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A Trip to Kenya – February 2016

Discussion in 'Kenya' started by LaughingDove, 31 Jan 2016.

  1. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    There are quite a few trip threads at the moment so I thought I’d make another one :p. As the title of the thread would suggest, I will soon be visiting Kenya. Specifically, I will be leaving Warsaw in the afternoon of Saturday the 6th of February (in just under one week’s time).
    I don’t really have a need for making a thread beforehand as my trip is pretty much completely planned but I’m really excited about the trip so I thought I’d post this, and I thought a few people may be interested in reading about it too. I will be posting a trip report in this thread after I get back, as well as uploading some pictures in the gallery, and I may post updates as I go along – time and internet access permitting.

    Anyway, my trip will be approximately one week long, and here is an itinerary:

    I leave Warsaw on the afternoon of Saturday the 6th and fly to Dubai. I then have the whole of the night of the 6th in Dubai due to having a 12-hour transit and I will be staying in a hotel near to the airport. I then leave Dubai early morning on the 7th and fly to Nairobi and I land in Nairobi at 2:45 PM on the 7th. That evening will be spent relaxing in my hotel or doing something in Nairobi.

    On the 8th, my safari starts. On the 8th, I leave in the morning and drive to the Maasai Mara. I will be staying in a camp in the Maasai Mara on the nights of the 8th and the 9th.

    After the Maasai Mara will be Lake Nakuru and I have one night there,

    Followed by one night at Lake Naivasha, and a whole day of safari the next day in which I will visit Hell’s Gate National Park on the drive back to Nairobi.

    I will then have one more night in Nairobi and the whole of the following day in Nairobi because my flight only leaves at 11 PM on the 13th (with a reasonable transit time in Dubai on the way back of a couple of hours). I haven’t got any solid plans for that final day, and I will probably only decide once I’m there, but I’m currently thinking of Nairobi National Park on that day or possibly some sort of zoo. I did most of the cultural attractions in Nairobi on my previous trip to Kenya in 2007, and since this trip is quite short, I will be prioritising animals.

    So to summarise, I have five days and four nights on safari, as well as one and a half days and two nights in Nairobi.

    People who are interested in this thread may also be interested in my Tanzania Trip thread from last February (http://www.zoochat.com/2255/laughingdoves-little-tanzanian-adventure-402179/) which was a school trip that was only part safari. This trip is with my family which we are able to do because we got quite a cheap price on the flights and on the safari (which is very much a budget safari) and it’s also sort of a late 16th birthday present for me (my birthday was three weeks ago).

    So it should be a fantastic trip, and I hope you will enjoy this thread. :)
     
  2. savethelephant

    savethelephant Well-Known Member

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    Look forward to reading! Have fun you Lucky Bastard:p
     
  3. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I landed in Kenya around three this afternoon, and I'm now in my accommodation. I've had a few hours of relaxed birding with a few nice sightings since my accommodation is opposite Nairobi national park.
    I will (hopefully) be posting a list of sightings in the big year thread (http://www.zoochat.com/65/2016-big-year-433540/) later tonight.

    Tomorrow the safari starts, and I'll just mention that there has been a slight change of itinerary in terms of the order I will do things, but it will still be the same stuff.
     
  4. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I just thought that I would post that I got back to Warsaw late this morning.

    I have posted the species that I have seen in the big year thread and I have uploaded/will be uploading pictures to the Kenya-Wildlife Gallery.

    I plan to post a trip report in this thread, as well as a review of the one zoo that I visited (Nairobi Safari Walk) when I have time over the next few weeks. :)
     
  5. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Hope you had a good trip! I'm looking forward to the report, and to hearing about the safari walk :)
     
  6. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Part 1: Flight to Kenya, and First Afternoon of Birding in Nairobi

    I left Warsaw in the early afternoon of the 6th and flew to Nairobi via Dubai. As my transit would suggest, my flight was with Emirates which I was quite pleased about since Emirates is by far my favourite airline. Anyone who has been on Emirates will appreciate the wonders of ‘ICE’ particularly as I was on one of the new 777s with the extra-large TV screens.

    The flight was slightly delayed, so we got to Dubai a bit late, but this wasn’t a huge problem due to the fact that we had a 12 hour layover in Dubai. There were flights with shorter layovers, but these were a few hundred PLN extra each which adds up into the thousands (1000 PLN is about $250 US) with the family of four, so we took the slightly cheaper option. To prevent us from being exhausted when we got to Nairobi, we decided to book a night in the Premier Inn next to Dubai International Airport, which we got to by about 1:30 AM (Dubai time). This gave us about five hours sleeping time after having something to eat, which is better than nothing.

    The next morning while waiting in the garden of the hotel for the airport shuttle bus to pick us up, I did manage to get some birding done, and spotted a couple of White-eared Bulbuls a few Collared Doves, a single Laughing Dove and some House Sparrows and Feral pigeons. I also saw a group of Common Myna from the shuttle bus on a grass verge by the side of the road – four year birds to start the trip isn’t too bad.

    The onward flight to Nairobi was pretty good too. It was a slightly older aircraft with smaller, low-quality screens, but it did have wifi access which is supposed to be limited to 10 MB free per person and $1 for 500MB after that, but if you keep putting in new email addresses you can have another 10MB each time :p.

