Masai Mara in August - Migration questions

Jan 27th, 2005, 05:06 AM
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Masai Mara in August - Migration questions


Discovered this forum about 3 weeks back and have been browsing like crazy. It's absolutely brill for Kenya safari info.

My apologies for posting questions that are covered already, however, I have some more specific ones.

We've booked our flights to Kenya and arrive in Nairobi on 12th August, leaving on the 29th.

My initial thoughts were to do Masai Mara for 4 nights starting on the 23rd with a view to seeing the migration. However after browsing the various migration update sites, it seems that these dates are slap bang in the middle of the migration and chances of seeing a river crossing are slim. Early August or late Sept would be better. So we might be better off on the 13th.

Reading the various reports on here, that certainly seems to be true. Is it?

Also, through more reports here, have decided to stay for 2 nights at Mara Serena and 2 nights at Mara Intrepids. During the dates that are available to us (ie 13th or 23rd), will Serena have a full frontal view of the migration or will the wildebeest have moved more westerly towards the Governers area?

Would it be better to do Serena / Governers rather than Serena / Intrepids? I know it's impossible to predict where and when the migration will be, but in general what dates and places would be best in August?

Just to complete this, we are also going to do the Mt Kenya area, Lakes Nakuru, Naivasha and Mombasa. But, that's not important

mombasa is offline  
Jan 27th, 2005, 05:28 AM
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mombasa - you answered your own question re when and when for the migration "it's impossible to predict...."

That's the answer, who knows? This coming year the herds can arrive early or late, cross once one way, then cross going the other way. Some people sit an entire day or two waiting for a crossing - and nothing. Some have visited year-in/year-out and never see a crossing. Others arrive on site and within 5-minutes they luck out with a crossing. So no guarantee.

Just ask any National Geo photogs for whom it can take two or three years of sitting and watching and waiting, to put together those magnificent Migration Crossing films (where some crossins took place at the Grumeti River in Tanzania, combined with crossings at the Mara or Talek Rivers in Kenya) we see on Natl Geo, Discovery, Nature, or PBS stations.

At that time of year, if there is "room at the inn/(camp)" at any of the places you mentioned, go for it. Once in your vehicle, your guide/driver will move about and stop at various places with good viewing and the possibility of a crossing.

I didn't see my first leopard until my fourth or fifth trip to Africa, and it was in South Africa. Go to enjoy - you will be amazed at what you do see throughout and maybe pleasantly surprised with a crossing. If not, there is always a next time!
Jan 27th, 2005, 05:30 AM
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Hi mombassa

In 2004, both migrating herds were moving west of the Talek river in the 2nd half of August.

In a nutshell, any of Governors, Intrepids or Serena will work fine. Intrepids and Serena should place you closer to the herds than Governors but also closer to the crowds. Even from Governors it is just a 30 min or so drive to get slam bang into the middle of the action - and yoiu will see giraffes, etc along the way as you drive through the treeline areas.

As you know, the migration pattern depends on the rain but also on the man-made burning of the grass. Wherever the grass is burnt, thats where the herds will go after a rain spell!

Crossings - completely unpredictable but it happends throughout the whole time in the Mara. By end of Aug the crocs are full and won't be overly active. Most crossings happen in the mid-day heat when most tourists are having lunch so pack a picnic and wait...

The Serena rooms have very small windows so you won't see much from the rooms anyway - outside is better! You certainly cannot see the herds from Little Govs. You can see the plains from the Eastern tents at Govs.

In the end it depends on your budget since all 3 locations will be fine. The tented camps are wonderfully romantic.

climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Jan 27th, 2005, 05:49 AM
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Hi Mombasa-
I went to the Mara in 2003 for the purpose of seeing the migration and chose to stay at Governor's main camp. Contrary to advice I received here, I stayed at the one camp for the entire week. Definately too long at one place. The food was very good, but lots and lots of people stay there. It was early September that we went and the migration was still doing crossings and most of the action was at the crossing sites. It was a looooong drive, over 45 minutes each way, to the crossing site, which was smack in front of the Serena. There really wasn't much to see on the way there and it was a very rocky and rough ride. I wished many times we had stayed at the Serena. We saw a crossing and lots of zebras crossing both ways. My pictures are posted at ofoto if you'd like to view them.
I would definately make the Serena one of my stops and there is another Masai run tented camp close by that would be very ideal for the other camp. Rekoro Tented Camp is the name. Its small and private. We saw lots of animals and even had a Cheetah hop on the top of our vehicle and stay for quite a long time. August is still early and there should be some crossings while you're there. The crossing areas are packed with cars that drive out from Nairobi on the weekends, so avoid those days if you can. I know you'll love it. Liz
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Jan 27th, 2005, 08:23 AM
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Thx for your replies. I think I've got it sorted.

