Trip report - Kenya 2017/18





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  1. #1
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    Default Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    For my wife and me, this was our second visit to Kenya. Almost to date a year ago, we have visited it for the first time, and it has enchanted us. You can read TR from that first visit here: http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...6-amp-Jan-2017

    While last year we have visited lake Nakuru, Ol Pajeta in Laikipia, Samburu NP and Meru NP, this year we concentrated more on the parks in southwest, aligned along Nairobi - Mombasa route: Amboseli, Tsawo West, Tsavo East and Nairobi NP. The only park that we have revisited from the last year was Masai Mara. It simply is such a unique safari destination with unparalleled wildlife density that it is always worth returning to. Even when there is no great migration happening.

    Same as last year, we have again rented Toyota Landcruiser from Roadtrip Kenya. https://www.roadtripkenya.com . We have used their car also during our trip to Uganda, so this was our third car rental from them. They proved to be reliable and trustworthy and their fleet in good condition, especially for east African standards. However, you can never neglect "TIA" factor, even with them. Our car proved to be very reliable during the trip, however there were some hiccups at the very beginning. Firstly, the car had a RTT mounted, although I haven't requested nor paid for it. Unfortunately, their roof top tents are enormous (accommodating at least 3 adults) and as a consequence very heavy and clumsy to erect and pack. That's why we rather opted for smaller ground tent, although when renting in southern Africa we always prefer RTT. No problem with that though, they have provided us with ground tent and mattresses on our request.

    Secondly, our LC was "extended" version, with 3 rows of seats and only 3 side doors. This makes a luggage compartment extremely small and access to the luggage stored in the rear row of seats very hard to access. We have had this same problem last year, so this year I have asked them to remove the third row of seats to make more room for the luggage, which they promised they will. But when we checked the car, there was still third rows of seats in there. Again, no problem with that, as Chris (the owner of Jungle Junction in Nairobi from where Roadtrip Kenya operates and who is an excellent mechanic) promptly removed them from the car.

    Third hiccup appeared immediately before the actual start of our trip. Just as we have packed our things into the car and wanted to drive out from Jungle Junction toward Masai Mara, the car simply wouldn't start. Although it has started couple of times before that without any problems, this time everything pointed toward the battery to be flat. Chris quickly found out that alternator didn't properly charge the battery. It turned out that two of the wires were somehow broken and it took Chris more than 2 hours to source appropriate replacement connector and solder everything back together. From then on, we haven't have any problem with the engine start or with the battery to the end of our trip.

    In the last year Roadtrip Kenya added an electric fridge as a new renting option. It is very cheap (4 USD/day), so it is a no-brainer. However, it is not connected to a separate battery as it is a norm in southern Africa. So, you are better to switch the fridge off when the car engine is not running, or you risk the chance for the fridge to drain your car's battery. This is rather inconvenient, however still worth 4$/day. If not for other things, you still have a cold drinks available throughout the trip. And even with this setup, meat proved to remain fresh and usable in a fridge for a period of three days, which with one resupply in Nairobi in the middle of our trip enabled us to have delicious fresh meat meals for six days during our 12 days stay in the wilderness.

    All in all, I can still claim that "Roadtrip Uganda/Tanzania/Kenya" (they recently started to operate also in Madagascar) are one of very few reliable 4x4 rental companies in eastern Africa and we will certainly rent from them again.

    Our planed itinerary for this trip was as follows:

    Day 1:
    Upon very early landing in Nairobi, collect the car at Jungle Junction, do major shopping in one of the nearby malls and drive to the Oldarpoi campsite, just outside the Masai Mara reserve near the Sekenani gate

    Day 2, 3:
    Spend both days exploring the eastern part of Mara reserve, spending both nights in Sand River public campsite on the southern border of the park (and also on Tanzanian border at the same time).

    Day 4, 5, 6:
    Explore western part of Mara reserve, also called Mara Triangle, spending three night in Oloololo public campsite on the northern border of the park, near the Oloolo entrance gate.

    Day 7:
    Return to Nairobi, replenish the provisions and spend the night camping at Jungle Junction.

    Day 8:
    Drive south to Amboseli NP, drive through it and spend the night at Kimana comunity campsite.

