the tracked lions with a radio collar (note that radio collar does not mean tame). She walked right past us and we noticed from her belly that she appeared to have cubs.

That night we sat outside our tent and had a bottle of wine we had bought at a supermarket in Nanyuki (surprisingly good, but maybe it was where it was drunk). There were no guests in the tents on either side of us and it was really pretty idyllic there. There are spotlights switched on both near where we were and at the waterhole and so with binoculars you can see everything going on at night in a very large area. We joined the zebras, waterbuck and impalas in getting excited when they sensed a predator and laughed when we saw it was a white-tailed mongoose. Ooh, scary! We also got to see how much the herbivores feed during the night and how little they actually really sleep - good textbook stuff - and after visiting the very cosy bar for a nightcap and a warm-up in front of the fire, we slept happily.

In the morning we got up at 5.30, had a shower and headed up to the main house for coffee before our lion tracking. The other two who were supposed to come with us had cancelled so we once again had our own private vehicle. The tracking is done in an open-topped vehicle with a driver and the tracker with his tracking device and while they do not guarantee success, because they track the lions most days and usually know where they were the day before my impression was they don’t fail often. I also got the impression that despite the relatively small numbers at Ol Pejeta people get to see lions quite often if they use the Serena vehicles, since their general location is known to the drivers via these trackers.
(By the way number of lions is because one of the permanent prides of lions were relocated after they developed a specialisation in killing the endangered - in Kenya- Jackson’s hartebeest).

We were trying to find the largest pride on Ol Pejeta and although we were not successful we saw three black rhino, two white rhino and one of the Jackson’s hartebeest - arguably we were lucky but it is just as likely that going out with the rangers who are responsible for protecting these animals has its rewards). After 80 minutes or so I think (discussion was in Swahili) they decided that the large pride were too far away and that we would follow the other signal they had picked up of a lioness with cubs who was a member of this pride but separated herself from them for a lot of the time while she looked after her cubs. After half an hour of looking for ways through thick bush off road in a steep valley the signal got strong enough that the machine was turned off and we started using our eyes. The bush was really thick here along the banks of a stream and it took us a couple of minutes before one of the rangers spotted the resting female - even though she was only 10 meters away. There was no sign of the cubs, but when we manoeuvred into a better position to take photos of the lioness Nam Wan (who had been looking ONLY for cubs since the moment they were metioned) spotted something running away in the grass. They were hiding from us, although the mother seemed totally unconcerned by our presence. We then saw the cubs jumping over the stream about 50 meters away from us and after that heard their little yelps, calling for their mother. She obliged and jumped over the stream herself to join them and they all came to get a comforting lick and a drink of milk from her. After 5 minutes of watching the cubs suckling and playing, the rangers asked if we’d had enough since we shouldn’t disturb them, and we left. (By the way, we did actually disturb the cubs much more than was intended because the rangers hadn’t been able to see the lioness for the thick bush and long grass - we should have spotted the lioness from further away and then we could have comfortably watched from there, but because we didn’t spot the lioness until we were nearly on top of her we’d obviously spooked the cubs a bit at first).

Re the authenticity of this experience,
“real” tracking would involve much greater distances since animals can wander out of Ol Pejeta and into the rest of the Laikipia area, and the ones they want most to find are those furthest away, and so this lion tracking is a little bit contrived from a certain perspective. However, I assure you that the rangers do take notes and pay attention to the condition of the animals they see and you really are using the signals to find the lions, which are wild and free and not confined or totally habituated (clearly no lion growing up solely on Ol Pejeta is going to have a big fear of humans but this is way beyond a safari park experience). It’s great fun, you’re helping to fund the important long-term project of studying predator movement in Laikipia, and I’d thoroughly recommend it. Nam Wan suggested that we'd been taken on a wild goose chase for show when they knew where the cubs were all along, and the tracking device wasn't even turned on. I did not think that was the case and she agreed with me when I took her back through the events of the morning (I just mention it because the rangers are not all that communicative and people might have similar thoughts).

