Africa, Kenya, Vacations

And Now For Something Totally Unexpected: Lions – Porini Lion Camp Part 1

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!

The largest plane we’ve ever been on for flights between camps in Africa.

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.

Wilfred was there when Fig was killed. He said there was no way to intervene as she was across the river and the lion attacked her while she was getting a drink. She was pregnant at the time. This is the guy that killed her. I hate this guy.
A young one (you can see the spots) on the prowl.
Quit looking at us.

So we were watching these two sub-adults as seen in this video.

“A small boy”. I think we have different definitions of small!

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.

I’m Batman.

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!”.

We really enjoyed the desserts there!

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!

Africa, Kenya, Vacations

Rhino Camp – Final Bits

Unfortunately we had so much rain at Rhino Camp that the last day was pretty much a ‘wash’ (no pun intended). There weren’t that many pics because it usually was raining, so the vehicle was zipped up with the canvas ‘doors’. This was what we saw quite often at the camp:

Raindrops keep falling on my head (and everywhere else)…

I have no idea when that was taken, or why it’s so funky. I gotta assume Sal put his artistic spin on it!

We have a few things that we saw between the rainy times:

Jackal!
Derp.

Notice anything strange about the next pic?

Excuse me, Ma’am? Why is this non-baby sized giraffe trying to nurse from you? Listen…we aren’t shaming you. We’re just giving you the side eye.
A quick sighting of a small family of ellies – ahh. Love them. The baby is too cute!

And finally, one of the strangest things we saw at that camp. It’s not strange when you see male gazelles fighting – whether practicing or doing the ‘real thing’. We were watching this fight, when we noticed this Impala was watching them and literally trying to break up the fight. It was the weirdest thing and the Impala did it twice. The second time he broke it up he hit the dueling fellas so hard one of them rolled over several times. They did stop fighting, though. We have no idea why the Impala had that strange behavior. Maybe he was all about the good vibes.

Notice the Impala watching? His actions said, “Not on my watch, guys!”

Since we are low on pictures due to rain, I thought I would tell a couple stories.

The Worst Was Done First…

If you’ve noticed I haven’t named our guides or listed specific people from this camp. You remember the old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”? I’m not trying to, as the kids say, “stop anyone’s bag” (meaning outing specific people that were not good and by doing that I could affect their income in any way). Gamewatchers sent us a survey after our trip asking for feedback. I shared the good AND the bad. I was quite surprised when I got a thoughtful and timely response from one of the owners. It was good to know he cared about their client’s experiences.

Because we went to two camps Gamewatchers is associated with, we got to meet several other people who had also booked the camps through Gamewatchers and even used the same stinky (but unnamed!) TA we used. Every person who used this guy complained about him. And every person later in the trip, when we told them which camps we had been to so far, liked Rhino camp the least… except for one woman. She literally worked for Gamewatchers, so she may have been slightly biased. Anyway, since the trip started out at this camp that was lacking in several areas, I was slightly worried how the next one was going to be. The great news is the rest of our guides were wonderful, so really we got the worst out of the way at the beginning of the trip :). Like the rain, much better to get the bad stuff over and done with at the start and then go on to enjoy everything else! And even with the bad, we still got to see those amazing rhinos, so I’m still glad we went there.

Do NOT Miss The Rhinos… I Repeat – DO NOT MISS THE RHINOS!

There was a group of four adults, two older couples, that showed up on our second day there. I affectionately referred to them as the ‘Grey Hairs’. I’m not exactly sure why I called them that, and of course never to their faces, because only two of them had grey hair. Anyway, the last night we were all having a drink in the tent before dinner…because RAIN, of course…and I asked the Grey Hairs if they had seen the last two northern white rhinos yet. Whelp, they said they didn’t have plans to see them and that they were supposed to go to the chimp sanctuary instead. They said their driver recommended it.

Well…

Anybody who has researched Tripadvisor for Kenya knows that this chimp sanctuary was a recommended MISS. First of all, chimps aren’t even native to Kenya. Secondly, you can’t get very close because of Covid. Lastly, we all know monkeys like to throw poop. Yuck. I was shocked that their guide had recommended it until they said their guide was new to the area.

I then spent at least the next 10 minutes telling them they needed to go see those last two rhinos because it would be the highlight. I promised them. I knew that they were going to the same camp next that we were, and I told them that I couldn’t wait to hear about how much they loved seeing the last two rhinos when I saw them next. Full disclosure, after really encouraging visiting the endangered rhinos and changing their plans, I was maybe 10% worried that they wouldn’t be as into it as we were. I mean, the one Grey Hair literally was wearing shorts and flip flops (while his wife wore a winter puffy coat, knit hat and scarf!) the first full freezing cold day he was at camp. So maybe they were a little ‘off’ (geez, I hope they never find this blog LOL – just joking, guys!). But I was still 90% sure they would at least like it and be glad they did that instead of having a primate throw feces at them. They changed their plans and you’ll have to wait a week or two to find out if they liked the rhino encounter or not… 😉 OK, OK. I’ll tell you now – they LOVED it. And when we saw them at the next camp it was the very first thing they said to us 🙂 Shew!

Sometimes Being Right Sucks

Our main guide was a disappointment, as I stated earlier. We didn’t feel like we learned much from him and he didn’t seem like he ever really cared about what we wanted to see or do (even though we were the only ones in the vehicle). Because of the earlier rain we were doing the occasional unintentional donut on our afternoon drive, as well as slipping and sliding so much that I was white-knuckling it while I was holding on. There was so much leaning and sliding that by the time we got to where we were stopping for a sun downer I asked the guide if we had to take that road again, because it was a doozy and I was afraid of getting stuck. He told me that yes, this is the main road we have to take back, but it would be downhill and these vehicle, “can’t get stuck”.

Uh huh.

So it started raining and we zipped everything up and got back in the car, making our way back to camp. Downhill. Where you can’t get stuck.

And then we got stuck.

And it wasn’t just sprinkling at that point. It was POURING rain and we were all zipped up again. First the poor spotter got out and tried to get us unstuck. Then the guide did, too. They were out there for so long trying to get this vehicle that “can’t get stuck” unstuck, that I told Sal we should make ourselves another cocktail if we were gonna be there for a while. Keep in mind that at that point it was after sunset and dark and I wasn’t sure how far we were from camp (we were embarrassingly close!) and thought if we had to leave the vehicle in the dark, pouring rain, the only way I was going to do it was to have a significant amount of gin in me for liquid courage!

We had just opened the bag to make a drink and the guide got back in the vehicle and tried one more time to get us out and we finally had success and were free! Thank you baby Jesus and the grown one, too.

I bit my tongue on that one and unsurprisingly the guide never brought it up. Sometimes it really sucks to be right. Getting stuck in the rain at night when you can hear animals howling is exactly as scary as you think it might be. I recommend gin.