    Day 9, 10:
    Do a morning game drive in the Amboseli, then continue toward Tsavo West and explore it in the next two days; spend two nights at Chyulu public campsite inside the park

    Day 11, 12, 13:
    From Tsavo West traverse to Tsavo East and spend next three days there; two nights in Ndololo public campsite in the Voi area of the park, last night in Ithumba campsite in the northern section of the park (for this last day we later changed plans and we rather spent also the third night in Ndololo).

    Day 14:
    Drive from Tsavo East back to Nairobi, spend the night camping at Jungle Junction.

    Day 15:
    Visit Nairobi national park and David Sheldrick Trust elephant orphanage, pack our things, return the car and spend last night in a hired room at Jungle Junction.

    Day 16:
    Early morning flight back home

    We managed to stick to our original plans almost completely, except for the last night in Tsavo East. Instead of doing a whole day ride through the park to the Itumba camp in the far north section of the park, we rather choose to stay one more day at Ndololo campsite. We liked Voi area of the park very much, were rather tired and we simply didn't want to try our luck at the end of the whole trip, so we opted for easier and safer option. Even the notorious ride along the Mombasa road back to Nairobi proved to be not so stressful as anticipated.

    Even though our car was Ugandan registered, we haven't had no problems with police whatsoever. We haven't been stopped or pulled over to check our papers not even once, not even when crossing (not very frequent) roadblocks. All the people we have interacted with were very kind and frendly, without a single exception. We didn't have not even single bad experience with Kenyans.

    All parks, that are managed by Kenya Wildlife Service, now accept (and require) credit card payments at all gates. No more fiddling with pre-paid Safari card, no more cash payments. Also in Masai Mara (which is not managed by KWS), payments by credit cards (both Mastercard and Visa were accepted everywhere) at the gates are preferred, although they still allow cash payments.

    We have had the basic feeling what to expect from this trip, based on our last year visit. However, the whole journey surpassed all our expectations on all levels. Kenya simply is an amazing safari destination. Beside safari wilderness, I don't doubt it offers many other excitements (semi-deserts in the north, mountains with Mount Kenya as culmination, beaches along Indian ocean, ... - among other things), but those will have to wait for some next visit.

    I can't imagine planning such a trip without the help from this forum - this really is a wealth of all kind of information. Then there are some blogs from travelers that have visit the same areas in the past, which are also indispensable - in particular Stan Weakley's Slow Donkey. And above all, the real treasury of all info regarding Kenya (and whole east Africa for that matter), without doubt a leading expert on Kenya on this forum, Wazungu Wawili, whom we have the pleasure to meat in person last year in Nairobi. Her trip report "Amboseli, Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks: A six-night safari" http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...x-night-safari actually gave the final shape to our second trip to Kenya, as all those national parks were on the very top on our must-visit places list for the second visit. All her advice, whether publicly here on the forum, or off-line through many emails, proved to be best of the best. WW, asante sana again!

    In next few installments, I'll try to provide some more details from our travels in each of the parks we have visited.
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    Last edited by ortelius; 2018/01/22 at 11:35 PM.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Stunning, thanks for sharing
    Tobie Oosthuizen
    Ford Ranger 2.2 XLS 4X4
    RSI canopy & Frontrunner Slimline roofrack


  4. #3
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Hi Ortelius,

    Thank you for sharing. We will be waiting for the next installments. We may follow your footsteps next October. Let´s see how it goes.

    AP

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Thanks Ortelius, this I am really looking forward to.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Thank you, ortelius, for this excellent start to your trip report. Thank you also for your lovely comments: it was a pleasure to be of assistance - not only because you give such great feedback, but also because it was lovely to meet you and your wife last year. The power of the internet!

    I am so pleased that you had a great trip - and have become another ambassador to promote the glories of my home country.

  7. #6
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    Default Part 1: Masai Mara (East part of the reserve)

    Due to initial car problems, we left Jungle Junction some 3 hours later than expected. But still we calculated that we can easily reach Masai Mara in daylight.