    During the descent into Nairobi airport, the pilot announced that we would be flying over Nairobi National Park and we should look out for animals! I was sitting by the window, but the only thing I saw were cows around the edge of the National Park. Never mind, I would see plenty of stuff soon afterwards. The airport itself was fairly large compared to places like Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania which I visited about 11 months previously, and is apparently the largest airport in East Africa, though it was very small and old fashioned compared to places like Dubai (though the same could be said for most airports). The bus that took us from the plane to the terminal was extremely hot and sweaty, but I did get my first Kenyan bird of the year from the bus, a White-browed Sparrow-weaver. Getting through the airport itself was easy and quick since I had already got evisas, and we met a driver from the hotel outside the airport who picked us up. While he went to get the car, I saw several more Kenyan birds whilst standing outside the airport. These were Yellow-billed Kites, Pied Crows, Marabou Storks, and some Swallows and Swifts that I couldn’t identify with my binoculars still being in my bag, though they turned out to be Barn Swallows and Little Swifts (and there may have been some Red-rumped around as well). By this point it was four in the afternoon and the drive to the hotel (Hotel Troy) was about half an hour, but I was still super excited by all the birds that I was seeing, and in addition to loads more Marabous and Kites, during the drive I saw quite a few Superb Starlings, Sacred Ibis, and Cattle Egrets and while we were driving past Nairobi National Park, I even saw a few Maasai Giraffe.

    We soon reached the hotel, checked in, and went to the (quite nice) room for a short while, but I had seen a few exciting birds on the grounds so I went out to bird.

    The first thing I saw, was a lovely African Pied Wagtail and this is the very first picture that I took in Kenya:
    [​IMG]

    And a few other nice things around the lawn at the same time were Rufous Sparrows and Common Bulbuls, but on the drive into the hotel (the hotel is down a long driveway with dense vegetation on the sides) I had seen some Bee-eaters so I wanted to go back and check those out. They turned out to be Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters – success – my first lifers of the trip.
    [​IMG]

    And they were nesting in an area by the side of the road which was cool to see.
    [​IMG]
    I really wanted to get a picture of one as it was going into or coming out of a hole, but sadly they were too quick and I didn’t manage. I may have if I had more time, but there were loads of other birds to see and they were all starting to get active since it was around 5 PM.

    I continued to bird for the rest of the evening – the grounds turned out to be really great for birding – and I had seen 19 species by sunset a few hours later. The main highlight after the Bee Eaters was my second lifer of the trip, a lovely pair of Bronze Sunbirds that were mating and nesting in a big tree in the restaurant (which wasn’t bad) of the hotel.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    After dark I did look around the grounds with my torch before going to bed, but I only saw a few frogs and toads of which I am unsure of the IDs (all amphibian experts please see the gallery) and I’m sure I heard a Nightjar…
     
    Last edited: 19 Feb 2016
  7. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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  8. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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  9. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    Thanks for that LaughingDove, I enjoyed reading that. It reminds me I must get back to writing up my Tanzanian safari from 15 months ago!

    :p

    Hix
     
  10. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I hope you've got a good memory then! :p
     
  11. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Part 2: More Birding in Nairobi, a Great Rift Valley Drive, Hell’s Gate National Park

    I set my alarm for just after sunrise on the morning of the 8th so that I could get out early and do some more birding on the grounds of my hotel before the safari vehicle came that was due to pick us up at 11.
    I decided to head down the front driveway of the hotel, which was surrounded by thick vegetation, and is where I had seen quite a few birds already. I saw many interesting year birds, and I soon got quite a few lifers, including two species of ‘Warbler’ which turned out to be a whole new family for me – Cisticolidae – of which I saw six species by the end of the trip, and my first African Paradise Flycatcher (which ended up being fairly common). I also spent some time watching the aerial acrobatics of the Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters that were nesting around here, and it was also nice to watch a Red-billed Firefinch that seemed to be building a nest. (Due to being limited to six pictures per post, I can’t include that many pictures here. However I have uploaded more to the Kenya-Wildlife Gallery and hyperlinked to some pictures in the text).

    I was watching some small birds in a field next to the driveway when I suddenly saw a fairly large and rather odd bird fly out of a bush that was being cut by some men working in the field. It landed on a lump of mud in the middle of the field and sat there perfectly still. I immediately thought, and later confirmed, that this rather odd bird was a Nightjar, my first ever sighting of any species in that family. Two new families of birds within about an hour isn’t bad!
    [​IMG]
    Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be possible to be sure of what species of nightjar due to there being several very similar looking species native to Kenya, though I think it’s either a female Pennant-winged or a Dusky Nightjar due to that distinctive collar-like pattern.

    I continued to bird around this area for a couple more hours, and I did see two particularly nice lifers – a Baglafecht Weaver, and an Olive Thrush – and there were a few White-eyed Slaty-flycatchers around which were also lifers, and really cute little birds.
    At about 11, when we were due to be picked up, I headed back to the restaurant at the main building of the hotel to wait, where I saw a dead White-toothed Shrew species that I think had sadly been killed by the hotel cat. Unfortunately due to traffic in Nairobi, the minibus (one of those safari minibuses with the pop-up roofs that allows you to stand up and see out) was about two hours late, so it didn’t arrive until gone 1 o’clock. However I did get one particularly nice lifer in the large tree by the restaurant, a Brown-and-white Barbet which (depending on taxonomy) is a Kenyan endemic, and my only one of the trip.
    [​IMG]

    I also got some more views of the resident pair of Bronze Sunbirds, and I got some better pictures of the male.
    Eventually, the minibus did arrive, and we set off (my family of four people, as well as another couple who was also on the group safari with us. It would have been an extra $100 US per person to have a private safari).

