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sniktawk Sep 30th, 2007 07:04 PM

Mara Trip Report 10th to 19th September 2007
This report should be subtitled “If you’re going to Masai Mara, be sure to wear something bright”

We have recently returned from nine days in the Mara (10th to 19th September), our observations are as follows.

The weather was not so good rain on most days but luckily not as much as elsewhere in central and eastern Africa.

This was our first visit to the Mara; we went to see the migration and were somewhat successful.

We were on a private tour with a British Photographer; we were seven strong and had 3 specially adapted vehicles, and our own camp, so were probably in a better position than most tourists.

To our minds the Mara is a circus, it is not a true wildlife experience, and it could not be as it much too crowded.

There are far too many vehicles most of which appear to contain people in totally inappropriate clothing (bright colours!!!!). These appear to have a sole purpose in life, which is interfering with the wildlife.

This is aptly displayed at the crossing sites where vehicles were regularly scaring the animals by driving onto the exit routes, jumping up on to the roof or poking out a brightly attired head.
At one leopard sighting a vehicle with arrived with a Masai guide on the roof dressed in the traditional bright red clothing sat on the roof, unsurprisingly the leopard left!

Interference with animals hunting was common place, it is a disgrace. We have some good video of a cheetah hunt taken from a respectful distance; it is of course ruined by the haphazardly placed vehicles all over the plains.

Off -roading is the norm, and no attention is paid to the degradation of soil that this will inevitably cause.

The use of flash is overwhelming “Better Beamers” are clearly this year’s must have accessory.

Things will only get worse as more and more lodges are being built.

Having said this we had some very good sightings apart from the crossings.

Three Serval Kittens at their den!!!

Two Caracals in daylight!!!

Two leopards in accessible trees.

Cheetahs and cubs.

Plus millions of Wildebeest, Zebras and new to us at least several species of plains game.

The Masai are clearly going to be a lot richer over the coming years! We wish we could say the same for the animals.

chacheetah Oct 1st, 2007 04:24 AM

Sniktawk; Your report is very distressing; was there anything positive about your experience. So many reports have been posted on excellent sightings, good guides, etc. in the Mara; I have heard location is very important for migration; yet I know there can always be a bad day; but 9 of them! What area were you located in; was it near the migration or did you have to go looking for it daily? Any suggestions are appreciated as we are scheduled to be in the Mara sept. 2008 and I would like to go with some better expectations. Thank you, Cc

sniktawk Oct 1st, 2007 04:31 AM

Yes we got lots of good sightings, it is just the total lack of privacy that spoilt it for me. Where you are makes very little difference as you need to go to the crossing points to find out whats there and wait and see, the chances are very good, but do not expect the mass crossings you see on TV, our best was around 5 thousand animals, this is good enough for me. It would just have been better if we had a little more sun to up the shutter speed rather than having to rely on high iso ratings.

Enjoy your trip!

chacheetah Oct 1st, 2007 04:55 AM

Thx sniktawk; yes, 5,000 would be incredible sight for me. Of course I have never been to the Mara. I was told September was a bit quieter without masses of tour buses but maybe that was a ploy to get me to sign up. Nonetheless, I hope to enjoy my first trip to Kenya and the Mara and definitely will not be wearing my wild red ponchos. Would be interested in anyone else who was there in September commenting on their experiences. Waiting for the photo ops must be awfully frustrating.. Please post any that you'd like to share. Cc

HariS Oct 1st, 2007 06:54 AM


I'm considering Serengeti for Feb or March 2009. I hear it isn't as crowded as the Mara? your thoughts?

Still you say cheetahs and cubs? How many? sounds like fantastic sightings ......


sniktawk Oct 1st, 2007 07:34 AM

Hi Hari,

We have not been to Serengeti, so we have no idea. I understand it is harder to get near the game there, unless you go on the private concessions.
We saw two female cheetahs one with 2 cubs.
Photos will follow shortly.

Nyamera Oct 1st, 2007 07:58 AM

Sniktawk, thanks for your report, but I must say that I’m glad I’ve been to the Mara before reading it. Otherwise I would never have visited. As most animals, with the exception of primates, are more or less colour blind, bright coloured clothing really isn’t such an issue. The other behaviours you describe sound really appalling. I’m jealous of your serval kitten and caracal sightings.
I really hope you’re right that the Maasai are going to be a lot richer over the coming years!

cary999 Oct 1st, 2007 11:12 AM

Sounds a lot like when we were there last September 2006 about same time. We stayed at Little Governors camp, 5 nights. True there were more vehicles in Mara than I've seen at any other safari but didn't bother us that much. Of course we were not taking serious videos of hunting cheetahs. But in fact did see the BBC there with Jonathan Scott working around Honey and her three cubs. Guess though that doesn't help any, does it :-) What bothered me more were the cloudy skies that make for difficult photo lighting. Sounds like you had the same and perhaps this set a bad mood for your time there.
Anyway, I'd really like to go back, Lil Gov camp or some other.

regards - tom

sandi Oct 1st, 2007 11:32 AM

5,000 ain't shabby. While what we see on National Geo appears to be more, it probably isn't. Besides, you have to realize it often takes those photogs up to 2+/years to put one of those programs together. Lots of cutting to get us really excited. Nothing like seeing it in person.

