Trip report of African safari

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Feb 8, 2012
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I am sitting in the airport in Zanzibar right now and was writing a trip report on a safari forum where I got a bunch of help for our first safari. I figured I would copy it over here for you guys if u wanted to have a read. Maybe it will help some other cafe members planning a safari and if not hopefully u will enjoy the info and pictures.

I am still on our trip for another two weeks going to Europe so will update it as I have time.

August 6th, 2013,

We left Calgary Alberta Canada and flew to Amsterdam for a 3 hour layover and then on to Nairobi. All flights on KLM were excellent. Great service, good food, good entertainment in the seat back tv's and all flights on time. We were very pleased with our first time flying KLM.

We arrived on time about 9pm in Nairobi and were promptly met by Bernard from Lion Trails Safaris as well as our driver Ben Gitari. They were waiting for us and explained the details of the itinerary etc. and Ben then took us to Redcourt/Boma Inn. WE stayed over night and the hotel was fine for the price. ABout middle range hotel, clean, close to the airport and excellent buffet breakfast the following morning. NOt much else to report on this day, just we were glad to have made it and went to bed.
 
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August 7th,

Ben picked us up in the morning and we headed out around 8am. The traffic was terrible (to be expected) and we chatted with Ben in the car. It was interesting to see all the people walking in traffic selling fruit and newspapers, etc. We made it out of the city and headed to Lake Nakuru for the first night. It was a pleasant drive and pretty comfortable as only about 2.5-3 hours. WE stopped at the viewpoint along the rift valley and enjoyed a stunning view although it was a bit foggy that day. On our drive with Ben we learnt how the airport had a large fire that morning and was shut down. We were VERY LUCKY to have arrived the day before as we just missed the fire and some bigtime travelling headaches to start the trip.



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Ben explained to us some things about animals and the culture and the environment as we drove by. We arrived at Lake Nakuru by late morning.




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WE stayed at Lake Nakuru lodge for the night. IMO the lodge was excellent. I believe we were in room 101 which was a two room hut on the side with our deck facing the whole lake and field in front of the Lodge. WE walked around and I think this may have been one of the best rooms for the view so we got a bit lucky. THe lunch was really good, buffet style with good food. This was our first safari so it was amazing to see baboons running by, zebras grazing etc. right in front of us. WE then headed out for an afternoon game drive. We enjoyed the game drive and saw alot of rhinos, giraffes, birds and some flamingoes as well. It was really cool for our first game drive. We most enjoyed seeing the rhinos up close as well as the landscapes the lake provides.

I brought with me two D7000 bodies, one mounted with a Nikon 17-55 2.8 and the other with a Nikon 1.7TC and a 70-200 2.8. I also brought a safarisack filled with a 5lb bag of rice that I left for the locals after our safari. THis worked excellent to support the 70-200 by the tripod foot when standing up and taking pictures. Having two bodies was excellent as my wife took care of the landscapes and animals really close with the 17-55mm and I took care of the rest. At some points I found myself wanting more range but this setup fit nicely in my budget, wasnt too too heavy to bring along (we were travelling for a month) and the 70-200 was a lens I would use at home. Having the two bodies was great as we didnt need to change lenses and allow all the dust to get into the camera.

I brought along my macbook air and a portable hardrive so each day i backed up the photos to the computer and then the hardrive and kept them in different places.

Please let me know if my trip report is too detailed or if there are other things i should or should not include.

Here are some pictures from our game drive....

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I LOVED having the bandana, it was WAY dustier than i thought and it was nice to pull this over my nose once in awhile on the drive.

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Ill update as I have time in the next little while, hope u enjoy!
 
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Greg,
My wife and i leave for our kenyan safari in 3 weeks. I also now have a 1.7tc to go with my 70-200f2.8. Should work well on my new d7100.

Keep up the info as i need to know it down to the smallest detail!
 

LyndeeLoo

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What a great commentary and fabulous photos. The one of the zebra #6 is amazing! Please, keep posting about your adventure!
 