    Luckily, the traffic going out of Nairobi wasn’t so bad (though the same can’t be said for the quality of the roads) so we were soon out of Nairobi and heading into the Great Rift Valley. The common species seen while driving were loads of Pied Crows, as well as Yellow-billed Kites and Marabou Storks soaring overhead, though sadly (but not unexpectedly) there were no vultures, and I didn’t see any vultures outside of the national parks. As we entered the Great Rift Valley, we stopped at a viewpoint, which was really spectacular
    [​IMG]
    And also at the viewpoint were some Village Weavers and a single Hyrax lying in the sun.

    We stopped again a few hours later for lunch, which wasn’t so fantastic but was what I expected from a very budget safari that included all meals, and there were swifts nesting in the roof of the building. While we were eating it started to rain, but afterwards as we were going back into the minibus, I spotted a lovely Variable Sunbird sitting out on a hibiscus in the rain.
    It continued to rain for the rest of the drive, but I did get a nice view of Mt Longonot and there were quite a few animals that I spotted along the sides of the roads including Zebra, Impala, Giraffe, and Wildebeest.

    When we got to Hell’s Gate National Park it was still raining, unfortunately. However, it was very interesting to watch a group of baboons sheltering from the rain in some rocky crevices. Luckily, after 20 minutes or so, it did stop raining so we were able to pop the roof up and look out. The landscape in the national park was spectacular, with lots of huge rock formations with clumps of trees dotted around, as well as some open plains along the sides of the roads.
    [​IMG]

    There were also lots of interesting birds and mammals, such as Grey-crowned Cranes, Schalow’s Wheatears, Northern Anteater Chats, and loads more, with mammal species such as Grant’s and Thomson’s Gazelles, Impalas, Eland, Defassa Waterbuck, loads of Warthogs and plenty more. I also saw a pair of Black-backed Jackals soon after the rain stopped, and in Hell’s Gate National Park people are allowed to get out and walk around, though soon after getting out of the car they ran away. But in the same area was a Greater Blue-eared Glossy-starling, and perched on a tree a bit further away were my first vultures of the trip – African White-backed Vultures.

    We soon got back into the car and drove along a bit, then came upon a spectacular sight. There were huge cliffs covered in nesting vultures. They were fairly far away, but I was able to get a good look with my binoculars, and get some reasonably close-up pictures with the zoom on my camera:
    [​IMG]
    (there are eight Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures visible in this picture)

    A bit further on, we got to a picnic site where there is a walk that can be done down into a gorge. Unfortunately, due to our late arrival, we were unable to do the full walk and be back before sunset, but we did do a short walk of about 20 minutes just in the nearby area, and I saw three particularly interesting birds: a single Common Drongo, a single Black-headed Oriole, and a very active and entertaining group of Grey-crested Helmetshrikes:
    [​IMG]

    The latter two species of which were lifers, and in the case of the helmetshrikes – a whole new family. Three new families of birds in one day! (Prionopidae, Cisticolidae, and Caprimulgidae). I didn’t quite keep up with that rate of family-level lifeticks over the rest of the trip; however I did get two further new bird families later on). A couple of other particularly interesting things that I saw at this stop was a table covered in the bones of various animals (which I hope died from natural causes) and a volcanic plug formation which was pretty spectacular.

    Soon afterwards, we had to head out to be out of the park for sunset, and I saw many more interesting birds and mammals on the way out with some particular highlights being a large group of Cape Buffalo (I thought it was large at the time, but it was tiny compared to the ones in the Maasai Mara), a Kori Bustard which was a subspecies-level lifer, and a fairly large group of Eland along with a lone giraffe that I saw near to the gate just as the sun was about to set.

    After leaving the national park, we went to the accommodation in the town of Naivasha, had dinner, and then went to bed fairly early so that we were ready for quite a busy day that awaited us the next day…
     
    Last edited: 21 Feb 2016
  12. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I've also got notes, lists and lots of photos to help jog my memory, too!

    :p

    Hix
     
  13. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Out of curiosity, how many photos do you take per day on safari?

    On my full day of safari in the Maasai Mara, I took 915 photos, and 8 pages (1/2 A4 size) of notes (including the lists of birds that I've seen).

    And on the day that I've just posted about above (Hell's Gate, etc.) I took 508 photos and 3.5 pages of notes.

    I was wondering how this compares to what you (or anyone else) do/does...
     
  14. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    This was discussed in a thread a few years back, and when I was in Tokelau I was listing the total number of pictures taken per day, and how many of them were deleted.

    From memory, on a good day in Africa I could take any where from 400 to 900 images and at least 50% would later be deleted.

    As for notes, I have a little travel journal that I tried to write in each day - just basics like where we went and when, people and place names etc. - for each day, and a separate notebook in which I list the wildlife seen, often with numbers so I can transcribe it into a spreadsheet or eBird.

    :p

    Hix
     
  15. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Part 3: Lake Naivasha, a Long Drive, and an Evening Game Drive in the Maasai Mara

    The next morning, I got up slightly earlier than I needed to to have a look around the hotel to see if there were any birds that could be spotted. Having arrived after dark, I didn’t know how large the grounds were, but they turned out to be quite small with little more than a car park with gardens on either side. I did see a few birds however, and these were some Superb Starlings, Common Bulbuls, and one year bird which was a White-fronted Bee-eater perched on a cable.