    Last year we made our main shopping in Karen Nakumat supermarket. However, Chris from JJ informed us that since Nakumat went bankrupt, their stores are currently more like ghost towns. He told us about "The Hubb" mall, which is only few hundred meters from the Nakumat, along the Dagoretti Road. It isn't yet marked on T4A, but you can find it on Google Maps - its coordinates are 1°19'10.0"S, 36°42'16.1"E. It has ample parking place and lots of various shops and restaurants. There is also an excellent Carrefour hipermarket in this complex, where we have got everything we needed for the next week away from civilization. And do, off we go towards Masai Mara.

    We knew the road from last year and all went smooth in the beginning. I was getting used to new vehicle and carefully monitored all the gauges on the dashboard. After about an hour and a half, when obviously my control over the dashboard became a bit more relaxed, on one of the longer steep incline section of the main road between Mai Mahiu and Narok, I suddenly noticed that the gauge for engine temperature was alarmingly high. I stopped immediately, but it was already too late. Engine has overheated and coolant was boiling in the radiator. After waiting about half an hour for the machine to cool down and after we poured a litter and half of cool water into the cooling system, it turned out that no harm was done to the engine and we could continue with our journey. After this incident, I constantly monitored the temperature gauge for the rest of the trip, however we haven't had any further problems with the engine ever. We only had to pour some additional water into the system every other day or so.

    In Narok we topped up our fuel tanks in the last filing station before Mara. From Narok, there is about 90 km to Sekenani gate to Mara Reserve, First 60 km (approximately) is relatively good tar with only odd pothole in the last part. But the last 30 km of gravel are just awful. Really one of the worst access roads to famous African parks, on par with the one to Serengeti from Ngorogoro crater rim in Tanzania. However, it looks that Kenyans finally decided to do something about it, as for the first 10 kilometers of that dreadful road they are building a new one, parallel to the old one. Those 10 km of the new road have been getting ready to be tarred and looks like that in the near future there will be a tarred road all the way to Sekenani.

    Due to car problems and painfully slow ride on th elast 30 kilometers, we made it to our camp just before the night. Same as last year, we decided to spend our first night in Oldarpoi Mara Campsite. It is run by local Masai community and lies only 2 kilometers from the Sekenani gate to the reserve. This enabled us to enter the park early in the morning next day. Oldarpoi Campsite is quite OK for one night stay, but being outside the park and near human settlements with sounds of domestic animals certainly doesn't offer any special thrill. It has acceptable clean ablutions and nice grass to pitch a tent, with enough shade from the trees. However, those that want to sleep in their roof top tents will have to do so in a car parking area. We were really tired after spending almost 24 hours on the airplanes and in airports and then 12 hours solving initial problems with the car and driving rather stressful drive from Nairobi to Masai Mara, so we slept like babies.

    Next day we entered the park through Sekenani gate. We paid our entrance and camping fees for the next two days. After some complication with the payment procedure (due to mistake of the entrance clerk they have charged my credit card twice, but they have made a charge-back for one of the transactions few days later), we happily entered the park with the confirmed payment for camping in Sand River public campsite for the next two nights. Before commencing this trip, I was afraid that they might have officially closed that campsite, but all ended to our favor. For our first game drive inside Mara we have chosen to explore tracks in the area toward Talek gate. And Mara didn't disappoint, as it never does. All the usual game was plentiful and as a highlight we encountered a lonely cheetah next to the road, with only one other car around. Talek area of the park has the most visitors, mainly one-day safari goers in minivans. However, when driving along those tracks, we didn't have any feeling of the park being crowded. Mostly you don't see any other vehicles around. However things change drastically when there are big cats sightings. Once some of the safari vehicles spots one of those, many other drivers gets notified about the finding through radio communications or mobile phones and immediately 10 or 15 vehicles rushes to the sighting. Rangers control such occasions rather strictly in Mara Triangle (western part of the reserve), however on this side of the park we never saw any active rangers on patrols and such events sometimes convert into slight resemblance of the chaos. In reality it doesn't feel so critical as it might sound from the above description, but observing those majestic animals surrounded by a horde of safari vehicles somehow looses its primeval charm. On the other hand, when you spot a group of vehicles in one spot, you can be sure you'll find big cats there.