In the afternoon we went to the chimpanzee sanctuary. It’s not exactly a feel-good place because all the horror stories of the chimps there are displayed for you to see, but there are happy endings to most of these stories and it’s nice to see the chimps and learn about them if (like me) you have not yet had the opportunity to do that elsewhere. Of course it would be immeasurably nicer to see them free in their natural habitat, but that can’t be for these guys and girls and they form a relatively happy colony. Personally, I would not go to Ol Pejeta specifically to see the chimps, but if you are there then do it - I don’t think you’ll regret you did - unless you really want to bury your head in the sand about what man does to animals. We also went to see Morani again. He was out in one of his 90 acre paddocks that morning and so we had to track him - or rather the ranger who acted as our guide did. Julius had timed the trip so we were the only ones visiting and it was really quite an unexpected little buzz to track a rhino on foot - even if it was that overgrown baby, Morani. It took us about 25 minutes to find him, following his tracks and freshly flattened vegetation, because he had moved since the rangers had last seen him. Anyway, he was in a good mood and we petted him a bit (he doesn't purr - in fact I don;t think he feels it) and took some photos. He is very tame, but he is huge and I nearly had a heart attack when I was taking a close up of his mouth and he stirred and snorted. Morani certainly isn’t a real wildlife experience but I think he’s a great ambassador for his species and if you encounter him in his paddock rather than at feeding time it’s a very nice experience. Just the walk in the bush is neat, actually.

That afternoon a large group with a number of kids checked in and we had people on both sides again (Serena had tried to put them all together away from us and another “quiet” couple but they insisted on moving - and I don’t blame them since the tents at the back on stilts are clearly inferior as far as view goes). Tent 18 was our concern since there were two parents and two kids in it. At first it was okay - the kids came down to the tent with Mum and were pretty quiet. However, Dad was clearly intent on making sure the kids “HAD A GOOD TIME” and had decided that this had to involve a lot of noise. The guy shouted rather than spoke to his kids, ran with them up by the ditch, went jogging with them in the morning (despite the fact that the rules say “no jogging” for obvious reasons) and every time he spooked all the animals and sent the birds scattering …… and I don’t think he ever even noticed. When he took the kids to stand close to the waterhole he just strode across the grass to the benches they have for observing the action close up, chatting loudly to the kids the whole way. Of course when he got there he had two maribou storks and a duck left to observe close up and I’ll guarantee you he’ll be complaining that you don’t see much at Sweetwaters and it’s a waste of money ;-)

Sweetwaters bar is really nice in the evening. It is cosy and intimate with an open fire, interesting photos on the wall and a barman who’ll chat with you. Reminded me of the bars in small Scottish country hotels - very much “white” Kenya. The singer goes in there at night too and so you can request Jambo Bwana and sing along to your heart’s content. It’s quiet too (if you don’t sing Jambo Bwana) … why does nobody go to the bar for a drink at Serena properties? The prices are high for Kenya at 300-500 shillings a drink, but it’s not THAT bad.

Oh an remember to tip the rangers when you visit Morani - these guys have a hard time babysitting a moody, 32-year old, 1200kg baby. He has to be guarded 24 hours and so that means they have to know roughly where he is at all times, missing sleep if he insists on having a restless night. Plus they've got the other black rhino to wory about. The attitude of the guy I talked to was pretty good about it - even though I asked him a few leading questions inviting him to have a real moan.
kimburu is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 10:40 AM
  #56  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,172
Kimburu - are you in Bangkok? We're going in February.

Cyn
(Now I can go and read your latest installment - just had to ask before I forgot )
cynstalker is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 10:41 AM
  #57  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,869
Still reading and enjoying. I call warthog young piglets but don't know if that's correct. Did you hear anything about a new 10 tent camp being built on Sweetwaters reserve?

Nyamera,
Hope you make it back to Kenya in June!
Patty is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 10:51 AM
  #58  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,172
Ok, now -
What a shame about the dad with the kids - makes one wonder why they were there. But what a nice thing to be able to pet the Rhino - not someting I would have ever thought about being able to do. Is their skin like an elephants - spikey hair?

Cyn

cynstalker is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 11:36 AM
  #59  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 4,222
kimburu, you've really got me down about Samburu. I just can't seem to wrap my brain around a good introductory safari to Kenya. Not that I have one in the offing, but in my imagination my next East Africa trip will be Rwanda/Kenya.

A terrific report, as I've said before (and will undoubtedly say again).

Nyamera, tell us where when how!?! I will send you a new umbrella.
Leely is offline  
Jan 14th, 2007, 02:21 PM
  #60  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Thanks for the Sweetwaters installment.

Nyamera, how wonderful you're going back! Please post details when you have them.
atravelynn is offline  

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