Report from the Indian Ocean

Ollie reeled in his first sailfish!

Following the big run (UltraMARAthon), we were all ready for our sore feet to be soothed in the sand and sea, so I flew the family to Watamu the next week. We had plenty of time to soak up the Indian Ocean vistas from our sundowner deck and enjoy a few fun activities. A sunset cruise with friends aboard the tradition Swahili “Monangu” dhow offered fun for kids and adults alike. I joined Ollie on the good ship Alleycat for some deep sea fishing one day, and the joy of Ollie’s success pulling in his first 50-pound sailfish was matched only by the exhaustion after the half-hour battle to reel it in. And while the great blue marlin eluded us that day, we also caught a giant trevally, and I am sure we’ll be back for another round soon!

I also had the excitement of taking Ollie for his first scuba dive. It was action packed with green turtles, octopus, and thousands of stunningly colored fish all around. Ollie took to it like, well, a fish to water, and I’m looking forward to our next diving adventure.

Ollie’s first scuba dive in the Indian Ocean.
We predict Ollie will end up working in the ocean one day….
Ollie with his first giant trevally.
The kids spent plenty of time searching the tidal pools for cool creatures.
A well-camouflaged crab.
Tiny starfish.
A speckled moray eel.
It is always fun to try to catch these crabs with their bright red eyes!
Enjoying the warm waters of Watamu.
Jumping off the dhow during a sunset cruise along Mida Creek.

The inaugural UltraMARAthon – 50km through the Mara conservancies

Perhaps once in a lifetime – or possibly once a year – it feels right to push some boundaries. This can be at different levels, whether emotional, spiritual, or physical. For a year like 2020, I chose physical, and went all out to launch and participate in a wild run across 50km of spectacular Mara savannah. Read my account of this “ultra” marathon race across the great plains of the Maasai Mara that benefitted the rangers of the conservancies here in Wilder magazine (www.wilder-mag.com/magazine). It was brutally hot and the final 10km was much more challenging than I expected, but I managed to complete the full 50km…and I am already thinking about how to train better for the next one!

Running up to the finish line!

Learn more about our partner charity, For Rangers, on their website (https://www.forrangers.com/home), and here is a fantastic highlights video from race day:

Sam Taylor and me, enjoying some Kenyan beer after the race. Sam runs For Rangers and was the co-organizer of the UltraMARAthon.

A new film about The Original Ker & Downey Safaris

Enjoy our new short video on the essence of the private guided safari experience in Africa. The Original Ker & Downey Safaris has been in operation for more than 70 years, and I am so proud to be a partner and director of the company that outfits my safaris.

A trip to the southern edge of the Mara

We recently took a break from our northern Mara home and spent a little bit of time down in the Masai Mara National Reserve, right on the border with Tanzania. We were fortunate to take over the Ker & Downey seasonal camp with a few friends for three days, and the location couldn’t have been better. We had wildebeest and zebra crossing the Sand River in and near camp, lions roaring nearby each night, newborn topi babies learning how to run, and spectacular sunsets.

It has certainly been strange for me to not be out on safari with my guests in June, July, and August for the first time in more than 20 years. But I have loved being able to spend so much time with the kids both at home and on a few little family safaris here in Kenya. Hopefully we will be back out there next year. Until then, enjoy a few highlights from the Mara:

Sunrise hot chocolate in camp.
Ollie and two of his buddies were excellent spotters!
This lioness was simply too fat to catch another gnu!
Baboons and impalas at a little stream.
Ollie enjoys exploring the Sand River.
Wildebeest and zebra coming down to drink and cross the Sand River.
Gnus on the move!
Portrait of a young gnu.
Halina watches a crossing from camp.
Halina and her friend, Bella, observing eles.
A special sighting of a very handsome reedbuck.
Karembo, a lovely little female cheetah, at sunset.
Karembo sunset.
A birthday dinner on the river bed with the full moon rising.

African wild dogs in Enonkishu Conservancy!

Since moving to the Mara, we have heard occasional reports of sightings of the rare and endangered African wild dog in the hills above us. Beautifully colored in their mottled coats, small groups from perhaps a single pack are seen every few months as they hunt antelopes on the bushy hillsides to the north and east of the Mara – their remaining hold-out in the region. Since they disappeared from the great plains of the Mara’s grasslands in the early 1990s, due to a rabies outbreak, this pack has eked out an existence on the outskirts of Enonkishu and the other conservancies, away from the higher densities of lions.