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It makes me really happy you are all enjoying the report so far. I will absolutely continue with the report, probably from Kenya and Zanzibar which was about 2 weeks. My internet here in Istanbul is a little patchy so not sure how easy uploading the photos will be. I will do my best but if I am having trouble I will continue in 5 days in Berlin and then after our 5 days in Berlin back home in Canada.

Love #2 - that rhino shot is quintessentially an African safari.

Sean
Thanks!! Yeah it was maybe my favorite shot from that first day in Lake Nakuru.

These are great, keep them coming...! :cool:

And I love hearing about the experience so keep the commentary coming as well...! :wink:
I like typing my thoughts out a bit as well, i will keep it coming :biggrin:

Greg,
My wife and i leave for our kenyan safari in 3 weeks. I also now have a 1.7tc to go with my 70-200f2.8. Should work well on my new d7100.

Keep up the info as i need to know it down to the smallest detail!
Excellent I will try and give some details for you. THat setup will work excellent. I found after looking at my lightroom metadata, 95% of my photos were at the long end of 340mm and short end of 120mm (with maybe 60% being the 340mm). The 120mm will be nice for some landscapes where the animals are just to plain far and then 340mm will be great for almost the rest. U will wish you had more reach only once in awhile and in general this will be a great setup. Dont forget something shorter though as the animals often are VERY close and 120mm will be too long.

Also ABSOLUTELY bring binoculars, sometimes u have to put the camera down and just enjoy the animals and binoculars work great.

Lastly if you have a rocket blower bring it and if you dont go get one. Its quite dust this time a year as there isnt much rain. Trade-off is that weather is nice and not ruined by rain but alot of dust so be careful changing lenses and the rocket blower works great for getting dust out of your gear ( I usually did a quick clean of my gear each night in the camp as if you dont dust will accumulate too much)

What a great commentary and fabulous photos. The one of the zebra #6 is amazing! Please, keep posting about your adventure!
Thanks! i will keep posting.

Beautiful pics!
Thanks Rob!

Greg ….
please keep posting about this fantastic trip …. always wanted to get on safari but doubt it'll ever happen so I'm living vicariously thru your lens and words …
Hope to see a lot more …

ron
Thanks Ron, I like sharing my photos and thoughts about this wonderful trip we had, i will post more no doubt!
 
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August 8th

We were up at 5:45 am but felt rested since we went to bed so early. We got ready, had our breakfast and were out by 7:15am. Shortly after leaving the park we saw a dead zebra on the road with blood and guts everywhere!! Ben (our guide) said that it had been hit by a car and not an animal he would want to hit as they are very heavy!! Today we were headed for the famous Masai Mara reserve and we were in for a long drive, about 7 hours.

Ben told us he would take a shortcut to the Mara that would save about an hour but for 2 parts of the road it was very bumpy. So we started off for about an hour or two then hit the rough patch and was very bumpy for about 45 mins, similar to Monteverde in Costa Rica. TO be honest the road up to Monteverde was very poor and now not many roads bother me lol!! HOwever it was pretty bad in Kenya, its just that you have to go slow so even though you have 40km to go its takes over an hour since your top speed is 30km/h. However it is sad to see all the poor areas along the roads, but not once did i feel unsafe and in fact people would often wave as you drove by!

We arrived at a town called Narok which was small but VERY busy. Ben stopped to fill up on gas etc. We then drove another two hours on good roads and chatted with Ben a little bit. He was telling us how he took out a loan to build a school in his home village for kids/orphans who lost one or both parents to AIDS. Ben had a brother that died of AIDS and then Ben took responsibility of his three kids as his sister-in-law had already died 10 years earlier. Ben’s sister also has HIV but now that the government is paying for medication, his sister is well controlled. He still to this day 4 years later is paying of the loan for the school. He gets sponsors to pay for the kids year of school and the kids range from about 4-18 years of age. He said its about $750 per year to sponsor the child and most sponsors are from Europe and North America. Once in awhile when a child needs sponsoring and there isn’t a new sponsor line up, Ben will actually pay for the child!! He is quite a special person to do all this considering he makes a decent income but nothing major. Anita (my wife) and I got more information about the school called Saint Bernard school and will consider sponsoring someone!