Caracal and serval... good, good, good!

Shame the humans weren't better behaved; guess after waiting hours it's not surprising they acted as they did.

samcat Oct 1st, 2007 12:07 PM

We were at Little Governors September 9 till 12, so we had the same daily rain experiences. The roads were consequently a real mess. Our largest view of a crossing was only a few hundred, but was interesting -- seeing the hesitancy and milling around before the final crossing. There were vehicles who sometimes blocked potential crossings. I agree there were too many vehicles. Our most interesitng crossing siting was of a small herd (maybe only a dozen) tommies, which eventually crossed -- sacrificing three of their number to the crocodiles!

I'm not sure I'd return to the Mara nor recommend it to others -- am still pondering that. I was wondering about trying the Serengetti end of the migration next time. We saw the one cheetah with two cubs. No other cheetahs; and many fewer lions than in the past.

Our whole trip was great and I'll post fuller comments on the whole later.

Wingi Oct 1st, 2007 12:22 PM

sniktawk, it's a shame that your first experience of the Mara was spoilt by other people's behaviour.

Unfortunately, it can happen in all the popular parks - I've seen as bad behaviour in the Seronera area of Serengeti, and even worse at Nakuru.

It's one of the most popular times to visit the Mara because of the crossings, so probably more people behaving badly.

I'm very jealous of the servals and caracals!

Were you with Andy Rouse?

PredatorBiologist Oct 1st, 2007 12:39 PM

Sounds like in the Mara they need to institute a crossing guard Ranger who can fine guides that block the crossings with their vehicles. Additionally, mass tourism and off-road driving seems like a bad mix for long-term species conservation.

moremiles Oct 1st, 2007 03:25 PM

This thread is really making me reconsider my re-booking for next year. I thought Kenya was overcrowded when we were there 20yrs ago but it seemed like the easiest and most temperate to combine with a Rwanda visit.

Patty Oct 1st, 2007 04:04 PM

For those who are concerned about overcrowding, have you thought about going to Meru, Laikipa, Shaba, Tsavo, Chyulu Hills, or the Aberdares instead? No migration but not many people either. Kenya isn't just the Mara and the Mara doesn't even make my list of favorite places (OK I'm going to get stoned to death for saying that now ;) ).

atravelynn Oct 1st, 2007 04:04 PM

Servals and caracals! My oh my!

Thanks, sniktawk for the honest assessment of your trip.

sniktawk Oct 1st, 2007 07:35 PM


Yes we were with Andy Rouse.

divewop Oct 1st, 2007 07:39 PM

Wow, sniktawk, sorry your Mara experience was not up to par for you.

My experiences in the Mara have been completely different and those of you who know me, including my T.A.s, know I dislike crowds and/or hoards of people, especially while on safari.

There was only one game drive during my last 3 trips to the Mara where my vehicle shared viewing with several other vehicles, and that was back in '05 on a cheetah kill.

The rest of the game drives I've been on in the Mara have been the opposite of sniktawk's, only one or two other vehicles at the most at a sighting if any, or I've only seen a few other vehicles during game drives while traversing the reserve.

I guess it's like any other place, including Serengeti, Ngorongoro ,both of which can also have crowds in certain areas and certain times, where it's just luck of the draw and timing.

I do however, tell the camp manager, and my guide, the same one I've used each time I go, that I want to go away from the masses. They usually accommodate. This past year (when Sundowner accompanied me) at L. Governor's, they weren't doing game drives across the river due to the flooding and liability. I talked to the manager and he allowed us to cross the river on all but one occasion, while not allowing the rest of the folks in camp. But then again, I guess it's just a matter of going back to the same place and getting to know the folks who work there and gaining their trust.

I would not keep going back to the Mara if it was overcrowded or I felt like there were too many people.

I might be one of the few on the board who love the Mara and will keep going back. To me, it's a very special place, and will always be.

Patty Oct 1st, 2007 08:53 PM

I have to say we didn't experience any crowds in the Mara either. I think a handful of vehicles at a lion cub sighting was the most and outside of that, we had sightings to ourselves. But our stay was in November (low season).

I'm just trying to emphasize that there are places in Kenya where you can go any time of year and encounter very few or no other vehicles.

DonTopaz Oct 2nd, 2007 04:55 AM

When I was in the Mara last month, here were indeed lots of people and vehicles at river crossings.

But it was no problem whatsoever to find complete solitude -- at least in terms of other humans -- by plunking ourselves down in a wildebeest herd, for example. Being in the midst of these magnificent creatures, just sitting there and silently watching the wildebeest be wildebeest for hours on end, was uplifting and unforgettable.

I would agree that the river crossing locations attract lots of vehicles. But what is a workable solution? While I suspect that everyone at a crowded crossing site wishes that fewer people were there, it seemed like there were few volunteers to leave the place.

atravelynn Oct 2nd, 2007 07:58 AM

I'm glad to read the positive reports on the Mara. It's been 6 years since I was there so maybe things have changed a lot, but I loved it. I did not love the other vehicles, but they were rarely a distraction, even at crossings.

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