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

Sep 21st, 2010, 02:02 PM
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... it probably wasn't eating it's veggies
sandi is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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2nd September
Wake up at 6.10 and hot water has been delivered to use at the outside basin. (The simpler tents here don’t have sinks inside, but have a metal bowl held in a three-legged stand. Water is provided in a bucket on the ground, with a jug to transfer to the bowl. Once you’ve finished, you can discard your dirty water on the ground nearby to leave an empty bowl for the next person. The hot water is nice.

We have some coffee and head off at 6.30.

Elephants are near the camp again, but not very active, seem to be mostly asleep so we set off on a long, slow drive.

After a while we come across a family of lions with 2 lionesses and 3 cubs. They are pretty active. One of the cubs is about 1.5 years old, the other 2 around 6-8 months. They all play and cuff each other and one of the adults nearby. Hyenas are in the area, and one of the females takes umbrage, even though we can’t spot a kill anywhere in the vicinity. She chases a hyena off, but doesn’t turn back after the first run. Instead she continues to chase the hyena in spurts, well into the distance, so far we can no longer see. We watch the others play, trot, nuzzle… and one of the cubs seems to be practicing making scary faces as it keeps grimacing in most amusing way.

Our next experience is whilst sitting a fair distance from the water’s edge, up hill from the river, at a crossing point. On the other side, the river bank is a steep cliff bank along most of the stretch we canee, except for a triangular stretch that’s been worn down by crossing animals to slope down to the water. We wait for some time, happily watching the wildebeest slowly amass on the other side, coming closer to the crossing point. After a while a couple of other cars join on our side, there are none on the other side.

The wildebeest are starting to become more restless and it seems that they may be approaching a readiness to cross. Suddenly, from a track on the other side, a vehicle drives directly towards the animals. It pauses and flashes it’s lights (we’re not sure who at, on our side are only a couple of vehicles, positioned far back from the river, so as not to spook the animals). Then, to our complete shock, the vehicle drives right into the heart of the herd of animals, right down into the sloping crossing area, leading the animals to panic and start moving away from the water. It then drives up and along the edge of the bank, pushing it’s way between the animals and cliff edge and speeds off in that direction.

For the first few moments, we all just watch in utter shock but I do eventually manage to pause and grab a photograph, which I’m hoping might help in identifying the perpetrator though I doubt it. Binoculars revealed the car to be from the Serena lodge, on that side of the river but we were too far away to see number plates or anything like that.

I’m furious, not because of the aborted crossing – we know we’ll have plenty of opportunity, and even if we don’t see one, that’s part of the game viewing experience, nothing being guaranteed – but because this behaviour is so outrageous and so disturbing to the animals and anyone driving for one of the permanent local camps and lodges knows better.

In the sketch I’ve made the green car is the Serena car, the red line is its path, the lighter ground is the sloping crossing point, the rest of the land is steep banks. Our car is the grey on the other side. (I haven’t yet sorted through my thousands of RAW image files but will do so to submit a complaint).


After witnessing this shocker, we moved on to another spot, amidst some of the deeper shrubbery on a river bank – we were hidden right amidst it. We were quickly surrounded by birds of which the ones that enchanted me the most were a pair of baglafecht weavers. One or other of them in turn would land in the branches right by us and then on the car, on the bars, roof and then claws clutching the aerial on the bonnet. We quickly realised that the wildebeest were still spooked from the Serena car ambush but before moving on, spent some wonderful time grinning at the weavers.

At our next stop we saw several huge crocodiles sunning at the water’s edge. And more weavers. Suddenly, after our first sighting of a bird I don’t recall seeing before, it was as though they’d passed on some magical message to all of their brethren along the river bank and a pair or more came out to greet us, bold as you like, at so many places we stopped.

We saw some little bee eaters too, my favourite bird in Africa. Although there are others I’ve fallen for too, this is the one that first took my breath away not only with it’s small size and sweet colours but the way in which the birds cuddle up against each other, all in a row on a bending reed in the Okavango. So I always love to see these beauties.

