Deirdre West – Kenya (June 2018)

Having made safaris to five African countries over 25 years and having never been to the same place twice I broke the habit of a lifetime this year when I returned to the amazing Kicheche Mara , Valley and Bush camps again in June. The fear in the back of my mind that maybe the trip couldn’t live up to my memories of the 2017 trip proved unfounded. In fact it could not have been further from the truth.

Despite an unexpected last minute change of the itinerary caused by an overbooking by Kicheche, which required us to vacate tents at Valley and decamp to Bush camp for one night proved to be not quite, but almost, the highlight of the whole trip! This detour gave us sightings of all three big cats that were amazing and all in 24 hours.

Our Masai guide turned the transfer between the camps into one huge game drive, by showing us what eye sight that can spot a lion in meter high grass at 500 meters can deliver – not one lion but a pride of 11 with 7 cubs of assorted sizes from tiny to teens. And to think that without the rare double booking we would not have witnessed a pride of sub adults ambushing a Wildebeest in a river gully. Right place, right time, with a healthy dose of good luck is all it takes!

Yes, same places as last year, with the warmest of welcomes from many familiar people still on the camp staff who greeted me as a long lost friend, plus two new managers at Mara camp who were great company and soon proved to be new friends. But with a vastly different weather pattern from 2017 which meant the migration which arrived in June was not expected until mid July. The grazing animals are not stupid and if there is plenty of grass why travel all the way up from the Serengeti until you’ve eaten that grass first!

The resident elephants in the Mara North conservancy were however in heaven with miles and miles of lovely fresh moist grass to eat, plus various herbs and flowers to be picked from termite mounds together with pools of water everywhere which meant a feast for them and easy viewing for us. Watching sweet babies suckling and others slightly older trying to master their trunks and pick and eat grass very funny. Trying to stifle amusement and be quiet proved a bit of a challenge on occasion.

But the excellent elephant sightings this year didn’t stop with the family groups, we were even privileged to share several really close encounters with some huge bulls carrying enormous ivory, a priceless gene pool for their future survival, which stuns one into silence.

And so what next … well quite simply start the planning to go again next year of course …. “Jules?!”

Breakfast on safari in the Mara

 

Photos by Richard Wilson (Deirdre’s friend)