unbelievable but true: trip report august 2008

Mar 30th, 2009, 09:45 AM
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unbelievable but true: trip report august 2008

Again it is long time ago… I am embarrassed that I did not write any trip report for our wonderful trip we made last august although I’ve got so much help here in the forum. Hopefully I am not too late and the report will be of some help or at least some good entertainment. I started the report in September just after we came back and never finished the last part (I was taken by some difficult family-planning-problems;-))) which I do now… And please excuse my writing, there will be a lot of mistakes...

Trip report Kenya from August 13 to August 28, 2009

Nearly three weeks back from Kenya and I feel like my trip was last year. Already taken by the office, I always have to remind me how wonderful it was just to be in the bush. To wait for the wake up call – I always wake up even before 5.30 am which was our wake up call time this trip – by dreaming of what I would really love to see the upcoming day. Not thinking about anything else but animals and beautiful landscapes. Not knowing one day after arrival which day of the week or which date we have. Time is only relevant for the meeting with our guide. We could have said as well “just before sun rising”. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but this is what I feel when I watch the pictures my husband made and try to go back. It is so different from home, from work, from life at my office… and that’s why ;-)

OK, now I have to start with the facts:

Our itinerary has been modified before booking the trip, thanks to Sandi, Patty, Lynn and all the others giving advice – THANK YOU SO MUCH to everybody. It was just perfect, never had a trip like this:

Itinerary
1 night NAI – Holiday Inn
3 nights Samburu – Elephant Bedroom
2 nights Samburu – SaSaab
2 nights Nakuru – Flamingo Hill
3 nights Mara – Mara Bush Camp (Sunworldsafaris)
1 night Mara – Serena
3 nights Mara – Mara Explorer Camp

The only negative point was that we had to go back after two weeks. It was much too short…

Just before we left, I read Mikes trip report who did a trip just a week before us which was very similar. We often talked about it because it was funny to see how different things were for us. We never had the chance to see so many animals which was probably because it was the first time in the Mara together with the big herds. But even then we were so so so lucky…

First of all I want shortly describe the camps:

Elephant Bedroom, Samburu
This is a magic place! Location is good – not as good as Larsens which is more centred and nearer to the bridge to go on the other side of the river (Samburu, the camp is on Buffalo Springs side) but just wonderful. Compared to Larsens, it is more “natural”, only 10 tents directly on the river (but privacy is not too good this time of the year, no trees left between the tents but eaten up by the elephants). For us it was luck that we were after one day the only guests for the second night and the third night only one other couple arrived. First night was a bit freaky, I had the impression that Samburu in general was very low in business (friends stayed at Samburu Game Lodge the same time and were the only guests (!) for two nights) and there was a bunch of 5 young Kenyans behaving like this was their camp… people of camp were very stiff and it was kind of weird. Next day the boys vanished and everything changed back to normal and we had the warmest and best service ever. One of the guys was the son of the owner of the camp and this was why everybody cared too much about them.
The food was everything from excellent to still ok, but we enjoyed that people were so friendly and making a lot of funny jokes. Having the impression that this camp is fighting against low tourism, all of them told us that they were so happy to at least have us there and to tell our friends to come and visit. They seem to fear the worst…
During night, Elephants come to camp. Normally I don’t wake up during the nights but this time, no problem: they make such noise… but it was wonderful to be just a meter or two away from them, we had full moon and could see them very well sniffing around our tent. Just great and I loved it very much.
Oh, and I didn’t know that you have electricity for some hours in the evening to charge batteries or dry hair… (which I couldn’t without a hairdryer;-)
We stayed 3 days and it was very very hard to leave this wonderful place on earth.

There will be more…
steffid is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 10:41 AM
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Nice to see another report about Elephant Bedroom! That was one of our favorite places from our 2007 trip. We also had the experience of having our tent surrounded by browsing elephants under a full moon -- just magical! Thanks for your report, and I'm looking forward to more.
MyDogKyle is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 05:03 PM
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Great start Steffid. Glad you decided to share your report at last.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 05:47 PM
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Thanks for starting your report! Looking forward to more.
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Mar 31st, 2009, 04:41 AM
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Thank you for the ecouragement;-)

SaSaab
SaSaab is special. I call it special because I don’t want to influence people from what I write but want to give them a possibility to check if this could be their camp (I dont know if I succeeded to stay objective in some way...). It is heaven on earth but as well it is not.

