Kavey's Serian Trip Report (2010 not 2008!)

Sep 12th, 2010, 09:03 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
Kavey's Serian Trip Report (2010 not 2008!)

So, I'm determined to do a report this time, not least because I have time and it will allow me to relive the trip, all of a few days after getting home, already longing to get back...

29th August

I'll save you the boring stuff about flights, other than to say that our BA flight from Heathrow to Nairobi was uneventful and arrived on time just before 9pm. We were 2nd in the visa line (oddly, Pete was asked to provide finger prints, I wasn't) and we were through immigration quickly. By 9.20 we'd collected bags and exited to find Apollo from Waymark Safari holding a sign with our name.

We paid him for the transfer and also for the transfer and tour on our return to Nairobi 11 days later and it was just a half hour or less from there to our room for the night.

Thanks to a tip from a fellow member, I'd written to the Aero Club based at Wilson Airport, and they'd kindly agreed to give us temporary membership and a double room for the night. That came to 9,900 ksh (which exchanged to US$132 on the day).

Normally, one has to pay in advance, but we’d been reluctant to do a bank transfer for such a small amount, given the charges, and didn’t at all like the idea of faxing photocopies of the front and back of our credit card either! The manager, Anthea, kindly waived the requirement for payment in advance and suggested we pay on arrival, with the proviso that, should anything go wrong and we didn’t show, we’d send through payment electronically afterwards. (That was really nice of her so I left her a small gift of some posh English toiletries, and came home to a nice email when we got home - she didn't have to go out of her way like that for us so we wanted to make sure she knew we appreciated it).

As soon as we arrived, a barman came and gave us the key he’d been looking after and we were directed to room 10 in one of the new wings. A large and spacious room, with a double and single bed and a small ensuite bathroom. The décor was both dated and a bit worn and faded and the mattress rather soft BUT the room was clean and all we needed for the night. The only negative was that the shower didn’t work, so no shower in the morning. Luckily, we knew we’d be at Serian within a few hours so it wasn’t a bother. We had breakfast before leaving, included in the rate – a simple selection of cereals, some fruit juice, tea or coffee and cooked breakfast to order, we just had eggs and toast. Poor weather meant no views of planes taking off or landing but we weren’t there for long anyway.

We took a taxi to the departure building – it’s not far, a km or two, but we had our luggage. It was just $3 in any case.

Quick check in, normal Wilson airport stuff. We sat and had coffee in the Dormans coffee place upstairs, the lattes just as good as we had remem bered. The flight left an hour late.

On arrival at 11 am at Governor’s strip, we were met by Jonathan (a driver/ guide in one) just to take us back to camp. Another Jonathan was there collecting other guests, with driver Kimanzi, who’d been our driver last time. To my surprise, when we got off the plane, he not only recognised us and greeted us warmly, with surprised smile and chat, he knew our names too. We caught up with him and then headed to camp where we were greeted warmly by Isaac (who we’d met last time) and the staff at the central dining area, and shown to our tent.

We were assigned tent 3 – nearest the central dining area and a double, as requested. Last time, in 2008, my arthritis was giving me much more trouble than this time, so I’d asked for a tent within easy reach of cars/ dining area. The tent was smaller than the Ngare tents but still had space for a large double bed with pretty iron head and foot posts and a four poster mosquito net affair. Also a small desk and a small side table each. Outside another small table and two folding chairs. The decking was large, with a secondary decking area on a lower level. Next to the decking were stone steps leading to the thatched bathroom with shaped concrete bath, stone-floored shower and double sinks. Fully plumbed but with bottled water provided for teeth brushing (and also within the tent for drinking). A bit of a scary walk between tent and bathroom, but we got used to it, though Pete had a slight alarm when he spotted a genet in the bathroom just after arrival – it wasn’t long before we learned about the semi-tame genet family that inhabit the area.

We enjoyed a nice lunch at the outdoor lunch table with fellow guests, all keen to share tips. One giggle – I asked a fellow Brit for the favourite thing, he said “onion rings”! Of course I’d meant game viewing, which he then went onto, and I made a mental note about the onion rings! The views from the outdoor deck are pretty, looking down to the river a distance below, and with the constant chatter of birds flitting between the bushes. There are also agama lizards a plenty plus some resident mongoose who appear from time to time.

