My Kenya Adventure Diary


Aug 11th, 2011, 03:02 AM
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KathBC - as you know we were staying in the Garden Manor but the choice of where to dine each day is up to the guests. We had our breakfast in the new manor and dinner there one night and outside in the courtyard the next night. Everything was extremely salty and out of the all the meals we only enjoyed one lunch there.

sperraglia - Hope you will have a great time in Kenya!
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Aug 11th, 2011, 04:09 AM
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Back at camp after our exciting lion encounter we sat by the fire that had been lit on the patio. I noticed that the guests here are quite different than those we met at Sala’s. Most kept to themselves, a diplomat from Guatemala who return to the Explorer annually for 2 weeks at a time, a French couple, a honeymooning couple from Austria and 3 families from the UK and America. I had an unexpected situation with the French couple which put me in a sour mood for a while. The crazy Frenchman climbed down to the river bed and made his way to a group of hippos while waving to his girlfriend or wife. The closer the man got to the hippos the more the French girl giggles and wave excitedly to her man. I told her it was very dangerous and she said “I don’t speak English” and continued encouraging her man to get closer to the hippos! I grab a private guide who was working for the Guatemalan diplomat and told him what was happening and he quickly ran out to tell the camp guards to deal with the crazy man. Nuts!

Masai Mara day 4.

We decided to sleep in a bit and did not start our game drive until after breakfast in camp and asked James to be ready by 8.00AM. James suggested that we start the game drive normally and see what developed. We came by several group of cheetahs who were either resting or sleeping until we found a young male who was quite alert and was looking out for a meal. We stop our vehicle and waited while the cheetah kept looking around and several times it look as if he would charge at some nearby gazelles but nothing happen. 3 Hours later we had waited long enough and James suggested that we eat our pack lunch and head out to the Mara River and see if there are any crossings – yeah another must see event on my list!

The drive from the Explorer camp to the Serena main crossing point only took us around 40 minutes and the closer we got to the river the more barren the land became. The grass has all been eaten and there were dusts being blown around by the wind everywhere. We got to the main crossing point and found nothing. James said he wanted to try the nearby “Paradise” crossing and we drove the short distant to a crossing point that is pretty well hidden by the trees and bushes along the Mara River. The closer we got to the crossing point the stronger the smell of death. By the time we arrived the wind has stop blowing and the temperature was getting quite hot. There were some zebras around our side of the river numbering around 100 or so and mixed with the zebras were some wildebeests. Both side of the river banks were strewn with rotting carcasses and several big Nile crocodiles could be seen sunning themselves.

We stopped our vehicle on the edge of the river and on the other side of the river we could see about 4 or 5 other jeeps parked as well. The smell of rotting flesh now permeated the river bank and my wife got really nauseous and I begged her to let us stay for a while as a crossing look imminent. She kindly agreed and we waited for around 15 minutes and the first zebra bravely crossed the Mara River. The lead zebra made it across and was soon followed by the rest of the herd. The crocs slid into the river and we could see their heads and eyes above the water making their way towards the swimming zebras. One by one the crocs casually swam and it even look more like they were “gliding” in the water toward a swimming zebra and just grabbed them and dragged them down! One splash and a squeal from the zebra and both prey and predator disappeared below the water. We saw at least 3 zebras got attacked and only after the crossing was over did we see them again near the surface with the crocs mouths around their necks. I was elated at seeing my first real crossing and James turned towards me and asked how I like the “mini crossing”? My curiosity was arose with the word “mini” being mentioned and I quickly reply and asked back what is a “normal” or a good crossing in his opinion. James said the ideal crossing would be with a big herd of wildebeests so we have our next targeted event and with 2 full days left our chances were pretty good as more and more wildebeests can be seen heading our way.
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Aug 11th, 2011, 06:57 AM
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There always seem to be some crazy visitors who think they're at a zoo and not out in the "real" bush, with "real" live animals in their territory, not ours. That French guy deserved whatever could have happened and an attack by hippos isn't a pretty sight! Such idiots should be immediately returned to the airport and sent home.
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Aug 11th, 2011, 08:50 AM
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I would definitely be rooting for the hippos!
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Aug 11th, 2011, 10:03 AM
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Hippo Power!!!

Wow Pook great writing! I feel like I'm right there with you guys in the jeep. Taking notes and anxiously waiting for more.

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Aug 11th, 2011, 02:28 PM
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Rise and Shine, Pook! (Well, it's another early Singapore flying day for me - and do hope you and your lovely family savour a lovely Thai Mother's Day, either in beloved Bangkok or elsewhere.)

Now, fine writing as always. Somehow, someway, brings back fond memories of an ascent of Kilimanjaro with cherished hiking/climbing friends, followed by safari. (Safari a bit different from yours, but such fun.)

