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surfmom Sep 22nd, 2021 07:49 AM

The Safari (Kenya) and Gorilla (Uganda) Trip Report from August 2021.
now that is one heck of an exciting title!

We had planned this trip in January 2020 - pre-pandemic. Our travel agent required trip insurance, which, in case of an issue, would have covered quarantine for covid. We hoped not to use it, but was a safety net there if needed.

We used Gamewatchers. I can't say enough good things about them.

Cast of characters (and sometimes I feel like a character in a giant play): Me (mom), Dad, D1 (21 years), D2 (19 years), and S1 (17 years). We were in Kenya 4 years ago, so have an idea of what to expect, but doing some different things this time.

warning: I can be wordy. feel free to skim. This is taken from daily emails I sent home to family, so there are things that experienced travelers are aware of.

and we're off...

surfmom Sep 22nd, 2021 09:41 AM

Day 1: Getting There: Saturday/Sunday: Newark – Frankfurt – Nairobi

After arrival at Newark airport, we waited in line for security. One new thing was a holding area we each had to walk through - there was a dog that circled around you wearing a DHS (Department of Homeland Security?) vest. After working for a bit, he took a break and his handler pulled out a toy and played with him. After his break, he was back to work. Once through security, we waited in the lounge, which was pretty full. They weren’t really serving food, but just had goldfish, chips, and Oreos and water.

The flight was delayed about 20 minutes, but arrived in Frankfurt on time. We were in the top deck of a 747 in business class. It was nice, because there were only about 40 seats up there, but they weren’t all full. Business class has lie flat seats, which are very comfortable. Food on the flight was prawns or carpaccio starter and veal or halibut main with ice cream or fresh fruit for dessert. D2 got lots of our fresh fruit to eat! Before landing we were given a small breakfast of either yogurt, fruit, and croissant or hot eggs. It was a smooth flight.

After arrival in Frankfurt, we had to show negative PCR test results upon landing and then connected to our second flight. We had about 3 hours and hoped to find a lounge, but they were all closed, so we just found seats at the gate. The kids went for a field trip and found tea and croissants for breakfast.

The flight to Nairobi was full. Again, we were in business. We took off and landed generally on time. Food on the flight was burrata starter, beef or ravioli main, and yogurt with lime and strawberry dessert. Most of us slept some or most of the flight. We were given a snack before landing which included warm soft pretzels. Very yummy and I had an extra since it was offered! Some turbulence on the flight.

Upon arrival, we showed a QR code that was required from a passenger locator form. We then had PCR tests checked again. Finally, passport control and we did something wrong with our visas, so we had to go to the immigration office, where they hand wrote some code on our visa and we were sent back to passport control. It was very confusing, because I never understood what we did wrong.

Once through there, we exited and found our driver. They had brought two cars for us, because of social distancing requirements, but we talked them into letting us go in one since there were enough seats and we are a family that lives together. The road from the airport to our hotel was under construction and crowded, so it took us about 25 minutes to get to the hotel. By now, it was about 9:30 when we arrived.

We ordered food since it would take a while (to be sent to the rooms), headed to the rooms. Dinner was a burger, grilled chicken, peanut butter bagel, and shredded chicken dish. We headed to bed about 11pm.

We all slept in fits and spurts but were up early for our first adventure!

bon_voyage Sep 23rd, 2021 10:44 AM

Following along and savoring every word

Leely2 Sep 23rd, 2021 02:26 PM

So glad you were able to take this trip! I'm following along and hoping for photos at some point...

surfmom Sep 24th, 2021 05:01 AM

I should probably post the itinerary:

Day 1/2: traveling: Newark - Nairobi (overnight Eka Hotel)
Day 3: Nairobi - Amboseli (overnight Tawi Lodge)
Day 4: Amboseli (overnight Tawi Lodge)
Day 5: Ambosel - Masai Mara (Olare Orok Conservancy, Porini Lion)
Day 6: Masai Mara (Olare Orok Conservancy, Porini Lion)
Day 7: Masai Mara (Mara Ngenche)
Day 8: Masai Mara (Mara Ngenche)
Day 9: Masai Mara - Kihihi Uganda (Trackers Safari Lodge)
Day 10: Bwindi, Kihihi (Trackers Safari Lodge)
Day 11: Bwindi, Kihihi (Trackers Safari Lodge) - Entebbe
Day 12: Entebbe - Brussels - JFK

Thanks for reading along. I definitely will post photos. ◡̈
(note: all photos are 'as shot' ... I've not done any editing yet, so no judgement please!)

surfmom Sep 24th, 2021 05:04 AM

Day 3: Monday – Nairobi – Amboseli

Started the day early! We went to breakfast at 5:30, but they weren’t really open yet. The cooks hadn’t started the hot food, but there was all the continental breakfast stuff out, so we had toast and croissants for breakfast. Departed the hotel at 6am for Wilson airport.