So, we were thrilled a few weeks ago when we drove out one rainy afternoon and were treated to some fantastic viewing of three wild dogs who had killed a male impala. And while a hyena had taken a good chunk of the feast by the time we got there, the dogs were excitedly bouncing and twittering around, enjoying other morsels from their meal. We shared this spectacular viewing with Oliver and Halina, who were seeing this species for the first time – and it was the first time Steph had ever seen the Mara wild dogs, in twenty years! This sighting has reinforced our commitment to providing free rabies vaccinations to domestic dogs and cats in our area every year, to prevent the disease from spilling over into the wild dogs again. We’ll be helping the vets again this December! 

Here is a short video clip:

Zebras after dinner

Not every meal at our home in the Mara finishes with the sounds of lions and hyenas scrapping over a kill, but one recent night it certainly did! Just after 8pm, as we were about to do the dishes, the unique, eerie cackling of hyenas and the sharp, aggressive growls of lions drifted into our open kitchen. We knew there was about to be some super carnivore action, so we grabbed the cameras and binoculars and our carnivore-loving family headed out to investigate. On arrival we witnessed the classic head to head combat of lions and hyenas in the dark April drizzle. Of all the up-close wildlife viewings in Africa, it’s an unbeatable experience of pure, primal competition as ferocious hyenas rally their clan members for what they know will be some rough and tumble. Sure enough, several of them are pummeled, clawed, and even bitten by the lions, but they get their own back when they eventually overpower the big cats with a few good butt-bites to see them off. After raging back and forth for close to an hour, with yelps and growls the lions eventually retreat, not wanting to risk serious injury.  

For our kids, ending the day with such a wild and dramatic scene less than a mile from the house is a pretty good consolation after the challenge of school closures and their online classrooms. Being stuck at home for nine onths could be a lot worse! Sound on for these fun videos!

Turn up the volume and enjoy these three videos from the night of war!

Kisaru, the greatest cheetah mum ever

A very rare sight – 7 cheetah under a tree! Kisaru in front of her six cubs.

Good viewings of cheetahs always add enormously to the safari experience. Over the past twelve months, with so much time at our Mara home in Enonkishu, we’ve had the privilege of regular sightings of one female who has defied the odds and raised six cubs through their first year. Typically, cheetah mothers lose many of their young. But Kisaru, fast becoming our local mascot, has become so adept in her hunting of gazelles and impala that she has kept her brood of six alive and well. 

In December, we had the excitement of observing this cheetah family from our rooftop as Kisaru chased some antelope into the nearby bush. Since then she’s made regular appearances nearby, providing wonderful viewings for those of us lucky enough to call this paradise home; I only wish I could be sharing it all with guests who would have been on safari with me over the past couple of months! At least some good friends from Australia enjoyed a visit in February before the pandemic, and got to see our resident cheetah family enjoy a big meal after Kisaru made a swift, successful hunt of an unsuspecting impala.

Kisaru and one of her 1-year-old cubs in Enonkishu in July.
Kisaru and the cubs rested just in front of our house back in January.
One of Kisaru’s cubs. Now almost 14 months old, they are just about fully grown, and Kisaru is about ready to leave them.

On the great plains of Africa – recent safari video clips

Every time I explore the vast Mara-Serengeti ecosystem I’m reminded that it truly does hold the greatest wildlife viewings on Earth. We’ve preserved some really fun and memorable moments of this magical place during a recent safari. Depending on the time of year, the Mara or the Serengeti is an absolute must for any inaugural safari, and perhaps even for a second or third safari as well! A few days under canvas in the heart of this region will be rewarded with outstanding big cat viewing, and always the chance of witnessing their mesmerizing predatory behavior.

New video of gorillas in the mist – Rwanda’s finest wildlife experience

A visit with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and Uganda has been celebrated as one of the very best wildlife experiences on the planet. Immersing ourselves for a day or two within the tangled montane forests that are home to these magnificent creatures is something that my guests and I count as an enduring privilege. The Virunga and Bwindi forests have also been a conservation success story with gorilla populations nearly triple what they were in the early 90s! Now with some of the most stylish boutique safari lodges in Africa, Rwanda has become one of my more popular – and favorite – safari destinations.

Aping around – video of the chimps of Mahale Mountains, Tanzania

Experiencing close up encounters with wild chimpanzees in an African forest alongside the deep blue waters of Lake Tanganyika rates for most as an ultimate safari activity. Very much the Tarzan storybook country, the forested slopes of these hillsides make for the most evocative of settings. Greystoke Camp itself is one of the most remote safari locations, keeping the romance of that real safari alive. Time spent out cruising on the lake complements the chimp trekking nicely to round out one of Africa’s best kept secrets.

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