Masai Mara Sunset

May 2018 Newsletter, Horseback Safaris

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Elephant wants to play

My Newsletter is a bit shorter than normal, so as not to distract you from replying to me! However, it could have been very lengthy indeed if I described in full the wonderful trip I enjoyed with Offbeat Safaris earlier this year. It was an 8-day ride across the Masai Mara staying in a mobile camp that is moved by a hard-working crew whilst you enjoy the scenery, the game and relaxing long lunch breaks.

Escarpment Camp

Even the drive to our first camp saw us stopping frequently – so much to see. A chameleon crossing the road, wildebeest calving, lions, hyenas, zebras, elephants. We arrived at a beautiful secluded camping spot in a shady glade. What to do first? Inspect our tents? Grab a beer? Eat lunch? Have a siesta? Check out the horses? Everything fitted in somehow and we had a relaxing first ride on well-schooled horses but they were as excited as we were to start the adventure.

Goliath Heron

The other campsites were equally memorable: nestled by a river in the heart of lion-country, high on the escarpment looking down onto the plains, and finally right on the banks of the Mara river with hippos for company. It was an action-packed and fun week. Excellent horses, good going and fantastic game. Our guides, Joss and Megan, gave 110% throughout, answering all our questions about the animals and birds and keeping our glasses topped up. The rest of the camp staff worked equally hard, producing amazing food in the most basic of kitchens, filling showers, keeping our clothes clean and even polishing our boots! It was tough at the end to say our farewells.

Martial Eagle

Offbeat Safaris rides are for experienced riders only, with long hours in the saddle and often at a fast pace on the open plains. For those who would like a taster and are less experienced, Ride Kenya now offer day rides in the heart of the Masai Mara. This is new option, and I am pleased to confirm that they have a range of lovely horses operating from the most beautiful stables. During my ride with them we saw the full range of plains game and nearly bumped into a mating pair of lions. Memorable for me, but the horses barely broke their stride as we walked calmly away!

It is now 25 years since my first walking safari in Zimbabwe. The old diaries were an entertaining fire-side read during our March snow. Camps were markedly less luxurious back then, although the hospitality was just as good. It’s been interesting to be reminded of my own views on looking at the wildlife: “Oh no! We had to sit and watch some bird again for ages today.” “Saw a big bird, an eagle of some sort”. How times have changed, with a new lifer now quite a rarity! I am thrilled when first-timers return with a respectable bird list.

Secretary Bird

Clients who are experienced birders and who have been travelling with me for 12 years came back from Kenya this February having notched up a count of 189. When you see a Goliath Heron standing 1.4m tall, or a Martial Eagle with a wing span of nine feet, or the shy Secretary Bird– you must show interest. Thanks to Ken Frankcom for the great photos of those species. My top lifer this trip was with Steve in Laikipia Wilderness: the red and yellow Barbet that features on the cover of Stevenson and Fanshawe, the definitive East Africa bird guide.

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