Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone out there reading this. I have no idea how some of you found me, but hey – hi! Clearly we all love animals and reading about them. Or maybe we love to travel and don’t care about the animals. Either way, welcome. Please do me a favor and give this post a comment or a like. I like posting, but it is quite a bit of work and I want to make sure you still want to hear these stories. Thank you 🙂
Have I mentioned that every day at Malaika Camp had great sightings? Because it truly did. While we saw everything in general on our wish list even before we got to Malaika, Malaika delivered on every single extra bonus viewing we had added just for kicks. Male leopard? Check! Cheetah running? Check! And my favorite extra bonus…The Brothers.
Yes, I am giving them caps, because they are that important to parts of Kenya and its history. I had no clue about these five male cheetahs until I saw their photo displayed in the dining tent. It drew me in. They were all walking in a line, projecting all of the confidence in the world. Looking at the photo all I saw was power. These Brothers were not all biological brothers, and that is what made them special and unusual. The bush is a very hard place, though, and even with all their success with hunting, nature would take its course and each would eventually die. Luckily for us there were actually two still alive! I was surprised when I found out and so I immediately added them to the wish list and figured it would be pretty unlikely we’d see them. I underestimated Tony, our guide. I was wrong, and it was fantastic (for the most part – more on that later!).
I remember Tony saying had heard the brothers were in a certain area that was a bit of a distance away; were we up for a drive? Of course we were. We were absolutely shocked by how many vehicles there were. This is how many people wanted to see these beautiful boys. I was sort of surprised it was allowed, to be honest. You see some pics of a gazillion vehicles watching an animal sometimes, but this is the first time I experienced it. I did not like it. We didn’t stay around them all that long, and to be fair they didn’t seem that bothered by cars. I was happy that I got to see them at all, but wished it would have been in better circumstances.
Narrator’s Voice, “Don’t fret, viewers; it happens later in better circumstances!”. 😉
Here are three videos of the superstars.
How about some pics, too?
When people ask me what my favorite thing I saw besides elephants was, it’s hard to decide. Going back through the pictures, though, I am reminded of how drawn to these Brothers I was, and how much I truly loved observing them. They were definitely a top three of the trip for me…besides my elephants, of course.
This day was unusual, though, because we also got to see our pregnant cheetah that we saw run. I don’t know what would have happened if they had all run into each other…
We were so fortunate to see three cheetahs in one day.
We also had some fun encounters with ellies. First, we had a small group of them walk by, which is always exciting.
On the afternoon drive we saw them by the water. There was one in particular that was actually playing in the water and moving stones with his trunk. He was having fun.
There must have been something in the air, because a couple of zebras were really getting into a dirt bath.
The other excitement, (well…) was seeing two ostriches mate. It lasted about two seconds, and after it was over the male literally ran away. Imagine teaching your massai warrior safari guide the saying, “Hit it and quit it”. I’m side eyeing myself now, remembering that little lesson. I blame it on the lack of sleep.
Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day, so I had to get some sort of love story in this trip report other than brotherly love 😉
I’m saving the best drive for last as far as Malaika Camp is concerned. My plan is to tell that story next week, and then move on into the elephant portion of the trip. Have a great week!
It was on this day that I stopped recording notes daily. I’m not sure why. Good thing we have plenty of photos to tell several of stories. But let’s just start with some pics!
Every morning there were a bunch of hot air balloons. It’s pretty expensive, but now I wish we would have gone up. Maybe next time. In the bumpy video below you can see them all and also get a lay of some of the land.
How about more elephants? This silly one had fun on a tiny mound getting belly rubs and just being goofy.
I thought you might like to see the sort of locations where we had breakfast:
Now back to the animals!
Uh oh. Lions.
That day we also saw our fourth (and last) Serval Cat of the trip.
There were herds and herds of zebra.
We were watching them all and saw the cutest baby.
This brings me to the first story. Zebra are weird. I had no idea how strange they were until we were watching a small group of bachelors. They were walking along in a line, then two started to fight. They would stop, then another couple would fight. One would run away, and from the other, and another fight would break out.
Warning! If you are squeamish maybe come back next week…
I actually have a recording on this day and it starts as such:
"Today is September 11th. I woke up at 2 and then could not get back to sleep because a small hippo (Sal) was in bed snoring away with me. So we had our wake up call at 5:30 even though both of us were awake. Well, actually no that's not true. Sal slept for nine minutes *giggles while saying the next part* I don't even know why he tried when I saw there was only 10 minutes left. I looked over and saw him try to sleep and thought *whispers*, 'ten minutes?!'."
So even though this day started on limited sleep, at least it started out with a giggle, right?
We asked Tony if we could head back to camp early because we hadn’t gotten any sleep and wanted to nap in the afternoon. We asked to be back by 11, unless we found something really good. Even getting back at 11, when you leave at six, is five hours in a vehicle and that’s a long time. We figured we were going to be there for four more days and we didn’t want to get run down. He said sure.
The first thing we saw were three male lions, sleeping. This is when I tried to tell Tony that I don’t like to get too close, but of course he got closer than I would have liked. What else is new?
Thankfully these were just sleeping and not really interested in us at all. They’d put their heads up every once in a while and open their eyes, but that was about it. Then we drove down a little further and saw there was a couple of cars watching two female lions. So apparently the story was that the three sleeping lions were sub-adult males. When the three got kicked out of the pride these two sub adult females went with them. The five formed their own coalition. I don’t know how normal this is, because I thought usually it’s only the males that get kicked out and form a group. Anyway, I found it interesting.
So when we drove up we saw the two female lions were trying to hunt while the lazy boys slept. They were walking around spreading out a little, watching zebra, but then would sit and watch.
All the sudden one, who had been in the tall grass a comfortable (for me) distance from the road, got up and started walking toward the road…AND US.
Then, faster than you could lie and say, “I promise I am not food!”, she was next to us.
This was the closest I’d ever been to a lion. And she was a biggie. Sal put his head out a little bit taking pics and I whisper-yelled at him to bring it back in the vehicle because I was afraid it would distract her and put her attention on us. It didn’t, but again – this was the closest I’d been. I couldn’t blame Tony for that – she came right to us.