    After few hours we turned our car to south-west direction and past Keekorok rangers station continued to Sand River Campsite. At Sand River gate rangers have checked our papers and let us choose where we wanted to set up our camp. Last year we have camped under a large sausage tree just past the gate and before the concrete drift accros the bridge, but this year we have chosen to pitch our tent a bit further away east from ranger's dwellings, under nice fig tree. We also arrange with the rangers firewood supply for our two night stay. We've had fantastic stay there, with hardly any vehicle seen in that seldom visited part of the park. And it offers nice base to explore nearby tracks around southern part along sand River and border with Tanzania, with central part of the reserve not being more than an hour or two of relaxing game drive away. We have explored that part of the park quite extensively and enjoyed it tremendously.The highlight was probably finding a rocky outcrop with around 10 adorably lion cubs. Two lionesses were dozing on top of the rocks and were hardly visible, but the youngsters were very much lively and playful. There was only one other vehicle around and we could approach quite near them, without causing any disturbance in the lion family. Other than that, we have seen plenty of lions and one cheetah in central area of the park. It was calving season and there was many newborns around. A special occasion was observing a newborn topi calve trying to stand on its own feet for the first time in its life. We must have missed the actual birth for no more than a minute, but then we have the privilege of observing the first 30 minutes of his life and his very first steps. Magical!
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    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

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  9. #7
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Good news that the approach road to Sekenani Gate is being surfaced. Agree that it was terrible.
    The 10 cubs must be two separate litters, all seem the same age though?
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    very interesting report, beautifully written and enchanting photos.

    Kenya is getting higher on my list and it is all your fault :-)

    Thanks so much for reporting back and looking forward to the next parts.

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    Default Part 2: Mara Triangle (West part of Masai Mara reserve)

    After two nights at Send River campsite and exploring tracks in eastern part of the park, we moved to Mara Triangle for next three days. There is around 30 km from sand River to the entrance gate to Mara Triangle at Mara River bridge. Eastern part of the reserve and western part (Mara Triangle) are managed by two different bodies. Although the entrance fees for both are the same and you can freely traverse from one part to the other, regardless of where have you paid your entrance fees, there is still a formal entrance gate between the two located where the E170 road crosses Mara river in the south of the park. This fact gave me the possibility to pay our entrance fee only for the first two days at Sekenani gate, and then buy new entrance and camping fees for the remaining three days when we crossed to Mara Triangle at that bridge gate. I could have easily paid everything at that first entrance to the park, but just as a safety measure I opted for two separate payments in case something went terribly wrong during first two days and we would be forced to shorten our stay in the park.

    There are three public camp sites in Mara Triangle, plus 7 private campsites. Since booking private campsites attract s a hefty once-off booking fee (on top of regular camping fees), this makes them very expensive for a small party (only two in our case) if they stay for only couple of nights (three in our case). So we opted for public campsite. We have chosen Oloololo campsite, which is located on the far north of the park, at the entrance gate of the same name. The other two public campsites (Eluai and Iseiya) are located in central part of the Triangle, close to Mara Serena Lodge. We never visited Iseiya camp, but I understand it is located inside dense wood with no vistas. We checked Eluai in our visit last year, as we intended to stay there, however it doesn't provide any shade. It offers fantastic views along the plains and Mara river, though, which can be extremely valuable if you are staying there during great migration, as you can see from your camping place where all the action is taking place and at which river crossing animals are gathering. Oloololo on the other side offers some shade from the trees inside the camp and wonderful views across the open savanna. Also, grazing animals regularly come very close or even inside the campsite, which I have a feeling isn't the case with the other two public campsites. And of all three, Oloololo is the only one that offer ablution block with running water, clean toilet and working shower. We liked Oloololo campsite very much last year and this impression remains even stronger after this trip. It is very unlikely you will find the campsite crowded: we were the only guests on the first day, the second day two other cars arrived and one of them stayed there also for our third night.

