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Imelda’s African Adventure - Rwanda & Kenya July 20th 2006 to July 30th 2006

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Aug 29th, 2006, 02:12 PM
  #121
 
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I’m so glad everybody is saying nice things about topis. Otherwise I don’t know what I would do. Once there was a thread with a comment that wasn’t 100 % pro-topi. I hope it will never be repeated.

Imelda,
The Burundi incident might have been stressful, but it’s nothing compared to the terror of lost luggage. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I can’t get my brain around what you did to the gunky complimentary body lotion. I would have scraped it up from the floor of a public toilet. The gorilla experience sounds incredible, even in a borrowed tracksuit, but I was so relieved when I read that your bags were in Nairobi.

Is anyone planning a whole safari with Kennedy’s company?
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Aug 29th, 2006, 02:33 PM
  #122
 
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Imelda, After several false starts, I've finally caught up with your report and what a wonderful treat it is!!! Your writing is so full of the drama that is life - wide-eyed wonder that someone drinks all of the only Coke, "tooing and froing at the airport", stomping the gross lotion bottle, sharing your walking stick with Deck after he's been trounced by a gorilla. It's easy to see you don't make too much mountain out of molehills!! I have laughed out loud so many times, what a fabulous trip I've enjoyed with you and Deck. Atravelynn does have a point, next time a Burundi trip report will be appreciated!! hee, hee. Really, I've learned so much from your post and will save it for yet another "once in a lifetime" trip, a gorilla trek, maybe even the Amahoros. Just so you know, I yippeeed right along with ya when you finally found your luggage!! Feel better soon!!! (Maybe you'll feel like sorting through the 2000, although you really have to be strong in spirit when you're choosing from what must be so many fabulous shots!! Good luck!!!) Deb
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Aug 29th, 2006, 06:32 PM
  #123
 
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Imelda,
Thanks so much for your inspiring report. We are leaving for Africa in 4 weeks and each time I read about your trip, it excites me about mine. I wanted to ask you a little more about Richard in Rwanda as I have yet to book transport for my 5 days there. Do you have a contact address for him? Would love to book him as my driver as he sounds amazing. I would also like to know, if you don't mind, how much i can expect to pay for him as my driver/guide? Many thanks.
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Aug 29th, 2006, 06:40 PM
  #124
 
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Oh, forgot to ask, can you direct me to your pre-trip post so I can read all the valuable advice you recieved. Thanks.
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Aug 30th, 2006, 03:06 AM
  #125
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Patty, I completely agree, Mule was definately trying to stop somewhere on the way but it was him that said Mpata not me. I just thought at the time that I must have gotten it wrong and there was a Mpata in Navaisha too. Honestly, the real issue was that he didn't bother to tell us differently and just 'landed' us there. Definately a people skills course would be in order.

Wayne, please don't take my thoughts on Mule to mean I thought him a bad guy - he definately wasn't. It was just that after having had Richard in rwanda and him being so 'in to' his job, Mule was the opposite - it was just a job to him as far as we could see.

Lynn,
Me too - the flying incident I mean!
I can't believe Serena would actually ask you to share with a stranger - that's not even funny!!! Thank God you had a good guide to stand up for you.

Nyamera,
You sure are beautiful and I can't believe anyone could or would be anything other than pro-topi!!!!
Re the body lotion - there is NO WAY I could even have considered using it. It looked like the remnants of a couple of bottles had been put into it and that gunk at the top was not pretty to say the least.
Joyce was an absolute lifesaver with that tracksuit - I would have been a bit more peed off about no luggage had she not been kind enough to loan me her clothes. The Gorilla trek was in one word AWESOME!

Kennedy does full safaris in both Kenya AND Tanzania and if I was booking a guide I certainly wouldn't hesitate to book him.

Leely,
I meant to say in my last post that Kennedy specificially wanted me to thank you for him - after all it was you who recommended him in the first place and he is EXTREMELY thankful. In fact he said he would like to thank you himself if you would be willing to have him e-mail you - I could give him your e-mail address?!

Deb,
I'm glad my enthusiasm shows because I really want to try to convey how fantastic this trip really was (even with all those hiccups). There really was no point letting those little incidents get to us as there basically was nothing we could do and we knew that everything has a solution of some sort. We really did laugh our way through it all and you know what they say - what doesn't kill you ......Although I have to say, the sight of those bags in the airport was definately one of the high points and I almost did a Yippee there and then! Deb, if you are even CONSIDERING doing a Gorilla Trek I say - DO IT!!!! It is something I would really love to repeat in the future (and we're not really repeat type people). Re my flu, I still haven't managed to shift it buy I'm muddling along. Hopefulli it will soon be banished and I promise I will do my best to get at least some of those photos up and I'll resist the urge to post all 2000!!!

Travellingbug,
You can e-mail me at im_civil at hotmail dot com and I'll tell you all I can about Richard. Just put something in the title like Fodors so that I can rescue it from my junk mail. You really won't regret having Richard as your driver, he's a real dote. Travellingbug, I really posted SO many questions in the lead up to our trip that I couldn't list them all here but if you click on my screen name all the posts that I have contributed to / started will come up. I think I started a few on Lake Nakuru, Rwanda, ballooning etc. If you have any specific questions feel free to ask.
By the way, did you finalise your itinerary??