So this is a crazy story that happened right after she laid down. There was a vehicle that pulled past us and stopped. Now this car was in front of us, which means still in front of the lion. I would say the vehicle was only a few car lengths (certainly less than a city short block) ahead of us with no vehicles between us. Well. It stopped and the DRIVER GOT OUT OF HIS CAR TO PUT IT IN FOUR WHEEL DRIVE (he had to adjust something on the tire). You guys. YOU GUYS. This was one of the craziest things I’d seen someone do in a while. The lion perked up and watched him, too. Keep in mind that the steering is on the right there, so this means he opened his door, walked around the front of his vehicle, and went to the back tire – LION SIDE – to make the adjustment. I was blown away. Gobsmacked, if you will.
This lead to a quick disclaimer to Tony that went something like this:
“Tony, don’t ever do anything like that and expect me to save you because I’m terrified of lions and that would be a stupid thing to do.”
He readily agreed. At least we were on the same page!
Finally she got up and went with her sister and they halfheartedly tried to hunt a warthog. I’m happy to say they were not successful. Tony had told us just a little bit before then that when they kill warthogs they can’t suffocate them so….there are a lot of bad noises. No thank you!
We then drove all the way over to where the Tanzania border is on the other side of the river and saw all the wildebeest and zebra on the other side congregating. It looked like hundreds and they were potentially going to cross at some point. Now I did not have on my wish list that I wanted to watch a crossing because I am a wimp and don’t want to see all the guts and gore that I figured would be associated with it. No thank you. Also, people wait there for hours and hours, and I’d rather spend my time seeing other stuff! Like birds:
I loved that every day we had breakfast outdoors. After our meal we drove down a little bit and saw two steenbok (antelope) at the Sand River. This river is very shallow and mostly sand, so no crocodiles. We saw both males cross. So after that, we told Edward (who loved to tease me) that we had seen a crossing. We just didn’t tell him it was only two antelope until he congratulated us. Those antelopes were smart fellas to cross in the no-croc zone.
And let’s not forget the goober wildebeest interaction we had…
We then went back to camp for lunch and met two of the people who would be joining us for the elephant portion of the trip. We went back to our tent and I could not sleep, but Sal slept for an hour and he was a little hippo again, snoring happily.
At the very beginning of the afternoon drive I was very sleepy. There were a couple things to see:
I woke up quickly when we got the best sighting at Malaika thus far… a male leopard! His name was Lorgorgol and he was magnificent! He walked past our car a few times and we got to spend a good amount of time with him. I was so excited because this was the first male leopard we had ever seen in Kenya, and second overall. They are so much bigger than the females; still smaller than lions, though. And let’s not forget the main reason: they are striking!
He was walking around a lot, going into the ravines, walking by vehicles, etc. He gave us all a good show. There were quite a few vehicles there and towards the end I felt a little bad. It was clear he wasn’t bothered by the cars, but I wanted to give him a break. Prepare yourself for a lot of leopard pics/videos and meet Lorgorgol:
We left then and spent some time with ellies.
We then had sundowners and had a beautiful sunset. Probably the best one of the trip.
There were thunderstorms in the distance and even a rainbow.
We drove back in the dark, had a quick dinner, then went to bed at 8 PM hoping to get some sleep. What a great day it was, and we already crossed off something on the extra wish list – a male leopard – score!
We had decided to stay at Malaika Camp for 5 nights as the prices were reasonable and it came recommended by the woman organizing the elephant portion of the trip. This would be the camp where we would meet up with most of the ladies I had chatted with online for over two and a half years. But first, before all of the elephant time, Sal and I wanted to do a bit more game drives and experience a new location. My online/elephant friend had been to the camp a few times and described it as very small, bucket showers, not fancy, but great game viewing. Perfect for us, really. Especially now that I understood a bucket shower wasn’t that big of a deal. To this day, though, I stand by my demand for a flush toilet. Sorry, not sorry.
Anyway, imagine my surprise when we got to camp and discovered it was larger than our last one. And not only that, they had….wait for it….running water in the shower! For a hot second I did wonder if we were at the right place. It seems they had done a lot of improvements during the pandemic.
Usually when you arrive at a new camp the camp manager is there to greet you and give you the spiel about the camp and have you sign the paperwork so you can’t sue them if a lion eats you. This time one of the quiet waiters started the spiel. It was a little obvious he wasn’t really used to doing it and he looked slightly nervous as he bounced from topic to topic. Eventually the manager showed up and asked us if we had any questions and if we could wait for our tent as the last guest hadn’t left yet. It was an odd introduction, and frankly it put me off a little bit. This manager couldn’t have been more opposite of the manager at Lion Camp. He wasn’t exactly a people person, let’s just say that. He was fine, but he was very serious and rarely smiled or said much to us in the five days we were there.
We didn’t mind at all waiting for the tent. A different waiter, Edward, gave us a tour of where we would eat lunch by the Mara river, then regaled us with a long fairy tale-ish story about a hippo while we stood next to a huge hippo skull. He was a character and really should have been the one to do the initial welcome. He was extremely friendly and had a teasing manner; I swear when he was telling us the hippo story his eyes were twinkling with every white lie he tried to get us to buy! He may have missed his calling as a story teller or a politician.
Soon we got to put our stuff in our tent, then go enjoy lunch. It’s an awesome setting to relax and watch the various animals on the other side of the Mara. After lunch we got a little exercise and then rested before the afternoon drive. The manager didn’t introduce us to our guide, he only said our guide’s name was Tony, so at the appropriate time when everyone met up for the tea before the drive, we were in search of him. Now, we drove with Tony for five days and I can say that he is the definition of ‘hakuna matata’, which means no worries, take it easy. And he said it often! As each guide would find their people and start leaving I wondered where Tony was. One of the waiters, when I asked what Tony looked like, told us he was a white guy, which literally made me laugh out loud.
When most everyone was gone, we saw a man, definitely not white, amble over to us in a hat I would have expected Crocodile Dundee to wear. This was Tony. We had gotten a private vehicle at the camp as it was actually reasonably priced. Our vehicle was really old and had weird seating. I wish I would have taken a picture of it. Poor Sal had to sit in the back because the first row behind the driver only had a single seat and Grandma (me) needed to sit there for less bumping on my back. It reminded me of a VW bus. I know it wasn’t, but that was sort of the shape of it. One side had the seats out and the open window for photography. I’m not going to lie…I was nervous about that vehicle as it was clearly the oldest out of them all, but it never got stuck AND we even helped a fancy vehicle get un-stuck at one point. So well done to Tony for that!