First of all, we had to drive there and we didn’t know how far west it was. Nearly one hour from west gate of Samburu, and I can tell the road is not the best (you would have to make this trip every day if you want to do game drives in Samburu). So we arrived for lunch completely dirty (I am always standing up even while we drive quite speedy) and honestly not prepared to what happened next: we were greeted by the managers of SaSaab, Ali who is Kenyan and Tom who is from GB and a whole bunch of others and they stared at us like we were coming from the moon. I think we stared the same way… The – I don’t know if this is the right word – camp is built on a hill looking down on the Ewaso Ngiro - a really wonderful place and you can see the bush until the horizon which is very peaceful. The styling of the camp was just perfect – like heaven on earth. It opened a year ago and everything was very very stylish, the dining area, the “tents”, the drinks and the people. But it was kind of surreal.

Our room was about 140 sqm, private plunge pool, fantastic view, we had our “own” dik dik, kudu, hyrax and loads of wonderful birds. It is, as the manager said, a perfect place to chill out. But it was not for us… I must admit, we enjoyed to have some time for us, to read some pages of the book we took with us and just to sit there and watch the elephants coming to drink at night. But elephants, house kudu, house dik dik and house hyraxes were the only animals we saw there. We made a “game drive” which cannot be called like this, we saw nothing but lifestock. There is only one road going west, no possibility to drive along the river. They are still building up roads in the area – I think this will take another 5 years… We made two walks with Daudi, a Samburu who was fantastic guide, very friendly, we had lots of fun with him, he knew every bird, but we didn’t see anything else. The sundowner was on a rock with a view I never had before. The landscape is just beautiful, romantic. But we missed the animals. And our guide. He was not allowed to be with us (we didn’t know this before). And after two nights when we left the camp very early in the morning, he told us that he had to pay for lodging and he got only ONE meal per day and only vegetables he didn’t like. And we paid a fortune… and gave him the money they took from him in addition to our quite high room rates which was quite a lot for him.

Food was good, not extraordinary (I liked it better at Elephant Bedroom but I think I liked everything better there and that is why I didn’t like the food to much).

You can feel that we would never go back to SaSaab but I cannot tell that it’s about the camp or the setting. So if you are looking for a camp to chill out without having a lot of game drives the camp is ideal. But I would never stay at SaSaab with the plan to be at Samburu Parc during day time – you would have to make this awful trip of one hour twice a day…

Flamingo Hill Lake Nakuru
Flamingo Hill Camp is situated near Nakuru town and this is the first negative point: you can hear the city during the evenings and nights, so not much of a bush feeling. We have been there for 2 nights and were, together with our friends, the only guests. The camp itself is nice, not too much of luxury but the tents are quite big. The tents are on a fixed basement and are standing all in a row so you can hear what the neighbours (only our friends so we didn’t care) are talking or doing in the bathroom (;-))) You have no view to the Lake. And you have to drive around 10 to 15 Minutes into the Parc. Dinner was excellent, service quite ok. I had problems with the shower (at least with the warm water) but I think this was because of the fact that there were no other guests.

We visited Lion Hill Lodge – I normally prefer camps and that’s why we chose Flamingo Hill – and I must admit it would have been the better choice at least with respect to the setting. The view is spectacular and the location is much better than Flamingo Hill.

There will be more, hopefully during the day.
steffid is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 02:22 AM
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Mara Bush Camp (Sunworldsafaris)
Mara Bush is located in the Musiara part of Masai Mara near Ol Kiombo Airstrip (just 5-10 Minutes drive from Interpids) and therefore is ideal for the Migration. The setting is very nice on a riverbank. The camp is built up just for the months of the Migration so they normally start in July and bring it down end of October.

We were a bit unlucky because we had a lot of rain every evening and this is not the best choice being in a semi-permanent camp. But the tents are nicely furnished – it is not the luxury of Kichwa Tembo, Bateleur or Olonana, but it is fair with respect to the rates they have. Shower is on request, water is hot but if you intent to be well-tended for dinner, you should be there on daylight – the light is very dim;-)) The meals were ok but honestly not excellent. During our stay, Ms. Nowak from Sunworld Safaris arrived and took care about the making of the meals which was necessary and helped quite a lot.