    After breakfast, we went the short distance to Lake Naivasha to have a morning boat ride on the lake. Along the sides of the road heading down to the lake there were quite a few Defassa Waterbuck, including some with some quite young babies. Upon reaching the lake edge, the safari guide went to sort out a boat trip, while I looked at the many interesting birds that there were on the lake shore. This included huge numbers of Marabou storks, as well as Hamerkops, Sacred and Hadada Ibis, Yellow-billed Storks, Grey Herons, various Egrets, various Plovers and other wading birds and my first lifers of the day, a pair of African Spoonbills feeding a patch of water hyacinth, amongst others.

    View of the lake shore:
    [​IMG]


    After a few minutes, we met the boat driver and got into a fairly small boat for a trip around Lake Naivasha. The boat guide was actually quite a fan of birds and he said I would spot more than a hundred on the lake (if he meant individuals I certainly did, though I ‘only’ saw about 40 species) and although some of the common names he used were a bit odd, he was able to identify all the species that we saw, which saved me some time going through my field guide. At first, we went around some of the dead trees along the banks of the lake, where there were many hundreds of cormorants, both White-breasted (the African (sub)species of Great) and Long-tailed and quite high a few Pied Kingfishers, as well as a single Giant Kingfisher. There was also an abundance of herons of four species, and various other wading birds such as Red-knobbed Coots, Moorhens, and African Jacanas.

    We then headed out further into the lake, where there was quite a high density of Hippos, as well as quite a few Pelicans – Great White Pelicans, and Pink-backed. The views across the lake itself were also quite spectacular, and in some directions, the water stretched all the way to some hills just on the horizon. Another rather nice bird that was around in quite high numbers were Grey-headed Gulls, which made a change to the Black-headed Gulls that are so common around Warsaw. Around this same time I also saw my first flamingo of the trip, a single Lesser Flamingo flying overhead, though too quickly to allow me to get a picture.

    View of the lake:
    [​IMG]

    We then came to a spot with several dead trees and a group of hippos below, however the main attraction at this area were the African Fish-eagles. There were two pairs, as well as one juvenile, and these had supposedly been trained to swoop down and catch a fish that the boat drivers would throw. Unfortunately, it seemed the eagles weren’t hungry (and I’m not surprised with half a dozen boats per hour, each with a fish), but it was still nice to watch them perched up in the trees.
    [​IMG]
    We then headed to the final ‘stop’ on the boat ride, which was to look at some mammals on the shore. These were Cape Buffalos, Common Zebra, and Defassa Waterbuck, and it was quite nice to look at them from the opposite perspective on the water rather than the land. There were also a few birds nearby, including various waders in the water hyacinth such as Jacanas, Striated Herons, and Spur-winged Lapwings, as well as some Red-billed Oxpeckers on the Buffalos.

    Due to time limitations, after about an hour and a half on the lake, we had to head back to leave us enough time for the drive to the Maasai Mara. The boat guide seemed to be genuinely enjoying having someone as interested in birds as him (especially a 16 year old) and he said he would have liked to spend the whole day looking for birds (or you could look at it cynically and say he was just working on his tip…) but we had to get back, however on the way, I did see a nice group of about eight Little Grebes. We then got back in the car, and headed away from the lake, however along the dirt road on the way out, I did get another nice sighting of a very young Waterbuck.

    After leaving Naivasha, we had quite a long drive ahead of us. The initial few hours were along regular paved roads, though I did get some nice views of open fields with some game on them such as Wildebeest and Zebras. There were a few interesting birds seen too, such as lots of White and Abdim’s Storks in the Fields, a group of Spur-winged Geese by an area of water, and a couple of interesting corvids in addition to the numerous Pied Crows – namely quite a few African Rooks, and a single White-naped Raven. According to my field guide, African Rooks are ‘widespread between 1350 and 2500 m in cent. Rift Valley and adjacent highlands’ which gives an idea of the altitude that we were driving at. We also drove past Mount Longonot and got some nice views of it, however we didn’t have time to visit it on this trip. Something for next time?

    After a while driving on paved roads, the road that we were driving on suddenly ended and turned into a dirt track. It was still a reasonably good track however, so we were able to continue on pretty much as before just with some more bumps. Animal sightings also increased, and we stopped a few times to look at particularly interesting things on the side of the road including a huge group of Maasai Giraffe, and I also saw a few interesting birds such as a Gabar Goshawk and a Northern Wheatear.

    After a while, the roads deteriorated even further. The dirt track that we had been driving on was as wide as a road and could easily be paved over after simply running a road-roller over it, however we then entered dirt tracks which was now basically off-roading and just following that route that cars had taken previously. This would have not been so bad in a big 4x4 car, but we were in a small, heavily loaded minibus, bumping up and down some fairly steep inclines and even fording a couple of small streams. At least the track was reasonably dry though (at least it was then…). There were also a few small Maasai villages, and there were many people about in traditional Maasai clothing herding animals – often on the tracks themselves. We also had to stop a couple of times at improvised tolls (a log held across the road) where a person would collect some money off us to allow us to go past. I think it was 200 Kenyan Shillings each time (about $2 US) but it’s worth it, you’ve got to pay a road maintenance fee, it can’t be easy to keep a road in as bad a shape as this!