All I need to do is get to Mara early, stop the man made burning, start it myself when its convenient for me and hey presto .....

Sorry, couldn't resist that

It does look like the first half of August is a better time to go then the second half. We may not (well probably won't) see any crossings as you say, but since we will be staying 2 nights in the Serena (chosen for its views), then it would be nice to see plains full of animals

Leaving it until the end of August probably means that the migration will be well west of Serena and Intrepids.

Damn ! We are going with some friends who have never been to Africa before. Wanted to start and tease them with Mt Kenya and Lakes followed by Mombasa and climaxing in Mara. Looks like I got it wrong

I agree, tents are wonderfull - hence the splitting up of places we are staying at.
mombasa is offline  
Jan 27th, 2005, 10:50 AM
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I;ve been to the Mara quite a few times and to deciding between early and mid August is total guesswork. For what it's worth I've chosen Serena for 5 nights from 19-23 August 2005. I considered Intrepids which is better quality food, accomodation etc .. but is on the East side of the Mara river where there are many camps. The Serena is the only camp/lodge in that area on the WEST side of the river in the Mara Triangle. As there are no bridges nearby it should be less busy !
philw is offline  
Jan 28th, 2005, 04:38 AM
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Many thanks for all your replies.

To put things a little bit more in perspective here's my story

I'm originally from Kenya, but have lived in the UK for the last 30 years. Still have cousins etc in Kenya. Used to go back to Kenya during University hols and do all the camping in Nakuru, Naivasha, Turkana and game parks - those were the days - student budget and all ....

Haven't been back to Kenya for the last 9 years - since getting married and having a kid in fact. So I really want to make this trip special for my kid - show him where dad (mis)spent his youth. Factor in the friends who are coming with us ....

Have only been to Mara twice in all my time - both during August. First time I stayed at Sarova - absolutely correct about hordes of tourists - hey, I was one of them Second time was at Intrepids - much better and very nice but that was 9 years ago. Saw loads of wildebeest but nothing like I'd expect from a migration - dunno if we were too early or late. Also, we drove from Nairobi in a mini-van which is nowhere near as good a flying in and using the camp's 4wd's.

Climbie, Sandie - you both have great insights and I'm going to have all my fingers and toes crossed.

Liz, yes, I've read all your posts eagerly and seen your photo album. Very nice. I think I'll skip Governers - much as my little boy looking fwd to bump into the Big Cat Diary mob

Phil, Good point about Intrepids being on the 'wrong' side of the river Gotta think about that now ...

Bearing everything in mind I think I'll stick to the 23rd.

Looking forward to posting a trip report - I hope its worth it !!

mombasa is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 03:08 AM
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Ok, have decided on the 24th to 28th August for mara.

Splitting it between Serena (not confirmed - on waiting list) and Governers (confirmed).

Chose Governers over Intrepids 'cos it's about the same price and 'cos it's a better split area wise.

Besides, have always wanted to stay at Governers
mombasa is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 03:33 AM
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Sounds wonderful and you've just stated the very best reason to do something. "Because I've always wanted to." Now you'll know and won't always wonder, what if?
Be sure to post a report when you return and let us know how it was this year, because its different from year to year and others come along later and appreciate the information too. Liz
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2005, 04:15 AM
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Thx Liz.

Just in case we can't get Serena, I'm looking at booking Intrepids as well. However, am not too keen on that anymore since I think its overpriced. Have started looking at rekero which sounds nice. Have emailed them for availability and rates.

But, would still prefer Serena 'cos of its location.

Have to wait now .....
mombasa is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 12:49 AM
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Hi Liz,

Couple of questions for u

I'm still concerned about Governers v Intrepids.