Imelda
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Aug 30th, 2006, 06:03 AM
  #126
 
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Imelda,
Thanks, I will email you and hope that Richard will be available when I contact him. And yes, we have almost finalized our trip, just a few days and a few details that need to be sorted. We fly into Nairobi and have a week to play with (I know it is getting close but still cannot decide....looking at Lake Navisha, Hells Gate, Lake Nakuru) am hoping to look at previous posts to commit myself to something...and to someone, you and so many others recommend Kennedy so I will contact him. We fly to Rwanda from there for 6 days, just need to sort out driver and some of the accomodation (Kigali). We fly to Zanzibar for a week, then return to Nairobi to start our 10 day safari (Masai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Eyasi, Tarangires). We finish our trip on the coast of Kenya for 5 days (still sorting this out). All this and we leave in 4 weeks...butterflies in my stomach!! Thanks again.
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Aug 30th, 2006, 07:53 AM
  #127
 
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Someone requested Richard's email address.
it sounds like you have it covered Imelda.

If you can't find it, anyone who wants to contact him can email me off list.

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Aug 31st, 2006, 09:35 AM
  #128
 
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Fantastic trip report (especially the Burundi detour)...but anxiously awaiting photo illustrations please!
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Aug 31st, 2006, 09:46 AM
  #129
 
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Imelda, LyndaS has my email, I think. But, please, Kennedy has nothing to thank me for. Of course if someone is looking for a guide in Nairobi, I'd recommend him. He's very reliable! And if the client is up for socializing and/or needs a little extra help, he's the kind of person who will go the distance.
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Aug 31st, 2006, 01:34 PM
  #130
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Lisa, I'm glad you're enjoying our tales of adventure. I promise I will do my best to get some of those photos up soon but I'm afraid it's pretty hectic around here and time is very limited so I'm focousing on the report first.

Leely, Kennedy was very specific that I should thank you for him And I completely agree, he is a GREAT guy. Maybe Lynda can give him your e-mail.

Imelda
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Aug 31st, 2006, 01:45 PM
  #131
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JULY 25th – Dreams Come True!

Originally we were supposed to do our hot air balloon flight this morning as Serena had arranged it but when we checked with JP, the balloon pilot, he had us booked for the 26th. He told us we could change it to the 25th if we wanted but we decided to stick with the 26th. Deck was absolutely delighted when I revealed the surprise of the hot air balloon flight by the way (it was a very early anniversary surprise). He had actually said on the way down to the Mara on the flight ‘ ah, we forgot to book a balloon flight’ – it took all my strength not to tell him there and then…. Little did he know!

Anyways, we were up bright and early for our 6.30am game drive. We had tea and coffee at the hot drinks station and then we went to reception to see if we could find our new driver. We couldn’t find anyone who looked like they might be waiting for us so we asked at reception. Soon Sammy our new driver came and took us to our 5-seater vehicle. Inside, there were two people – Tony & Sylvia from Miami but are originally Cuban. Sylvia had very little English but Tony’s was perfect and we got along very well. We got in and told Sammy ‘no pressure – a crossing and a leopard will do nicely and a cheetah sighting too!!’ We were teasing of course. Actually, the evening before when we were talking to Samuel, he told us that with 4 nights he “guaranteed” we would see cheetah! He said that leopard was a different story though and it was unlikely. Sammy asked us how long we were staying at the Serena and he seemed a little surprised when we told him 4 nights. It seems that very few people stay there for that long.

Well, first stop this morning was to be the Mara River to see if those wildebeest from last night were ready to cross. Along the way the Serena hot air balloon floated right by us. It looked fabulous with the rising sun in the background. Next we saw two Secretary birds. They were walking around in the grass and there was another bird (not sure what kind) flying above. We guessed that there was probably a nest on the ground somewhere as when the Secretary birds moved in a particular direction this bird dive-bombed them. It was hilarious to watch them frantically ducking out of the way. Eventually the Secretary birds moved off and so did we. We continued on our way to the river and sure enough, the wildebeest looked like they might actually cross so we sat and waited with two other Serena vehicles. In a tree on the riverbank I saw my first ever kingfisher – a Chestnut. After a short while the wildebeest seemed to get nervous with the location they were in and the started to move a little further downstream. We also moved further down in order to get a better view and within a few minutes the first wildebeest made his way down the bank to the water and the excitement grew. A group gathered at the waters edge and tension mounted. Next thing we knew, most of the wildebeest at the water got spooked and started to turn and go back up the slope away from the water. After a few minutes things calmed down again and finally the first wildebeest took the plunge and others followed. The wildebeest exited the river behind our vehicle. After a little while and a largeish group had crossed, the route changed and some wildebeest took long drinks at the river before crossing and exiting RIGHT beside our vehicle! They were definitely spooked by our presence but I got the impression that we would have spooked them even more if we had tried to move out of the way. Some of the wildebeest on the other side started going down a practically vertical bank to reach the water. Next Deck pointed out a large croc swimming no more than 10 feet away from the line of animals crossing the river. He moved to within a couple of feet of them and then disappeared without even trying to make a kill. We figured he just wasn’t hungry and I was so happy that each and every one of the wildebeest made it across safely. The croc did spook the wildebeest on the other side though and again the crossing point moved – back upstream this time. The entry point was over large rocks which the wildebeest jumped over in order to reach the water – WHAT A SIGHT!! We couldn’t figure out how they made it over those rocks without being killed. Within about 30 minutes most of the wildebeest had crossed with the remainder deciding to leave it for another day. About 400 animals in all crossed the river that day – what an amazing sight and an amazing start to our first game drive in the Mara!