After lunch, unpacking and showers, sunblocking and watching the pretty birds around our tent, we finally met our guide and driver for our afternoon drive at 4pm – Samuel was our guide and Dennis our driver. We were very disappointed indeed to have been assigned a closed car landcruiser, a regular car with usual car windows, all closed in. And just the backseat between us. I’d emailed ahead of time about vehicle, asked for one with two benches, so we could sit one infront of the other, and both have easy photographic access to both left and right of the vehicle. I had no idea they even had enclosed cars and indeed I think this is the only one, perhaps only used when very full. I’d been assured they’d note my request but it seemed to have been lost. Luckily, manager Mark was there, and asked if we’d take that vehicle just for this first drive and he’d swap us out the next morning for the rest of the trip. OK! Phew!

It started slowly, we checked out a local area for a leopard often seen there (we never did see it in our visit) but soon came across a bataleur and tawny eagle in nearby trees and then a pair of baby jackals sunning themselves at the top of a termite mound, parents spotted nearby. We spent some time with them before moving on and came across a cheetah mother and cub! There were other cars, but not too many and behaving well to give her space and not block her when she finally got up from their resting place and walked languidly across the grasslands with the cub. Great views!

A good start! But then, after some giraffe, topi, wildebeest, zebra and buffalo we came across 3 lion cubs feasting on a kill, again just 2-3 cars there and no more than 3-4 at a time, when we arrived another moved off. It was so much fun to watch, the three cubs pushing each other to get at the meat, one would climb right on top of the kill and eat from there. Another stuck on the outside edge would walk out and around and then push his head in between his siblings to get in the middle!

We returned to camp in the dark – the uneven rock-strewn paths to the tents are not easy to navigate in torchlight, for those of us who are not fleet of foot, I took it very slowly!

We headed to the bar dining area to sit by the fire. Dinner is nominally at 8 although to be honest it was often late, we were often waiting for late guests before moving from the sofas by the fire across to the table (the indoors one was used for dinner). It was very nice to meet and talk to Mike Hacker, an experienced photographer and film maker resident/ working at the camp. Sadly, we’d hoped to spend some time with him during our trip, to pick his brains for advice, but a couple from National Geographic were at camp and he’d been assigned to them for their whole visit, so we saw him only for a couple of evening chats. A lovely man and will look forward to spending more time with him on a future visit.

Dinner was soup and fresh bread, chicken curry and rice with vegetables and fresh fruit.

We headed to bed exhausted. Sadly, the hot water bottles and extra blanket we’d requested from Isaac when he showed us to our tent never materialised and I was pretty cold for the first couple of hours that night, though the bed has a decent quilt and I warmed up eventually.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 09:51 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 700
Thanks for the report Kavey!

As someone just in the first few weeks of planning their 1st safari, I'm loving all the details even if I did have to google Serian to figure out where it was!

This forum truly is an incredible find!
KathBC is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 10:24 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,774
Welcome back Kavey! Sounds like you had a wonderful time, glad to hear it and your first day sounds wonderful. Looking forward to seeing your photos of the cubs - as a proud owner of Tomboy - one of your photos on my wall of a cub in the Mara!

Is the Aero Club a hotel for the pilots, etc?

Hopefully you saw Kennedy & gave him a big hug for me.

Kathee, Kavey is the friend from the board in the picture with Jim in London on our DVD that I was saying we always meet up with en route to Nairobi.
LyndaS is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 11:59 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 544
Hi Kavey, nice to hear you had a great time, am off to the mara tomm and at serian for 3 nights after a couple of days at other camps, hope to see loads of lions, waiting eagerly for the rest of your report, Sonali
sonali74 is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 01:35 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
"Who's been sleeping in my bed?" Kavey & Pete. In the same tent I had when I visited. And, yes the walkway to this tent is a bit treacherous. Also, Mike was there covering for Alex during my visit.

A genet cat... harmless and oh so cute. As I remember the one that slept with me a few years back.

But I can't imagine no hot-water bottles during the cold nights of Sept... at least you had Pete!

Waiting on more.
sandi is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 01:40 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
Lynda, did indeed have a good time with Kennedy and we mentioned you and Jim and Jamie with a smile!

Sonali, have the best time, I'm sure you will!