    There are couple of "main" roads, which have decent gravel surface and are maintained in quite good condition. And then there are many dirt tracks, which enable you to penetrate into many remote parts of the park. The density of the safari vehicles here is lower than in the eastern part of the park, as there are far less daily visitors here. So, if you turn off the main road onto one of those dirt tracks, you can very well drive for couple of hours without meeting another vehicle (which we experienced bitterly on one occasion, as I will explain later on). However, when there is a big cat sighting, many vehicles miraculously start to appear from all sides. But there is a big difference of how this mass car gatherings is controlled here as opposed to eastern part of the park. Here, on such occasions, almost always a ranger with his vehicle appears and maintains order. At most 5 vehicles at any time are allowed to approach the animals (in theory, not closer than 25 meters), others must wait at least 100 meters from the sighting. And if there is a queue of vehicles, those that were allowed approach to the animals can stay with them for at most 10 minutes. After that time they must leave and make room for those that are in the queue. In general, off-roading is allowed in Masai Mara in case of big cats sightings. However, in Mara Triangle, this is allowed only in so-called "low use zone", which is generally on the western side of the main gravel road, far from the river.

    We were quite lucky with some of our wildlife sightings. We spotted one black rhino, almost at the same place where we found four of them last year. And we were all alone there, only later one other vehicle arrived there. And on one other occasion, a nice safari guide on the main road gave us a tip about a leopard nearby. Even with his information, we wouldn't be able to find it, as it was quite away from the road. But luckily, another two vehicles with same intention appeared and they knew more precisely where the leopard is. They turned off the road, and as this was in low-use zone, we followed them through quite rough terrain with some high grass. But at the end we were rewarded with an unobstructed sight of a magnificent leopard on a tree. And we were only three vehicles there.

    On our second day, after we saw a rhino, we ventured on a very remote track south of Little Governor's camp. Terrain was mostly black cotton soil, but it was dry and track was very distinctive, so the driving was quite relaxed. The track crossed some dry gullies and we traversed couple of them without any problems. At some point we encountered one of these that really didn't look too challenging - we did successfully cross few of them that appeared much more demanding. Nevertheless, I approached it very cautiously, slowly and with low range engaged. Both the approach and the exit from the gully were very steep and the bottom of the gully was "pawed" with large stones, as there was still some water in it. The descend to the gully went successfully, as well as the first part of the exit. Front wheels were already on top of the bank, but at that moment the cars was leaned to such a sharp angle that at that moment it sat with its rear bumper on the bottom rocks. It sat so hard on those rocks that it wouldn't move neither front nor reverse. This was late afternoon and we had about two hours daylight left. I tried to dig out those rocks under the rear bumper, but without any major success. Whatever we tried, the car wouldn't move. Even if we had a winch (which we didn't), there were no trees or any other suitable points in the vicinity, that would serve as an anchor point. Once the daylight was starting to fade, it became obvious that no other car will pass by that day and we were left with two options: either we will succeed to get with someone that can arrange some help to pull us out, or we will be forced to spend a night in the car and wait for someone to pass by the next day. We also had some animal encounters while we were stuck in that gully. First, two large elephant bulls crossed the gully right beside us. It was obvious that that crossing where we were stuck was also a natural crossing for the wildlife. Next, just as I was going to get out of the car for the last time (it was getting quite dark at that time) to check behind the car that we stored all our things in the car, I noticed some movement few meters in front of the car. At first I thought it was a hyena, but in fact it was a huge lioness approaching directly toward us. It walked pass our car only few centimeters from my door, crossed the gully and disappeared in the long grass on the other side.

    Luckily, there was GSM coverage at that area, so we were able to call for help. We didn't have any phone numbers of ranger stations or park gate s (a mistake we will never repeat again!), but I was sure we'll find some contact numbers in our guidebook (The Rough Guide to Kenya). Well, I was wrong. No such number in that guide! I tried to call some of the nearby lodges, but to no avail. Either the phone numbers in the book were wrong or no one answered the calls. Finally, I managed to get on the phone some casual Kenyan acquaintances, that we have met few days ago and they organized the rangers to contact us. After few calls and text messages we let them know our GPS position and after an hour and a half a ranger fund us. His vehicle (Maruti Jimny) was too small and too light to pull us out, but he managed to call nearby Little Governor's Camp and arranged a tractor from there to pull us out. It took them another hour and a half to reach us and once they arrived, we were out in few minutes and in the first try. We just needed a little pull, so that the car was not sitting on the rocks with its rear part any more. Once we were out, there were five very happy people laughing and cheering under dark African night in the middle of the Masai Mara: three locals, who got generous reward for their unselfish help and two dumb tourists who could return to their camp after they were already prepared for an uncomfortable night in the car. An experience that we will never forget and that helped us learn a thing of two from our own mistakes.

