A return to Kenya… for our 2nd Wedding Anniversary! (February 2011)
a photographic safari in Kenya, East Africa: Maasai Mara and Olare Orok
Day 1 : Porini Lion Camp (04 February 2011)
We’re here! And extremely happy to be back in Kenya!
It was a long queue for visas this morning, and now they have a fingerprint reader – all 10 digits are recorded! We retrieved our single suitcase (yes, we managed to only need one suitcase between the two of us for our clothes and toiletries, just the bare essentials) and were met by a Game Watchers representative.
The road transfer to from Nairobi International Airport to Wilson Airport (for domestic flights) for our SafariLink flight to the Mara took some time, we just so happened to be travelling in morning rush hour. En route, we passed by the football stadium and basketball court.
At Wilson Airport, our delight over the single suitcase was soon erased when our two camera bags were added to the scale. We (knowingly) went over our weight limit for luggage; luckily we were able to take our bags after paying for the excess kilos – phew!
Though still a small aircraft, our flight from Wilson to Ol Kiombo was in a larger plane than we were used to. We hoped the larger size would mean less turbulence, but that was not the case. Thankfully, Ol Kiombo was the first stop in the Maasai Mara and only took a short 35 minutes.
Jerald and Ken, our guides from Porini Lion Camp, came to meet us at Ol Kiombo airstrip. We recognised Jerald straight away from our trip last year but it wasn’t till we recounted some of our sightings, in particular our sighting of cheetah mum, Narasha, and her two young cubs who were practicing their hunting skills on a baby ‘tommy’, that he recalled us. He described the location exactly, and the Maasai who had been walking nearby, and before we knew it, he was remembering other sightings we had had with him too!
We learned that Narasha and her cubs were still together and had been seen just a couple of days earlier; we couldn’t wait to see them again. Also high on our wildlife wish list was of course, a leopard; Heiko mentioned the leopard sighting from last year, the one with a kill high in a tree just 100 metres from the camp, only to have finished it’s meal and left just before we had arrived. We were hoping for much better luck this time around and boy were we in for a treat this time!
“Oh, there is a leopard in an apple tree” said Jerald, as we left to make our way to camp.
Shortly after leaving the airstrip we crossed over a small riverbed, and as we did so, a hippo popped it’s head up above the water, watching us pass. Heiko and I exchanged an excited glance, elated to be in Africa once again. Driving through a vast open plain, we appeared to be heading in the direction of a lone tree. Even without binoculas it was obvious that there was something high up in the gnarled branches, and sure enough, just 10 minutes after leaving the airstrip, we found ourselves in the presence of one of the most elusive cats in Africa. What a fabulous way to begin our trip!
High in the branches of the tree, we watched a hungry leopard feasting on the last remains of a reedbuck. When all the meat was gone, he gracefully jumped to the ground to rest in the shade of the tree.
We left him in peace then and continued our way to camp, for a very late lunch.
At camp, Jackson, the head guide, welcomed us as we climbed out of the vehicle. This year we’re staying in tent number 4: “Chui”, which means leopard in Swahili. Heiko and I exchanged a glance, both of us thinking how appropriate it was to be staying in a tent named Chui, when the second animal we had seen on our trip, was indeed a leopard. We hoped this was a sign of good things to come.
We thought it would be fun to record a video diary of our trip so we recorded a short video once we were settled in our tent, to document our experience so far. I wasn’t so sure I liked being on that side of the camera and soon had a fit of nervous giggles, but knowing it would be nice to play back after our trip, we continued with it.
Lunch: a buffet of pork spare ribs, pizza slices (topped with all kinds of vegetables, delicious!), beetroot salad and coleslaw, with a passion fruit mousse for desert (which we weren’t particularly keen on).
With our camera bags ready for our afternoon game drive, we made our way to the mess tent for coffee and tea, and to fill up our beanbags with rice and beans.
We headed out with Jerald and Ken and searched the treeline for a very elusive resident leopard. Unsuccessful in our leopard search we drove to the hill behind the camp to look for a cheetah that some other guests had seen during their lunch. In the distance at the bottom of the hill, our guides spotted the cheetah. The vet was treating it for scabies so, unfortunately, we couldn’t go near.
We turned our attention to the abundant game that surrounded us; zebra, wildebeest, topi, Thompson gazelles, and even herds of eland. We saw several jackals too, as well as spotted hyena (they had a den nearby) and bat-eared foxes (they’re shy creatures, so we didn’t drive close to them). We watched one jackal chase a dik dik (a very small antelope) which bounded and leapt all over the place; there was no chance the jackal was going to catch it and the chase was soon over.
A journey of maasai giraffe were all looking in our direction, Jerald’s favourite animal. Giraffe are the only animal to see in colour, all other animals see only in black and white.
Nestled amongst some small bushes we found a lone lioness, it was Naibor from the Enkoyanai pride. She was likely separated from the group because she was seeking out a new male. We stayed with her for a while, and for a brief moment she eyed-up some nearby zebra, but with a fairly full stomach she didn’t hunt. She didn’t go unnoticed though as we listened to several zebra barking alarm calls.
For sundowners, Jerald and Kennedy took us to a scenic spot at the top of a hill overlooking the conservancy with the Maasai Mara stretching far in the distance. They set up a small table, laying out dishes of nuts and crisps. Heiko and I enjoyed a Tusker beer whilst watching the sun set behind a perfectly placed tree. Herds of zebra, wildebeest and gazelles passed us by.
I was so determined to wait till we returned to camp but my bladder was seriously about to burst; hiding as best I could at the other side of the vehicle, I had to make use of the “bush loo” or as the boys called it, “checking the tyre pressure”.
The tree became a dark silhouette against an orange sky, and in barely any time at all the sun was below the horizon.
We had a “safari shower” (aka a “bucket shower”) when we returned to camp, and went straight for dinner where we met Philip, the new Camp Manager. We’re the only guests at the moment. The guests we met at lunch-time had left that afternoon.
Dinner: vegetable starter, lamb (Heiko had chicken) with couscous, carrots and brocolli. Baked apple with a caramel sauce for desert.
Having had another Tusker with dinner, our eyes are now super-sleepy. Can’t wait for some zzzz’s, and to see what tomorrow brings!