Sandi, the walk to tent 4 was worse, for me, will get to that later!
Kavey is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 02:02 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,870
I'm really interested in this report, Kavey, because I've often been tempted to return to places I love, but rarely do. Looking forward to finding out how Trip #2 compared to Trip #1.
crosscheck is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 02:14 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 1,085
I had no idea that Serian had enclosed vehicles - we certainly never saw one in use when we were there. I have made a note to myself to remember to request (when we return in 2012) one of their more traditional safari vehicles. I am happy to learn that Jonathon and Kimanzi are still working together - they were a great team. Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 04:14 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 8,759
Hi, Kavey! Welcome back. Looking forward to more of your report, here or on ST, and dying to see photos.
Leely2 is offline  
Sep 12th, 2010, 11:00 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
Only one enclosed vehicle that I could see - basically a regular 4 wheel drive car, though it did have a roof hatch at least. But a car, not what I'd call a safari vehicle!

When we went in 2008, Kimanzi was driving with Francis, but Francis has left and is now working at Kicheche Laikipia...
Kavey is offline  
Sep 13th, 2010, 06:49 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,611
I've been to the Aero Club at Wilson for breakfast while waiting on a flight. I didn't know you could stay there. How convenient (other than the shower thing!).

Looking forward to hearing more!
sundowner is offline  
Sep 14th, 2010, 01:21 PM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
30th August
We opted for a 6 am wake up call, and met Samuel and Dennis at the car stand at 6.30 – Mark had been as good as his word and switched us to one of the regular safari vehicles, an open sided one with two benches and a closed cab for the drivers. Only downside of the closed cab is a restricted view straight ahead but completely open to the sides and can stand up too, of course, when the shade cover isn’t on.
We started again with a search for the local leopard, before continuing away from the camp. We spotted the same jackal family as before, this time spying 3 little cubs on the termite mound. We stayed and watched for a while but, given the very heavy cloud cover, it was simply too dark to see well and certainly too dark for any photographs so we moved on, letting S & D know we’d like to come back and spend time with the jackal family again later. As we moved on, we saw the two adults a short distance away.
Our next sighting (ignoring the normal numbers of zebra, topi and wildebeest that I shall mostly stop mentioning soon) was the three lion cubs, this time with an adult female. They were active and playful both with each other and the female and we watched them race off after her, repositioned and then watched them jump about on each other.
After this, we encountered the first of the really vast wildebeest herds we would run into again and again during our trip. The sheer numbers really were a surprise, even after all those documentaries enjoyed on TV. Especially given the much, much, much lower numbers during our 2008 visit at the same time of year.
Next we encountered a female with two fairly young males, apparently they’ve been mating regularly but they were not in the mood just then and it was time for our breakfast break so off we went to find a lovely spot. We took breakfast out most days and S & D would always find a lovely location, usually in the shade of a beautiful tree and with a lovely view. They’d set up a folding table and chairs and then lay out the breakfast containers on the back ledge of the vehicle, folded out. And we’d relax and eat…
After our break, we set off to look for elephants but instead came across the same 3 lions in a wooded area. Although they weren’t hugely active, they weren’t asleep and there was occasional plodding about and standing and sitting again … nothing hugely exciting but just a pleasure to watch, especially as no other vehicles joined us.
From here we moved on and came across the cheetah and her cub again, sat on a termite mound viewing their territory, a lovely view of them indeed.
Heading back to camp we spotted some vultures, a roller and a huge monitor lizard who swiftly disappeared into a riverside bolt hole as we paused to get a better look.