Tony asked us what we wanted to see. We had felt so fortunate because at that point we had seen most of what was on our bucket list. So now we added more specific things. Before when we had said leopard (and we had seen the two separate females at Lion Camp) so we said we’d like to see a male leopard. We had seen cheetah, but we hadn’t seen one run in person, only trot. So hey, why not? Could we see a cheetah run?
When we were given the camp tour and saw the huge photos decorating the walls, there was a picture of five cheetahs. It turns out these were called the ‘five brothers’. They had an interesting story and were extremely popular back in the day. These males had all formed their own coalition. What made that unusual is that they weren’t all biological brothers and it was almost unheard of that they would band together to hunt if they weren’t related. They did, though, and they would take down huge prey due to their number and speed. I asked if any of them were still alive and if they were around the area. There were two left. figured if we were going to add crazy things to the wishlist, I wanted to add that I’d love to see the brothers.
Finally, although we had seen rhino already at the first camp, that was in a protected area, so I added that to the list as well – rhinos in the wild.
I might not go through every single day at Malaika as I started slowing down on the recordings at this point and only have pictures to go by, but don’t worry – there’s definitely some good stuff coming up. What we would come to discover is Tony was the head guide and in the know a lot of times. People were often times asking where he was on the radio, because they knew he’d probably found something. More times than not they were right.
The first afternoon drive started off with a side striped jackal, which I guess isn’t that popular around there. Tony was pretty excited about it.
Then we enjoyed the different scenery and the usual suspects.
We were watching some elephants in the rain (yes, rain, because we are clearly rain gods bringing rain to every camp!) when all of the sudden there was a VERY loud CRACK. The elephant closest to us raised his head and flapped his ears at us. I tried to reassure him that we didn’t do it and it scared us, too.
And our first sunset at the camp. Rainy, but still pretty.
Nothing too exciting, but it’s always nice to see new topography. Our tent was the one closest to the main meeting and dining area, which was a small miracle and the only time the whole trip that happened. When it was dark the warriors would walk us to our tents. I remember the first night saying to the waiter that we didn’t need to have anyone walk us to the tent because we were the closest. I truly thought the camp was fenced. He said something along the lines of, “Do you not want to see me again tomorrow?”. I thought he was being dramatic (and that’s saying something coming from me). A few minutes later we were walked to our tent and the warrior pointed out a hippo *in camp* not far from our tent. Turns out it wasn’t fenced. Oops! Lesson learned.
The next day I would try to explain to the what felt like the 125985th guide how I was afraid of lions. Let’s see how that one goes. Catch ya next week!
Writing this post is hard and I almost didn’t do it because I can feel the tears coming for what feels like the millionth time as I do it. I’m tired of crying and feeling this horrible mixture of sadness and numbness, however my boy deserves a tribute and I am going to do the best I can.
Please indulge me as I tell you about Chachi.
We got Chachi and his sister less than two weeks after our cat Fatty died. We weren’t trying to replace our former feline friend, but we discovered he had actually been keeping mice away. Who knew? We, unfortunately, found out when all of the sudden we had a *lot* of mice in our apartment and previously we hadn’t had any. As you know from this particular trip report, I love animals. Well, most of them (looking at you, lions!). But I draw the line at mice in the house. No, thank you. Stay out of my home.
After Fatty died, a few days later I looked into the kitchen and a mouse was drinking water out of our dog Scootch’s water bowl. I did a double take. It was like he was at a spa enjoying cucumber water. This mouse was *relaxed* and clearly not put off by dog scent or shrieking women…because once I saw it I let out a loud yell and told my dog, who was laying next to me at the time to, “OMG GET IT! IT’S DRINKING YOUR WATER!!”. The dog raised his head, looked at the mouse getting hydrated from his own bowl, possibly gave a little sigh, and put his head back down again. I guess he didn’t like mice either.
The next step was to call an exterminator. I remember him telling me, “You need to get a cat.”. I said, “We had one! It just died a week ago.” His response was, “When the cat’s away the mice will play!”. Up until that point I had thought that was just a silly rhyme. I’m telling you right now, guys – it’s an actual cautionary tale that just *happens* to rhyme.
Thus we needed a cat because I refused to live with mice if I could help it.
We ended up going to this house that fostered, I think, 400 cats; as soon as you walked in the door you knew exactly what was happening in there. They were hoarding cats. Just kidding. But it stunk to high heaven. We were there for a particular cat who was in the same litter as a cat our friends had gotten who got along with dogs. We ended up getting him and his sister.
Chachi’s original name was Stache. I have no idea why – he didn’t have a mustache. Through the years his name evolved. Stache to Stachey. Stachey to Stachey Muchachi. Muchachi to Chachi. Now that I write that out it makes a little bit of sense that even at the very end he didn’t know his own name; he would come when I called his sister. “How do you not know your name after all these years?”, I’d ask him. Maybe he was just nosey and wanted to be kept in the loop.
He was a big, lovable doofus of a guy who loved to talk. I could have full blown conversations with him. I remember one of our friends saying he’d follow her into the bathroom and tell her all our secrets. He was friendly to strangers; definitely not a ‘guard’ cat or skitterish to newcombers. He welcomed everyone at the door and if you sat at the table you just had to accept he might try to jump in your lap.
When I would walk indoors for exercise he would go on ‘walks’ with me back and forth from living room to bedroom, getting rewarded with pets at each end point. I would cheer him on and he would trot along, proud of himself. You don’t have to be a dog to go for a walk!
He was odd in that he didn’t care for people food and was fully content with dry cat food. He did love treats, though, but even those were crunchy.
When Sal would change the litter, he would tell Chachi, “I’m stealing your poops!”. Like clockwork he would go directly into the box and dirty it immediately. God forbid there was a clean litter box in the house!