Wilson is the airport used for internal Kenya flights. When we arrived at Air Kenya (every airline has their own little building), the lights were still off. Eventually, we came into the building. There is a strict weight limit of 15kg, which we were slightly worried about, but they only weighed our duffels, not carryons, so we were fine.

After checking in, filling out the passenger locator form (some more successfully than others), we waited. We were the only passengers in the terminal. At 7:30, we boarded our plane for Amboseli. The plane is a single prop plane with seats for 11 passengers and two pilots. We would cruise at a level of 9,000 feet on our 30 minute flight to Amboseli.

Economically, Kenya has been really hit by the pandemic. The representative who met us thanked us for coming and explained that he would be our contact during our trip if questions arose. The other two reps aren’t working right now. I get the feeling that people are thankful to have a job right now.

Upon landing, we were met by our driver/guide - Pillipilli. He had set up drinks next to the vehicle so we had tea and juice and some munchie snacks and biscuits. Then we headed out on the game drive.

This area is called Amboseli and we will stay at Tawi Lodge. Before getting to Tawi, we did a game drive. We spent a lot of time first in the swampy area - watching greater and lesser flamingos, herons, egrets, ducks, and many other birds I can’t recall. Saw a tawny eagle at one point. Then drove along the drier part and saw many many elephants, wildebeest, zebras, grant gazelles, Thompson gazelles.

Some interesting facts: in Amboseli, the wildebeest don’t migrate - they are permanent residents because there is always water and grass to eat. They have become a bit lazy and aren’t always on the move like in Masai Mara. There are about 2,000 elephants in this park - known for its elephants. All the families are named by a letter and every baby in that family start with the same letter. Like “A” family matriarch is Angelina and the babies are Anna and Alice, etc. They are named by an elephant researcher who has spent many years here.

About 11/11:30, we went to camp. Tawi Lodge is actually in the Tawi Conservancy, which is adjacent to the park. We have to leave the park and drive for about 15 minutes. It has a central lodge, with a lounge and swimming pool. There is a man made watering hole that it overlooks. We watched three big bull elephants rolling in the mud and splashing about. It was Ganesh (who only has one tusk), Equinox who was born without tusks, and Adam.

Elephants never stop growing, so as they age, they actually get bigger. Their tusks show you if they are right or left handed by the wear on that tusk. They have poor eyesight, but very sensitive skin, so the farmers protect their property by surrounding it with beehives. An elephant can move a tree or defeat an electric fence, but will stay away from bees.

We took a few minutes to get settled and then to lunch. Lunch was good - we were hungry. For lunch, we ate a starter of avocado toast, veggie frittata or lamb wraps with green salad and carrot and mango salad. Dessert was tropical fruit sorbet. After lunch, the kids swam and I took a nap at the pool area. We met again at 4pm for afternoon game drive.

We drove along different roads and watched a huge herd of water Buffalo. We have seen them before, but never such a large herd together. We had fun watching an elephant eat - he would pull a plant out of the water, eat the plant, and drop the roots back into the water. We also had fun watching younger elephants play fighting with each other. They “practice” for when it is time to really fight and get dominance.

Only about 40-50 lions in Amboseli total. We saw a lioness and male lion resting, but didn’t stay long. We later saw a lioness in a thicket of grass, and she was just watching the herd of elephants approach. She was solitary, so when they got closer, she ran away from them. It was fun to watch them get closer and finally see her run off.

We headed back to camp about 6:30 for dinner. We had a starter of farmers soup (which was really good), beef escalope or chicken, and chocolate mousse for dessert. We headed back to rooms for showers and bed.

surfmom Sep 24th, 2021 05:18 AM
sunsets are amazing in Kenya!

surfmom Sep 24th, 2021 05:27 AM

surfmom Sep 24th, 2021 05:28 AM

surfmom Sep 24th, 2021 05:29 AM
- stop touching me.
- no, YOU stop touching me.
- you started it.
- no, I didn't.
- Mooooooommmm.