All in all with respect to the rates they have this is an ideal camp for people looking for a very unspoiled, natural camp where you are in the middle of the bushes. For Migration its best, the crossing points are not far away.

Mara Serena
Everybody knows Mara Serena, so I keep it short: I don’t like these big, for me huge lodges, but I must admit that the location is the best you can have in the Mara for spotting the Migration. you could just sit at the pool and wait with the binoculars at hand until the wildebeest come down to the crossing point. This location gives you enough time to drive there as soon as they assemble at the crossing points. The view is splendid and the service is Serena standard. One night was perfect – we had a wonderful crossing.

There is only one Problem: during this busy time in august, there are a lot of guards keeping people away from animals and preventing cars from going off-road. The problem is the new park rules: in this area, off-roading was allowed until last year. They allow it because there is not quite the comparable amount of roads like in Musiara Triangle. The new ruling prohibits off-roading (and a lot more) which makes game viewing much more difficult. It is for sure difficult to find an adequate ruling with the amount of people staying at the big lodges like Serena during high season…

Mara Explorer
Heaven on earth – this is my camp. It is the best combination of all: the location is brilliant, the setting of the tents (we had no. 4) it wonderful, giving you a lot of privacy and the feeling of being in the middle of the bushes (ok, long way from tent to main area, but we don’t care). We had hippos and waterbucks in front of the tent (only 5 meters away on the sandy bank of the river), during the night we had a leopard around our tent (we didn’t see him but heard him;-)), lions just around, it was the perfect bush feeling. And all this in combination with the highest luxury… food was excellent… just a dream!!!!

Now, I wrote too much with respect to camps…

Trip:
From Nairobi we took the plane to Samburu which was a good choice. It took us some time because we first had to drop guests for Lewa Down, Elsas Kopje and Laikipia before taking off to Samburu International Airport;-)) The schedule was the other way round so that our guide was already waiting for us around two hours…

Samburu was fantastic, dry and ho during the day, cool during the night. We have been lucky and had a lot of lion sightings, even three cubs only a few weeks old!! At lunchtime big groups of Elephant and Giraffes cam down to the Riverbed for drinking and one day we were lucky to see a whole group of giraffes crossing the river together with a huge group of elephant. This was a fantastic sighting. Bird sightings were excellent. Only once we saw a cheetah with a young one which was very shy but unfortunately no leopard showed of. We were told that they brought several leopard to Meru just a few weeks before we came. People from Samburu Game logde feeded them in front of the lodge and they became intrusive and lazy… I don’t know if this is only a story or not…

Game viewing at Samburu was fantastic, it is a wonderful parc with its specialties like gerenuks and grevys and I very much liked the landscape and the river with its wonderful palms.

Game drives at SaSaab which is around an hour driving west from the western Gate is very poor. The property is full of lifestock, there is nothing to feed on for animals and therefore the land is empty. As I already explained, this is a place to go for relaxing not for game viewing…

The driving from Samburu to Nakuru was quite hard. I was always thinking of Sandi who told me not to drive the whole way in one day… And she was perfectly right: the first 3 hours (for us nearly 4 hours, because we had to go back to Samburu first from SaSaab) on a non paved road were awful. Evey part of your body is full of dust even if you shut every window (which is unsupportable because of the heat;-))). After this part, the road gets much better and it’s a nice but very long trip around Mount Kenya. Wonderful landscape, interesting to see the differences of living of the diverse tribes. But looooooong.

We started at 6 in the morning and arrived at Nakuru, Flamingo Hill around 5 pm. So we got an hour in the park which was perfect because we saw the first leopard. Only thing: there were around 30 other cars (which we were not used to in Samburu where we were nearly the only ones in the park). And every vehicle tried to get closest to him – poor guy… we had a glimse on him for several minutes and my husband took lovely pictures of him crawling down a tree – but it was very far away.