He loved his Dad dearly. He slept by his feet almost every night before he got sick, and if I got up before Sal he’d move up to near his shoulder. I can’t count the number of times I’d look over and he was either rubbing against his Dad’s hand, laying next to his arm, walking across him, or even settling down for a little bit to lay on his chest. Towards the end he would lay there longer and longer. And the amount of times he would just stare at him. He just adored him.
He had a very loud motor. He didn’t just purr. He PURRED, and it was because he was a happy boy. You could hear the purring sometimes from a distance and not for any particular reason except that he was happy and I guess that is the absolute best reason there is.
Sometimes he would let me dance with him in my arms. He would rub against my head and snuff my ear, tickling it. He would sometimes give me back tickles, too, if I sat on the edge of the bed. He’d go from side to side occasionally getting on his hind legs to make sure to get the shoulders. Yes, please!
He hated going to the vet. He was mostly a healthy cat except he would get allergies or cat acne a couple times a year. As soon as he heard Sal get the pet carrier out he would run and try to hide, but he really wasn’t that great at hiding. He’d often end up in a corner where it was easy to get him. The last few years he wouldn’t run as much, but he added a pathetic howling sort of meow after a few seconds, giving up, like, “Aw, man! No!”.
When we got home in early December Sal took him to the vet as we noticed he had lost weight when we were on vacation. I don’t want to write much about his illness because it’s too fresh and that’s not how I want to remember him. Our big boy that we had called tubby ended up skin and bones and unable to walk steadily or jump without falling. He would barely eat and lost weight shockingly rapidly. We tried several things and saw that nothing was working and knew it was time to say goodbye. I looked to see if there were doctors that would come into the house to let the cat die at home, instead of at the vet, especially since he hated going so much.
So a vet came and did all the things that would have happened in the office. I couldn’t watch him get the shots, but Sal was there the whole time. Chachi went peacefully, somehow purring very softly at the end. Maybe happy to not be stressed or in pain any longer.. Maybe to tell us goodbye and he loved us, too.
Chachi was such a good boy and our home feels empty without him. I miss him rubbing against my legs and telling me about his day whenever I’d go to the bathroom. I miss him getting right in front of my feet, almost tripping me, because he wanted to be wherever we were going; we were a family.
I miss him.
I’m sorry I haven’t continued my trip report; I’ve found it impossible to write about a happy time when I’m feeling so…opposite. I will get back to it though, I promise. I just need a little time.
It wouldn’t have been a night at Lion Camp, especially at our tent location, without a bit of drama.
Picture it: you’ve just had a wonderful night drive, gotten to know your guides better, and ended up laughing so hard you were crying. You get back to camp for a delicious final dinner. You say your goodbyes to the gray hairs because you get to sleep in the next day since it’s transfer day. You get back to the tent for a great night’s sleep.
You must be new to this blog. If so, welcome! Things do not necessarily go according to plan here, and this was no exception. The last night at Lion camp for one of us was terrifying. For the other, it ended up being confusing. Sal slept soundly and quickly after saying goodnight. Sal slept so soundly he didn’t hear THE TENT ACTUALLY SHAKING AND CREAKING FROM THE ANIMAL RUBBING AGAINST IT.
After a very long day in the vehicle I was tired and thought I would sleep quickly, but when you hear the noises of a large animal near the tent, followed by creaking and actual shaking of the tent? You will not be sleeping any time soon. I was fervently trying to remember two things: 1) where the emergency whistle was, and 2) how our tent was set up. I knew the whistle was on Sal’s side and I was afraid to get out of bed in case the tent collapsed. It sounded like someone was going to climb up to our little front porch. I was wondering what animals would use stairs and if the porch would support their weight. I was more concerned about the actual moving of the tent though. I didn’t think anything would be as scary as hearing the big animal munching right outside the tent the first night, but this was definitely more alarming.
I would say this whole thing went on for about ten minutes. My fear, again, activated my bladder. I had to go so badly, but I was imagining going to the bathroom and the tent collapsing and me literally being discovered with my undies down. In other words, I held it until the coast was clear. My FitBit monitors my heart rate and the speed in which my heart was going made it think I was exercising.
Sal woke up when I got up to go to the bathroom. “Are you OK?”, he asked. No, Sal. We just had some major kaka happening and you slept right through it. I had to tell him what happened. How he never woke up when the actual tent was shaking was way beyond me. I can count on Sal for a lot, but this just solidified that if something happens when he’s sleeping I’m out of luck and it’s been a good run.
We got up the next morning and told David about the shenanigans from the night before. He said it was buffalo! Apparently they like to rub against the ropes that keep the tents up to scratch themselves. He said they tighten the ropes daily because of it. Interesting. What an experience!
We had our breakfast and then packed and said goodbye to the staff. I was quite sad to leave. I felt like I could have stayed there longer. I just really enjoyed all the people, the location, and the drives. I would go back to Lion Camp in a heartbeat.
This was our first land transfer of the trip; the others had all been flights between camps. Malaika Camp was only a few hours from Lion Camp so we would do a game drive between the camps, with our trusty Lion Camp guides, Wilson and Wilfred taking us. Neither had been to the camp before and didn’t know all that much about it. This was going to be interesting!
Being out in the bush driving between camps isn’t exactly like being on the interstate. We did drive by an air strip at one point and our guys were able to ask how the roads were and for directions (I think). It had rained the night before and apparently there was going to be water crossings to get to the camp, so they wanted to make sure they could use that route and the water wasn’t too deep. They were told it was passable, so away we went.
We saw some meerkats on the way!
We came across a hyena who was sitting in a little mud puddle in the grass.
He/she got up when we were driving by.
We also saw the usual suspects…
We enjoyed the views…
And then we got to the water crossing, which wasn’t bad at all!
The real highlight of this drive was seeing her, though:
They managed to find the camp. I still have no idea how, as it was deep in this wooded area before the river. Before we left I asked if we needed to call the camp to let them know we were coming, but they said no that the camp should be expecting us.
I don’t think they were expecting us.
They acted a little surprised to see us and nobody really greeted us, but they all spoke to each other in Swahili. It seemed slightly confusing. The Masaai at the new camp were a little intimidating, as well. At the time they seemed very serious, but since then I’ve come to understand that most Kenyans in general look serious until you smile at them and then their whole faces can light up with a smile in return.