After our amazing experience we left the river and just a little while later we found three lions – two young males and a female, surrounded by three hyenas – two adults and a juvenile. We only stayed with them for a few minutes and then drove to another location near the river where we were told to get out. We actually didn’t know what was happening as we walked a little way but it turned out to be the Hippo Pool Breakfast. We had actually requested this for the morning of the 27th but didn’t mind having it today instead, a nice surprise! We were seated at a table with our travel mates and were served some delicious champagne. We had a beautiful view of the river and hippos and we had a really nice cooked breakfast. The only ‘little’ hiccup was that I ended up knocking poor Sylvia’s champagne over whilst attempting to remove a fly from the glass but she was very kind and didn’t make me feel too bad. Sylvia and her husband were very nice and interesting people. Just as we were finished our breakfast, a family of Warthogs showed up right beside our picnic area and then a family of Mongoose (I had never seen a mongoose before and they proved very difficult to photograph as they were so skittish). After breakfast we went for a very short walk along the riverbank with a Maasai where he told us about his village and the knife he carried. We saw our first Macaw and Yellow Billed Stork in the river. Beside the picnic area / river was a fully functional modern type toilet – unbelievable! On the way back towards our vehicle the Maasai asked if we were going to the Maasai village. Tony & Sylvia said yes and we said we would go along with whatever they said. We assumed we would be going straight there but this was not the cast. Sammy took us back to the Serena and told us he would be leaving for the village at 11am. We told him that if we weren’t there that he should go without us. We weren’t really totally sure we wanted to go, especially after reading about it here (the ‘staged’ issue and the ‘surrounded by people’ issue – especially with my claustrophobia issue, put us off somewhat) and Deck was edging towards having an afternoon siesta.

Upon return to the lodge we checked at reception about changing rooms. They told us it wasn’t ready yet and they would phone us in our room when it was ready but it would be a while. So we went back to our room and I packed up ready to move while Deck hopped into bed and promptly fell asleep and it wasn’t long before the lure of that amazingly comfortable bed overcame me too. No sooner was I in bed and had just started to doze off when a knock on the door brought me back into consciousness. Murphy’s Law – they wanted us to change rooms now. So up we get and go back to reception for the key. Kevin was as good as his word and gave us room number 5. We were even more impressed with the room. It was larger than 76 and had a fantastic view. It was also lacking the gap between the patio doors which meant no uninvited guests – we were well happy! Deck being Deck, hopped straight back into bed while I unpacked for the first time during the trip .... A big thrill for me to have clothes AND not living out of a suitcase! I attempted to book a massage for today but the beauty therapist was fully booked. I spoke directly to her and she was lovely. I enquired about a facial and the products she uses (Dead Sea) and told her that I have had reactions in the past to some products. She was really nice and told me that maybe I would be better not having a facial as some people have had reactions to the products in the past. I was really impressed – if that was a therapist at home they would most likely have told me it would be OK (this happened to me in the past and I subsequently had a reaction) . I ended up booking a body massage for the following day at 11am and an Indian Head Massage AND Reflexology for 7pm the day after. I felt I deserved a bit of pampering after all our ‘incidents’ . I spent the time before lunch looking at the beautiful wildlife in our ‘back garden’ which amazed me. There were lots of Common Bulbul flitting between saplings right outside our patio door and some even came to sit on our balcony posing for pictures!There was also Giraffe, Buffalo and Wildebeest within sight – what a thrill!!!!!!

We headed to lunch at about 2pm and it was more of the same – salad, veggie curry etc. We ate and then got ready for our afternoon gamedrive at 3.30pm. When we got to the jeep we found that Tony and Sylvia weren’t coming as they had been to the Maasai Village at 11. So off we went on our ‘private’ gamedrive. The first thing we came across was two Thompson Gazelle ‘on honeymoon’. There were the other usual suspects, the beautiful Topi, lots of Wildebeest and something I NEVER tire of observing ... Zebra and some babies too. For some reason, since our first safari I have a thing about zebra. I know they are very common but for some reason I just love to watch them. Next up was a large Hippo pod where we got out of the vehicle to view them and listen to their loud ranting. There too was a Greater Egret. Back in the jeep we spot Waterbuck, a couple of curious Giraffe and a journey of 5 Giraffe far away. A beautiful Lilac Breasted Roller seemed to realise that I was a novice photographer and actually posed for me! I can never get over the beautiful colours of the birds in Africa – spectacular, even common birds like starlings. Anyways, onwards and more ‘new’ wildlife – an Ostrich a herd of Buffalo keeping as far away from the Wildebeest as possible. Not many animals like the wildebeest, apparently due to the fact that they make so much noise. Another Lilac Breasted Roller and then it’s my first sight of a beautiful big Bull Elephant. I have to mention now that Elephants are my absolute favourite animals and I was so excited. We pointed the Ellie out to Sammy who didn’t seem interested in him. Instead he continued driving an pulled up next to a tree. Under the tree was a male lion ‘flat out’. We weren’t in the best location to photograph the lion (there was one other vehicle there) and I was afraid I was going to miss the elephant as I didn’t think that Sammy was going to go over to him so I started clicking away at the elephant thinking I could photograph the lion afterwards as he didn’t look like he was going anywhere . After a couple of minutes Sammy began to move. We thought he was going to try for a better vantage point of the lion but we were wrong – he moved completely away and headed for the elephant …. And I hadn’t even gotten one shot of the lion. I was disappointed but Sammy was to turn out to be one of those guys who constantly did his own thing and didn’t want to talk much (sound familiar? Dejavou? (sp?)) It was like ‘pulling hens teeth’ trying to get information out of him. He never volunteered information, we always had to ask questions, and ask him to “please stop”, “where are we going” etc. and sometimes we just didn’t even bother to ask him because he made us feel like we were being bothersome. It wasn’t that he said anything it was just his attitude. He was pretty standoffish and wasn’t a patch on Samuel and we were disappointed. He definitely didn’t love his job – not by a long shot!