Heimdall Sep 24th, 2021 08:45 AM

Did you get the classic photo of Mt Kilimanjaro with elephants in the foreground?

surfmom Sep 24th, 2021 10:30 AM

sadly, I did not. : ( there was only clear one night where we could see the top and no elephants around.

Leely2 Sep 24th, 2021 07:44 PM

Your photos are beautiful, thank you for sharing them!

I can only imagine how devastating the pandemic has been for countries like Kenya that rely so heavily on tourism.

Heimdall Sep 24th, 2021 10:16 PM

Amboseli is brilliant! We stayed at the Serena Lodge in the park on the way to Serengeti in Tanzania. As you wrote, weather doesn’t alway cooperate, but I did get the shot of Kili in the end, and was lucky with the elephants, although a longer lens would have been better. Another memory is the sight from Observation Hill of the thousands of flamingos in the lake below.

Good start on your trip report, and I am looking forward to reading more. I did my gorilla trek on a different trip to Rwanda, but my daughter and SIL saw the gorillas in Uganda. They also had a day with chimpanzees, which my daughter enjoyed as much as the gorillas. Africa is addictive isn’t it?

Lolazahra Sep 26th, 2021 03:56 PM

Great start to your trip report. Thinking of Kenya again. It’s been 5 years. Looking forward to more. Your pics are fantastic so keep posting! Along for the ride!

amyb Sep 28th, 2021 08:23 AM

So glad you had a nice time at Tawi Lodge. I stayed there in 2016 and loved it. I've enjoyed following along here, vicariously going on safari with you!

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:13 AM

Heimdall The flamingos were amazing in Amboseli! That was a surprise for me - I knew they have the tuskers there, but didn't realize the quantity of water birds.

Africa IS addictive!

thanks everyone - new installment up next. (and will continue to try and add photos).

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:17 AM

Day 4: Tuesday – Amboseli (Tawi Lodge)

Our wake up call came about 5:30 - they bring in a tray with hot tea/coffee and a few biscuits (i.e. cookies) for breakfast. They had asked us to allow someone to bring it in (rather than leave it on the porch) since the baboons in camp will get it otherwise. During the night, we had heard animals, when I described how they sounded, our guide thought one was an owl and the others were hyenas. The camp has an electric fence, but when we walk at night, it is recommended we ask for a guide since there are scorpions around.

In the tents, there is a large wooden box to put any food that you may have - the baboons have figured out how to open zippers, but can’t lift the lid. The rooms are nice - they are individual little “huts”. They have a thatched roof and solar power. They turn on the generator from 6-8am and 6-8pm daily as a boost. There is mosquito netting around the beds for evening.

We met our driver at 6am and headed out. We saw a very pretty sunrise heading into Amboseli. We were on the hunt for lions or cheetahs, but didn’t have any luck. We saw lots of animals, but no cats. Saw a pair of jackals and had fun watching male zebras fighting. Jackals mate for life - if their partner is killed, they may stop eating or will just live solitary.

Camp is in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, but it is obscured by clouds most of the time. It cleared enough this morning that we were able to see the top. There is a little snow on it, but not much remains. While the sky seemed promising initially, while on our drive, it got cloudy and cooler. We were happy to have blankets in the vehicle.

We got back into camp at 8:45am, so just in time to eat breakfast. Breakfast was yogurt, fruit, cold cereal, toast, pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage. D2 finally found a meal she liked and ate seven pancakes (crepes). The rest of us were lucky to get one each!

After breakfast, we had some chill time - reading and emails. The adults ended up taking naps, which were awesome. At 1pm, we headed to lunch. It was Mongolian pork stir fry, with veggie rice, cucumber and mint salad, green salad, and tree tomato sorbet (some kind of dark red sorbet). After lunch, everyone else sat in front of the watering hole and watched the elephants (Equinox, Ganesh, and Adam). At 3:30, we met the camel boss, and went for a camel ride. Dad went solo, D1 and D2 shared, and S1 and I shared. It was about an hour ride around the conservancy.