We hugged Wilson and Wilfred goodbye and thanked them. We even exchanged phone numbers. Wilson normally works at a different Porini camp and he really wanted us to go there next time we are in Kenya. I think we will. He was the best. And of course we will go back to Lion Camp to see Wilfred and the rest of that amazing gang.
So we walked through to the main lounge building and I was absolutely shocked to see how big it was. Lots of furniture with big safari photos covering the walls. See, I was under the impression this was going to be smaller and more roughing it than Lion Camp. I was wrong! This place also had a dining room for dinner and breakfast, and two open tents near the water where you could have your lunch. We had running water again, which was also shocking as I fully expected bucket showers. This place was actually bigger than Lion Camp! To be fair I hadn’t done a lot of research on this camp as one of the ladies that was going to be with us on the elephant portion of the trip had been there before and recommended it.
I’ll have more information on the camp and our time there in the next installment. I’m not going to do a day by day account there since we were there for five days, but I will break it into stories and sightings from the camp.
Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for your interest in our travels. It’s continually shocking to me that more than three people are reading this!
You can always tell how good the camp is by how sad and pre-nostalgic you start feeling when you are on the last couple of drives. I was feeling a little down because Lion Camp was such a good camp that I didn’t want to leave! But we had one day left and we were determined to see all we could see. We decided we would do a night safari, as well, and during the day we would try to see other parts of the conservancy that we hadn’t seen yet.
The morning started off nicely with a pretty sunrise.
A really cool sighting we had was seven small jackal pups. We drove up as they were scampering around and into their den. Unfortunately the den wasn’t big enough and only fit five of them!
They really needed a bigger den. I felt a little bad because the other two then went off in different directions, hiding. And it was chilly and windy, so the poor things were shivering behind grass/bush. We didn’t watch long. We had never seen a group that big before, though, so that was pretty cool!
We were driving along, enjoying the scenery, when we rounded a corner and there was this giraffe that was standing in the middle of the road.
Our guides kept driving towards him, hoping he would move off the road. 95% of the time that’s what happens. I don’t know if this guy/gal was kicked in the head or got into one too many fights, but it decided it would move forward. Still on the road.
Our guides were not concerned at all. Clearly they’d never seen the crazy giraffe video on YouTube where the giraffe started chasing the vehicle. We kept driving steadily forward. The giraffe started running forward. Still on the road. I’m just going to say this was probably a male because the common sense just wasn’t there. Ha! Giraffes look sorta funny when they run/gallop. This guy was no exception. He thought we were chasing him, when all we wanted to do was drive on the road. I may or may not have yelled, “Get off the road, ya ding dong!”, which is the polite version of what I would have said back at home to vehicle traffic.
We got to spend more time with ellies, of course.
Then it was time to set up for breakfast. I asked our guides if I could take their picture.
We enjoyed breakfast in this new location and decided to look around a bit, and guess what we found? Serval cat #2. Wow! It was hunting for its own breakfast.
We watched it for a while with only one other vehicle. It would walk from shrub to shrub trying to find something. This was a younger cat than we saw the day before. We were all like, “Holy cow! We got to see two!”. I thought to myself, “If I have to see a kill in the wild, this is the type of kill I could handle!”. It would be like seeing a pet cat catch a mouse or a bird or something and not all blood and guts like I’d heard about with the kills the other animals can make.
This serval had no luck while we were watching, but some other people in the camp that drove up as we left did get to see it catch something. Good job, buddy.
We decided we were going to look for cheetahs or leopards in this new area. I mean, why not? At this point we had seen everything at the top of our lists, including not one, but two serval cats. We felt pretty lucky. It wasn’t long before the following happened:
Wilson yells, "Cheetah!"
Neeners (grabbing binoculars and looking frantically) responds,"Where?"
Wilson, pointing straight ahead in the distance, answers, "There!"
Wilson puts the pedal to the metal and races to see the cheetah.
Neeners looks and looks.
Neeners doesn't see the cheetah, but also rarely sees the actual animal until the
vehicle is pretty close.
Neeners is old.
Neeners says, "I don't see it, but yay! Good job!"
Wilson drives closer.
Wilson realizes it's a Secretary Bird.
Neeners teases Wilson and nicknames him, "Secretary Bird Wilson".
Wilson nicknames Neeners, "Serval Cat Stephanie".
We had a lot of fun teasing Wilson after that. We had a discussion with him regarding the difference between a secretary bird (the flying things with feathers and beaks) and a cheetah (the land things with whiskers and four legs). Poor Wilson. It was all in good fun and we all had a lot of laughs over it.
Before lunch they took us to see the pink hippos.
These hippos were pink from sunburn! Because of the drought, there wasn’t enough water to always cover their bodies. I felt so bad. Apparently because the water is shallow it’s very dirty and a lot of them were dying, too. It’s very sad. This is why everyone (except us) was so very happy to see the rain they said we brought. After seeing the poor hippos I didn’t mind the rain after that. Water was definitely needed.
We drove back to the camp for lunch, and on the way we got to see my favorite antelope, the dik dik!
I think this was the first one of the trip. They are so cute and tiny.
We enjoyed lunch, exercised, then had bucket showers. Then we did something that we hadn’t done the whole time at camp to that point (due to weather, mostly). We went to the little area by the water to enjoy the hammocks. It was wonderful! We had a slight breeze so it had cooled off. It was the perfect location to read. I just wish we could have enjoyed it sooner!
The afternoon drive we were looking for leopards or cheetahs. We didn’t have much luck at all to begin with.
My sense of direction is subpar, to say the least. So when we saw this troop of baboons…
I didn’t realize that we were pretty close to camp. Great. I was hopeful that it was the opposite end of camp, because remember our tent was on the end. It was not the opposite end; they were headed towards our tent. Wonderful. Luck was on our side and either the workers scared them off, or they weren’t interested in getting into our tent to poop and take our medications. Yes, I’ve heard several stories of them doing such a thing.
We saw some lion cubs hiding in the grass/bushes.
We couldn’t see them well because they were right in the bushes, but that was fine by me because I really didn’t want to hang out there anyway. The mom wasn’t around.