Anyways, we were off again without knowing where we are headed. For quite a while there are very few animals and then.... we see Lots of vehicles parked around a tree .... it just has to be a cat we think! What is it??? I can’t see!! As we draw nearer to the other 12 vehicles – Yes 12!!! We discover it’s a cheetah mom with 5 cubs!!!!! WOW! We had read in the visitors book at the Serena that others had seen these cats but I had only dreamed I might see them and I hadn’t even dared to hope that I would and now they were there right in front of us – I was so so happy, it was a dream come true! We stayed with them while they were oblivious to the vehicles around them for about 20 minutes. In fact, three of the cubs played happily under one of the vehicles! They were just so cute and I really hated leaving them but we had to start making tracks back to the lodge for the 6.30 curfew. On the way back towards the Oloololo Gate we saw a hare hiding in the grass – how Sammy spotted him I couldn’t figure. Later we saw another Bull Elephant and then a lone Buffalo having a mud bath right at the side of the road. Sammy told us that this guy probably was a weakling and had been banished from a herd. I felt really sorry for him, as he looked dejected. We saw a Coucal and a Bustard but didn’t get to photograph either. Then, just as we were leaving the buffalo, a Black Backed Jackal began to cross in front of us. Sammy turned off the engine to let us watch. The Jackal just stopped in the middle of the road, turned to look right at us and then sat and then lied down right there in the middle of the road!!! He didn’t move, just looked at us and we got the impression would have sat there for a long time on his own ‘human safari’ had we not switched the engine back on and begun to move off. Shortly after leaving our curious Jackal we came across some very relaxed lions but we couldn’t stay very long as it was already 6.30 and the Park Rangers were there.

Back at the lodge we washed off the dust ... It really amazed me how dusty it was possible to get on each game drive and it really stuck! We prepared for and went to dinner which again was curry and Italian night (I think). There was meat bolognaise at the vegetarian ‘stir fry’ station so it was curry for me again tonight. Contented with our first days sightings in the Mara – a crossing AND cheetahs – the stuff I only dreamed about!!, it was early to bed, as we had to be up bright and early for our 6am departure from the lodge for our balloon flight in the morning. Well that was the plan anyways BUT ..... The people next door in number 4 certainly didn’t have the same plan ... we were kept awake by an extremely piercing, high pitched laugh until the very small hours of the morning – not much sleep for us tonight!
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Aug 31st, 2006, 06:35 PM
  #132
 
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I am jealous. Though I'ver seen jackals a number of times they have never stayed still ong enough for me to get a decent photo.

And what's a hippo pool breakfast? Or is it self-evident?
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Sep 1st, 2006, 12:22 AM
  #133
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Leely,
Yes, we were VERY excited about the Jackal. Our one and only other jackal sighting was a fleeting glimpse of the one that basically ran across in front of us in Nakuru. Actually, in the Mara we had a couple of good photo ops of jackals but this one certainly was the best.

The hippo pool breakfast is basically just that. The tables for breakfast are set up outdoors besdide a pod of hippos in water - the hippo pool.

Imelda
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Sep 1st, 2006, 05:38 AM
  #134
 
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Imelda, Am anxiously waiting for lift-off!! Deb
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Sep 1st, 2006, 11:52 AM
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Nyamera,
I admit it. Once I made a slightly anti-topi comment a long time ago in another thread. It will never happen again.

Imelda,
I'll be reading about your time at Serena a little later.
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Sep 3rd, 2006, 08:31 AM
  #136
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JULY 26th –Lions & Babies Day!