After we returned, we had about about 30 minutes and then we met a local Masai who took on us a nature walk. We saw many animal prints, animal droppings, and learned about plants. My favorite was the wild basil - local tribesman use it to make brooms out of and the smell also acts as an inspector repellent. We also saw a “toothbrush tree” which locals use to break off the branches and use as a toothbrush.

At the end of our walk, we met our driver/guide, PilliPilli, for a sundowner. He had brought drinks and munchies and we watched the sunset. And finally, a clear shot of Mt. Kilimanjaro! It has been obscured by clouds most of the time we have been here. It is the tallest free standing mountain in the world and the tallest in Africa.

We returned to camp and decided to shower before dinner. After showers, we headed to dinner. The dinner options were tilapia, lamb, or eggplant parmigiana, which weren’t great options. The staff had asked us earlier about dinner and they were willing to make us a grilled chicken breast. Starter was bruschetta and there were potatoes and broccoli/cauliflower sides, dessert was pineapple pudding. After dinner, we sat in the lounge and read and hung out until we headed to the rooms for bed.

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:19 AM

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:35 AM

some more photos... (I cheated... and may have screen shot a kids' IG!).

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:36 AM
I felt like the moon was smiling. In North America, we side the side of the moon when a sliver, not the bottom. This is one of my favorite photos - I just find it pleasing and a happy memory of a great day.

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:39 AM

Day 5: Wednesday – Amboseli – Masai Mara (Porini Lion)

We received our wake up about 6am this morning. Headed for breakfast at 6:30am - it is a cloudy and overcast day. Seems like most people in camp were eating breakfast at this time - and then heading out on game drives. We opted to go out early and then have breakfast after the drive yesterday.

Breakfast was eggs, bacon, and sausage, toast, fresh baked muffins, yogurt, cold cereal, juice, and coffee and tea. We checked out of the lodge and found our driver. We headed into Amboseli to the airstrip. Fewer animals than yesterday - our guide thinks because it is colder. A few interesting things about Amboseli - it is very shallow and the water table is high. In fact, there is a lodge/camp which is now abandoned because some of it is now under a few inches of water. It is kind of eerie driving past it. The dirt is lighter color in that area because of the salt in it. At Tawi (our lodge), the dirt was deep red - volcanic from Kilimanjaro. (Kilimanjaro was completely obscured by clouds this morning).

On the way to the airstrip, we stopped and saw a male lion just hanging out. He is 12 or 13 years old with a very dark mane - as they age, their mane gets darker. They also get more aggressive and will eat anything they can and less picky because they aren’t as fast as they used to be. Male lions only live to about 15 years so he is a senior citizen!

On this return flight, there is another couple on board. But there were also people waiting - there is another plane that comes in shortly. Masks are required in any public setting and we had our temp taken and given hand sanitizer before boarding. Since cloud cover is low, we were quickly above cloud cover, so there is nothing to watch on this flight.

We arrived in Nairobi (Wilson airport) on time - collected our luggage – which was weighed again and went through security again. Then we waited about an hour for our flight. The next flight to Masai Mara was a twin otter and held 15 people, but there were only about 12 on board. We arrived at Olare Orok airstrip and met our driver, Bill.

It was about 20 minutes to camp - this is Porini Lion camp in the Olare Orok Conservancy. After arrival, we were given a tour and had about 30 minutes until lunch. Lunch was a salad starter, then tilapia with saffron rice, rolls, and fruit tart dessert. This camp is very eco-friendly - only solar power in the tents, only cold running water, and non-permanent tents (they are plastic floors with rugs and can move them every year if needed). There is a media tent with wifi and power strips which ends up being the place that people hang out as they are charging things, or downloading photos, etc.

After lunch was chill time, then we met at the lounge tent at 3:45 for tea and fresh muffins. At 4pm, we went out on our game drive. We were on a hunt for cats - cheetahs, leopards, and lions. We started with pumbas (warthogs), giraffes, wildebeest, topi, gazelles, hyenas. Then found a lioness sleeping with two little cubs asleep in nursing position. Nearby, were two male lions also snoozing.

Then we found a lion in a ridge looking out and eventually his brother. We thought they were hunting, but they quickly started moving and were making little mini-roars trying to find their pride. At this point, there were three vehicles and we would each jump ahead to where they were walking so they walked right past our vehicle. (Within 5 ft). After following them for about 45 minutes, we stopped for sunset photos. It had been thundering on and off in the distance, but we hadn’t had much more than sprinkles. The sunset popped through, so we had a sundowner with drinks and beignets and nuts. We returned to camp in the dark.