Keep up the good work - and don't forget to fly Suites with those sensational Girls! (Always a joyous time.)

macintosh (robert)

... Singapore Airlines, You're a Great Way to Fly ...
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Aug 11th, 2011, 06:06 PM
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I'm enjoying your account and thinking I'd be asking for different views. No blood and guts for me, thank you!
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Aug 11th, 2011, 09:55 PM
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Thanks guys and today is a holiday here in Thailand so I hope to finished the report and upload some pictures today.
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Aug 11th, 2011, 11:59 PM
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We returned to camp and Mariana surprised us with a “bush dinner”, or an outdoor BBQ. Very nicely done, dining in the open and amongst the stars in front of a roaring fire. My wife was feeling better but she wants to stay in camp the next day and forego the game drive. I booked her a massage and after dinner we retire to our tent. Pretty restless night as throughout the night the hippos and elephants would come up from the riverbed right outside our tent. We can hear them snort, growl and walk around all night and I tried to get rid of them by opening the flap and shinning my flash light at them. I used the provided walkie-talkie and radio for some assistant and shortly a camp guard came around and we manage to return to bed.

Masai Mara day 5.

With just James and I we started a bit earlier than usual and headed off to look for some predator action. Right outside our camp we found a cheetah who was being “harassed” by a couple of hyenas. James explained that the hyenas know that the cheetah will hunt today and kept a close distant to steal the cheetah’s kill. The cheetah move from one termite mound to another and hyenas followed giving me an entertaining morning. Then a jeep from the Governor’s Camp showed up and drove close to the cheetah and it climbed the jeep and sat on the roof for a brief moment! The tourists in the Governor’s jeep, a Spanish couple and two Indian men, noticed that we were nearby and had a camera so they rushed over to our vehicle yelling while asking if I took a picture. It happened very quickly and I was not sure if I captured the moment or not but they scrambled to give me their business class and literally beg me for me to email them the photo. Later on I checked my camera and unluckily for them I did not manage to capture the moment.

After the cheetah incident, we drove by the airfield and noticed armies of wildebeests moving in towards our camp. Long lines of wildebeests, each several thousand in numbers, were moving towards the Mara River which defines my logic as there are no grasses left on the plains there. James explained that in his opinion the wildebeests are not that smart and they believe that on the other side of the river there are plentiful grass there.

We then headed for the Mara River again looking for a significant wildebeest crossing. There were some vehicle parked by a bend in the river and we join them and as soon as we arrived we saw wildebeests in good numbers on the other side of the river. We sat for over an hour watching the wildebeests going around in circle by the river bank and now and then a few of them would venture down to the river. As soon as the lead wildebeest got to the river a croc would pop up and the wildebeests ran back up the river bank. This happened several times and alas after 2 hours James suggests that we should do something else.

We headed to the plains around the Governor’s Camp and the wildebeests have arrived there in good numbers but they were spread out and not compacted into one big group like around Sala’s Camp earlier on. James estimated their numbers at around a 100,000 or more and said more will usually follow. A black rhino was spotted on the plains amongst the wildebeests and it was easy for me to spot as 40 or 50 vehicles surrounded the rhino but again at a distant and giving the animal room to graze. Took a few pictures and headed to the next attraction, the “Marsh Pride”.

We soon found the pride of lions and James explained that Notch is getting old and his successor “Romeo” is now the new leader of the pride. We found him quickly as he was surrounded by numerous vehicles which IMO must bother the animal. I asked James about this and he sighed and said that not much can be done when people want to see a particular animal. How sad and it made me miss our times at Sala’s camp.

Returning to the camp at dusk I noticed that the wildebeests have moved closer to the Mara River so I discuss with James our plan for the next day, our last full day of game drive. We will leave after breakfast as usual with a pack lunch and head straight for the Mara River and camp out for the day there. All sign looks good for a major crossing and with another spectacular sunset we ended the drive with more photos of giraffes with the setting sun.

Masai Mara day 6.

My wife was feeling better after a full day’s rest in camp. She said she’s ready to rejoin me for the game drive even if it’s to the Mara River again. Mariana, the camp manager, surprised us again and after we left the camp at 8.00AM James circled the area for ½ an hour and drove us to a surprise “Bush Breakfast”. Cooking stations were set up next to the Talek River with tented toilets as well. Beautiful setting and we had a good breakfast there with James joining us at our table.

After breakfast we set out straight for the Mara River arriving at the main crossing 40 minutes later. No wildebeests there so we investigated the Paradise crossing point again. Better breeze and temperature and being around 10.00AM it was not hot yet. We arrived and parked our vehicle by 3 other jeeps at the river’s edge and within 30 minutes the herds started to gather at the river’s edge. More and more vehicles arrived and on both side of the river as well. It got crazy as there were now over 80 vehicles at the crossing points and I loss count of the numbers of vehicles but turning around I could see several vehicles parked 4 deep behind us! Some of the later arrivals even blocked off the normal route for the animals to cross the river and several guides or drivers called on the Rangers on their phone.

