Kenya trip review and photos

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Sep 8th, 2005, 04:11 PM
  #1
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Kenya trip review and photos

Here is yet another Kenya trip review and photos !! (late August 2005)_

Samburu photos : http://www.kodakgallery.com/BrowsePh...1&sort_order=0

Masai Mara photos :
http://www.kodakgallery.com/BrowsePh...1&sort_order=0

Migration river crossing photos :
http://www.kodakgallery.com/BrowsePh...1&sort_order=0


Having visited Kenya and South Africa on a few occasions, we decided to limit this Kenya safari to two locations but stay a reasonable period at each place. This was the best decision we made far more relaxing than spending most of the time in a vehicle and a plane ! We decided on 4 nights at Samburu and 5 nights at Mara in both cases at Serena hotels.

Before we left on safari we spent two nights in Nairobi with friends. They live in a nice suburb of the city (NOT like the city center) throwing small pieces of meat into the sky and watching kites swoop down and eat the meat before it hit the ground was an experience ! We also got a private tour of the Sheldrick elephant orphanage one afternoon and visited the elephant and rhino we have adopted. If you at in Nairobi definitely try the Indian restaurants much nicer than the ones in the UK !

On the Monday morning we took the early Air Kenya flight from Wilson airport to
Samburu. One reason we chose the Serena lodge was that it is on the Buffalo Springs side of the river. Last year we stayed at Intrepids on the Samburu side and were not allowed (without paying extra park fees) to go back and forth across the river. Now you can switch between the reserves as you wish. The Samburu Serena far exceeded our expectation although part of this may be down to the fact that we were upgraded and were given the best table in the restaurant ! I am convinced the reason for the special treatment was because we booked directly with Serena hotels and that we were staying for longer than most people.

Our driver for the 4 days was Yasin he was superb. My 11 year old daughter sat in the front with him and had a running commentary. Even though we are a family of four, we were given exclusive use of an open sided Land cruiser until the last day when a single traveler joined us.

The game viewing was superb even better than last time we were here. The only downside ( as mentioned on some other threads) is that it can get a little over crowded with vehicles. However, the Buffalo Springs side was much quieter than the Samburu side. The highlight was definitely leopard spotting. Whilst we have seen leopards in the past, the sightings have not been that great. This time we were spoilt seeing SIX different leopards in the four days. Three of the sightings were excellent with the leopards walking right past our vehicle (see photos !). We also saw 3 or 4 lion prides, 2 cheetah sightings, a civet cat, loads of elephant (there may actually be too many in this park the vegetation is struggling) as well as all the usual antelopes etc The only disappointment is that a pack of wild dogs had been seen a few weeks earlier but they seem to have moved on

We then flew directly down to the Mara Serena its about a 90 minute flight taking in the various stops at other Mara camps on the way. We choose the Serena because of its location near the river crossing points (Liz thanks for the advice !) but also because its on the West side of the river in the Mara triangle. No other camp / lodge is within two hours so as a result its much quieter with less cars than the rest of the Mara. Even in peak migration season, the maximum number of cars around lions, cheetah and rhino were 2-3.

The real highlight of the trip was the river crossings. Last year we waited on the East side of the river and nothing happened. This time on the first and second mornings we went down to the river straight away and both times witnessed a crossing within 5 minutes ! The second crossing was really special. We got down to the river at around 6.40 and were the ONLY people there (apart from one park ranger on the other river bank) when 5,000 wildebeest started to cross. By the time it finished half an hour later 4 or 5 more vehicles had arrived from Serena but the other bank was still empty. The reason for this is that it was too early for anyone from other lodges to get to the crossing points as you cant drive in the park until 6.30. I took so many photos it was unreal and have 30 minutes of video footage that Ill treasure for the rest of my life !

The other main highlights were searching for and finding rhino and cheetah both now worryingly scarce in the Mara. It is so much more rewarding searching and finding them ourselves rather than via a radio ! Admittedly you need to have a decent amount of time on the park to allow this luxury Most special was finding two cheetah (brothers) after 5 hours of searching over two different days ! We had about 20 minutes with them with not a car in sight.

Even after so many trips to Africa I still get the thrill and am ready to book up again next year. Maybe by then Ill have the patience to write the longer more useful reviews that the other posters on this board manage !

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Sep 8th, 2005, 04:22 PM
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Wow, Phil, these are great. I'm actually leaving work right now, so I just did a quick run-through of your photos: they are fantastic! So many leopards.

And the crossing!

Not to mention a beautiful family.

Thank you very much.
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Sep 8th, 2005, 06:22 PM
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Wow, Phil. You and your family got to see so many amazing sights! The river crossing pictures are so incredible! I hope to see that myself some day. Just amazing! And to have it on video, too. Great.

Also loved all your other pictures - the cheetahs, leopards, lions, ele, gerenuk. Looks like you had a trip that would be hard to top.

