Mara trpi report - April/May 2011

May 26th, 2011, 06:01 AM
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Mara trpi report - April/May 2011

Background -

I have posted a couple of brief trip reports in the past 3 years so some of you may remember me. I was born in Kenya but moved to London 9 years ago to study at university and then work in the City. I go back to Kenya at least once a year and always go on safari. I've now done at least 50 different trips in my life.

I recently took a three month break from work and realised a life long dream of going to the Mara for a safari greater than 3 days - I went for 2 weeks in April with my brother and then took my Mum and Dad for 4 days in May after they saw my photos from my first trip which convinced them to come.

Camp -

I stayed at the Mara Intrepids on both trips. In my opinion it is in the best location in the Mara and I found no faults with the camp. The camp has 32 luxury tents which have some of the nicest beds and bed linen I have ever slept on! The quality of service was great and as I stayed there for long everyone knew me by name and treated me almost as family. I even used to play football with the staff at the football pitch outside of camp (which is unfenced!)

Food -

Not that this is particularly important to me, but just to mention that I was doing a sugar allergy which required me not to even touch sugar for the time I was in Camp. The chefs were amazing and ensured that the entire vegetarian buffet was sugar-free to the extent that they made sugar free bread rolls especially for me.

Animals -

As some of you may know, April/May is not always the best time to go to the Mara due to the long rains / length of grass / lack of migration etc... but there are other factors as described later which for me makes this a great time to be there. Also, any time in the Mara can be great if you have a good guide and some luck, which we did!

I am a cats person so here is a summary of what we saw (I'll give names where possible in case anyone is interested):

1st trip (2 weeks):
Lions - 90 different lions (most seen on numerous occasions) including the Marsh pride, Ridge Pride, Paradise Pride, Notch & Sons, Double Crossing Pride, Ol Kiombo Pride and some satellite males and females.
Cheetahs - 15 different cheetahs (most seen more than once) including Honey's boys, Saba and cub, and Alama and 2 cubs
Leopards - 5 different leopards including Olive (seen about 8 times), Olives 2 older cubs Paja and Nkayoni, a 6 month old cub on Paradise Plains, and a shy Leopard near Serena Pumphouse.

2nd trip (4 nights):
Lions - 63 different lions, Marsh Pride (16), Paradise Pride (21), Notch's Sons (3), Ol Kiombo Pride (23)
Cheetahs - 2 females
Leopards - 3, Olive, her older male cub Nkayoni and her 7 month old female cub


2 weeks at one camp - I had the most amazing time of life in these 2 weeks. There was no pressure to see animals on any one game drive. We got to follow individual animals over the 2 trips and see how they interact with others, where their territory is, and their struggles to get food. We also got to build a great rapport with the guide to the extent that now he emails me every couple of days to let me know about my favorite cats.

The Mara in April/May is beautiful - The lack of cars in the Mara at this time, makes it in my opinion an amazing time to visit especially if the Migration is not of great importance to you. Especially on our second trip, there were whole game drives where we would see a maximum of 1-2 cars. Even popular areas such as the Marsh, Paradise and the Talek area around Intrepids had very few cars. This made it more difficult to see the cats as there were less cars looking for them but sightings were so much more rewarding.

Your guide is very important to the overall experience - Our guide Dominic was amazing. While not the oldest and most experienced guide at camp he was by far the most enthusiastic and willing to go the extra mile, We would always be the 1st car to leave and the last car back at camp and he was willing to drive to places that other guides may not be willing to. Because of this, we saw some things I have not seen in my previous 50 safaris.

Pack a picnic breakfast - We did this every day and even thought we left camp at 6-15, this gave us a chance to stay out till 12-1 if there was anything interesting out there. This also allowed us to travel long distances to seek our own game or try out new areas. Through this we saw some cheetah kills by staying patient and being out there.

Patience (and luck) is key - Staying with the same animal for hours is so rewarding if you have the time. We got to observe hunting behaviour, kills, interaction with other pride members in the case of lions, feeding behaviour, and other things that you would not otherwise notice. We stayed with a mother cheetah and her 2 hungry cubs for 4 hours and witnessed her stalk once unsuccessfully, stalk and kill on her next chase, finish eating their kill, chase the vultures away, go for a drink and then find a place to rest because we were patient and had a picnic preakfast and stayed with her.