We then hit another rough patch of road for about one hour and after about 7 hour drive arrived at Mara West camp on the western side of the Mara just outside the gate entrance into the park (Oloololo gate). The drive to the mara on the rough patches as well as in the Mara is very dusty!! You have to roll up the windows for the dust but at the same time want them down cause its hot out. No complaing, since this is Africa and we are on safari!! I am glad I packed some pillowcases and other tricks to protect the camera gear from dust etc. The camp is up on the large bank and has a spectacular view of the Mara and is a cool place. Our tent is really nice with two beds and a standard toilet, sink and shower. They boil the water outside in the morning and evening with a fire and that is used for hot water for the shower. They also have a generator for the camp so its on in the morning and evening for lights and charging batteries, computer etc. During the day the generator is off to save energy and to be honest is not really needed as its light outside. Our tent faces right out over the Mara for a beautiful view of the game reserve.

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We had lunch and rested for a bit as it was a long drive and Ben was tired as well (understandable!)

We then set out on an afternoon game drive from about 4-630pm. It was AWESOME!!! We saw a large group of giraffes as well as a group of about 6 elephants. We saw the other standard things like buffaloes, birds, gazelle etc.

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We then saw hundreds and hundreds of wildebeests during their migration. It was quite a site to see as they are all grazing and moving across the plains in search of water. Ben says most of the migration is done up in Kenya and they are now migrating back to the Serengeti. We may see a river crossing tomorrow he says but doubtful due to the migration timing.

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The afternoon finished with a lot of excitement as we saw a pride of about 8 lions!!! There were three females and about 4-5 cubs just hanging out and watching us. There was a large group of wildebeests nearby and Ben said when it gets dark the lions will likely go for a kill.

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The game drive got even more exciting as we were about 5 minutes from exiting the gate and we saw a male lion!!! Ben spotted him from far away and drove up and he literally walked about 2 feet from our car just staring at us. Big, beautiful cat with amazing colors in his mein!! Ben quickly circled around back to the road ahead of the lion and then he walked right in fron of us again!! It was quite exciting and made for a great finish to the day. Ben says we were quite lucky to see a pride of females/cubs and then a male lion later as fairly often he will come on safari for a trip and not see any lions.

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We then went back to camp, had a nice dinner and shower and then settled in for the night. We could hear all sorts of insects and then animals making noises outside our tent!! Its really cool and also very peaceful.

After this day and long drive it striked me a bit how Africa gets quite a bad reputation in the media in general. The country is absolutely stunning and people very friendly with no notions of my safety or life being in jeopardy. There are no doubt areas of Africa to stay away from but I found it quite interesting to see the US and Canada websites have strong travel advisories for Kenya when I would feel much more unsafe walking around a shady neighborhood of any large US or Canadian city.
 
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Great trip report and beautiful shots.

Please keep posting the commentaries as it brings back memories and helps understand how you did it. I always like to understand the logistics of the trip.

Looking forward to your report on Zanzibar, Istanbul and Berlin.

Have a safe return.
 
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Thanks JC, Will and Rob. Will I have a good lion shot for one of the future days of my report that shows the scars nicely on his face.
 
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These are some impressive shots Greg. I really love the one with the elephants and the rays of light.
THanks Kees!! I liked that one too. I really loved how each evening around 5-6 the sun would shine through the clouds, it was really beautiful. I have some others ill post later of some landscapes with the sun rays shining through.
 
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Glad you are all enjoying the trip report so far!!

August 9th,


Today we were up bright and early again and had an early breakfast and were ready to go about 730. Anita looked at some soapstone sculptures outside the reception area but decided not to buy anything before we left.