We arose very tired at 5.15am and had coffee before departing for our balloon flight at 6am. The journey to the take off point was short. We were all in a 14-seater army vehicle and myself and Deck happened to get seats in the first row at the front (there were 4 rows behind the driver which could each hold 4 people). On arrival JP said to leave backpacks etc. in the vehicle, as he was afraid things would fall out of the balloon on takeoff and landing. We took out what we needed and left our backpack on the seat. I discovered that the flight was full – 12 people – 3 in each of 4 compartments. I was a little worried about the space issue but my worries were soon allayed. While the compartments couldn’t be described as ‘roomy’ we weren’t totally squashed either. We loaded up with me and Deck in one compartment with the wife of an Aussie couple (her husband was in the adjoining compartment) and takeoff was very gentle. It wasn’t very cold, especially when JP ‘burned’ and the view was beautiful. We reached about 800 feet and just for kicks also flew low enough to brush some trees. From the balloon we saw Reedbuck, a Hippo out of water, Eland, White Backed Vulture and Topi. When our flight was almost over we spotted a couple of vehicles stopped on a roadway. JP radioed the ground team to try to find out what it was the two vehicles had spotted. It turns out it was a pride of 7 lions with a kill. It was decided that we would look for the lions after we landed and before breakfast. Upon a very gentle landing – we landed vertical which JP said, only happened 20% of the time! We loaded up into the 14 seater vehicle. Now, I was going to leave this part out for fear of sounding like a whinge but this is a ‘warts and all’ trip report so here goes: There was a large group of Indian people with us (6 in all) and when we went to load into the vehicle they literally rushed into the vehicle heading for the front seats. Now, we really didn’t care whether we were in the front row of seats or not as you couldn’t see out of the front anyways but it was the manner in which they did it. Without a word they removed our backpack. We sat in the back row with Sylvia and Tony and we set off to find the lions in the but had no success and we returned to the picnic site for breakfast. After breakfast the two Aussies set off with their own tour guide (he had come to collect them) and we all loaded into the 14 seater again with, you’ve guessed it, the Indian group rushing for the first three rows again. Now this is where it bothered me – Deck and I were the last ones to board the vehicle. There was Sylvia and Tony in the back row and two each of the other group in each of the three front rows. One of the guys in the second to last row came out of his seat and said we could sit in there .... In the middle!!!!! He was ALREADY IN the seat and got out trying to put us in the middle basically saying that he wasn’t sitting in the middle – talk about rude. We could have stooped to their level and just said no and sat outside them on two rows but we didn’t, we sat in the back with Tony & Sylvia. Anyways, whinge over, back to the breakfast: The tables, covered in green linen were set up right in the middle of nowhere – an absolutely amazing setting and a bit surreal. Breakfast was OK – fried potatoes and beans for me (the omelette station had ham!) and the champagne flowed. It was an unreal experience sitting there in the middle of the vast Mara with not another soul to be seen sipping champagne at 7.30 in the morning. I could have just sat there for hours. Poor Sylvia ended up with a wasp in her champagne again – she wasn’t having much luck with champagne!!!

JP told us the designated toilet was ‘au naturalle’ behind one of the vehicles. Before we left the picnic site all the men used the ‘facilities’. Me, being me, I decided to wait until we got back to the Serena ... big mistake! We were barely gone 10 minutes when the amount of champagne and tea I had drunk raised their heads and I just knew there was no way I was going to make it back to the Serena. AND, you have to remember, I was sitting all the way at the back of the vehicle so there was no way to discretely get JP’s attention. We just had to bite the bullet and we asked him to stop when he could and within a minute he found a largeish termite hill. There was nothing for it but to very red facedly, disappear behind the hill. It was certainly a relief when I got back in the vehicle and with some teasing and joking we moved off again. Within no more than a minute we had stopped again. This time it wasn’t my doing, it was a puncture. We all got out and as we did so I thought about the discussions here on the dangers of disembarking from a vehicle on Safari but we were in the middle of a flat area and there was a herd of zebra right beside us so the chances of predators were quite slim without us knowing it. Quite a few photos and a tyre change later we are on the way. Next stop was a large group of Vultures and not very far from those, the pride of 7 lions with their kill and we were the only vehicle around – YAY! It was a great sighting, a perfect end to a perfect morning.

We had arranged to have our game drive with Sammy at 11am as we had missed our morning one. Deck decided to have a nap instead of the drive so Tony, Sylvia and I loaded up. Tony and Sylvia were very disappointed that they missed the cheetahs yesterday but Tony had been ill. They asked Sammy if there was a chance of seeing cheetah today but he didn’t seem too positive and replied in his manner of not wasting too many words - “it’s very hot”. I was really hoping we would see cheetah for Tony & Sylvia’s sakes as this was their last game drive in the Mara.

Before we are out the gate of the Serena we see Rock Hyrax. Next is a herd of 6 elephants with two babies – they walk right by us! We don’t see much more except Plover and a large herd of Buffalo for a while. Sammy hasn’t told us where we are headed but I soon recognise that we are headed North towards the Oloololo Gate where the Cheetah mom plus cubs were yesterday (beside Kichwa Tembo). Soon we reach the gate where we get out to use the toilet (they’re not the best but I’m not taking any chances after this morning J)). When we return from the toilets the ranger is talking to Sammy – there is some sort of problem! Next thing Sammy comes to us and asks if we have our park tickets. We tell him that Serena never gave us any so he goes back to the ranger. We hear the ranger saying its Sammy’s responsibility to make sure that we have our permits with us at all times and he basically implies that Serena are trying to pull a fast one by not paying the park entry fees. Tony tries to stand up for Sammy saying it’s not his fault and the ranger tells Tony he ‘knows’ the park fees were paid by us. Anyways, after a few minutes, Sammy is let off and we continue on our way. Tony tells Sammy not to worry that it’s not his fault but Sammy acts like a spoilt child and just sulks, not speaking to anyone (but what’s new!).

