Africa, Kenya, Vacations

Transfer Day To Malaika Camp

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.

You guys…

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!

Cute little bubbas.

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!

Africa, Kenya, Vacations

The Last Day – Lion Camp Part 4

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.

Kenya is so beautiful.

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.

I could do a coffee table book on elephant butts. Look how cute these mamas and babies are!
A leeeeetle baby.
I see you!

Then it was time to set up for breakfast. I asked our guides if I could take their picture.

Wilfred (spotter) and Wilson (driver). Excellent guides!

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!

They are 12-16 inches tall and they are usually in pairs.

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.

More animal butts.
Scratch scratch.

My sense of direction is subpar, to say the least. So when we saw this troop of baboons…

Lotsa butts.

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.

A beautiful face.

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.

Mom and baby hippos out of the water!

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!

Africa, Kenya, Vacations

Her Name Is Akira – Lion Camp Part 3

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!

I love these trees.
I see you.
I see you, too.
Hi, fella.

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.

Lilac breasted roller
Wing colors.

As my luck would have it, we soonran into two male sub-adult lions who were at the bottom of a hill.

This is an example of how close I’m willing to get to the lions (as long as there is someone between us to eat before me, no problem! Sorry, Wilson & Sal!).

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.

We See Each Other!

Wilson asked if I wanted to get closer…

We were close enough. Thanks, though!

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!

Gotta stay hydrated.

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…

That empty seat would have been where I was sitting. That empty seat would have gotten wet.
She (?) walked by very closely while we were sitting there, engine off, watching the family in the grass.
He’s nuts.
Holy Crap Indeed.

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!

Sooooo excited!

Her name is Akira and she is the daughter of Tito. No idea who her mother is. Isn’t she a beauty?

It’s beyond thrilling when she would get right by us.

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.

More vehicles arrived.
She walked right by.

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!).

Hello and I love you, pretty girl.
Everyone was happy to see this beauty!
Blending in at sunset.
Hello, again.
She looks very soft, but no petting!
Nice profile.
And another.

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!

Africa, Kenya, Vacations

The Good Cats – Porini Lion Camp Part 2

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.

This was not Sal. Although at one point he was snoring a duet with the unseen beast.

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!

I challenge you to try to take a clear phone pic while on a moving safari vehicle!

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!

If squeamish, don’t watch!

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!

First all we saw was the mama…
Mom hides her baby girl in the bushes.
Then we moved our vehicle and saw the cutest little baby girl there ever was.
Our first look at mama and baby. I had to get a quick video even in the sun! So cute!
Did you know cheetahs can climb? This little girl could!
Bath time.
A little nibbling…
Her energy was picking up, for sure!
Guess who, mom?

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!

These little chirps and the little ‘growl’ surprised me!

There was a particular point where the baby was near our vehicle on one side, and the mom crossed in front of us.

The grin on my face when this was happening: 😀

A few more pics of these beauties:

She was playing with elephant poo…
She was so freakin’ cute!

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.

Bye, guys – stay safe!

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!

Sal and his new friend.

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 😉