Back a little after midday we enjoyed a hot shower and relaxed before going for lunch where we enjoyed talking to fellow guests and manager, Mark, during the meal. The BBQ lamb and rice and vegetable salads were all great too.
More time to relax, read, write diaries and watch mongi-mongeese-mongooses play on our deck during the heat of the day.
Just after 3.30 it was time to head out and the car screeched to a halt as I spotted an elephant, the first we’d seen so far, standing low in stream gully further obscured by the acacias growing up out of it. When we approached we saw it was an adult female and a calf and that both were chowing down on the acacia. The gully had in it about a foot deep of stagnant water, as we could clearly see from the dark brown “wellington boot” water marks on their legs when they clambered out soon after we arrived, very relaxed indeed with us nearby.
I was greatly amused by the calf, so clumsy as it tried to break off branches to feed itself – in the end, after a few fails, it changed tactics and instead used it’s trunk to pull the still-attached branch towards it’s mouth and then stretch and twist to manoeuvre the branch into it’s mouth!
We spent some time relaxing with the elephants before heading on, encountering once again our jackal family, this time away from the den. To our surprise, we now discovered that there were 6 cubs in the litter, and the two parents hanging about nearby. We stopped at a respectful distance and watched with smiles as three of the cubs started making their way denward, in very relaxed manner, the other three electing to stay out in the open nearer their parents. One in particular made me laugh, as his ears perked up with excitement each time he saw a bird on the ground, before he would then dash towards it in a futile chase that ended with the birds taking flight.
Eventually we head on and further away from camp. We have just stopped to look at another pair of jackals when something happens to the car radio and it starts emitting an extremely loud, constant sound. Really, really loud. Desperate fiddling with the unit doesn’t work and in the end, S & D have to open the bonnet and disconnect the unit entirely to shut off the shockingly loud sound!
We move on once again, since all animals within a light year of us when we started broadcasting that noise are long gone and end up in the midst of a moving wildebeest herd. They end up streaming around us, both sides and we are surrounded by two lines that meet up again, zig-zagging across the grasslands.
The noise is amazing – the swish of the grass as so many animals move forcefully through it, and of course the frequent cattle lowing as well and then occasional thunder of racing beasts.
We have time for a sundowner before heading back to camp – as the sky is still cloud-covered, there’s no delicious golden light to be taking advantage of, instead it’s dark significantly before sunset so a drink is in order before a return to camp.
Dinner is scheduled for 8pm but we like to head to the bar area early, enjoy a drink and the roaring fire. We’re able to chat to Mike Hacker, photographer and filmmaker, though sadly, he’s been assigned to another party for several days, so we won’t be able to have his company on any of our drives and learn from his wealth of photographic experience.
Fellow guests are, as so often the case, enjoyable dinner companions – a couple who work for Nat Geo and another couple, their friends.
Tonight, we see a genet visit the bar area – meat is left out for it and it visits most evenings. I’m not too positive about this practice of feeding wild animals, but perhaps it stemmed from visitors originally feeding scraps from their meals, and the resident family became a bit habituated. In any case, it’s an opportunity to see them up close.
After a delicious dinner we enjoy a spirited and fascinating chat with Mike, along with a young Aussie couple Tim and Annie. We talk about so many topics from the new armed ranger fees and how abrubtly they were introduced to conservation and poaching to hunting to droughts to business models. I am lucky to have picked up so much from travel and conservation communities and even then, I know so little.
Tonight we have our hot water bottles and I’m much quicker to fall asleep.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 14th, 2010, 01:41 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
The genet might have been an orphan, cared for by camp staff from when very young and why it stays. It might not do well surviving outside the camp.