At one spot, we feel like we’re in some kind of bird sanctuary. Not only are there more weavers, we’re also delighted by bold-as-you-like ruppell’s long tailed starlings, arrow marked babblers and white browed robin chat with its vivid orange underside. Out over the river infront of us (we’re parked right up on the edge) swifts glide and swoop and dart. Suddenly, four starlings rush out of a nearby tree and cross together to the other bank. “It’s a crossing” I cry with glee, much to the amusement of S & D!
Kavey is offline  
Sep 27th, 2010, 05:28 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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A genet in your bathroom. Now everyone will be requesting that amenity.

The pygmy hippo has me perplexed. Any word on how it got there?

The den of jackals had to be a highlight.

What in the world was the vehicle that disrupted the crossing doing? Huge fines and job loss for the driver would in order. Confiscate the vehicle too. That was blatant.

Your description of bird sightings are magical!
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 29th, 2010, 08:41 AM
Join Date: Sep 2010
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Hi Kavey just trying to plan visit for next year, i know you stayed at Serian camp, how long did u stay there for, i am a bit lost, cant keep up with everyone here, i think i have made up my mind which camps to stay in and then someone else mention another camp which sounds brilliant and then i am back to the start again cant decide.
Love your report brilliant reading
jessyirish is offline  
Sep 29th, 2010, 01:57 PM
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Jessy, we stayed there for 5 nights in 2008 and then for 10 nights on this trip of which we spent 3 nights in main camp, 2 at Nkorombo mobile, 2 at the other mobile and the last 3 back at main camp.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 02:09 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Jessy, I loved the private guide/driver/vehicle at Serian - IF you are staying more than a couple nights it is so worth it...you can stay out all day birding, finding cats, going here there and everywhere with no schedule and no other guests demanding this, that or the other. If you go during migration you can sit for hours (we only need one to see the most incredible experience) but others at the camp waited four (which would have driven me bonkers)
One crazy lady actually got out of the vehicle to "stretch her legs" If only the lions had seen her instead of the wildies, a tragic story would be told.

I have not been to any other camps and am sure by the reports I've read (esp Porini) that they all have their positives; just throwing in my 2c since we just returned and I am still on a high.
Will write my report after I return from family reunion which I should have insisted be in Africa!
Good luck in choosing and post what you are considering; the experts here will give you their thoughts and ideas.
moneyburns is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 05:27 AM
Join Date: Sep 2010
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Thanks Kavey I would like to spend at least 6 days at one camp. it looks like Serian is a winner.

Moneyburns thanks for that information. Private guide are they expensive. Love the thought of staying out all day. Dont mind if i miss Migration, dont know if i could watch all the animals been killed try in to cross the river. I know its all part of nature. I didny realise they were so many different area,s in the Massi Mara. Olare Orok keep,s comimg up as a good place, still confused.
I will go end of June because there is no single supplement in some camps, Governors, Kicheche Bush or Kicheche Mara which it says are Unlimited shared game drives.
But I am a bit nervous going on my own. safety thanks again
jessyirish is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 05:31 AM
Join Date: Sep 2010
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Sorry Happy Birthday Kavey have a great day,
Moneyburns enjoy ur family reunion, where would we be without them thanks again
jessyirish is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 11:11 AM
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Thanks, have been enjoying a GREAT day all day (not working today). Much spoiling has been taking place!
Kavey is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 04:43 PM
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Happy Birthday, Kavey. We'll give you a day off, but you must get back to work on your trip report tomorrow.
crosscheck is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 11:55 PM
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I'm afraid I won't be able to for a couple of days but I'll be back and typing more up in a few days!
Kavey is offline  
Oct 10th, 2010, 06:15 AM
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From our bird sanctuary we head on to find a breakfast spot. The first option is taken (by others from our camp!) so we move on to another – like the bird spot from earlier, it’s right on the edge of the river bank cliff, hidden away by lots of scrubby bushes so we’re in complete privacy.

S&D set up our table in the shade, where we have more chats and weavers for company – Pete laughs when he sees one individual tap at it’s reflection in the car wing mirror but it has flown away before he can show me.

To our surprise, we watch some hippos emerge from the river right next to the most enormous crocodiles you can imagine. Although the crocs are resting, mouths wide open, the hippos pass so close we’re amazed there isn’t some kind of fight. But the crocodiles sleep on and the hippos are soon gone.