Then we noticed a vehicle watching something semi-nearby, and it was a leopard! Not only was it a leopard, but it was Fig’s youngest daughter, Faulu. So even though we didn’t get to see Fig, we got to see her daughter. I was so happy!
Before we knew it everyone from our camp, as well as a few other vehicles, were all around this tree watching her and waiting to see if she would come down. She didn’t seem stressed or anything, so we stayed.
We sat there waiting and waiting. We decided to just have our sundowners there. I really, really wanted to see her get down from the tree!
We had the best conversation with Wilson and Wilfred. They told us about the Maasai, their lives, their families, and just general chit chatting. I’ll never forget showing them both a picture of who their names reminded us of back home. Wilson got the volleyball from Cast Away, and Wilfred for some reason (probably because this was after a gin and tonic or two) got a picture of Wilford Brimley. I’m laughing remembering their reactions. We were all laughing a lot. I was laughing so hard I had to wipe away the tears.
Faulu would switch positions occasionally and we’d all think she was going to come down. She tricked most of her viewers. One by one the other vehicles left. At this point we were having a great conversation and waiting for the leopard was our excuse to continue. So eventually there was only Faulu and us.
It was getting into our official night drive and at that point I said, “Let’s stay here as long as we can and hope she comes down.”
Once it was pretty dark she started yawning.
Then she actually stood up!
And then she was both standing *and* yawning, which apparently is the International sign for, “I’m coming down!”
And before we knew it, she came down.
And yawned again.
We did it! We outlasted her and got to see her come down. It was dark and we had to use the red spotlight to see anything at that point. She was very considerate, though, and got down before our dinner time, so thank you Faulu! We only watched her for a little bit because once she was in the bushes there was little chance we were going to find her again.
It was very dark and the drive back to camp was exciting…mostly because you couldn’t see all that far ahead of the vehicle. Between the red spotlight that Wilfred had and Sal and I using our phone/flashlight we tried to see as much as possible.. The bad thing about night safaris is it’s almost impossible to take photos unless you have really great cameras, which we didn’t. The good thing is you get to see some things you haven’t seen before. We saw a white-tailed mongoose, which apparently is pretty rare. You can always tell how rare something is by the excitement the guide shows. We saw a spring hare, which they call the African kangaroo. We also saw a bush baby (very cute with big eyes). All of the sudden there were two hippos, which at night can be scary if you are between them and the water. Thankfully we weren’t and they didn’t even pay attention to us.
And last, but not least…
Yes, that makes three serval cats. Three! They don’t call me Serval Stephanie for nothin’.
We got back to camp and enjoyed dinner and went to bed early because we were tired. It’s amazing how 9-10 hours in an open jeep can wear you out!
After our wonderful morning sightings of the mama/baby cheetah and the serval cat, we headed back to camp for a yummy lunch, some exercise, and a bucket shower.
Nathan would fill the bucket/bag with water that had been heated, then you get that much water for your shower. At first I was nervous about taking a bucket shower and thought that I would end up all soapy or whatnot because I wouldn’t have enough water to rinse everything off. I was pleasantly surprised to find as long as you only keep the water on for rinsing, and turn it off in between, it was fine. I even had enough water to condition my hair with a bar I had brought with me. It added to the adventure!
After a bit of a rest it was time for the afternoon drive. We were still on a high from an awesome morning drive and figured anything we saw the rest of the day would be a bonus. And what a bonus it was!
The lilac-breasted roller (LBR) is Kenya’s national bird. It’s a beautiful, small bird that is often really hard to get a pic of in flight. They startle easily, so sometimes even getting close can be a challenge. Sal tried his best.
As my luck would have it, we soonran into two male sub-adult lions who were at the bottom of a hill.
Right up from them were some buffalo. It was a strange sort of stand off. We think the buffalo must have climbed down the hill then saw the lions blocking their way. They were two sub-adult lions, so they weren’t going to take down a small group of buffalo, but nobody was moving. The one big buffalo just kept staring at the lions. So really, he was just being a typical buffalo because all they really do is stare at you.
Wilson asked if I wanted to get closer…
We left the lions (yay) and went in search of leopards. Yes, we knew Fig (RIP) was gone, but she had successfully brought up some babies to adulthood and we were hoping to see one of them or another leopard in the area. As you guys know, leopards were #1 on our wishlist since we hadn’t seen any last time we were in Kenya.
We drove around enjoying the scenery. Then we noticed a family of ellies in the grass, so we went to join them. There were no other vehicles around, so we had the family all to ourselves. I’d discovered most people don’t stop and watch elephants; they’d rather watch the lions. It makes no sense to me because the lions almost always are just laying there sleeping, and elephants at least are always moving. Oh well, more elephants for me!
We got pretty close…
For once the animals were on Sal’s side. I remember he asked me if I wanted to move to that side of the vehicle. I declined. While I love ellies, I didn’t feel that comfortable that close to them yet. Especially wild ones. Our guides were *extremely* comfortable and not even watching the elephants. And they just kept getting closer and closer as we sat there parked and quiet.
Then we were sort of surrounded – front and on the left side. I was very happy I didn’t switch spots because this is how close one got…
Watching this video back, after having learned much more about elephants, I think this elephant is probably 4-6 years old, so not fully grown. Still, when you’re sitting down and it’s *right* next to you, oh yeah, and don’t forget WILD, it’s definitely a holy crap moment.
We stayed with them for quite some time, then decided to try by the water for leopards. Wilson and Wilford really were trying their best to find one for us. We drove very slowly down a full length of river, everyone with their eyes peeled out for the big cats.
We had no luck and it was getting to be sundowner time. We stopped to take a few pics of the sunbeams through the clouds and enjoy the view.
We heard some weird noise while we were sitting there. I think we all said, “What was that?”. A vehicle of park rangers drove by around that time and they chatted with our guides. They drove off in the direction we had just come, and before we knew it they were telling us great news – they found a leopard!
We took off, back where we came from, and they pointed to where it was. Then we saw her. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited we all were. We were racing to find her before a bunch of vehicles showed up. Finally, we were going to see our first leopard in Kenya!
Her name is Akira and she is the daughter of Tito. No idea who her mother is. Isn’t she a beauty?