It didn’t take long before the wildebeests started to cross. Once this happened the maddening crowd went crazy and many people left their vehicles to line up on the river bank to take photos. All against the rules and regulations of the park and it ruined the whole scene. The wildebeests and zebras had their usual path blocked off by people and vehicles so they were force to cross at a point with very steep embankment on the other side where they desperately tried to find a way up. I saw several wildebeests fall off onto rocks and left limping by the water’s edge probably with a broken leg. A few of the guides from the various camps tried to tell people to get back in their vehicles but no one listen and some American tourist even jumped on our vehicles and blocked off my view. I had to “persuasively” tell the man to get off my jeep before he budged.

The crossing was a big one with over 10,000 wildebeests and zebras crossing the Mara River from both sides. It lasted for over one hour and the dusts from the animals, people and vehicles was so intense that photographing the crossing was not really worth it. I still managed a few photo but we left the sight disgusted with what we saw and how poorly each camp did not control their guests. The park ranger eventually turned up and they could not do much as there were only 2 of them. I hope in the future each camps around the area will take more action to control their guides and guests for the sake of the animals as well as for the future of their tourism industry.

We called it a day and James found a good spot for us to have our pack lunch under a “lonely” tree in the middle of a big plain. In the afternoon, having accomplished all of our must see events, we drove casually around before heading back to camp early for a massage. By this time we had made friends with a family from Mississippi and for our last evening we sat and chat for a while and Mariana again arranged another surprise with a group of visiting Masai performing songs and dance (jumping) to entertain us while we had dinner. A lovely ending for our trip and even though we have the early morning game drive offer to us we decided to forego it and slept in before taking our flight back to Nairobi and beyond.

From the tree camps that we visited:
Most romantic: The Giraffe Manor
Most authentic African camping experience: Sala’s Camp
Best food: The Mara Explorer
Best luxury and service: The Mara Explorer

Other notes form our trip:
Mosquitoes – none of us were bitten and we didn’t see any and didn’t use any repellent.
Sinus sufferer – bring saline solution for nasal rinse! Very dusty out there.
Very cool to cold from 11.00PM until around 9.00AM. Hot from 1.00PM to 6.00PM.
Photography – if you are serious take two camera bodies, one with a 100 – 400mm zoom the other a 24 – 70. Someone on Fodors had suggested this before our trip as well.
Binoculars – had them but did not use them as the animals were very close to our vehicles.

Thank you for reading and I hope you have enjoyed my trip report. I will post a link for our photos ASAP and I hope you will enjoy them too.
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Aug 12th, 2011, 02:18 AM
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I enjoyed the report very much thank you. One day someone will control those crossings in an efficient way, until then I'm avoiding the Mara at that time of year. Disgraceful that this goes on and on, year after year.
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Aug 12th, 2011, 03:43 AM
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OK here are our pictures from the trip, a few blurry photos as the animals were moving too fast!

Enjoy and do let me know what you think of them!
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Aug 12th, 2011, 06:27 AM
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I've read only day one, but am hooked. Will be back to read more and see the pictures. Thanks for posting the details.
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Aug 12th, 2011, 07:26 AM
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When we stayed at Mara Explorer (2008) we were in tent 2 or 3, closer to the camp entrance. Others had reported hippos frollicking in the river outside their tents, but we had seen nothing. At dinner one night I joking told Mariana that I'd like some hippos sent down to our section of the river! Not four hours later I was awakened by sounds outside the tent; I took my flashlight, tip-toed out to the edge of the deck and turned my light on the water, revealing three baby hippos splashing around! What service - that Mariana delivers!
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Aug 12th, 2011, 07:27 AM
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PS - especially loved the leaping leopard photos! That's a great action sequence.
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Aug 12th, 2011, 07:44 AM
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Great photos, Pook and a nice accompaniment to your "adventure diary".

The one with the giraffes at sunset is beautiful...
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Aug 12th, 2011, 08:18 AM
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Great photos! I loved all of your big cats photos, but the leaping leopard shots are spectacular!
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Aug 12th, 2011, 11:28 AM
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You had some amazing sightings! We were in the MNC around the same time as you. I love your pictures of the two male lions chasing the other one away- great sequence!
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Aug 12th, 2011, 12:25 PM
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The French couple with the hippos and the Guatemala guard story is quite funny but could have been a tragedy. Hippos kill more people than any other animal in Africa.

How nice to see a mini and a major crosss. The behavior of the visitors is getting bolder and bolder. Just disgusting.
Hope that American tourist heeded your request and sat his butt down so you could see.

Even if the park rangers are only 2, if they could fine the guests on the spot or cart them back to camp to pay, their presence would command respect and people might behave better so as not to interfere with the migration. Oh, but that might upset some tourists!

Overall you had a great trip. I'll be checking out the photos.
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Aug 12th, 2011, 12:38 PM
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I greatly enjoyed your wonderful trip report! Thanx so much for a beautifully written account, full of so many very exciting details!
I will definitely be reading it again.... We are off to the Masai Mara soon, and so I am especially excited. Many thanks.
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Aug 12th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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Fantastic report, Hanuman. Enjoyed it hugely. You certainly had an action-packed trip! Wonderful photos too. Thanks for sharing.
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