A few minutes after leaving the gate we reach the area where we saw the cheetahs yesterday. There are lots of lone acacia trees and we begin to search around. It is looking like it really is too hot for the cheetahs and we are not going to find them when all we see are Warthogs. Then, suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spot something at one of the trees far away .... it’s one of the cubs on the trunk!!!! HURRAY!!!!!! We’ve found them! I have a great since of achievement, as it was me who spotted them – a first for me in the Mara! AND there are no other vehicles around…… I am SO happy!! It was a fantastic sighting with the cubs climbing on the tree trunk - MUCH better than yesterday. Tony and Sylvia are ecstatic. After a few minutes another vehicle arrives but that’s OK, it’s still much better than having 11 others! We stay with the cheetahs for about half an hour and it’s totally amazing – again I could have quite happily stayed for hours.
Shortly after leaving the cheetahs and before we even reached the gate, we come across some buffalos with two of them engaged in a serious fight. The noise of the horns clashing together was just something else .... Fantastic. We stayed for only a few minutes and drove on back to the lodge. Along the way we see Giraffe Warthogs and Zebra but nothing else and for most of the journey Sammy hardly says a word. On arrival at the Serena I say goodbye to Tony and Sylvia and go back to our room. We go to lunch and relax a little and I download my photos and then we get ready to go on our evening gamedrive at 4pm (instead of 3.30pm). I was sorely tempted to skip the drive and have a nap instead but the thought of missing something soon wiped all thoughts of bed from my mind.
It was still pretty hot when we set off. Sammy started to drive around some of the long grass and eventually he told us he was looking for lion. After quite a while of driving back and forth we find out he is actually looking for the lions with the kill that we saw this morning. We give up searching for them here but eventually find them but they are quite along way from where we had been looking. Before finding them we see 2 Black Backed Jackals, another Lilac Breasted Roller and a Starling. The Lions are pretty full when we arrive and there is a Tawny Eagle perched on a tree above them just waiting for his chance. We leave the lions and find a Thompsons Gazelle with a baby of about 3 weeks of age. Then we see a Yellow Billed Stork, a Black Headed Heron and an Impala Bachelors herd and next a 2 week old baby Impala. Next up was another baby – a zebra suckling his Mom. We spot a herd of elephants a little way away and point them out to Sammy (ie we want to stop) but I guess Sammy isn’t too keen on elephants and doesn’t stop. On we drive … MORE Lions!! This time two males with their black manes showing. Apparently they are between 5 and 6 years old and are apparently very tired! We stay with them for quite a while (I think Sammy liked them!) and then we start to head back towards the lodge. We don’t see anything much for quite a while when next thing Sammy stops the vehicle and points out a Topi about 100 metres away .... I didn’t get it - he wouldn’t stop for the elephants yet now he is stopping for a Topi which is far away and a way more common sighting than Elephant (Nyamera, I am not dissing the Topi by the way ) AND on previous drives he had driven past hundreds of Topi without commenting! Go figure! Moving on we spot the tiniest little baby Impala. Sammy said he was less than a week old. Of course I wanted a photo but instead of just stopping the vehicle and letting me take an ‘insurance’ shot first, he moved towards the little mite. The baby of course got scared and moved away so Sammy followed. By now the poor little thing was really afraid and he found a little circle of rocks which he lay down inside with ears down and the adults moved away as if we were a predator. The poor little thing was so cute and after quickly taking a few shots we move off to leave him in peace. Next to see is a journey of Giraffe with two very small babies – one about a month old and the other less than 2 weeks old …. Today was certainly babies’ day!

Back at the lodge, having showered and hastily changed I went to meet Lillian the beauty therapist at reception. She took me down to the ‘salon’ below the pool. There, I had the most wonderful massage for an hour and all for just 2000KSH (about €20). I have paid 4 times that price for massages which haven’t been half as good at home. Fully relaxed, I went back to meet Deck for dinner. Tonight there was no meat at the stir-fry station so I had pasta with vegetables which was nice. It would have been perfect except for too much chilli – my own fault. After dinner we went straight back to our room for an early night – all those early mornings were catching up with me. We knew we couldn’t cope with another night of that awful laughing so we took a chance and put a note through next doors door asking them if they would mind keeping the noise down a little. Lying in bed, we heard them come back to their room at about 10pm and we held our breath .... the note would either work or it would have the opposite effect. Well, thankfully, it worked – after a few minutes of noise when they entered the room, there wasn’t a peep for the rest of the night – complete silence ... heaven!!!!
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Sep 4th, 2006, 10:51 AM
  #137
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JULY 27th - Our Last Day in the Mara.

Another day, another game drive. Sammy gives us our park entry permits this morning and makes a big hoo ha about us needing to keep them with us at all times. He says this in a way that makes us feel as if it were our fault we didn’t have them yesterday! Anyways, this morning was pretty cold and we weren’t expecting to see very much as most of the animals seemed to be having a lie-in. We had the vehicle to ourselves again. We passed a Tawny Eagle and some Waterbuck and were driving along a very quiet road with not an animal in sight when suddenly there’s a silhouette in the tall grass moving alongside the vehicle – it’s in the shape of a cat ... what is it, what is it? ? It’s a cheetah!!! It trots along past the vehicle and out onto the side of the road. It turns out to be a beautiful female. She doesn’t bother to look back at us, just stops at the side of the road and then crosses over to the middle of the road and then goes into the long grass on the other side – she seems to be on a mission! But wait … there are two more cheetahs – more than 14-month-old cubs Sammy tells us. They disappear into the long grass too. These cats move away quickly as Sammy tells us this is the first time they have been seen in the area and they are not habituated. In the meantime, two more Serena vehicles arrive behind us and when the cheetahs go into the grass they follow them. My heart is in my mouth – I don’t want to frighten them but I do want to see them. Sammy decides not to follow them!!!! And of course, as usual, he doesn’t tell us his plan - if he has a plan?! We drive on. I’m elated and disappointed at the same time. Further down the road (maybe half a mile or so) we pull into the grass and drive back and forth for a long while. It seems Sammy is trying to catch the cheetahs crossing our path. The other two vehicles are still following them and the radios are going goodo but of course Sammy doesn’t fill us in so we have to ask and even then he gives us the bare minimum of information. After a while we spot a Black Chested Snake Eagle and a Pied Kingfisher. We continue looking for the cheetahs and eventually Deck spots a large group of Vultures. Sammy drives over and we discover the reason for the group – it’s a dead Thompsons Gazelle. On further inspection we discover that it is a cheetah kill (or so Sammy tells us) So they’ve already had their breakfast and the Hooded Lapped Faced Vultures, the White Backed Vultures and the Ruppell Vultures are fighting over the remains. Sammy radios the other vehicles about the find and we ‘eventually’ find out that they have lost the cheetahs. There is no sign of them where we are either so we start making our way back towards the road. Before we reach it I get a good picture of a Crowned Plover. Shortly afterwards a lone Black Backed Jackal passes in front of us and turns to ‘pose’ for a couple of photos – both myself and Deck love these guys – they are so cute with those big ears on such little heads.

