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-   -   The Safari (Kenya) and Gorilla (Uganda) Trip Report from August 2021. (https://www.fodors.com/community/africa-and-the-middle-east/the-safari-kenya-and-gorilla-uganda-trip-report-from-august-2021-a-1702122/)

surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:36 AM

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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

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surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:46 AM

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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

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surfmom Sep 28th, 2021 09:51 AM

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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

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surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:23 AM

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surfmom Oct 1st, 2021 07:24 AM

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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

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you can see the jackal who would sneak in for bits and bites!


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