How did you find Governers? I'm a bit worried that its the wrong camp / area to be in during the migration and that Intrepids would be better.

Don't get me wrong - it's probably THE camp to be in during non-migration times 'cos u r away from all the crowds etc but during migration?

Was there a lot of game around Governer's, ie Big 5 as opposed to wildies? Does the camp itself feel special?

Thing is, we would love to see Bella the Leopard from Big Cat Diary. The chances of that are much increased by staying at Intrepids because her patch is on the Talek river - presumably, the Intrepids guides will have a better idea than most .....

Did you make it as far as the Talek and did the Governers Camp guides know the area well? I know on the Governers Game reports they mention Bella a lot, but it isn't clear is if their guests themselves saw her.

In any case, did u see or have a chance of seeing any leopards around the Governers area - or was that not a priority?

Anybody else stayed at Intrepids?

Many thanks.

mombasa is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 03:05 AM
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While addressed to Lyz, I'll give you my opinion as well.

I've stayed at both - many times. Please don't be concerned about the locations here in terms of wildlife viewing.

Guess where the Big Cat Diaries folks camp? Next to Governors Camp! For good reason as there is an abundance of wildlife near the camp and the prime hunting areas for lion and cheetah are nearby.

The Western Mara is not that big! Whether you come from Intrepids or Govs, the whole area is filled with game and you will go back and forth across the whole area during your game drives!

At Little Govs, we even had to cross the Mara in a little boat before every game drive and we were still one of the first cars each morning at the leopard spotting areas! In fact,we just followed the Big Cat vehicles when they leave in the morning and we went straight to where the action was!

Your chances of seeing leopard is no greater at any of these camps - I have seen Bella a few times while at Govs even though she and the cub were not near the camp!

If you stay at the main Gov's, in a Western tent, you can see the wildebeest on the plains from your balcony!

climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 03:53 AM
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Correction - at main Govs, the East (not West) facing tents can see the Paradise plains and beyond!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 04:09 AM
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I haven't visited the Intrepids Camp. My comments pertain to my experience at Governor's Main Camp and what I observed. What I noticed about the animals is that when the wildies cross the river, they start grazing close by. They do not eat their way over to the Governor's area until late in the season, closer to November. The predators congregate closer to where the wildies are. You will see the Big Cat Diary folks where the action is. They stake out the lion pride which sleeps closer to Governor's and they follow the Cheetah family the same way. All of the Governor's Camp drivers stay away from the BCD folks when they are filming, which is anytime the animals move. Each of their vehicles are staked out with that particular animal all day. You do not follow them or otherwise get in their way. Your guide stops and asks their permission to approach an animal they are observing.
The GC drivers know the area well, but they drive a certain route and always follow that plan. The few times I asked to go to the swamp to observe the big birds there, I was met with reluctance resistance. That driver was to do certain routes and we shouldn't change that. I would rather have not been with them and instead the drivers from other camps had more freedom it seemed to go where they wanted.
We stayed in the plains tents rather than the river tents in order to see the action on the plains. There was never one animal on the plains that far from the migration. Just a huge field full of tall grass.
This was in September. I would say the migration was not yet half way to Governor's.
I know the game reports posted on their website state a lot of things, just as the report I posted this week from Ndutu states things others say aren't happening at that time. I am sure they embellish the reports to give the readers a nice report. I am saying what I saw and what my photos show.
I think we saw the Talek River but it is a ways away and a still river and there wasn't stuff there then, according to our driver. If I went again, I would stay closer to the crossing sites this early in the season.
We didn't see Bella nor did anyone else when we were there. The 'swamp pride' was the 'plains pride' at that time. If you get the drift, don't expect it to be just as you see it on TV.
You only see 'a lot of game' when you are around the migration. Otherwise it is an animal or two by themselves. We stayed too long in one camp and got to know the routine because we did exactly the same thing every day. Thats how it was at Governor's. Can't say about the other camps.
The camp has a wonderful feel about it. Dinner is at small, private tables so you don't get to meet or share stories with other groups. Everyone stays to themselves. Lunch was by far the nicest as was breakfast because it is out on the river bank. Now other groups came to lunch at times. You might see if you can pay extra and have lunch at Governor's one day. That is really the best meal. You can see the camp that way. We were told one advantage of staying at Governor's is the BCD people, namely John Scott would come by in the evening and show films and chat with us. The only way I saw him was when he was in a vehicle where the filming was going on. He never came to Governor's Main Camp during the week we were there.
One advantage I saw was the hot air balloon lifts off from Little Governor's Camp and one of the balloon pilots comes around the night before at dinner and introduces themself to you and you get to chat with them. They are very friendly and spend time with you.
I saw the Serena from the river and it seemed a better spot and I heard that Rekoro Tented Camp was quite close to the crossing site and more private and nice. The other camps I really didn't have the opportunity to see nor hear about. When I was to the Mara previously I stayed at other camps and some of them are closed now. That was 1987, 1989 and 1993.
What you are going through now with indecision is tough. Sorry but you just have to decide and whichever way it turns out is going to be great. Just make your decision and don't look back. Liz
Liz_Frazier is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 04:09 AM
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Brief report on Governor's Camp:

I attended a special trip last April called Festival of Wildlife (arranged by Wildlife Worldwide) and we were based at Governor's Camp.

The trip was short, including only 4 days at the camp (Friday afternoon, all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday, plus Tuesday morning).

Our time was full as we had lots of specialist lectures and workshops with the various experts such as the Scotts, Derek Solomon, Lyn Hughes and many others. I personally spent 3 of the activities slots doing an Art Safari which meant driving somewhere, getting out of the vehicle and sitting down drawing or painting.

So I only did 5 game drives.

In those limited drives I shot all the Africa images you can find at this website:

I think you'll agree that we saw a whole lot of wildlife. I haven't even included images of a lot that we saw (a hyena den including pups, more cheetahs and other birds and mammals).

Some of the wider group also saw leopards but I didn't personally.

As far as the camp goes, it's a great camp, lovely staff, nice tents. Personally I find it far too big with something like 35 tents. Way too many people for my preferences. Food is best when they do a buffet rather than sitdown and served. Guiding is reasonably good. One thing that drove me nuts was the lack of electric light in the tents. Paraffin lamps may be romantic but not so much fun when you literally can't see to dress etc.

The location of the camp on the river is superb and we often had hippos and eles in the camp itself.
If I can provide any more info let me know.
Kavey is online now  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 04:35 AM
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Wow - what a response !!

Many thanks (again) all.

It is a tough decision, but I'm leaning towards Intrepids now.

In any case, since we are on a waiting list for Serena, I've decided to book Governers for the first 2 nights and Intrepids for the second 2 nights.

Then, if Serena comes through, I'll cancel Governers.

Not really fair I guess, but from all I've read, Serena takes priority.

mombasa is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 04:43 AM
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Just to be clear about a few things:

I enjoyed Little Govs quite a bit more than Main Govs. In fact, I enjoyed Intrepids more than Main Govs since Intrepids is actually a very attractive camp despite the somewhat busy feel.

Little Govs is in a class of its own. Hippos at night next to the tent, elephants walking right through, etc. I would choose Little Govs above Intrepids.

Over many years I have never experienced rigid game drives at Govs. We stayed out all day every day and the drivers were absolutely great - they even drove us to Olenana and Kichwa and Intrepids just so I could see the camps!

I can be more specific about camp differences, but my point is that these are all very good camps. Go with the one that fits your budget best - but if you can do Little Govs, go for it!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 05:04 AM
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Little Gov was a nice camp - I spent an afternoon there for one of the Art Safaris - but even then I felt it too large with 17 tents. I also found the stairs up and down to and from the river crossing that we had to make to get to and from the camp quite difficult especially in the dark.
Kavey is online now  
Feb 3rd, 2005, 05:23 AM
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So, the conclusion seems to be that if one chooses Governers, it's got to be Little Governers

Climbie, didn't realise u had stayed at Intrepids. I did that 9 years ago and must admit it was a lovely camp. Was worried that Governer's would be a bit disappointing after Intrepids. That combined with the migration (August), Bella and all the comments here etc has made me decide on Intrepids.

In any case, if we don't strike lucky with Serena, we'll end up in Governers anyway ....

I just hope the guides at Intrepids are as good !

BTW, the Intrepids rates are the same as Main Governer's - wasn't quite expecting that

Will keep u all posted.
mombasa is offline  

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