At about 8am we give up on finding the cheetahs and Sammy drives to the river where a large pod of Hippos are making a bit of noise. It turns out that the ‘Chief’ is having a good sniff at one of the females but she is obviously more interested than he is as she sticks her butt in his face. After a short while we leave them to it. Then, just as we think that’s it for the morning we spot a very late arrival ... It’s a large hippo out of water at 8.15am, I can’t believe our luck – I really wanted to see a hippo out of water and here one is ! When he spots us he hurriedly makes his way back to the river. We ask Sammy “Is he old?” (i.e. how old) and we get a typical Sammy answer .. “He’s not old” .... I swear, it’s like pulling hens teeth trying to get answers out of Sammy. Myself and Deck just look at each other with that knowing expression and neither of us bothers to ask again how old – too much effort and we don’t feel like pulling teeth today! We watch as the hippo gets back in the water somewhat annoying Sammy as it’s very obvious he wants to go. On the way back we spot a Topi on a termite mound and as this is one of the pictures that typifies the Mara I want to try to get a good photo. But as Sammy pulls close too quickly he scares the Topi and I miss the shot ... oh well. Back to the Serena.

Deck does the usual after breakfast and has a nap while I photograph our resident lizard just below the patio doors. Then I head back to Lillian for an amazing Indian Head Massage and some Reflexology. Afterwards, the day has turned out to be quite hot and I decide to take advantage and read by the pool. I haven’t had much chance to read during this trip and the views from the pool are breathtaking. I can’t believe I’m lying there with such amazing surroundings. This really is the MAJOR plus of staying at the Serena. I mean, having a herd of Impala browse while I sunbathe – this is the life and I’m only sorry I didn’t take my camera to the pool especially when the resident male Monard Lizard shows up – he’s such a handsome guy. Well, problem solved – Deck shows up at about 1pm and I send him to get the camera and I get some close-ups of the lizard and the spectacular view.

At 2pm we seriously considered not bothering with lunch. It was such a pity we never looked forward to our meals as normally we quite enjoy this part of our holidays. In the end we decide we better have something small, as we will be starving by 7pm. We both end up having a small salad, Deck has some cheese and crackers (his staple for the duration of our stay) and I have some delicious pineapple (my staple), then we head off to meet Sammy again.

We’re just out the gate when Sammy says “Topi on termite hill”. This time I make Sammy stay well back while I get a couple of zoomed in insurance shots. After I get the photos he moves closer so I can get better close-ups. There beside the Topi is the baby giraffe we saw yesterday evening. He’s such a cutie. The baby moves closer to the Topi and it’s such a funny picture – Topi on termite hill is towering over the baby giraffe – what an odd sight! Next are a couple of Buffalo and some ‘Kenya Express’ that I actually manage to get some decent close-up shots of without them taking off with their tails in the air. Deck just loves these guys – they are funny creatures.

As we carry on we realise we are once again heading in the direction of the Oloololo Gate. Deck asks me if I have the permits? Oh ‘beep’, they’re in my other shorts – do we tell Sammy? We, or rather I, decide not to – if there’s a problem at the gate we will deal with it. After all Serena let us gamedrive through the park for three days before they gave us the permits. After a little while we spot a beautiful male Giraffe. He has the most beautiful dark colouring and we get up close and personal with him. Apparently he is more than 20 years old. I discover for the first time that giraffe don’t have the best ‘head’ profile J. Next us are some female Waterbuck and then a couple more Giraffe, some Yellow Billed Stork and some Greater Egrets. We drive on a little further and just around the corner there is a large herd of Elephants – fantastic! They come right up beside us, babies and all. We stay with them for quite a while which I am delighted with – they really are such beautiful animals. Reluctantly we leave the Ellies heading again towards Oloololo. A short way further we spot some more Waterbuck. It’s a large group of males and females and one of the males is showing a keen interest in one of the females but she is leading him a merry dance. We watch from a distance and I get some photographs of an ‘almost honeymoon’. I ask Sammy if he can get a little bit closer as they are now out of range of my camera Sure. He moves a closer, and closer, and closer - too close, we have distracted the Waterbuck. We sit tight for a while to see if the ‘honeymooners’ will go on honeymoon but they don’t. Instead the male chases another male away. We sit for another while and although there is no honeymoon I get some great shots. When the female Waterbuck look straight at the camera I think they look like teddy bears with those rounded ears – so cute.