    Our last day in Mara Triangle was also New Year's Eve. It was our third in the row that we have spent in African wilderness. Two year ago we celebrated in Lobo camp in Serengeti, Tanzania. Last year it was in Kenya, in Ol Pajeta in Laikipia. And this year it was again in Kenya, this time in Masai Mara. I can not imagine more exciting celebration of the New Year than sitting under starry African sky with the small fire in front of the tent. As every year, we took a small plastic Christmas tree with some decoration with us, so we've had a proper New Year's feeling. We only missed our children to be with us.
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    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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  13. #10
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Excellent detail Ortelius.

    Thank you!

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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Thank you, ortelius, for this next exciting instalment. Well done the ranger and the Little Governor’s tractor and driver for getting you out of your predicament. It would have been an uncomfortable night!

    For future reference with regard to an emergency or being stuck, here are the emergency contacts numbers for the Mara Conservancy. If using an overseas phone, the international code for Kenya is +254 (and then drop the first 0).

    https://www.maratriangle.org/emergen...mara-triangle/

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  16. #12
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Thank you for sharing. Beautiful photos.
    Hermanator

    Herman Smit

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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Thanks Ortelius. I am really enjoying this.

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    Default Intermezzo - a night with elephants

    Apart from getting stuck in that gully, there was one other occasion when we were flooded with adrenaline and our hearts were beating so strong that it almost hurt. It was during the night and the whole ordeal lasted for hours.

    It happened on our second night at Oloololo campsite. After a quiet evening we went to sleep at around 9 pm after storing all our things into the car, as we do every night. It was a warm night, so we left outer entrance flaps of our small nylon tent unzipped, only hanging over fully zipped inner gauze of the tent. As there were no strong winds, this way we remained unseen from the outside, but still some fresh air could come into the tent. At around midnight I was awaken by some loud noises. At first it occurred to me that when packing our things into the car, I must have forgotten to close the rear doors and now some hyenas must have a ball there. I quietly peeped out of our tent and shine a torch in the direction of the car. To my relief, I discovered that the car is fully closed and there were no hyenas around. Instead, I noticed a lone elephant grazing peacefully some 20 meters away. There was a deep pit dug there that served as a waste disposal and obviously elephant must have played there with some empty plastic bottles - that was the noise that has awoken me.

    As the elephant was grazing so peacefully, I was sure he will quietly leave soon, so I went back to sleep. But about half an hour later, we were both awoken with a commotion outside our tent. I soon realized that the elephant must have come right into our campsite. I carefully unzipped the top of inner gauze of our tent, just enough to slightly uncurtain outer flaps, so that we was able to peek outside. To our dismay, there was an enormous elephant head staring right into the entrance of our tent. It was so close that it almost touched our tent with its tusks and trunk. He was starring at us, sniffing in our direction and I'm sure he was aware of our presence although he could not see us inside the tent. Luckily, he appeared to be quite relaxed, probably just curious. Still, we could feel our hearts in our throats! It wasn't very bright night, but we could still clearly distinguish other members of the heard behind him. We could see four adults and two subadults, but we could also hear some others around that we couldn't see. But they were so close that we could clearly hear the grass breaking while they were grazing around our tent.