Intrepids for leopards - In my opinion, Mara Intrepids has the best location in the Mara, especially for leopards. Olive (the famous leopard from Big Cat Diary) has her territory right there and she has three cubs of different ages.

Animal Highlights - numerous but will concentrate on the ones that touched me

Olive - Those who know of this leopard will know that she is a special leopard. She has 2 male cubs aged approx. 20 months and a younger female cub aged approx. 7 months. She is unique in that she interacts with both sets of cubs. She is also not concerned about cars in the slightest. She is the 1st leopard that I have spent significant time with as she lets you into her life if you don't disturb her. We saw her on numerous occasions, mostly within 5 minutes of camp. In fact we once saw her whilst having a drink at the camp bar walking on the other side of the river. Spending this much time with a leopard and her cubs in the absence of numerous cars was a special privelage. Check the photos and videos if I can get them up and you will see what I mean.

3 kills - I have never seen a chase let alone a kill in all my safaris so to see many chases and 3 kills was a great experience. Again see photos and videos. In particular, 1 cheetah kill which I described above was out of this world. The cheetah mother actually dragged the kill to the front tire of our car and ate there with her cubs. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Male lions - At the moment there is a bit of upheaval amongst the lion prides in the Western Mara due to Notch and his sons who make up a dominant coalition of 5 lions. From my knowledge they control about 5 prides now having kicked out the previous pride males and killed the cubs. They are magnificent lions and basically go where they want and do what they want in the Mara. Despite this, we still saw about 18 mature male lions which is an amazing count. A once in a lifetime experience was seeing 3 of Notch's sons stalk, and chase a lion from the Ridge Pride. we saw the whole scene from the begining and believe it or not a hippo saved the Ridge male from certain death. The sounds were incredible. I have all of this on video so will share with you.

Rhinos - We saw rhinos 6 times across the 2 trips. I believe they are getting easier to spot.

Help with uploading photos and videos -
I've never done this before but would like to share my photos and videos with you. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Any other questions -
I'd be happy to answer any questions about the camp, guides, animals, Mara, weather etc... or if you have any questions once I've uploaded photos and videos then please just ask.

All in all an incredible experience
DShah is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 06:36 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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DShah, amazing report. I would love to see your pictures. Why not just put them Picasa or another similar picture sharing site and post a link here. I don't think you can post pictures and video on Fodors- however, you may want to post your report on where you can post pictures/videos as part of your report.

One other question- although I realize its a lodge and a significant downgrade from a tented camp, I thought the Mara Serena had one of the best locations in the Mara. Also, Rekero has a great location and many people who have been to the Mara on multiple occasions rave about this camp. I would be interested in knowing how you decided to chose Mara Intrepids for such a long stay.
AKR1 is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 07:13 AM
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Great report. I agree with you about Mara Intrepids and location. We go there 8-10 times a year as we are based in Nairobi

We have a trip coming up in June, August, October and December

roadwarriorafrica is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 08:22 AM
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AKR1 - thanks will have a look at Picasa. In terms of location, it was more about where the animals are rather than the view. I would agree with you that the Mara Serena has a stunning location from a scenery perspective but it's located in the Mara Triangle and so has limited areas where you can do game drives. Intrepids is just about in the middle of the Mara where one can go North, East, South or West for game drives plus it's in the middle of fantastic leopard territory.
DShah is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 08:23 AM
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RWA - What do you think of Mara Explorer vs. Intrepids for the extra price? Is it worth it in your opinion?
DShah is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 08:25 AM
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What a great report, DShah. Really looking forward to those pictures. And as AKR1 says, please do post this on ST along with your pics - so much easier to appreciate the report when you can see both things together.

It's very encouraging to read all the off-season Mara reports.
sangeeta is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 09:47 AM
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Great report and very encouraging for those hoping to avoid crowds.

I use both Picasa and Kodak Easy Share Gallery. I think Kodak is easier. Also Kodak shows photos on a more attractive black background than Picasa, which is white. I think Picasa is totally free, but to maintain photos on the Kodak site, you have to buy something every year. The modest purchase requirement has not been a big deal for me.

Once you establish your album, send yourself an invitation to view, then copy and paste the lengthy address of that invitation to this forum.