We were very lucky to have her to ourselves for a bit of time. We never would have gotten that alone time if we hadn’t stopped to enjoy the view and take the photo above.
Our radios only transmitted between our camp vehicles and most of the people at our camp were on the other side of the park and it was getting dark. The rangers called the sighting in to some other camps. Too soon there were other vehicles joining us. We all gave the beautiful girl space and enjoyed watching her.
Every time she would walk near our vehicle my heart would beat out of my chest. Not from fear, from excitement! For some reason I am not as afraid of leopards as I am of lions, even though I know what leopards can do…(spoiler alert – awesome leopard story coming up in your future reading!).
It was getting dark and we decided to leave to leave her.
What a joy it was to see her. I actually teared up. I just find leopards incredibly beautiful and I was happy to get to see my first one in Kenya.
We rode back to camp with a smile on our face. We had such an absolutely amazing safari day between the cheetah (#2 on the list), serval (not even on the list), and leopard (#1 on the list) sightings. I felt incredibly lucky and thankful.
We got back to camp and there was a fire waiting for us.
We shared stories with the gray hairs while enjoying an adult beverage. Dinner was delicious, and then it was bed time. What a fabulous day at Porini Lion Camp!
Excuse from the author: so sorry for the delay, I was on a long vacation with very slow WiFi – now where were we?
Picture it: a wonderful (albeit wet) afternoon/evening in a new camp. You’re loving everything about the new surroundings and are walking around with a big contented smile on your face. You go to bed and find a hot water bottle under the covers to keep you toasty. It’s pitch black and the rain is pounding on the tent. Perfect sleeping conditions, right?
Remember how I said that they joked about our tent being 1/2 a mile from everyone else and it wasn’t? Well, it *was* on the end of the row and it *was* next to a path where animals could climb up the bank from the river. There was a well-worn path that was basically directly behind our tent. *Gulp*. So let’s just say the nights at Lion camp came with, uh, surprises. The first night, while Sal slept soundly next to me, I was wide-eyed listening to something very big and very close.
You guys – I had to pee so bad I think the fear of being eaten activated my bladder. I held it until I heard the beast move on and poop by the tent (yes, seriously). Once I thought I was semi-safe I very slowly crept into the bathroom without turning the lights on and did my business as quietly as I could. I didn’t know what would happen if whatever creature it was heard a sound or saw a light and I did NOT want to find out. Even though it was raining, it was not easy to sleep that night at all. Well, for some of us. Sal slept through it. Somehow I was the most scared of the trip so far, and Sal was snoring away like it was a typical Tuesday back in the good ol’ US. To add insult to injury I could also hear a little bit of hippo ‘laughing’ in the distance. Yeah, the joke was on me that night.
Our wake-up call was at 5:45 a.m., which meant I got about 13 minutes of sleep after listening intently to the creatures outside our tent. I was dragging. The man with a spear (our morning protector) who was going to walk us to the vehicle because it was dark showed up a little early, but I didn’t see/hear him coming; it was dark and they are very quiet walkers! I had just survived the traumatic noises from the night before (wink wink) and his, “ready?” when I didn’t see or hear him approach scared the bejeezus out of me and made me jump.
The morning drive started out slow, but at least no rain!
But then it got *really* good.
Our first good sighting was hyenas eating a kill. I know it’s weird to refer to something like that as ‘good’, but when you get to observe something by yourself, and with a lot of animals and not much gore, you appreciate it!
And almost anywhere you find hyenas eating, you’ll find a jackal or two waiting around or trying to steal a bite.
Then we got to see a small family of ellies, including a cute little baby.
Then we really hit the jackpot and found a female cheetah and her baby girl cub! Cheetahs were #2 on our wish list so we were extremely happy! Apparently the adult female had two cubs, but one had been killed recently by lions. You guys – 9 times out of 10 we can blame the carnage on the lions. After that story I was officially done with lions. OK, I guess I can’t say that because I never really liked them to begin with, but it made me dislike them even more. First Fig, then the baby cheetah?? In general, they don’t kill cheetahs and leopards for food…they just don’t want them in their territory taking any of the pride’s potential food. It obviously makes sense, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. It makes me sad because cheetahs and leopards have significantly fewer numbers. Sometimes the circle of life really stinks. But back to the beautiful cheetahs!
And unlike the cheetahs we saw last time in Kenya, these two actually got up and started moving. I was really hoping to see them run, but because they were together and trying to stay out of the sight of the lions, the most they did was trot along. It was extremely fun to watch the baby playing with the mom and following her.
The mom would get ahead and the baby would be playing around or not paying attention, then the mom would call and the baby would trot to her. I had never heard a cheetah call before and it was so unusual and cute!
There was a particular point where the baby was near our vehicle on one side, and the mom crossed in front of us.
A few more pics of these beauties:
We hung out with these two for well over an hour. There were several other vehicles, but most didn’t stay as long and all were respectful of the animals and other vehicles. The only reason we stopped watching them is because they went into this bush area and were going to cross some water.
These two were a joy to spend time with. I was so happy to see the cheetahs again. They are beautiful cats and at that point I decided they were my favorite cats. Maybe.
After they cheetahs went into the bushes we decided it was time to have breakfast.
Our guides, Wilfred and Wilson, had almost finished setting everything up when one of them said, “SERVAL CAT!”. They told us to hop back into the vehicle as these cats were shy and apparently not seen all that much in that area. They were very excited, which made us very excited. We got in the car and drove to the cat (who was extremely close by). They said this cat was older. The cat wasn’t shy at all. It was pretty close to where breakfast was set up and I told her to feel free to go grab a sausage, but clearly her hearing wasn’t what it used to be in her old age. Welcome to the club!
On my recording I said, “They’re more rare than leopards around here, so I think that’s a good sign and we’re going to see a leopard next. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”.
You’re going to have to wait and see what happens 😉
When you are someone who is extremely afraid of lions common sense would tell you to avoid camps with ‘lion’ in the title, because there’s probably a lot of lions around! The problem was that we really wanted to see leopards and this camp was also known for them. Since we hadn’t seen a leopard yet in Kenya, it was #1 on our wish list. There was a famous leopard in the territory named Fig that I had seen in a few films/stories that I knew I wanted to see in person, if possible. I was excited when we knew we were going to be in the same vicinity as her, so of course I chose the camp (even with lion in the name!) to increase our chances of meeting this legend.