    Those were very tense moments for us. Elephants showed absolutely no aggression, but we were still afraid that one of them could stumble over guy ropes of our tent, ore something else might have spooked them and cause a stampede, in which case our flimsy small tent would cause no obstacle for them nor any protection for us. We were hoping they will move away in few minutes. But no such luck, they were there to stay! The whole ordeal lasted from around half past midnight until 5 in the morning. And man, were they loud! The voices coming from their stomachs are incredible - in very low frequency, but so powerful and constant that I had a feeling that our tent was trembling in that low vibrato. When the defecated (and they did that a lot), their dung hit the ground with very loud voices. And when they peed, it was like listening to the waterfall. All that time we were quiet as mice in our tent, peeking through our small peep hole and observing the situation. At the beginning, they were all grazing and constantly moving around. They used a nearby tree to scratch their backs against it a lot and they tossed around all the firewood that was stacked beneath that tree. But they were not interested in our gas bottle that was left under the tree at all, they never touched it. But after some time they all calmed down and became still, they hardly move at all. We realized, they were all sleeping. At first, they did this standing, but after a while, they all lay down. Except one, which remained standing and we thought he was somehow standing guard for the others. And even during sleep, their digestive system produced incredible noises, keeping us awake and alert. They were all lying very close to our tent, one of them at the side of our tent (and out of our sight) so close that we could clearly hear his breathing. At one moment, one of them at the side of our tent must have had a bad dream, as all of a sudden he let out such a dreadful scream and jumped to his feet that it mad our hair stand up! Luckily, it must really have been just some nightmare for him, as he soon lay down again and went to sleep.

    This all lasted until 5 am when they slowly, one by one decided to move on into the savanna. It was one of the longest nights for us. One feels so little and helpless in the near vicinity of those giants, particularly when looking at them from the ground. We would be much more relaxed with them if we were in a tent on the roof of the car, that would make a feeling (probably false, but nevertheless) of much more protection as the flimsy small nylon tent. In the view of recent tragic events in Mabua, where leopard attacked a woman inside a nylon tent and heated discussions in the forums whether ground tents used should be from canvas rather than from nylon - this makes absolutely no difference when elephants (and probably hypos and other non-predator animals) are around. In such cases, only RTT offers at least some protection. As said, our elephants showed absolutely no aggression, we were only afraid they could trample us unintentionally. What baffles me still is the fact that even though they knew we were there (they surely must have smelled us), they didn't decide to leave the place and move on. I thought that smell of humans would make wild elephants uncomfortable and that they would try to avoid us if they have a choice.

    But as they say, all is well what ends well. That was another experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives - I'm sure it will not fade away as many others do in time. And at this point I must express a great admiration to my wife. Although she was very afraid, even terrified (we both were, make no mistake), she kept very calm for all that time. She didn't show absolutely no trace of panic, which, even if she would, I couldn't blame her for that. And after whole ordeal was over, she wasn't afraid at all of continuing using our ground tent for the rest of our trip. She really is a traveling companion that one can only wish for!

    (Disclaimer:
    The photos below were obviously not taken during this incident, as it was too dark and we had other things in mind during that time but to take photos. They are just to illustrate the surrounding of the Oloololo campsite and some wildlife that passed near the campsite during the day.)
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    Last edited by ortelius; 2018/01/25 at 01:14 PM.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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  20. #15
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    what an experience!

    This is one of the most exciting lunch breaks in the office ever!

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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Wow! Wow! Wow! What an experience!

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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Hi Ortelius,

    There are two very good books on Elephant behaviour and communication written by Dr. Caitlin O´Connell : The Elephant Secret Sense,2008; and The Elephant Don, 2015; Have a look at it! The research and field work was done in Etosha.

    AP

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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Thanks all for your support and kind words.

    @apfac:
    Might really look into those two books some day. Incidentally, during this trip I was reading the book "The Elephant Whisperer" by Lawrence Anthony. He describes his encounters with a family of "problematic", initially very aggressive elephants, since they have been brought into his private game reserve. And I must say this read didn't help in calming me down during that long night.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    And here are some academic publications to wade through...

    https://www.elephanttrust.org/index.php/publications

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  27. #20
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    Default Re: Trip report - Kenya 2017/18

    Quote Originally Posted by atakanmerdin View Post
    Wow! Wow! Wow! What an experience!
    Can echo this

    "In nature, nothing is on order - appreciate what you do get to experience" - Myself
    Defender 90 TD5 - BL Boskriek
    Namibia Trip Report, Kaa Wilderness Trip Report, Wildcoast Trip Report, Botswana Trip Report, Kgalagadi Trip Report, Lesotho Trip Report

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