In fact, when I visited they had an orphan "Bambi" that the staff (and even guests) pampered including hand feeding its bottled milk; free to roam about the camp during daylight hours, but in a secure fenced area between dusk/dawn.

Glad to hear the hot water bottles were in place
sandi is offline  
Sep 14th, 2010, 11:09 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
It's a family of genets, three I think, but that's true, the first to have become habituated might have been an orphan.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 19th, 2010, 02:46 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
31st
We wake early, and unlike yesterday, it’s a clear, less overcast day… which is a shame as I’d set our starting time to a bit later, having breakfast in camp at 7 and heading out at 7.30!
Immediately we leave camp we strike out for Leopard Gorge (I only realise where we’re going when we arrive, and I recognise it from a previous visit in 2004, though that time we parked within the gorge and this time we’re up on the rise). It’s very, very stony terrain which is very slow going and extremely bumpy. Dennis is a careful and skilled driver and we slowly make our way to the top, where a few vehicles are parked, including another from our camp.
With some help, I finally spot he leopard, so close and yet so well does it blend into it’s environment. It’s lying down on the ground, raising its head now and then but mostly just dozing. We stay and watch for over an hour and a half, with many other vehicles coming and going during this period. Luckily, the noise doesn’t disturb her in the slightest, as there’s often some serious revving needed to coax the vehicles across the difficult terrain.
From up here, we also have great views down to the plains and right across to the distant Oloololo Escarpment. We see herds of zebras and wildebeest in the distance, a family of giraffe loping by below, including some tiny ones and several hyena, making a real racket. There seems to be a huge pack in residence right by us. We listen to them calling and to the more gentle birdsong and watch butterflies flutter by. Also of interest are some succulent plants – so familiar as house plants from garden centres and so strange to see them in their natural habitat, flowering to boot!
But eventually, nature calls and we head slowly down. Relieved and also energised by a coffee stop, we continue on through the plains spotting various different vultures and a marabou stork at a kill and a baby tommi, just a day or two old at most.
Clearly, S & D have a goal in mind, and tell us, when I ask, that they think a herd of eles will likely make their way to a nearby water hole for a drink. Sure enough, we get to the water hole, the only car there, just in time to park up and watch elephants appear in the bushes near to the waterhole. They take their time, and we can see the herd consists of a number of calf. They are wary and we keep our distance. The matriarch pauses to scratch against a tree, as do others when they pass the same tree.
When it seems that they are ready to come out of the bushes to the water, Dennis repositions us, again he shows consideration for the elephants, making sure we are not in their path or too close to their destination but at the same time, well sited for a great view. And we watch them make their way into the open and to the water. The aussie couple from the camp, the ones we had the late night conservation chat with the previous evening, and their guide and driver, arrive just in time and also get to witness the elephants in action.
The group is strung out, and the main part of it are the ones we watch drinking and playing. There is much water and dust bathing, clearly much enjoyment.
Before too long, the elephants in the water head back away, just as the remainder of what we thought was the same herd, head towards it. The two groups meet and greet, there is clearly much affection between all individuals. And then, to our surprise, the entire group head away from the water, with the later arrivals never making it to the water for drink or play.
We watch them move into the bush, almost in single file, a very slow but evenly paced plod and finally they enter a forested area. Just as we say goodbye to them we see a grey-capped kingfisher in a branch just next to our car. It calls too, a lovely sound.
Other birds we’ve seen that I’ve not noted down include red something spurfowl (!), coquille francolin, grey heron, hammakop, fischer shrike, grey something shrike (!), green wood hoopoe, the ubiquitous and oddly entertaining helmeted guinea fowl, sisticola, rollers and various eagles!
After the elephants, we have a quiet hour or two with no major sightings but still enjoyable. We talk to our guides about cultural practices, in particular we learn that, in their clans, the usual payment for a wife is 9 cows. In others, they tell us, you might only pay 2 cows for the marriage but are expected to pay further cows for each child the wife bears. But that is not the way in their families, they say.
Eventually, after a drive down steep slopes, through scrubby brush we end up in a quiet glade, within the round loop of an almost stagnant stream, below tall trees for shade. This is where S & D set up lunch for us. No sound but the rustle of leaves and cow bells from nearby maasai cattle.
Leaving lunch, we spot some eland, in the distance, such stately animals.
We stop and spend some time just looking at the markings on a small herd of zebra; so pretty and varied. I love how their tails look like braids because of the patterning.
I’m very relaxed and, somehow, fall asleep during the bumpy drive. I wake up as Dennis turns off the engine and all three men laugh at my delighted “oh!” as I see the lions on the grass below me! It’s one of the males and one of the females from the foursome we’ve met before, and as they’re sleeping and showing no signs of movement, we leave them to their snooze and move on.
We get back to camp a little after 4 and have some tea before a hot soaky bath. It takes forever to fill but, oh, it’s so good. Except for the presence of those terrifying spider wasps in the bathroom… thank god they aren’t interested in me, and I admire anything that kills/ eats spiders but at the same time, I worry that they’ll sting me if I accidentally brush them or annoy them.
It’s nice to sit and dry on the deck, writing my diary and looking down at herons and storks in the river below, monkeys in the tree in front of me, hippos grunting in and out of the water, lizards running from spot to spot on the wooden decking. There are many birds flitting between the branches around us, calling to each other. Added to that is the sound of leaves fluttering in the breeze and with the movement of the birds. The occasional butterfly sails past too.
Unfortunately, Pete’s not feeling too well, but has a nap and decides to go to dinner, see if he’s well enough to go to the mobile the next morning.
At dinner, the genet family visit the bar area again, nice to see them in the light of the lanterns…
Sitting with the aussies couple again, who have recently got engaged, we are talking about their possible honeymoon choices and they mention Argentina. I reply with an enthusiastic rave about how much we liked BA when we stopped there for a few days on the way back from Antarctica a couple of years back. Just as well I’m so positive as, at that point, the newly arrived couple to my right interrupt me to tell me they are Argentinians, from Buenos Aires!
Dinner is a smoked shellfish salad, roast beef with sugarsnaps, sauted potatoes and onions and some other sides. And then thick crepes suzettes for dessert.
Pete’s feeling a little better so we pack for the mobile and decide to see how he is in the morning!
Kavey is offline  
Sep 20th, 2010, 01:33 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 343
Sooo wonderful to read your Serian story....i am another one that has stayed in tent 3...but to be honest i have tried them all ..look forward to read your mobile experience and the rest
Alejandra is offline  
Sep 21st, 2010, 01:47 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
1st September
After a night of much rain, we wake at 6.45 and Pete is still not feeling great. We decide to dress and go to breakfast where we send the message to Samuel and Dennis that we’ll delay departure to 9.30. Back to bed for an extra couple of hours, which seems to do the trick and by 9.30 we’re up, packed and ready to head to the mobile.