Well. A few months after booking, a lion killed Fig. I was so sad and disappointed to learn she’d been killed…and of course it gave me another reason to hate lions. At this point we were committed to going to this camp, so I was hoping to: a) see a relative of Fig, and b) avoid lions if we had a private vehicle.
Because of the rain at Rhino Camp we couldn’t leave from the close airstrip again and ended up at this large airstrip that was actually quite nice. I was very surprised when our plane showed up – it was a big one!
No masks were enforced, however most people were smart and sexy and wore one, except for two dummies who sat across from us (of course). I didn’t say anything, but my eyes told them they had low IQs and were ugly. Just kidding – they avoided eye contact with everyone. Ha ha.
Once we made it to our stop, the Olare-Motorogi Conservancy in the Maasai Mara, we were picked up by Wilson (our driver) and Wilfred (our spotter), both silver stars. Impressive! This is where my recorder really came in handy, because why did they both have to have W names? We met so many new people at each camp that if I didn’t record the names I probably would have never remembered. Anyway, these two men couldn’t have been nicer. The first day or so Wilfred, the spotter, did a lot more of the talking. This was unusual to us because at the last camp the spotter rarely spoke except to occasionally point out an animal we had already discovered ourselves 3 seconds beforehand. Ha.
Wilfred was fantastic and he had the absolute best smile. The odd thing was that his smile really reminded me of our nephew, just the brown version of him. I wasn’t going insane – Sal said he could see it when I pointed it out to him. I’ll post a pic of them both further in the report. Wilfred was very smart and shared so much information, which we appreciated much more than just pointing out an animal. I made the mistake of saying something to Wilfred when I first met him like, “so you are the spotter and Wilson is the guide?”. He quickly corrected me by saying, “We’re both guides.” Wilfred definitely proved that time after time. Honestly, I thought he was better than our last driver, who it turns out was the head of the guides at that camp! I could tell right away that the situation at this camp was going to be completely different. Hurrah!
On our drive to camp we got to see a few animals we hadn’t seen yet – ostrich, wildebeest (antelope) and topi (antelope). We also got to see a cute family of ellies. No pics, but believe me… you will be absolutely sick of elephant pics by the time this trip report is over as the second 1/2 of the trip is focused only on them!
We were greeted warmly by Daniel, the head of the camp, and James, one of the wait staff. Daniel was fantastic as he loved to joke around – particularly when I asked him which tent was ours and he said the furthest. When I responded, “oh no”, he told me our tent was something like a half of a mile away. In my head I figured a lion was definitely going to eat me there. Then Sal told me he was joking. They both got a chuckle out of that one. Our tent was the furthest, but it still was pretty close to everything. And like last camp, our first night we were the only guests there!
They had a nice surprise for us with lunch by the river. The food was really good. It was quite windy and we weren’t sure if the weather was going to cooperate as it looked like – you guessed it – rain! The rain held off until it was time for dessert, so we went to the back porch of the mess tent that had comfy couches and protection from the elements and enjoyed looking at our new surroundings, even in the rain. They had a media tent here, so we went there afterward to connect a little bit and charge things up. Sal took a bucket shower after, courtesy of Nathan, our tent keeper, and I exercised. The rain had stopped at that point. We relaxed a little bit, and right before our drive the rain started again. Argh! It was only a little sprinkle to start, but once we were driving it started pouring. So our first game drive there was raining the whole time – sometimes pouring and other times sprinkling so you could at least keep one side open to see things. Again, everyone (except us) was happy to see the rain because it was very dry there, too.
So can you guess what the first thing we saw at lion camp was?
Yes, we saw seven of them. Two of which were adult males. We had to drive up this big hill with very large rocks to get to them. In the pouring rain. Now I know I had told these guys I didn’t like lions, but it’s like nobody believes you until they see your face. Ha. Obviously the lions weren’t doing anything because of the rain, so I suggested maybe we go somewhere else. I’m not going to lie; part of me felt more comfortable looking at them being zipped up in the vehicle since it was pouring at that point, and the other part of me was afraid we were going to get stuck up there because of the rocks and the rain. We didn’t get stuck, but it was very tricky for him to get back down. I’m just really thankful no other vehicles were around. One sort of funny thing is he accidentally beeped the horn a few times when he was moving the steering wheel trying to get us out of there. It was only sort of funny because those were the times the lions didn’t ignore us and actually looked at the vehicle. Hey, man – let’s not point out to the lions where the food is, OK? Of course I had to tease him. It was maybe 50% teasing and 50% really not wanting to draw attention to ourselves.
We didn’t see much once we got down the hill. Eventually we saw about four other vehicles so went to investigate. Guess what we saw? Yeah, yeah. The camp was really living up to its name. This time the rain had lessened so we could take some pics.
So we were watching these two sub-adults as seen in this video.
Now we were close to these younger ones, but Sal was on the side closest, so it was OK. LOL. Sorry, Sal. You signed up for this.
When I think about lions, I think the ones I am more afraid of are actually the sub adults. These are the ones that are actually more interested in , or at least look at, cars. The fully grown ones usually ignore all vehicles. In the video above, there was a noise at the end of the video, which was actually a different vehicle. It startled the sub adult and he started walking towards it. Eek. It drove off and ll was fine, but those sub adults are a little too curious for my liking!
We got back to camp and Daniel told us we were a blessing for bringing the rain. At this point on our Kenya trip it had rained so much that Sal looked at me at one point and said, “Hey hon? What if we are indeed rain gods?”.
We had a little intimate dinner inside the smaller communal tent. All was lovely until we had a visitor that kept flying back and forth.
Luckily Sal didn’t get a picture of me trying to eat dinner with my napkin on my head. James did come in while serving food and saw it. Lord only knows what he thought. Probably, “Too much gin!”.
On my recording I mentioned that this camp was definitely a step up – the tents were nicer as were the vehicles and the communal spaces. We loved it there (well, except for the vast amount of lions). It was slightly bigger than Rhino camp, and usually I prefer the smaller camps, but it didn’t feel large and everyone was lovely. And boy did we have some adventures there! Stay tuned!