You can test out your photo sharing on the help forum, before linking to your report. In fact, I just did that.

For sharing videos, do you have a youtube account? Very easy to get one and put your video there. Then stick the video here like this:
[youtube]copy the link from youtube here[/youtube]

Your inquiry prompted me to post my first and only video in the help section to be sure I could. So thanks.

Looking forward to your photos.

1. Was rain less than normal during your visit?
2. How far in advance did you book?
3. Will you be including football action shots?
atravelynn is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 10:05 AM
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agree with atravelynn - photos look much much better on a monitor with a -black- background. When I start to see them on a white background, I look at only a couple then stop.

I use smugmug which cost me about $60 per year. It is very easy to use, very flexible with choices for display, and good friendly tech support if you need it. FWIW, here is my smugmug for safari photos. As you'll notice they are only once a year and smugmug is so easy to use I just go in once a year and add a new safari. No big "learning curve" every time.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 02:01 PM
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I do think of Picasa, Kodak, and Smugmug that Smugmug has the best display.
atravelynn is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 02:29 PM
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Mara Intrepid's is also located in the Triangle, at the eastern side, whereas, Serena is smack in the middle of the Triangle.

Explorer Camp, the higher-end sister camp of Intrepid's is a 5/min drive.
sandi is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 02:43 PM
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Sandi - Mara Intrepids is not located in the Triangle.
DShah is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 05:13 PM
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What a wonderful report, thank you so much for sharing it with us. I'll be eagerly anticipating your photos.
twaffle is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 07:13 PM
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Agree with twaffle--great report and I cannot wait to see your photos! It's interesting to read about the April/May timeframe.
Leely2 is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 10:55 PM
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Thanks for your detailed report. I would like to know how many persons were in your safari vehicle for the game drives? Was the camp full when you were there? Appreciate your help!
Novak is offline  
May 26th, 2011, 11:11 PM
Join Date: May 2011
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Loved this report. Thank you for sharing. I am currently planning a Kenya Safari (first time!) for late June or early July 2011. There are so many tour operators and some have excellent reputations. However, someone told me about Africa Point because they have good prices. Has anyone heard about this company? I am not finding much information on them. We are looking for a 7-8 night safari, and are looking to stay at the lower end of the price range. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. Thank you.
jessicaschram is offline  
May 28th, 2011, 03:30 AM
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Atravelyn - Thanks for the advice, I'm uploading some photos onto Kodak as I type this. In response to your questions:

1. Yes rain was much less than normal. It was meant to be the rain season when I went but it only rained for a couple of nights and the rivers at this stage are very very low. Even when I went back in May it hadn't rained much. It has been raining in other parts of the country and the rains are late everywhere so there is still hope.

2. I booked in March - Camp was never full other than the weekend just before Easter. Occupancy varied between 12 guests and the full 64 guests but was mainly at the lower end.

3. Haha I think I forgot to get some shots of us playing football. I was too involved in the football itself! Note that we have seen a large bull elephant, a male giraffe and Olive the leopard on that football pitch whilst on game drives. So it was fun playing football knowing what could be round the corner

Novak - In April with just me and my brother in my group we were usually put in a car with 2 other people. So we were never more than 4, but sometimes just the 2 of us. I'm not sure if this is their normal policy but I didn't see cars with more than 5 guests unless they were part of the same family / group. Things were more flexible as there were few guests at camp.
DShah is offline  
May 28th, 2011, 04:53 AM
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Here's a link to the 1st batch of photos. Note that this is the first time I have been serious about photography so pardon the poor quality. Happy to answer any queries about who the animals were etc...

Please let me know if link works. I've also started uploading some videos to Youtube will hopefully send you links soon.
DShah is offline  
May 28th, 2011, 06:16 AM
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Looks a great trip!!! Thanks so much for your report.

HariS is offline  
May 28th, 2011, 01:49 PM
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Just kidding about football. Thanks for the answers. A last minute departure seems possible, if you booked in March.

When I tried to see your photos by signing in with my email and password, I got an error message. I'll try later.

You may want to do the Share Photo option and not check the box that requires others to sign in.
atravelynn is offline  
May 29th, 2011, 03:02 AM
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Thanks atravelynn. Hope this link works:
DShah is offline  

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