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canadian_robin Sep 5th, 2009 09:42 AM

Highlights and Photos: Self-drive Kenya & Tanzania August 2009
Below is a link to some photos and the beginnings of a trip report from our recent self-drive through the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Northern Circuit of Tanzania. It is a work in progress and will be updated as I write the report and my poor husband works his way through 7000 photos. It was an amazing trip. Enjoy! Robin

Elizabeth_S Sep 5th, 2009 10:13 AM

I've been waiting for your return! Will start reading now!

spassvogel Sep 5th, 2009 10:17 AM

Excellent report and very good photos!

The situation you describe at the crossing where you feared you were in the Wildebeast's paths fit in a discussion which was going on yesterday. It's so easy to hinder these animals on leaving the danger zone. But good to read you weren't interfering with the crossing.

To witness a lioness carrying her cub is awesome! Obviously she was still separated from the pride so the cub was really tiny and not older than 6-8 weeks. It did look even smaller despite the Photo doesn't offer a clear sight.

Also you description of the hunt in the crater - unique experience!

By reading your report I realise a self-drive is a much more intense safari than a fly-in.
It must have been really special safari.

I would like to hear more about the incident in the Western corridor/Serengeti.

Welcome back and good luck by finding back into a "normal" life!


canadian_robin Sep 5th, 2009 10:44 AM

Enjoy Elizabeth!

The cub was tiny. The photo isn't very clear because we didn't wish to get too close and frighten the lioness. It was one of our favourite sightings!

I will outline the poaching incident in my report. We reported it to the rangers at Seronera, who were going to monitor the area. Hopefully, it was an isolated incident.

Most people at the Mara crossings are there with a guide, who should know where the wildebeests cross - we were at a bit of a disadvantage in not knowing where we should park. Had we been in the way (of the wildebeests), we would have moved. We were at the top of a steep bit of bank, which was impossible for them to climb, which is why we had parked there in the first place. We found that most vehicles were out of the way of the wildebeests (reasonably well back), but there were 21 vehicles at one crossing - not our idea of a good time. We left!

The wildbeest hunt by the hyena in the Crater was another highlight.

Self-driving is wonderful - we love to be in control of where and when we go and how long we stay. This self-drive was the most challenging of the ones we have done so far, just because traveling without a guide in either country is uncommon. The poaching incident was the only time I was out of my comfort zone. Robin

raelond Sep 5th, 2009 11:13 AM

Thank you for sharing your amazing trip. Credit to your husband and you for doing a self-drive.

Leely2 Sep 5th, 2009 12:14 PM

Absolutely incredible--I just sent the link to your gallery to my two traveling companions from my last trip. You stayed at some places I've been and some I'd like to visit, so I am very eagerly looking forward to more details and more photos. I love Tarangire and we enjoyed Olduvai, the guys who work there and the sunset walk very much too.

Awful and scary about the poachers.

By the way, I have a few scars on my ankles and shins from tse tse bites from 3 years ago!

aknards Sep 5th, 2009 12:34 PM

wonderful report and photos, robin. thank you so much!


pastrider Sep 5th, 2009 01:08 PM

Great report and wonderful photos! I'm in the process of planning my first trip to Tanzania and you are making me wish I could go right now! Can't wait to see and read more.



atravelynn Sep 5th, 2009 07:10 PM

Your Tarangire shot is the classic postcard. Who cares if they're muddy? They're lions in the trees! Beautiful light on the lions on the ground.

Twenty-one vehicles may not be a good time for you but I'm glad you observed them staying out of the way of the wildebeest.

7000? You've got yourself a part-time job now that you've returned.

twaffle Sep 5th, 2009 08:17 PM

I always enjoy your reports Robin and I like the format, easy to read and match the very good photos to the captions.

The Tarangire photos are very appealing, especially the baobab. I'm looking forward to seeing more. It gives me hope that one day I may do something similar.

canadian_robin Sep 5th, 2009 09:10 PM

Thank you all for your kind comments. Robert now has the photos from day one labelled and edited so I must get back to my writing.

I envy you Julie - I would go back tomorrow if I could.

Leely2 - I have no doubt that some of the tsetse bite scars are permanent - I was so desperate at one point that I was using a rock to scratch the bites on my ankles - this was before we remembered that we had anti-histamines (Claritin) in the first aid kit. The anti-histamines worked - the Benadryl Itch Relief and Calamine lotion did nothing!

Lynn - we too loved the light on the lions on the burn - the colours were so lovely that we sat and ate breakfast while admiring the scene.

sallysaab Sep 5th, 2009 10:51 PM

Great report and photos, thank you for sharing.

spassvogel Sep 6th, 2009 06:46 AM

I am really looking forward to read your report not only on the sightings and the poachers, but also on the campsites, house of waine etc etc.
That might well enhance my appetite for a self-drive vacation.
I saw you sitting in front of your car enjoying a break. As the campsites are not fenced I was wondering whether you were somehow alert about the "animal kingdom" you were camping in ;-)

Thank you for your further explanation!