This camp is full with some important people here. Jeffrey Wu is a photographer I follow on social media- and he is here. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to pick his brain since he has two Chinese clients so is working with them. I couldn’t even eavesdrop for pointers since they aren’t speaking English! He will be doing a TikTok Livestream at the end of the month, so it will be fun to look for. Also, the Managing Director of Gamewatchers with his family. Gamewatfchers is our travel agent and the owner of the Porini Camps.

When we returned, two people showered before dinner. Dinner was butternut squash soup, beef fillet with potatoes and broccoli/cauliflower, rolls, and Apple strudel for dessert. After dinner, two more showered and we headed to bed. Everyone was excited for hot water bottles in bed as the temperatures have dropped.

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:45 AM

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:46 AM

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:48 AM

some photos. Ok, the real photographers are going "post process d&@** it!" ... but I'm learning. So these are directly from camera - not color corrected, not cropped. They could use a little work, but I'm trying to check one thing off my list - and I want to encourage people that Africa is safe right now, so I'm doing this first. ◡̈

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:50 AM

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:51 AM

Heimdall Sep 28th, 2021 10:23 AM

Still following your report and enjoying it. I had much the same experience with Kili, revealing itself occasionally, but most of the time obscured by cloud. Your photos are great, and the one that caught my eye was the flamingo and it’s reflection in the water. Well done!

CaliNurse Sep 28th, 2021 09:26 PM

Enjoying this so much, Surfmom. Great photos, great memories (Porini Lion). And unique, wonderful Uganda too coming! Thanks for taking the time to write this.
Smiled at description of your first post-long-flights meal We too stayed at Eka, but at end of safari, and devoured their burgers. I don't recall if they were particularly tasty, but at that point, we wanted good ol' standard "comfort food."
Keep on having a super trip. Safari njema!

ankitasingh4u Sep 29th, 2021 03:26 AM

Nice and amazing photo. Is it taken by you?
Good photography.:tu:

Jsm1 Sep 29th, 2021 09:27 AM

The photos you took look the absolute best! You definitely got the perfect shot on the Flamingo with its reflection on the water. These are much appreciated, I'll be following along the trip!

Leely2 Sep 29th, 2021 10:35 AM

I agree, no need to apologize for your photography! I'm enjoying the report and the photos, looking forward to the next installment.

TPAYT Sep 30th, 2021 12:39 PM

I too am enjoying your fantastic trip report. It may be the closest I ever get to a Safari and all those animals.

We were scheduled to go to Africa in April 2020. Of course that got rebooked for April 2021 and now rebooked again for April 2022. We did take out insurance that we thought covered everything but unfortunately in very tiny print was “not covered for epidemic” so we will be out a bundle if this trip doesn’t happen. Our trip is in a different location. Cape Town up to Kruger Park and Victoria Falls but I imagine the animals to be the same as your location.

So, right now I am living vicariously through your words and lovely photos and hoping that we travel in 2022.
If Covid is still running strong in 2022 we may never get there.

surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:03 AM

Day 6: Thursday – Masai Mara (Porini Lion)

We are staying in a family tent - two bedrooms with a central living space. The central space has a couch and chairs which is nice for hanging out. Only have cold running water, so have to take safari showers instead. They bring a bucket of hot water and raise it above the shower - when the shower is on, you get hot water, otherwise nothing. You coordinate with them when to take a shower.

We received our wake up call with coffee, tea, and cookies at 5:45 and met our driver at 6:15 to start the day. We first stopped by the lioness with cubs and watched them play. The guides (we have Bill - our driver - and John as a spotter) think the babies are about 2 months old. They were very active and tackling each other and rolling around. Mom just kept a close watch on them and also for any predators.

We then left and there was a kill a ridge over that the lions were feeding on. We got ahead of the male lion and followed him down towards the river and the bushes where he would nap. There was a second male just laying in the grass. Coming down the hill was a lioness all bloodied (face, paws, legs). The second lioness started down the hill carrying the wildebeest remains, but it was hard work. She would stop every 15 seconds or so to rest and check for predators. There was a jackal following her and he would sneak between her legs and get a few bites before retreating. Our guides thought he was brave.