It’s raining lightly, so S & D put up the canvas roof, leaving the sides open so we can see out.

We take an unfamiliar route to the gate and see very little during the 1.5 hours it takes though we do enjoy our sighting of three young baby giraffes and a pair of ringnecked doves either fighting or mating, we’re not entirely sure! We also spot a blue eared starling and a white bellied bustard.

At the gate, a cheeky salesman attempts to get free money by suggesting it’s for a currency poster and that ours is the only currency missing. We laugh, wise to his tracks, and have a friendly chat instead.

Near Governor’s we pause to watch a pride of lions huddled against the rain, which is harder here. The male is a handsome animal with a huge, dark mane. With him are females and cubs.

Our next short stop is to admire what I call the “bird tree” – a small shrub festooned with 2 lilac-breasted rollers, several fiscal shrikes and a yellow tailed longclaw. And lots of tiny pale brown birds, the ones that are so prevalent in the grasses of the Mara. Why they have all chosen the same tiny shrub, I’m not sure, but it’s an impressive sight – we are able to stop fairly close by.

Along the road, we watch and then start giggling at a small pale brown bird. I’m not sure whether it was a sisticola or finch or pippin or something else but each time we approached, along the track, it would fly away from us, landing again on the track ahead. This happened more than 15 times and we did start to wonder whether it would ever work out that we weren’t following it but the track. Eventually it did fly off to one side and escape our (slow) advance.

A while later, we started to see huge numbers of wildebeest – thousands and thousands and thousands, as far as our eyes could see. We’d been here before, 2 years previously, same time of year and the numbers had been so much smaller. We couldn’t quite believe the numbers this time around.

The swathes of wilde made way for an enormous number of zebras. The harems were loosely grouped into a large herd and we stopped for quite some time, enjoying their company. There were stallions, females and a fair number of youngsters too.

Just as we moved on, we headed into Jonathan Scott, a friend from trips here in the Mara, to Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands and Peru. It was good to stop and catch up about our recent visit to the Falklands, but we couldn’t talk for too long as Jonathan had two clients with him.

We moved on and headed to Nkorombo camp.

We took a different route in to the main route used 2 years ago, so it was only as we entered the open area just by the camp and river that we recognised the site. A huge hippo out of the water greeted our arrival, as did Moses and other camp staff.

To our delight, Moses remembered us clearly from our previous visit. It was a warm welcome back.

Because there were two other couples in the camp, leaving after lunch, Moses explained that our bags had been taken into tent 3, which we could use for the afternoon, and he’d be moving us into tent 1 once they left. All 5 tents used to be the same very small but cosy tents we remembered, but they have now replaced tent 1 and 2 with much larger tents instead.

We outside the mess tent for a pleasant half hour until the 2 couples arrived – we’d chatted to them several times during our first couple of nights at Serian and were looking forward to enjoying lunch with them.

As they came into the camp, we heard some elephant trumpeting from nearby, so, on foot, walked a few steps into a clearing to see. The camp lies near a bend of the river and from the hill above we could see some large elephants moving their way down towards the water. Clearly, more were coming down to drink, so we walked right out into the main clearing outside the camp to watch, however, when it became clear they were heading towards us, albeit still a distance away, we returned to camp to go out in the vehicle. Samuel and Dennis were not about (fair enough, we weren’t due to go out again till later) so Mike took us out – Pete and Betty stayed in camp. We only expected to whizz across to watch them and be gone for no more than 10 minutes.

Before too long, the elephants come very close to us, not going to the water but munching the grasses in the clearing we’re parked in. There is a huge amount of interaction between them as it’s a large herd with several calves, one just a few months old. There are some males too, including some enormous ones. One of the females is in heat. More and more emerge over the crest of the hill from the bushes and head down to where we are sat watching. Nancy is sat on the roof of the cab at one point when a female decides to mock charge us, though just a half-hearted step or two. Nancy drops herself back through the roof opening faster than I would have believed possible!