canadian_robin Sep 6th, 2009 07:50 AM

Hi SV!
We were always very alert (although I admit we don't look it in that photo :-d), especially after dark. Some of the sites were fairly open, which made watching for approaching animals fairly easy, while others like Maji ya Ndege in the Mara Triangle were surrounded with bush, making it more difficult. We sat with our backs to the 4x4 so that nothing could creep up on us from behind and we usually faced in opposite directions. We took turns leaping up and scanning the area (with a powerful flashlight after dark). When we spotted eyes in the beam of the flashlight, we would peer at the animal with our binoculars to see what it was. There were a couple of evenings when there were lions and elephants nearby when we were early to bed - we were surrounded by lions at the Turner Springs campsite in Seronera one night and the elephants were a challenge in Lake Manyara. We never ventured far from the vehicle (maybe 20-30m), especially at night, and there was a light on the exterior of the vehicle (it runs off an extra battery) that lit up the area around the vehicle. On the nights when there was no wind we would often hear the animals approaching - on windy nights it was a little more challenging. We were extremely cautious and alert at all times, especially at night, which is why we spotted the poachers' flashlights approaching through the bush. Robin

atravelynn Sep 6th, 2009 01:49 PM

Breakfast with the lions. Way to go.

None of your photos give an indication of extreme drought. Can you comment on the lack of rain?

In the special camping spots you stayed in the Mara, who was there? People like you? Any companies camping with their clients? Did you split it up with some camping and some permanent tented camp accommodations-Serian? Review for me the dates you spent in the Mara. Asante.

spassvogel Sep 6th, 2009 02:30 PM

Robin - again thx a lot!

The more you write/I read the more curious I bcome. It sounds SO outragously EXCITING...I must do such a trip one day..........


canadian_robin Sep 6th, 2009 03:31 PM

Hi SV! I would highly recommend it - it is very exciting. We can't wait to go back.

Lynn - We arrived at Serian on 31st July and stayed 2 nights. Then we headed into the Mara and stayed (camped) at Maji Ya Nedege special campsite in the Triangle for 6 nights. Then we returned to Serian for one night (8th August) before crossing into Tanzania and heading into the Serengeti. Serian purchased our groceries for us (we provided them with a list by email ahead of time) hence the need to return for the second time - we needed to restock with fresh produce and meat.

The special campsites seem to be used by mobile camp operators - visitors who were there with guides, cooks and drivers. We saw no other self-drivers in the Mara. Some special campsites had six to eight tents set up on them - I am not certain if the tents were for one or two people. There would be a toilet tent and a shower tent. We didn't enjoy any such luxuries, although we did have the type of shower that you fill and hang in a tree. I can't recall the names of any of the mobile camping companies whose names were displayed on the vehicles, but there seemed to be many different companies - Robert and I were surprised that so many were surviving the tough economic times.

We did combine camping with tented camps - Serian for three nights (this is where Safari Drive stores the vehicle in Kenya, so we started there), Lemala Camp at Ngoronogoro for two nights (we feared we would freeze if we camped on the crater rim and Lemala has heaters in their tents - wozzie Canadians, I know!!) and Arusha for a night before heading into Manyara and Tarangire (for a total of 6 nights) - mainly to restock groceries again. The 4x4 does come with a very efficient fridge, but it isn't huge.

In terms of drought - the Mara seemed to be quite green and it rained lightly several times when we were there (4 of the 6 days as I recall - always late in the afternoon). The river was incredibly low, however, so much so that the wildebeest could walk across rather than having to swim. It was incredibly dry in the Serengeti, but it was the dry season and we gathered from the Masai at Olduvai that, although it hadn't rained since January, this was the norm.

Lake Manyara looked positively lush after the Serengeti and I think Tarangire was about as it should be for the dry season. Perhaps someone who has visited in the past can provide better insight.

We did enjoy breakfast with several different prides of lions. We would get up at 5:45 to depart when it was just light at 6:30am. We would drive for about two hours, enjoying the solitude before the other vehicles started to appear (I was surprised at the late start of so many lodges - 8:30am seemed to be the norm - I don't know why they choose to miss what I think is the best part of the day). Then, around 9:00am, we would find somewhere scenic (or stay with predators, if that is where we were) and have breakfast in the vehicle. We had breakfast with lions, migrating wildebeests, bee-eaters, elephants, giraffes - all manner of wonderful ways to start the day. The only problem we encountered was that vehicles would descend on us because we were parked for a while. It was most embarassing having to explain that we were simply parked while having breakfast - if it was predators, then that was OK - bee-eaters, not so much :-d.

FDM Sep 6th, 2009 08:45 PM

HI Robin: It was great this evening to read your report in progress and view your photos. What a wonderful experience you've had. We have dreamed for many years about going on safari and so we are flying tomorrow evening to Nairobi to begin our southern Kenya and northern Tanzania safari. So finding your posting this evening was a great treat to view. We will look forward to reading more of your report when we return to the USA. Thanks again for posting and sharing your adventure. Dave and Sandy, South Carolina

atravelynn Sep 7th, 2009 06:06 AM

I can just imagine the surprise of the guests who drove up to your parked vehicle expecting you were watching some big animals only to learn you were breakfasting with the bee eaters.

That's a nice long time in the Mara!

canadian_robin Sep 7th, 2009 03:55 PM

I hope you have a wonderful trip Dave and Sandy! I will look forward to reading about your adventure.

Lynn - I am not certain if they were surprised or disgusted!:-d
Many seemed focused only on predators. Robin

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