    There seemed to be quite a few interesting birds around too, though they were difficult/impossible to identify from a moving vehicle, so in a way I was pleased when we stopped to help another minibus that was stuck (the driver of that minibus turned out to be friends with out driver, and we were staying in the same camp and doing the same tour itinerary). Looking around, the landscape was quite interesting. I don’t know very much about plants, but they were still interesting to look at, along with termite mounds, and small insects, and things like that. I also saw a few birds at this stop, these being a Lilac-breasted Roller, a Bataleur, some Purple Grenadiers, as well as various common little brown jobbies, and I got a very nice lifer as well – a D’arnaud’s Barbet.
    With some unorthodox engineering that involved hitting a piece of metal that had bent repeatedly with a big rock, we got going again after not too long and continued to our camp.

    After arriving, we got introduced to the camp staff and headed to the tents. They were quite cool, not permanent structures, but large stable tents set on concrete a concrete area, with a bit at the back that is a permanent structure and is the shower room with a toilet. There were actual beds in the tent so to be honest, the only thing that was an inconvenience was the lack of electricity (and the internet, though I wouldn't have had much time to use it anyway). There was a single light bulb in the tent, but the generator was only turned on from 5:30 to 10 in the morning, and 7 to 10 in the evening (or thereabouts). The camp itself was just outside the national park, and had lots of planting and trees around so there were a few birds. I didn’t have much time to look around in detail at that time though because we were off on our evening game drive in the Maasai Mara (at this point it was almost 5 PM and sunset when you have to be out is 7-ish). Whilst walking out however, I did have to stop and look in some bushes when I heard a sunbird calling. It turned out to be a lovely male Scarlet-chested Sunbird, which quickly flew off before I could get my camera out. Also around there was a nest with a pair of Purple Grenadiers building it, however I would watch this more later.

    Upon reaching the gate to the ‘National Reserve’, while our driver was getting us the entrance tickets, we were mobbed by people trying to sell us trinkets and souvenirs and things like that. The roof of the minibus had been popped up, and the windows all opened ready for game viewing, which just allowed the sellers to try and force us into buying things. We did manage to make it into the park without buying anything though, and started the game drive. The first mammals we saw were some small groups of Coke’s Hartebeest, Topi, Wildebeest, Zebras, and various Gazelles, which turned out to all be common throughout in small groups, and as an additional bonus, many had Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on them, which is the rarer species (though Buffalos seemed to be the main oxpecker hang out). There were also quite a few Wheatears around, mostly Northern, but some Capped as well, and loads of Superb Starlings. We didn’t have very long, so we headed for some Lions, and we soon found two lionesses watching over the plain, which was quite a spectacular view, as were many views around the Maasai Mara in the nice evening light.
    [​IMG]
    A bit further on there were some lion cubs playing, and we watched those for quite a while, and there were a few other vehicles there - about five - but it seems that in the Maasai Mara, the cars are not restricted to roads (which is good in a way, though maybe not the best), so they drove around to make space to view them.
    [​IMG]

    But then a call came over the radio and we sped off to somewhere else. We passed a huge herd of Buffalo in the distance and we did stop for a short time on the way to watch a pair of Grey Crowned-cranes, but there must have been something particularly interesting since there were quite a few other vehicles also heading there. I guessed it was either a Rhino, Leopard, or Cheetah, but we soon found out when we saw a mass of vehicles with Cheetah eating something that it had caught, in the middle. This later turned out to be a warthog, and we watched the cheetah eat its meal. It seemed not to be too bothered by the many people watching it, and it was left with a route clear to get away at all times.
    [​IMG]
    We spent a fairly long time watching the cheetah, but the sun soon started to set, so we left and headed out. I hadn’t seen so many birds, but the next day, a full day of safari, would be much slower and allow me to stop and look at all the birds.

    Back on camp, I had a bit of a rest because I was exhausted, and I had a bit of a look around for birds, though I only saw some common things such as Red-winged Starlings, various Doves, Common Bulbuls, and some African Paradise Flycatchers. The generators were on so there was some lighting along the paths, but the rest of the place soon became dark and I headed for dinner.

    After dinner, I did walk around with a spotlight to see if I could see any nocturnal animals. I saw a smallish bat, however it wasn’t possible to get an ID, but after a while, a Maasai guard came up to me and asked what I was doing. I said I was looking for ‘night animals’ but he waved his torch around a bit and said there were no animals and I should go back to the main areas of the camp. I don’t think I would have seen a huge amount anyway though due to the fencing around the area.

    Upon returning to my tent for bed, I found that it was full of ants! Some ants had moved in and made a nest, but luckily there was a spare tent, so I moved to that and soon got to sleep to the sound of insects, with a resident Hemidactylus sharing the tent.
     