Although we’re not particularly close, Mike is very conscientious that a couple of the females are a little nervous because of young ones, and moves us out of the way a few times to ensure we do not disturb them or block their natural path.

We end up sitting with them for over an hour watching them eat, suckle, smell each other, smell some dung on the ground… there’s some goodnatured playing and some more heavyhanded pushing each other out of the way… and the most torrential elephant pee I’ve ever seen!

Mike’s son is with him; he’s 11 and has lots of questions including trying to identify elephants that might be the same age as him.

We don’t get back to camp until 2.40 and poor Pete and Betty have not been served lunch. We assumed they were going to go ahead without us, but a mix up in communications means that lunch wasn’t brought out until we came back!

Lunch is an enjoyable chat to Mike, his son and the 2 couples before I assist taking their group photos with the staff.

By the time this is all done, it’s time to go straight out on our afternoon drive at 3.30, no time for showers or nap!

Our first encounter is a short one with some of the same elephants who have moved into the thicker brush near the camp, however we don’t stop long as they are quite obscured and not very active.

From here we drive along the edge of the river, stopping to watch an enormous pod of hippos sitting on the banks of the river on the opposite side, just below us. There are several tiny babies and all the hippos are piled ontop of each other. Many are awake so there is much grunting and pushing and the odd re-positioning. Behind them, in a ravine, we watch a small herd cross a stream, not quite a fabled crossing but fun to watch!

We spend some time visiting different crossing points, back and forth, and at one we sit for a long time, watching a dark line of wildebeest slowly draw itself on the hill opposite. The line is several wildebeest thick and slow moving indeed.

We also spot a pair of lions, the pair we saw briefly on arriving to camp, they are, as before just lying in the grass.

Oh and we see a number of dik dik too.

And oh a pygmy hippo. I ask if it’s not just a calf that has lost it’s parents? No, says Samuel, it’s an adult, but much much smaller than the normal ones. It’s a pygmy, he says. I am confused because I didn’t think they were found in Kenya.

In and by a small swampy marsh by the river we see more hippos (there are hundreds, all along the Mara), a black headed heron, several sacred ibis, grey herons and some skittish zebra too. Nearby in the grasslands are a pair of secretary birds.

Towards the end of the evening, we stop at another crossing point and watch baboons fight in the large tree above. One fight seems pretty vicious, and the victor sits aggressively in the branch above his opponent, who he nearly managed to throw from the tree entirely. Others in the troop just groom and play.

It gets dark so we can’t wait longer for a crossing and head back to camp which is quite a distance away.

As we arrive, we see Tim and Annie, the aussie couple, also arriving. We are quite surprised as we’d been told we had exclusive use of the camp but if we’re to share it with anyone, we’re happy it’s this lovely couple that we’ve so enjoyed talking to.

We have been transferred to tent 1 and finally see the insides of the new tents. They’re fantastic! Alex has retained the mobile camp feel by sticking with metal framed cot beds (though more elegantly worked ones than the style used in the smaller tents). But the space is much, much larger. There’s a bench to one side on which to put luggage and much, much more floor space. The old tents, whilst cosy, made life difficult, as they lack space and so bags must be stored beneath the bed and pulled onto and off the bed each time you need something from within. These new tents are spacious. They still have the same bucket showers and drop loos so retain the simple back-to-nature feel of the old tents, but with very welcome addition of more space inside.

I enjoy a quick, hot and refreshing shower so I can wash the grime from my hair before we head to the open fire, right on the river bank, for drinks before dinner.

Dinner is in the mess tent, with the sound of the rushing river as backdrop. We enjoy steak and vegetables and crepes suzettes. And then return to the fire for more drinks before bed.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 21st, 2010, 07:39 AM
  #18  
vr
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 52
Loving this Kavey--re-living Africa thanks to you!
vr is offline  
Sep 21st, 2010, 08:13 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,870
Pygmy hippos - Who knew?
crosscheck is offline  
Sep 21st, 2010, 09:01 AM
  #20  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
I'm still not sure about the pygmy hippo but we saw the same individual in the same place on different days, it sure didn't LOOK like a lost baby... and it was TINY. So... I can't think what else it was.
Kavey is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:44 AM.