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We first encountered our first sighting of vultures as they were all in a big group. A very ugly bunch of birds but got some cool pics of them in the trees.

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The 70-200mm with 1.7 TC is working well. I sometimes wish I had a longer lens but not worth the cost and weight as this takes care of most pictures. The focusing and sharpness is pretty good with the 1.7TC. I was usually stopping it down to about 5.6 as there was plenty of light during the day. Maybe bring it back to biggest aperture only as the sun was going down and would need about 3200-6400 ISO to have a fast enough shutter to catch the animals.

We continued on and ran across some elephants and other animals we had seen the previous day.

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We then arrived at a hippo pool to see about 10 hippos swimming in the water or laying on the bank sleep, such lazy animals!!

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There was also a croc in the distance that Ben saw without binoculars!! I don’t know how he spots them as we have trouble finding them with binoculars! He was telling us how the hippo is a very aggressive animal when it wants to be and they kill more humans then ALL OTHER animals combined each year in Africa.

We then travelled up to the Mara river where the wildebeests crossings happen. Ben said last week he saw thousands crossing and about 3 hours for them all to cross. Seems like we missed the main crossing by about 1 week!! Today there was about 300 wildebeests on the bank looking to cross. They would go down to the shore then back up as there were about three crocodiles waiting in the water to try and eat them!!

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If you look closely you can see two crocs right beside where the one wildebeest is jumping in the air!
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There was a smell around this crossing as you could see about 3 dead wildebeests in the water that had drowned trying to cross previously. Vultures had easy picking of these wildebeest as they were hung up on the rocks.

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Eventually we decided to leave as Ben felt they may not cross today. About one hour later from a distance we could see them moving away from the water so good thing we left as they ended up not crossing. AS we drove around I was often amazed at just how big the Mara is and the vast plains. Its really interesting to see the animals in their natural habitat, not just at a zoo.

We then continued our drive throughout the Mara seeing various animals. Ben brought us to a dead leopard up in a tree that has been there about two weeks as he saw it last time he was here a few weeks ago. He guesses it fought with a lion and retreated due to its injuries into the tree where it eventually died. Its sad to see such a beautiful animal dead and I love the animals so much it makes me feel a bit bad to see them dead or a lion kill them etc. but I try and take a step back and think about how its nature and survival of the fittest.

It was time to eat and Ben asked us if we had our passports, which we thought was odd?? He said cause we will have lunch in Tanzania!! Since the border runs through the Mara we drove across the border designated by a special rock and he was just joking about the passports as there was no one there to check! We ate our picnic lunch under a great big tree back on the Kenya side.

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We drove around a bit more and had to cross a small creek and I thought about how bad some of the driving must be in the rainy season and its pretty dry now and some of the little roads are tough to drive through. I caught a nice picture of some zebras as we crossed the creek.

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After that we headed back to the lodge via a long drive back for more game viewing. It was pretty quiet on the ride back but we did see a bunch of hyenas close up as well as some more elephants.

Im going to max out on pictures so ill continue in another post
 
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I hadnt normally taken many pictures of birds back home but now that i have the 70-200 its a bit easier for me and some of the birds in the Mara are pretty big and fly predictably so they are easier to track and i had some fun taking pictures of them

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Was also having fun taking some pictures of my wife in the van!

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We headed back to camp around 4pm for some resting before dinner around 7pm, I sat on the deck of our tent overlooking the Mara as I uploaded some photos on the laptop and drank a Tusker!! Managed to get a nice shot of some giraffes walking through the camp close to sunset.

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I heard some crazy screams and noises and then about 100 baboons came running right across the plain in front of me wrestling and chasing each other!! So far the Macbook Air has worked awesome for uploading photos, storing them, using the internet and watching movies on the plane etc.

We then headed to dinner and ate with Ben, chatted and hung out. Then back to the tent to clean up and ready for bed as we have another full day in the Mara tomorrow!
 

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