  16. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Warsaw, Poland
    Part 4: Full day Safari in the Maasai Mara, and a Maasai Village

    The Maasai Mara was the only place in my trip that I stayed in for two consecutive nights, so I had a full day of safari in between, and I decided to get up a bit earlier that morning to try and see some birds on the camp before heading off. I was up a little before sunrise, and it was very nice to hear the morning chorus of birds with species such as African Paradise Flycatchers, Common Bulbuls and Red-winged Starlings being common. However I did see one very nice new species – several White-winged Widowbirds. There was also a long line of my post on the ‘big year’ thread in which I list the species I saw in the Maasai Mara (as well as Naivasha and Nakuru). Additionally, there are of course more pictures in the Kenya-Wildlife Gallery
    .
    The first place we to headed that morning, with lots of stops along the way, was to a pride of lions eating a Buffalo. One particularly notable stop was to look at a pair of African Wattled Lapwings which were being disturbed by a Jackal. The Lapwings were a lifer for me, and I think they were defending a nest since they chased a Jackal away from a patch of mud near to a small pond.

    We soon reached the Lions which turned out to be the same group with cubs that we saw the previous evening. The lionesses must have hunted during the night since they were now eating a freshly killed Buffalo, and it was quite nice to watch them, especially the cubs.
    [​IMG]
    I was more excited however when down the hill from where we were watching the lions, I saw my fourth family-level lifetick of the trip – a lone Secretary Bird walking along with its elaborate feathers on its head trailing behind (of course that is a wild lifetick, and I had seen the species in captivity before, however when I talk about animals in the wild as lifers I always mean a wild lifer which I may or may not have seen in captivity previously). The Secretary bird soon wandered off into the distance, and we continued on. The next particularly interesting bird sighting came in the form of shockingly my first hornbill of the trip! And one of only three individuals of two species seen over the whole trip – far fewer than I saw in Tanzania where I saw dozens of individuals of five species. Anyway, this was a lovely male Von Der Deckens Hornbill,
    [​IMG]
    and under the same tree I also got a nice view of a Helmeted (Reichenow’s) Guineafowl.

    A bit further on, we came to the huge herd of Cape Buffalo that we had seen from a distance yesterday. There must have been over a hundred individuals, and there were also large numbers of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers around the herd which was nice to see. We drove along a track through the middle of the herd, which may have been slightly dangerous considered the many bulls that we passed very nearby. There was also one that refused to move off the track so we had to wait for a while until it decided to move for us. After clearing the buffalo herd, there weren’t any significant ‘big five’ type sightings for quite a few hours, however there were lots of birds and a few interesting mammals including a group of giraffe with a Vervet in a tree nearby (which turned out to be surprisingly uncommon) and a group of Topi with a pregnant female and lots of calves. The bird sightings were great though, with several Widowbird species including Jackson’s, several swallow species, a Martial Eagle watching over the plain from a perch up in a tree and we drove through one area of very long grass and saw quite a few interesting waxbill species such as a nice male Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, and a pair of Crimson-rumped Waxbills that flew along the road ahead of us and landed every once in a while just ahead. There were also hundreds of butterflies of at least 10 species amongst the grass and on the track that took off as the car approached, and butterflies were generally very numerous around the Maasai Mara, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any sort of field guide or enough knowledge to identify the species, and they were mostly too quick to photograph, but it was still nice to watch them. Within the area of long grass, we stopped for a toilet stop at a place called Keekorok Airstrip at an altitude of 5570 ft. There was nothing here apart from a toilet, and some people selling souvenirs too of course, and nesting under the roof of the toilet was a Swift (probably Little, but not completely sure) which was nice to look at. I also saw a Cisticola around there on the airstrip, however I was unable to identify it.

    We soon left the long grass, and came to our next major ‘big five’ sighting which was a smallish group of African Elephants including some calves around a mud wallow area. Also around the elephants were lots of shrikes – three Grey-backed Fiscals and some Northern White-crowned Shrikes. A bit further on, we came up to yet another group of elephants with a bull in the distance. Elephants turned out to be quite common around this part of the Maasai Mara and we saw several more groups.
    [​IMG]
    The next place we headed to was the Mara River, and we saw a small group of two males and one female Ostrich on the way, as well as an as yet unidentified tortoise crossing the road and going into the grass by the side.

    The Mara River itself was pretty spectacular and large with a few Hippos in the water, and I saw one big impressive Nile Crocodile on an island in the middle of the river near to two Spur-winged Lapwings, though the slides indicated that there were more crocs about.
    [​IMG]

    There were also quite a few birds around, including two Rueppell’s Long-tailed Glossy-starlings, some Little Bee-eaters, and a male Yellow Bishop. Also near to the river, we found some Lions sleeping under a bush, including a male lion – the only one of the trip.
    We then headed away from the river, and found a nice big tree out in the open plain where we could get out and stop for lunch. I didn’t think people were allowed to get out of their cars in the Maasai Mara at any old place, but never mind… Amongst the grasses around were lots of Topi, Zebra, Thomson’s Gazelles and Impalas, as well as a few odd Coke’s Hartebeest and there were also a few birds of prey around, including two impressive Lappet-faced Vultures flying overhead.