After breakfast, we start heading in the direction of camp but stop to watch a crossing start from our side across to the other bank. First the zebras go, just a handful of them and that gives 15-20 wildebeest the confidence to follow. But the crossing seems to stall and other animals on our side don’t seem particularly keen to go. As our viewpoint is fairly distant, we continue on our drive.

Nearer to camp we stop at another crossing point with a huge mass of wildebeest on the other side, restless and raring to cross. Once the crossing has started, Dennis repositions us and we have a great view, watching hundreds and hundreds leap and surge across the water. We don’t spot any crocodiles present so it’s rather a successful crossing for the desperate animals. It’s an amazing sight.

We reach camp at 12.45 and have time for hot showers before pre-lunch drinks. We’re just waiting for lunch when a call comes in about a wild rhino sighting. We leap in Annie and Tim’s car (with David and William) and tear across to the location but it takes quite some time to find it and the rhino has since disappeared into dense brush. We spend quite a long time searching before giving up.

Then, on the way back to camp, we arrive at a crossing point at exactly the right time to witness an absolutely fantastic crossing. The animals, on the bank opposite us, drop down from a high river bank cliff onto a waterside ledge before leaping into the water. The drop from the ledge seems death-defying as do some of the sailing jumps out into the water.

A few animals change their mind and try and climb back up the sheer cliff to the bank above but it’s steep and they struggle tremendously, clambering over each other and then dropping back down. Eventually, one finds a route and momentum and the others follow until just one individual is left down on the ledge, wanting to return up onto the bank. For ages we watch him trying and trying and are all glad when he eventually gives up on that route, walks around the ledge and finds another way up further along the river.

Again, no crocodiles but truly, an exhilarating experience. Our position was perfect and we hope to have some good images of the wildebeest leaping through the air. Wow!

Eventually we return to camp for a late lunch of fabulous spare ribs, quiche, salad and a chocolate dessert. Then it’s time for some lessons on digital photography for Tim, who has just bought a DLSR for the first time and has asked for a few pointers and explanations.

No time for a nap, at 4pm we go straight out on our afternoon drive, pausing to admire the enormous hippo o the grass just outside the camp.

Near camp are a large flock of geese, all of which lift into the air at once, though not because of us getting too close, I hasten to add. We also watch a few grassland pipits drinking water by a stream running into the main river.

Then the call comes in that the rhino is back out and off we speed. We drive a long way, so far I ask whether we’re heading to Uganda (no, my geography isn’t that lousy, I was just being silly). Again, when we arrive in the specified area, the rhino is not to be seen but there are three or four cars and we drive around slowly attempting to spot the huge beast. And somebody does!

We convene in the open grassland and watch the huge animal saunter slowly and casually across the grass from one scrubby patch of bushes to the other. It’s an amazingly clear and close view of a while rhino – what a privilege!

Before we leave, we also watch two zebras fight, it’s brief but vicious as they snap at each other with powerful jaws and jump and roll right over each other on the ground.

We head home seeing the normal buffalo, wilde, zebra and also some cokes wildebeest.

At camp for 6.30 I quickly write up my diary, not wanting to forget any of our wonderful experiences and we gather at the fire, warming ourselves around it, listening the water rushing by noisily almost at our feet, with chosen drinks in hand.

We had originally been told we had exclusive bookings at the mobile camps but actually, we’ve really enjoyed sharing the camp with Tim and Annie, we couldn’t have picked better camp mates. After a dinner in the mess tent of chicken and rice, we have more drinks around the fire before saying our goodbyes and calling it a night.
Kavey is offline  
Oct 13th, 2010, 07:50 PM
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We just came back too. I must admit though, contrary to many posters here, that I really found our pop top Landcruiser in Tanzania so much more comfortable than our fully open and exposed vehicle at Serian. After 12 days crossing Tanzania in all types of weather, and being completely exposed to all the elements (blazing sun, pouring down rain, cold wind, not to forget all the dust) for 5 days in Masai Mara, I'd much rather have a vehicle in which I have SOME control over exposure.

Our vehicle from Serian had: reasonably high sides we had to climb over to get in and out (thankfully I figured out how to do this without assistance), no protection other than heavy army green roll back tops and sides, so that to get any shade whatsoever or be protected from torrential rain, our guides had to stop and spend at least 10 minutes both closing and opening this. They neglected to close the vehicle overnight, and the seats were soaked for most of the entire next day. It was basically a truck with benches welded into the back. Once the cover was up, it was impossible to stand up also.