Next day was one of the most memorable days on Safari: it was the flamingo and pelican day. I loved the park even if it is close to town and full of vehicles. But its very different from the dryness of Samburu and brought variety in our trip. My husband was like drunken of flamingos and pelicans and made around 600 shots in two hours!! Crazy, but worth it. And I was standing beside him admiring who beautiful this white and rose of the birds can be. The rising of the pelicans, leaving the lake in groups to set off in the sky, flying in rows like they were bead, fantastic.

We have been lucky crossing not only white but as well black rhinos during the day and we had a nice coincidence with two lionesses and two cubs being chased away from their prey by two rhinos… I couldn’t believe first but the rhinos seemed to be angry because the lions were feeding in the middle of their nice and lush grassland… It was like they played hide and seek, the lions being chased away hided in the high grasses and as soon as the Rhinos got their track, again chased them away. We had a lot of fun!

Unfortunately one day was not enough for Nakuru but we had to leave for the Mara. Next time I would prefer to stay at least 3 nights to get one whole day more at Nakuru or to have a stop over from Samburu to Nakuru and to arrive earlier the first day.
steffid is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 08:57 AM
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The trip from Nakuru to the Mara is even worse than from Samburu to Isiolo. The road is still under construction (and it will stay under construction for the next 20 years;-)) and the driving made me mad… but I got everything compensated during the 7 days we had in the Mara!!! I loved being in Samburu and I wouldn’t have missed Nakuru, but the Mara in August is like heaven on earth. We got up at 5.30 every day, took breakfast and lunch as picnic (we had lunch only once at Mara Explorer just to try) and came back just after sunset. Every day provided an adventure: the hunt of three cheetah-brothers (anybody knows their name? I am not used to the names of the well known lion prides and cheetah groups) – only one of them was strong enough to bring down a fully grown wilderbeest!! – 3 leopards near Mara Bush Camp (but it was raining and nearly dark), lions mating during 5 (!) days in front of the camp so we easily passed them every day on the way out of camp, our first organized lion hunt of 5 lionesses and 6 cubs during daytime (ok, it was at 5.45 am) which was very exiting, masses of wilderbeest, zebras and other antelopes, 3 (!) huge crossings of wilderbeest and zebras which was my most memorable sighting (one from Mara Serena side), tiny jackal-cubs, uncountable lion prides and groups of fantastic males, Kike’s daughter (that’s what we were told) on top of another car just beside us – I very much hoped that she or one of her two cubs will jump on our car but they only took the 4W without pop-up roof, probably next time.

Seven days in the Mara were perfect. We had two days with a lot of driving leaving Musiara side to go for Mara Serena Lodge which took us around 3,5 hours of fast driving. The way back we took a little more time. It was nice to have the view from Serena once but I preferred the other side as to game. We have been very very lucky that the day we arrived at Serena side the wilderbeest crossed from Musiara to Serena side and the next day they went back again. It was like somebody did it especially for us… Ok we had our fifth wedding day but this was not expected

Trying to remember of more adventures and sightings we had…
steffid is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 10:10 AM
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Wonderful report! Thanks for posting so many details and opinions about the places you stayed. I also loved Samburu (one of my favorite stops in Kenya) and Lake Nakuru (despite the number of cars), and 7 days in the Mara sounds like heaven. I'm sure your report will be helpful for others planning their trips.
MyDogKyle is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 10:20 AM
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Thank you MyDogKyle.
Samburu is wonderful and the Mara in August is indeed a dream...
steffid is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 02:45 PM
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Thanks for the report, this is excellent. I was particularly interested in your comparison between the Serena and Mara Bush Camps as we are considering both as well. It sounds like access to great game viewing and the migration were good from Mara Bush Camp but it is a longer drive than I thought to get from there to the Serena.
twaffle is offline  
Apr 1st, 2009, 04:32 PM
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Great report and very helpful with your Mara sightings, locations, and accommodations.
atravelynn is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 09:51 AM
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I really enjoyed your trip report and candid comments. Thanks, steffid!