    After lunch, it was time to head in the general direction of the park gate because it was quite a few hours’ drive away so we got back into the minibus and headed into to the long grass and almost immediately spotted another mammal – a Spotted Hyaena poking its head out of the long grass, and then walking across the road in front of us. The next significant bird sightings were of several ground birds. I had been disappointed so far of the lack of ground birds and small ground mammals (especially mongooses and ground squirrels) due to the very tall grass that was pretty much everywhere, but while we were driving along, I spotted a nice group of four White-bellied Bustards in the long grass with just their heads sticking up, and not too much later I spotted a single Black-bellied Bustard also in the long grass, and to top it all off, not too much further down the road was a lovely Red-necked Spurfowl in the grass by the side of the road which then ran rather comically down the road.
    [​IMG]
    I recognised this species instantly, as it was one that I had wanted to see for a while, especially after missing it by not too long at Plzen zoo. This may have been my favourite sighting of the day, at least until another fantastic sighting just up the road. We were going through a little area of low forest with thick scrub below when I saw a large bird crashing about in one of the trees. I asked the driver to stop, and it turned out to be a Black-faced Go-away Bird. It was quite difficult to see deep within the branches, but I had particularly wanted to see some Turacos, so it was nice to see at least one. And just to top it off, in the same tree was a flock of Violet-backed Starlings which landed and almost immediately took off, but one male stayed in the tree allowing me to photograph it and admire it at length.

    I got many more fantastic bird sightings over the next couple of hours, these included a spectacular male Pin-tailed Whydah, a Hildebrandt’s Starling that I managed to identify amongst the many common Superb Starlings, a few Weaver and Widowbird species, lots of Larks, and a Kori Bustard under a tree with two Lappet-faced Vultures in it (three Bustard species in one day isn’t too bad!). Around 4:30 ish however, it started to rain which meant we had to pull to roof down. This did restrict the view slightly, but views out of the windows weren’t too bad, and I still got a few more interesting sightings including a Yellow-throated Longclaw singing happily in the rain, seeming undisturbed by a camera lens pointed at it,
    [​IMG]
    some Wire-tailed Swallows, and yet more Elephants, this time amongst the trees by a stream bank, and another group of lionesses. As we neared the exit of the park a little after 5, I also saw my second hornbill species of the trip – an African Grey Hornbill.

    After getting back to camp, we had a few minutes rest, and then had a choice of whether to do an optional cultural activity as a break from the wildlife. Not that I needed a break from the wildlife, but I chose to go on the activity which was a tour of a nearby Maasai village with the Maasai people themselves showing us around. We paid $15 US per person for the tour to the village chief himself, and this money apparently goes towards the running of the village school. We were then shown a Maasai dance, and told about various traditions such as marriage traditions, and the killing of a lion by boys when they turn 15 as a rite of passage. We were also shown how they make a fire with different sticks, and taken to see the inside of the house of one family. It was a traditional basic mud hut with almost no light, and was quite smoky due to the fire. And then we were pretty much told we had to buy a souvenir each. These were small bracelets or necklaces with a (fake) lion tooth and were $35 US each! We managed to avoid purchasing them by citing a lack of money, and we declined the offer to stay in the spare room of the Maasai hut. Staying there would have been free, but of course dependant on the purchase of one of the souvenirs…

    After the village tour, we walked back to camp and went for dinner which would be ready in ten minutes or so. Then after dinner, I went pretty much straight to bed with just a brief look for any nocturnal things because by that point I was exhausted, and we had a 5:30 get up the next morning for a final dawn safari in the Maasai Mara.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 21 Oct 2016
  17. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Warsaw, Poland
    Part 5: Morning Drive in the Maasai Mara, and a lot of Getting Stuck

    To make the most of our last bit of time in the Maasai Mara, we had an early morning drive. During the night however, it had rained, and rained, and rained. Pretty much constantly throughout the night, and it was still raining while we ate our breakfast (the breakfast area is under cover with open walls on the sides). By the time we got into the park with everything packed, it was just after sunrise, and surprisingly cold in the wind, but luckily the rain had reduced to just a drizzle and soon stopped completely, so it was nice to see the Mara in the early morning. One of the first things we came across was a large group of Spotted Hyaenas. There were a few along the road just in front of the car, a few to our right just up a small hill, and a few to our left a bit further down.
    [​IMG]
    I think there may have been about ten in total, though there could have been more that I didn’t see. In between all of the Hyaenas was a small group of wildebeest and some of the Hyaenas a bit up the hill started chasing the wildebeest down towards some of the ones a bit further down, and the ones on the road just ahead of us started to follow. They didn’t chase them for very long though, because within a few minutes they stopped and all wandered off. It was a pretty cool thing to watch, and it was nice to see fairly large numbers of Hyaenas.
    [​IMG]
    (There are three Hyaenas on the right of the road, and one just on the left chasing the wildebeest group.)

    We continued going down the track and passed a Crested Guineafowl in some woods along the side of the road which didn’t stay long enough to photograph, and there were many birds around too of species that I had seen yesterday. A bit further down we reached some Lions in a small patch of woodland with a few lying under some trees and two going up a small hill and walking stealthily through the grass. It seemed like they may have been stalking something, but they then lay down and seemed to go to sleep. Lions seemed to be surprisingly common overall in the Maasai Mara, and we had seen probably about a dozen individuals.