It wasn't fun to have to sit in the rain in the back, while our guides simply rolled up their windows. During one game drive, it rained so hard they had to roll the sides down also, thereby leaving us sitting pretty much in the dark.

When I get to my trip report, I'll elaborate. beautiful camp, but car was a big let down for me.
tinydancer is offline  
Oct 13th, 2010, 08:12 PM
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tinydancer, I understand what you are saying about the open vehicles. I was caught in a vicious thunderstorm and everything was soaked. I must admit that I felt that it was part of the adventure but it was only for one afternoon. On the fine days I found it perfect and enjoyed the breeze on my face and sunshine all around much more than the closed vehicles I'd used the previous visit. One afternoon was quite hot and I asked to have the cover put over which I found worked well. I didn't find a need to stand, certainly the photos were better taken from a lower angle. But it is a fair point. I often wonder how tourists in Botswana manage in their hot conditions with nearly all open vehicles.
twaffle is offline  
Oct 13th, 2010, 09:04 PM
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In Bots, I've never found it a problem when the vehicle is moving - it's fairly comfortable when you have a slight breeze. It is even very acceptable conditions in the middle of the day, when you park under a tree for shade waiting for example., cheetahs to move and get going ..... when they are feeding and under the direct sunlight can be really hot and uncomfortable - but, you quickly forget about comfort levels when you are so absorbed ..... when nothing is happening, it's best to cool off in your room - ofcourse!
HariS is offline  
Oct 13th, 2010, 09:50 PM
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Hari, I agree with you and I've never heard much about criticisms of the open vehicles there. It was interesting though, because Kenya doesn't use them so much, to read about Tinydancer's findings so I was just gauging what could be different about the two places. Perhaps in Botswana the rain is not a problem, only the sun?!
twaffle is offline  
Oct 13th, 2010, 10:07 PM
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You can be drenched in a t'storm or in heavy rains in the summer time. It can be really bad. Yes, that's when an open vehicle is problematic.
HariS is offline  
Oct 13th, 2010, 10:34 PM
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I think what really stood out for me was that I saw other fully open vehicles, but...BUT, some of them had individual zip/pop tops so you had some control. And I also saw other vehicles with side screens of clear plastic that could individually roll down. I'm not opposed to open vehicles, I certainly had many good experiences in ours, but, when the weather conditions head south, having no control but what I described was uncomfortable, and very uncomfortable on one or more occasion.

I think when we do another safari (I hope!) I will be more vigilant in exploring types of vehicles, etc. This was our first, so I suppose it was partially a learning experience.

I do agree, though, that once the 'action' starts, it usually takes precedence over a little thing like comfort. But driving around for several hours in between is important too.

At one of our camps in Tanzania, we still had our pop-top and we were caught several times in real cloudbursts. I felt sorry for the people in the camp open vehicles when we drove by watching their driver helping them on with their panchos. Little did I know what was in store for me.

Also, If I ever get my photos edited, where is the best place to post them?
tinydancer is offline  
Oct 14th, 2010, 12:46 AM
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Good points Tinydancer and looking forward to your report and photos. I have hosted mine on Picasa for earlier trip reports but for my most recent one I had them embedded in my Safaritalk report and linked from here. Lots of people use Flickr and Smugmug but I have no experience with them.
twaffle is offline  
Oct 14th, 2010, 08:06 AM
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We had some heavy rain too and I would agree that it would have been preferably to have plastic windows in the sides of the cover - we didn't like being completely in the dark on the few occasions this occured, though it was only ever for 20-30 minutes.

Overall, we still prefer an open vehicle to minivan/ enclosed vehicle of any type. Simply gives far more flexibility for photography, one can photograph in almost any direction without obstructed views.

For me, downsides of Serian vehiclesbr /> 1) Design of driver/ guide cab severely restricts forward direction view for passengers
2) Bench seats are not comfortable when spend 8+ hours a day in the vehicles
3) Would prefer rain cover options that allow light in/ passengers to see out

But would not swap them for an enclosed vehicle, no way!

Kavey is offline  

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