twaffle,
Are you thinking of splitting your stay? We did a longer transfer (by choice) from Kicheche to Ilkeliani and viewed it as an all day game drive. We left Kicheche around 10:00am and got to Ilkeliani before 6:00pm stopping for lunch at the Serena along the way. FWIW we thought it was a pleasant day.
Patty is online now  
Apr 2nd, 2009, 09:14 PM
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Patty, I am not sure yet how to manage our stay in the Mara. We have been offered good rates at Mara Bush Camp, pretty much the same price as Serena but as it is a small tented camp that would be a big bonus. I am trying to get an idea of driving to the different parts of the Mara when staying at one place and would be happy to take lunch and just go for the day. Maybe 2 different locations over 5 nights would be ok. I will need to start a thread soon as I am getting my ideas close enough to needing more specific help and I don't want to hijack someone elses thread. Definitely Ithumba though!
twaffle is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2009, 07:09 AM
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Hi twaffle,

just making daytrips to get in another area is possible but I would not recommend it. you will loose a lot of time and in case you really want to drive in another part of the Mara this will cause extra costs. ou must know that the Masai Mara National Park is split into three parts, the Musiara Section, the Mara Triangle and the Sekenani Section. Each Section hat ist own park fees. For our trip to the Serena Part, we started at Musiara Section, had to go through Sekenani Section and arrived in Mara Triangle Section. We therefore had to pay three times... Driving up north and go directly to the Triangle Section was not possible, because we then would have to pass through Koyiaki Group Ranch Section and pay even more...

The Mara is quite big, just to have an idea: from Mara Bush or Mara Explorer it takes about an hour drive to the crossing points at Mara river in front of Serena. From Serena it takes just 10 minutes to rush down to the mara river and you could even sit on the lodges terrace to observe the movements of the wilderbeast. Our drive form Mara Bush to Serena was more of a rushing through Sekenani Section and less of a gmae drive. We used the bigger roads to be at the crossing points in the afternoon. Do not underestimate distance and time, it takes long to drive in the park.

I think it depend what time you are planning the trip and if you are keen on seeing the migration. Spliiting between Musiara Section and the Triangle is not a bad idea. Serena has for sure the best location in the Triangle. Mara Bush is completely diffrent from Serena so you have a good mixture. According to our experience, Musiara Section has the highest amount of wildies...

2 weeks in the Mara, what a dream;-))) we will have only one week - snifffff
steffid is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2009, 07:21 AM
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twaffle, on the website of the Masai Mara there are some pretty good maps:
http://www.maasaimara.com/ecosystem_show.asp?sec_id=17
steffid is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2009, 07:52 AM
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Great report! As for timing...when we were at Nakuru in March on a Friday, we only saw two other cars. Loved Nakuru for the birds and the surprising amount of wildlife. It was so dusty it jammed my camera lense. A makeup brush solved the problem. In Mt. Kenya the game spotting was also limited by the dryness. Animals left until the rains. The rains had just begun in the Mara so the animals were happier.
Elainee is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2009, 07:58 AM
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Elaine,
very interesting. I had never the experience with dryness. We always had a lot of rain... Nakuru with only two other cars must be wonderful!!
steffid is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2009, 11:13 AM
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steffid,
From that link you gave it says "The Musiara and Sekenani sections of the park are part of Narok district and therefore fall under the management and control of the Narok county council." That was my understanding as well, that you either pay your fees to Narok council or Mara Conservancy (for the Mara Triangle) within the reserve. I would've thought the most you would've had to pay was twice. Did you enter the Sekenani side through Talek gate? It's so very confusing! I'm glad we went when you could traverse different areas without having to pay extra fees.
Patty is online now  
Apr 6th, 2009, 03:39 AM
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Patty,

you are right, they give such information on that link. We entered at Talek Gate and we paid three times (already had paid for the Musiara Part and then we had tp pay for Sekenani and Triangle... I dont know whats happening there.

Friends stayed at Serena and came up to visit us at Musiara side. They passed on the western part and therefore had to pay Triangle, Koyaki pass through and Musiara Section...

Sorry, I didn't want to confuse everybody.
steffid is offline  
Apr 7th, 2009, 03:45 AM
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The name of the mother of the 3 cheetah males in the Mara was Honey. She was killed by an error that a Vet made in February '08. I was fortunate to see two of the male cheetahs in the Mara in September '08 and got some great pictures. The other male cheetah was there but was very hard to see in the grass a short distance away from the two males I photographed. The link for the story about Honey's tragic story can be found at:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...s-blunder.html

There is also information about how the three male cheetahs are doing in many of the "Big Cat Diary" blogs
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