    Continuing on, we then reached the same large herd of Cape Buffalo that we had passed through yesterday, with the many Yellow-billed Oxpeckers as there had been yesterday. A little past the buffalos, we saw three Black-backed Jackals that were possibly young ones and were running along the road ahead of us and seemed to be playing and jumping around.
    [​IMG]
    Also at the same spot, there was a very pale bird of prey that perched on a tree stump and was flying over looking for some prey. I think it was a Pallid Harrier, however it could have been Montagu’s. The tracks that we were driving along were very muddy with puddles all over the place. There were quite a few African Wattled Lapwings around along the sides of the tracks, as well as Egyptian Geese and many swallows swooped low and landing by the water, including two very interesting looking Lesser Striped Swallows. We then spotted a pair of Grey Crowned-cranes that were pecking around in the long grass, and while we were watching them noticed they had three little chicks that were just about visible in the grass. A great thing to see particularly as the species is classified as Endangered. I think this was probably the same pair that we stopped at for a very short time while we raced to the Cheetah on the first evening drive in the Maasai Mara, and I think they may have had chicks then as well.
    [​IMG]

    After a couple of hours, we headed back, passing two Bateleurs perched regally in a dead tree – these were the first ones that I had seen that weren’t in flight – and just as we neared the gate, we got one more mammal to add to the Maasai Mara totals, a single Cavendish's Dik-dik that ran across the road and then into the undergrowth by the side of the road.

    After leaving the Maasai Mara, we had already got our stuff packed and loaded up so we didn’t go back to the camp and just headed on the drive to Nakuru. I hadn’t actually thought about it during the night whilst it was raining, but upon reaching the ‘road’ it soon dawned on me the effect that the rains would have had on the tracks that were difficult enough to get across in the dry. At first, we slipped and slid along some muddy tracks, but very soon the inevitable happened and we got stuck. We all got out and walked across the mud, but luckily around here there were enough other tourist cars including some big off-road Landcruisers to tow everyone out. We continued at a very slow pace, regularly getting stuck briefly, towing each other out, then continuing on, but the one advantage of all this stopping was that I got to get out and look for birds in the surrounding landscape. There were lots of D’Arnaud’s Barbets around, and other birds too including a Common Rock Thrush, Von Der Decken’s Hornbills, and various other things.
    One of the D'Arnaud's Barbets:
    [​IMG]

    A little further on, we reached the first of the little streams that we had to ford. This one was the more difficult of the two, and it formerly had a bridge, but this seemed to have broken long ago. We drove down the first steep muddy bank, into and out of the stream, and then when we tried to get out again the other side we got stuck and wedged onto a tree. This took a long time to get out with many men helping, and we probably wouldn’t have got out if it wasn’t for two Landcruisers to tow us, but even they struggled and it probably didn’t do any good to their engines. We also smashed one of our minibus’ mirrors in the process, and all of the noise meant there were no birds around.

    After this point though, it seemed like we had passed the worst of it. We did have to drive over some areas around the sides of the road to avoid particularly muddy bits, and it did take some careful driving to get across the second stream, but we had a very good driver so we managed it. We were then driving along a section of road that was very muddy but didn’t seem too bad – by this point we were by ourselves and all of the other vehicles had left – and we slid around a bit and - as you can probably guess by my build up - got stuck on a huge bank of mud on the side of the road. And I mean properly stuck. The wheels just spun and did absolutely nothing, and even with everyone out and at the back or the front of the car pushing, we were stuck. The car was also wedged onto the mud on the bottom, so the wheels were slightly up off the ground and the drive shaft and stuff like that seemed to be wedged in place with extremely sticky mud, the kind that sucks your feet in and then holds onto your shoes when you lift your feet up again. We had a shovel, so we tried to dig the car out a bit, and we tried standing on the front bumper and rocking to try and get the car out, but it didn’t seem to do much. We also gathered some rocks from the surrounding ground to get under the wheels for traction but we still couldn’t get out. We had called for help, and eventually several local guys came to help us out (for a fee of course) with some more shovels and things, but we were stuck for nearly four hours in this spot, in the hot sun, and it was even worse when the nearby school had a lunch break and loads of children came to see what we were doing and ask for sweets. Eventually though, we got the car out, and about five hours and a lot of mud later, we made it to a real road.

    Because we were so late, we wouldn’t make it to the lunch stop until very late, so we stopped at a little souvenir shop that had a little snack section and also some toilets where we could get the worst of the mud of. The toilets were very clean, at least they were very clean before we arrived… At this point it also started to rain very heavily again, which was good for cleaning some mud off the car. Also at this stop, in the car park there was a fairly large tree that was packed full of Speke’s Weavers and their nests, and there were two Grey-headed Sparrows around as well.
    [​IMG]

    I saw many birds in the fields along the road too while we drove along, especially birds of prey and lots of Storks, mainly White and Marabou, with a few groups of Abdim’s here and there, and with a group of White Storks I saw a single African Woolly-necked Stork – a lifer. A Hamerkop also landed in the middle of the road and nearly got run over, but took off just in time.

    After a late lunch, we still had a lot further to drive, and after darkness fell we were still driving. It wasn’t until 14 hours after we left our camp in the morning that we reached our hotel in Nakuru, exhausted. We were supposed to have a game drive around Lake Nakuru that evening, but there was no time so we had to settle for just having the morning drive the next day. I was really exhausted and not feeling too great either so I skipped dinner and just had some snacks from my bag before going straight to bed, after having a shower to get the mud off of course.
     
  18. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Posts:
    1,937
    Location:
    Warsaw, Poland
    I have attached some pictures showing the car stuck at various points.

    The first picture shows the first place that we were stuck at, the second picture is of the car stuck at the stream area, the third picture is of getting a tow out, the fourth picture is of the final place that we got stuck at for almost four hours.
     

    Attached Files:

  19. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I'm really enjoying these reports LD. I'm also especially impressed by the format; using bold fonts, links to photos and embedding them - the effort involved is incredible. Great stuff!
     
  20. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Thanks devilfish, I appreciate the comment :)