After a few minutes, the male that we had followed down the hill walked back up and took over carrying duties. He also stopped to rest and scan the area for predators. (Usually would be hyenas because they will come as a pack and steal a kill). After watching that for a while, we moved on. We looked for leopards and cheetahs for a bit without success. Then it was time for a picnic breakfast.

We stopped above a hippo pool where we could see and hear the hippos below. Thankfully, the wind was blowing so we could not smell them. Breakfast was pancakes, toast, bacon, sausage, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, fruit, and coffee/tea.

After breakfast we stopped and watched a herd of elephants for a while. Continued the hunt for cheetahs and leopards, but no success. We returned to camp about 11am. At camp, we charged devices, read, and chilled until lunch. Lunch was a starter of salad of apple, carrots, and beets, then the main course was veggie pizza, ribs, and grilled veggies. Dessert was a lemon tart.

After lunch, we played a few games, read, and napped. Tea of pound cake was at 3:45 and game drive at 4pm.

Storms have been forecast all afternoon and we watched them in the distance. We saw a different herd of elephants, large crocodiles sunning themselves in the riverbank, and about a dozen elephants that walked past our vehicle. During our hunt, we saw a lioness in the grass - our spotter had seen her way before any of us did. We continued the hunt for leopards and cheetahs, but heard that the lions had killed a hippo, so went to check it out.

Unfortunately, there were already vehicles surrounding it, so we couldn’t get close enough to see. (This conservancy has a rule that only 5 vehicles around something and if more than that, someone has to leave.) since there was a ranger watching, we moved on. Nearby, at the river bank, we heard someone had seen the leopard. We got into position just as the rains came. We could see the baby moving around in the bushes, but didn’t see mom. Our guide, Bill, told us that the mom must be nearby because the cub was playing. If mom was out hunting, she would have hidden the cub and told him to stay there.

By this time, the rain came. The lightning was fun to watch in the distance, but only a few big thunder booms. After closing the roof (canvas roof) and putting the side curtains down (on one side - the side that the rain was coming in), we waited for the cub to appear again. We backed up to get a better position to see the bush she was in, and seemed to get stuck. We didn’t worry about it, just waited and watched.

The leopard and cub climbed a nearby tree and it was fun to watch them jumping from branch to branch in the tree. We decided it was probably time to leave, so attempted to get out of the hole. And tried again. And again. The guides went out and looked and we were really in a deep hole. They tried to put chains on it, and tried rocking it, and another vehicle came to help. There were other guests who were also giving advice (probably too many cooks in the kitchen!), and this other vehicle tried to help by pulling us out backwards. No luck. Eventually, they tied a rope forwards and pulled us out. We turned around so we could go forward up the hill and avoid the same hole (and the river which was down below).

This whole process took about 45 minutes and it was close to dark by now. We were the last vehicle left and headed for home. It took us about 20 minutes to get home - and was an exciting trip. Since it had rained so hard, the “roads” were ruts and became difficult. Our driver did a good job of getting us home through some deep mud.

Once home, we took 20 minutes and the cold, wet ones showered before dinner. At 8, we went to dinner - it was celery and sweet potato soup starter (we think it had ginger in it), grilled chicken, potatoes, and carrots/snap peas for dinner. Dessert was a fruit crepe. We headed to our tent to get organized for tomorrow - we are moving camps.

surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:08 AM

Heimdall Jsm1 Thanks for your comments - the reflections were amazing and I have a ton of photos and still need to go through them all!

CaliNurse Glad you like Porini Lion also! You and I have traveled many of the same places! ◡̈

ankitasingh4u yes, all my photos. glad you enjoying them!

Leely2 thanks for the nice words. I had a photographer chastise me for not post-processing. Not my strength.

TPAYT I hope that you can make it happen. Many friends thought we were crazy - but we actually did our original trip that was booked in January 2020 without any changes (other than adding testing throughout). I'm hopeful that you can get there!

surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:15 AM

surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:23 AM

surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:24 AM
full belly!

surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:46 AM

Day 7: Friday – Masai Mara (Mara Ngenche)

We were up early again for a morning game drive. It was a busy night with lots of hyenas in the background (whooop) and hippos snorting and snuffling in the river, and something large came by in the middle of the night. I heard it rustling by and the tent shook - either from large feet next to it or rubbing against the tent. When I asked this am, I was told the hippos were very active and marching back and forth all night. Before bed, after the rain came through, we saw lots of stars and the Milky Way directly overhead.