Thanks for sharing them.
Cindy
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Sep 8th, 2005, 07:21 PM
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Wow Phil, Great pictures! Awesome! Looks like I'll go to Kenya next year (didn't really want to go to China anyway) seen one brick wall, seen em all! but the animals you saw...amazing!
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Sep 8th, 2005, 09:53 PM
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Great pictures! Did your daughters enjoyed themselves? I'm asking because I'm booked for August 2006 and my daughter and 3 of her friends will be with us.

Thanks for sharing!
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Sep 8th, 2005, 09:58 PM
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Thanks for the kind comments - when I've got a bit more time I'll try to give a bit more info about the pros and cons of each area of both parks for those you may be interested. What this trip really taught me was that it is not only about choosing the right park but also the position of the lodge / camp in each park. Location is key !
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Sep 8th, 2005, 10:00 PM
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Hanuman

How old are your daughters ? Mine are 11 and 13 and loved every minute of it it. Their first safari was when the youngest was 8 and she's been addicted (like Mum and Dad) ever since !
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Sep 8th, 2005, 10:04 PM
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Phil,

My daugther is 14 and her friends will be from 12 to 14. Great to hear that the kids enjoyed themselves!
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Sep 9th, 2005, 06:46 AM
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Oh wow, amazing photos!
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:07 AM
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Philw, thanks for sharing. I loved all those cat pictures. The Serena Samburu looks great. I stayed in Intrepids in June (Samburu was a lot greener then) and I was disappointed that guards were working to keep the animals away all the time. I dont like hotel-like lodges, but if the elephants are permitted to walk up to the hotel terrace I prefer that to a tented camp without big animals.

The migration pictures are incredible.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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philw - Absolutely amazing leopard pics - WOW; also some of those male lions; great "crossing" pics. Thanks for sharing.
 
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:40 AM
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Wow, my first safari was to Mara Serena in August 1999, and it still looks great. I didn't see any rhinos, nor the crossing, on that trip, so I must get back.

I visited Samburu Serena in August 2003, and it too was great, but I only stayed 2 nights and saw only one leopard (great photos) but lots of lion and several cheetah. Its a great park.

I need to get back.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 10:16 AM
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Nyamera

Let alone were the elephants (as well as civet cat and crocs) coming uo to the terrace, they walked past the 'do not go past this point' warning for guests ! I honestly reckon they were no more than 2 yards away - we had to move back towards the pool. Eventually a Samburu member of staff had to throw some stones to get them to back off ! Overall we thought Samburu Serena was better than Samburu Intrepids - Intrepids food was slightly better but Serena won on everything else (including accomodation).

Phil
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Sep 9th, 2005, 10:19 AM
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phil,
I've seen so many great Kenya photos lately; Kenya seems to be calling my name. I showed yours to a friend of mine and we were talking about whether doing something similar with her sister, BIL and nephews would be "reasonably" priced.

Did the flights add considerably to your budget?
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Sep 9th, 2005, 11:15 AM
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Leely

Not sure which flights you're asking about - the expensive part for us was London - Nairobi in prak season.

For the safari, the Nairobi - Samburu - Mara - Nairobi triagular route cost $385 per person. By comparison Nairobi - Samburu return is around $250. I think Nairobi - Mara return is about the same. Serena lodges were $150 per person per night including full board and 2 games drives in open landrover.

Hope this helps !

Phil
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Sep 9th, 2005, 11:19 AM
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Thanks, Phil. Those in-country flights were what I was wondering about. Although I like the long drives, I was thinking if in the future we go with kids flying might be easier.
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Sep 9th, 2005, 11:36 AM
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Leely

Having done most of my early safaris by road and last 2 by air there is a simple decision - go by air ! The only reason for road is if you are a 1st time visitor and want to see lots of villages. The kids loved the small planes - my wife didn't but she's getting used to them !

Phil
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Sep 9th, 2005, 01:04 PM
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Great pictures!

Phil, could you tell us what kind of camera/lens you used? I am trying to figure out if I should get an extender.

Thanks!
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Sep 9th, 2005, 01:34 PM
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Cheerful

These photos were shot with a canon EOS 300d - I think it's called a Rebel in the US. Apart from a very few photos, all were shot with a Canon 70-200 L f4 lens. In my opinion, if you've got a digital SLR with a 200m lens (equiv to 320mm on a non-digital) you don't need any more focal length except in a few exceptional situations. I have a good friend who is a photograhy professional (colour separation) in Nairobi and he recokons most of the best shots are from long range as opposed to real close up. Hope this helps ...
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Sep 9th, 2005, 07:23 PM
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I am not a pro. I just bought a S2, 36-432mm, 5MP. An extender will go to 600-700mm. S2 is already soft at corner -- common for all ultra zoom. Adding an extender certainly does not help.

Your pictures are quite close. In that case, I probably should stay away from extender. That also make it easier to handle.

Thanks!
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