After our ‘distraction’ we are again on our way. Sammy stops at some birds along the way. I have already seen and photographed these species and we gently urge him onwards saying we have photos of these already – we really want to try to get to those cheetahs and birds definitely are secondary in priority to cheetahs – for me at least. We do actually stop to take a picture of a Vulture in a nest with a chick but the chick ducked and stayed down. Soon we are again in an area where there seems to be no animals. As we are driving along we see a vehicle stopped off the roadway and camera flashes going. We ask Sammy to investigate. As we pull off the road the other vehicle comes towards us. Sammy and the driver have a brief chat. We assumed he was asking what they had been looking at but when we asked Sammy ‘What is it!’ after the vehicle left he replied “I didn’t ask” - For God’s sake, he was just having ANOTHER chat!! Anyways, we make our way over to here the other vehicle was and discover the attraction … Mum & Dad Hyenas with two jet-black cubs just outside their den. Dad is fast asleep and Mum is attempting to rest. We ask Sammy “How old?” (We have learnt our lesson and ask specifics!). He says about 6 weeks. We are given quite a show as the cubs frolic and climb all over mum. We watch them for about 10 minutes and eventually we have to leave.

We head back towards the lodge, too late to go to see the cheetahs – oh well, the hyenas more than made up for it. One thing we couldn’t figure, Sammy must have known where the Hyenas were before this as this was their den and the visitors book at the Serena had entries from people who had seen them, why hadn’t he taken us there before now? Especially since we had come near here quite a few time before. We really couldn’t figure this guy.

Anyways, on our way back Sammy spots three of the females of the pride of 7 Lions we saw previously with the kill so we stop for a short visit. I also get a glimpse of a Hawk in flight. When we arrive at the Serena we ask Sammy what is the plan for tomorrow – are we going to have a gamedrive before our 11am flight to Nairobi? Yes is the answer. We are delighted to have one more drive so we say goodbye to Sammy. As I am heading back to the room Sammy called Deck back .... “Did you enjoy your game drive?”. This is the first time he has asked this in all of our drives, you’d never have guessed we were leaving tomorrow and it was tip day!!!!! Talk about obvious!

Back at the room we shower and pack up most of our stuff and then it is off to dinner. Tonight, if you can believe it, dinner is actually quite nice – a big surprise. I have the lettuce soup which I had never had before and it is quite pleasant. Deck has what was essentially Chicken Volovents which he also enjoys. He says that his main course, lamb I think, is the best he has eaten in his time at the Serena. I have pasta stir-fry from the stir-fry station and this time I don’t make the mistake of having too much chilli. It is very nice. I don’t have any dessert but Deck has cheese and crackers. During dinner we discuss the tips for the following day. We decide to leave Kevin at reception a little something, as he has been so helpful. The ‘general staff’ we would figure out in the morning but Sammy … what to do? By now you will have figured out that we were less than impressed with him so the tipping question was a hard one. Deck is actually so unimpressed with him that ‘no tip’ was mentioned but of course we would never do that. Neither did we want to over tip him because that would just encourage his ‘bad behaviour’ and would do no one any favours – why should he make an effort if he was going to get tipped well anyways. So we decide, his service was ‘less than average’ so his tip would be no more than average.

At dinner we meet with a lovely couple from the US who are seated at the next table. It turns out that they have Samuel as their driver – I am envious. They tell us that they were in one of the vehicles that followed the cheetahs yesterday morning. They said they stayed with them for quite a while and got some good sightings … oh boy, NOW I envious!!
After dinner we go down to the fire pit where the resident musicians / singers are in full swing. There we meet two Australians who have just arrived today – Maxine & Robyn. Maxine is a Tour Guide with Scenic Tours and we have good fun swapping stories of lost luggage etc. All too soon it’s time for bed so after one last rendition of ‘Jambo Bwana’ we leave the fire and head for bed – our last night in the Mara.

We arrive in the room and start to put away more of our stuff when we discover that we have new neighbours .... Please, please don’t let them be too rowdy for too long we pray - luck is with us, within half an hour they go to bed and we get another pleasant nights sleep.
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Sep 4th, 2006, 11:50 AM
  #138
 
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You had an outstanding array of animals in the Mara, despite your lack luster guide.
Did I count 9 cheetah? Five were young babies! A hyena den with pups and fighting buffalo. I am partial to the waterbuck also.
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Sep 4th, 2006, 11:57 AM
  #139
 
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Wow! I've finally caught up again -this is a great report - Thanks Imelda! I have a question (and sorry if I missed the reference earlier) - what are "Kenya Express"?

It's a shame that your guides haven't been the best. It must be hard for them to maintain their enthusiasm day after day - I know I wouldn't have the patience for it.

Now you've mentioned another picture that I can't wait to see - there's "the look", and now the Towering Topi!

Thanks for taking the time to do this!

Cyn
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Sep 4th, 2006, 12:02 PM
  #140
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Lynn, yes, although Sammy was a BIG dissapointment we were definately VERY VERY lucky with our sightings - 9 cheetahs!! and LOTS of animals and birds I had never seen before - lots of really good Jackal sightings, a hippo out of water, A wildebeest crossing, Mongoose, those cute Hyena cubs plus mom and dad, those buffalo etc etc ..... fantastic! Those sightings really made the trip and what made it even better was that we saw something we had never seen before on each and every game drive.

Imelda
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