Our wake up came at 5:45 and we departed at 6:15. We saw a beautiful sunrise. We stopped by the kill from the previous night and saw at least 6 lions around - 2 still eating, 2 playing, and 2 sitting around in food coma. The hippo was not a kill, but had died of natural causes. Our guides thought it will feed the lions for about a week. The hyenas were circling all around the area - at least 25 were around. There were also jackals and vultures keeping an eye on it.

We parked once and then realized we were on the downwind side of the hippo so moved to the other side. The lions were wet and bloodied from feeding. After a few minutes, we moved on to find a leopard. We passed the hole where we got stuck (and stayed far away) and continued along the river bank.

After 5 or so minutes, our spotter saw a leopard - it was not Fig (who we had seen the night before climbing the tree), it was Natito. She is only a few years old and a bit skittish around people and cars. We were encouraged to be very quiet and not move around the vehicle to spook her. She came right out of the woods and stood and looked at us for a long time. Eventually, other cars joined us and she moved into the open field. As she was deciding where to go and looking for something to hunt, we heard a big lion roar - he was warning anyone that was his territory. After watching her for a bit, we had to return to camp.

We were supposed to get Covid tested at 8:45, but there was a delay, so we had breakfast first. Breakfast was fruit, toast, scrambled eggs, bacon/sausage, and coffee and tea. We found out the new plan, packed up and headed to our next camp.

We drove to Ol Kiombo airstrip to meet the driver for the next camp - Mara Ngenche. Ol Kiombo is an interesting airstrip - a little bigger than Olare Orok. There were more vehicles waiting, and armed guards walking around. (Of course, “armed” takes on different qualities from a big gun to a stick). There were also people in the field hawking wares. This is where we will depart from to head to Uganda in a few days, but for now, we are meeting our driver from the next camp here.

We headed to Mara Ngenche “20 minutes”… it was more like 55 minutes. It wasn’t far - only 15 km, but when you are in a four wheel vehicle going slowly over bumps, it takes a while. Upon arrival, we got checked in, and selected our lunch menu and then had a few minutes to get settled. Lunch was vegetable soup starter, mains of beef lasagna (Mom), chicken (the boys), and stir fry vegetables (D1), dessert was a mango panacotta. After lunch, we showered (they have individual hot water tanks for each tent), washed out socks and underwear, napped in the hammock, and organized. At 4pm, we met Peter, our driver, for evening game drive.

We were headed to meet the doctor for Covid tests, so headed that direction. On the way, we saw a cheetah finishing its kill. He was very skittish and hid in the bushes when he saw us. But he also kept a close eye on his kill and kept scanning for possible thieves of his kill. The kill was a gazelle and he had already eaten a portion of the back of it. We watched him for a little bit - the only bad thing was other vehicles were interested when they saw us watching. In the actual park (Masai Mara), there is no limit in the amount of vehicles around an animal or kill.

After a bit, we were off again to meet the doctor. We could see the rain coming, so we stopped and pulled down the canvas curtains on the vehicle. Good thing we did, because within 2 minutes, it poured. The roads quickly become a mess, and when coordinating with the doctor, he didn’t want to go too far into the park because he had a normal SUV and didn’t want to get stuck. Eventually, we met him - he climbed in our vehicle (in the midst of the thunderstorm), sat in the front seat and did the tests from there. Unfortunately, the first thing he said was “passports?” And we looked at each other blankly. Luckily, we had scanned them before we left, so we had electronic copies that he was able to use.

After Covid tests, we headed back to camp in the rain - and got there just before dark. In the park, you aren’t allowed to do evening drives, so we were trying to get back to avoid an issue.

We played games before dinner, and then dinner at 8pm. It was vegetable samosa starter, cream of cauliflower soup, grilled pork chops, potatoes and vegetables and dessert was coffee mousse or vanilla cake. After dinner, we had to get malaria pills, so after we each went to our own tent, John and I walked through the “back path” (each of our backyards opens adjacent to each other). When we came out of the kids tent 20 minutes later, there were camp workers standing there waiting for us and we were scolded not to go out at night without a guard. Oops. We headed to bed then.

surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:48 AM
you can see the jackal who would sneak in for bits and bites!

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