Saturday, February 23, 2019

Kenya Day 5 - Porini Mara

We had a bit of a sleep in day today since Breakfast wasn't until 6:30AM.  It was very nice as usual and we were all ready at 7:30AM when the plane landed to deliver new arrivals and take us on to Porini Mara.

Of course, Kilimanjaro chose today to reveal itself and I really didn't get any pictures I liked except this one with our plane in the foreground.

Kilimanjaro is Out

Unfortunately, there are no direct flights between camps typically.  So, that means flying back to Wilson in Nairobi and then flying to another camp from there.  The flight back to Nairobi was fine and the people at the Wilson airport took great care of us again.  We were notified that we would need to change planes to get to the Ol Seki airstrip which serviced Porini Mara.  Two quick but hot, stuffy, and a little nauseating flights later we finally landed.  The air didn't work on either of the flights which made them a bit uncomfortable.

Our "layover" was at the Keekorok Airstrip where we got a chance to see the "terminal" before boarding our next flight:

Airport terminal at our layover

Time to switch planes

Waiting for us at the Ol Seki airstrip were a couple Porini Lion representatives.  Unfortunately, they stopped the vehicle just after picking us up to talk about Porini Mara and just then the plane took off and shot a cloud of dust all over us.  They apologized profusely but it wasn't their fault and was really the only thing negative that happened our whole stay.

On the way to the camp I did get a look at our first Red-headed Rock Agama:
Red-headed Rock Agama

And it gave us a chance to enjoy some of the beautiful scenery.

Cautious Drinking

Topi in the shade:
Topi Seeking Shade

Gorgeous Trees

Porini Mara is located in the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. But, because Porini helped consult in the creation of the Naboisho Conservancy next door, Porini guests are able to take safaris in either conservancy which is a huge bonus. In fact, for most of our stay I had no idea which conservancy we were in when we were driving around.  The only exception was when we were near the airstrip, which is located in the Naboisho Conservancy.

Here is a map that shows these two conservancies plus the Olare Motorogi Conservancy where Porini Lion is located which will be our last camp:

The camp itself is located in an extremely picturesque setting with huge trees all around.  There is also a small river that flows around part of the camp that attracts wildlife.  In fact, Jimmy, the camp manager, showed us some trail cam shots of a lion kill that happened the previous week right next to our tent.  He also showed us photos of the hippo that likes to roam the camp at night.  So, those are good reasons why you can't leave your tent at night without a Masai escort.

We were housed in a family tent that had a common area separating the two sides.  While this really wasn't much of an issue it's not what we were expecting given the prices we paid.  But, the camp was full so we went with the flow.  It was impossible not to make noises heard across tents but luckily Tim and Andrea weren't bothered that we had earlier wake up calls than they did.  It's tough getting these aging bodies to wake up for the day...

Our half of the tent:
Our half of the tent

Our "Room":
Porini Mara Tent

En-suite bath:
Porini Mara Bathroom

I know you were hoping to see another picture of a toilet, but alas I didn't take one at this camp (photo, not something else).  Sorry, that's my attempt at "potty humor".

To partially make it up to you, here is the only photo of a bucket shower that I took.

Bucket Shower

Incidentally, the bucket showers were really not a problem.  Tim ran out of water once and so did I (We weren't in the same shower at the time...).  This was likely because we typically let our wives shower first because all we do is make daily sacrifices for them...

But, I have to say that my first "real" shower after the trip was extra long!

The common room between our halves of the tent:
Common Room

Porini Mara Dining Tent/Lounging Area:
Dining Tent

Camp Grounds:
Porini Mara Tent

Porini Mara

Fire Pit

We had our first lunch at this small table outside which was quite nice:
Outside Eating Area

The first wildlife we saw around the camp were these cute little Vervet Monkeys.  They look very innocent don't they...
Vervet Monkey

Well, don't be fooled by the innocent appearance.  They were smart, mischievous, and had a bit of an attitude as you will soon see.

As I mentioned, we had lunch outside and it was really nice.  Since I had brought my camera with me I started to wander the grounds after lunch and Karen went back to the tent.  The next thing I know, I can hear Karen excitedly talking from waaaay across the camp.  So, thinking she spotted something cool, I hustled back to our tent where she was talking with Tim and Andrea.   This is what happened.

She got back to the tent after lunch and saw that the screen zipper to the common room was up a bit.  As she entered she closed the zipper behind her just in time for a Vervet Monkey to come shooting out of our room and slam into the just closed screen.  Obviously, that was a bit of a shock.  But, she managed to open the zipper back up to try to give the monkey an escape route but it retreated back in to Tim and Andrea's side of the tent (neither they, nor us, closed the zippers to our individual tent sides.  But, we did from that point on).

Karen then left the tent to tell someone and ran into Tim and Andrea.  When they went back into the tent the monkey was gone.  She took some inventory and realized that the monkeys must have been in our rooms for a while because lamps were knocked over and bags were opened.

I showed up and was told the whole story.  So, I went inside to inspect the damage and figured out that not only had the monkeys taken things (a hairbrush, granola bar, and who knows what else) but they also left some presents behind to let us know how they felt about us.

Don't sit there:
Vervet Monkey

Hmmm...that's not soft serve ice cream on the floor:
Soft serve ice cream or poop?

Look at all the little monkey prints on the bed. That's not the kind of "monkey business" that should be going there...
Monkey Tracks

It was at that point I went outside and saw that there were some monkeys in the trees nearby.  I raised my camera to take a picture and said "Hey, that looks like our Tupperware of cashews..."

Hey! Those are our cashews!

Yup, that darn innocent little monkey had taken our happy hour cashews and when he was done he proceeded to throw the empty container to the ground in disgust.  Just for good measure, he went down to where it landed and looked in our direction to flaunt his prize right in front of us.

Is it giving us the thumbs up?

Understandably, the whole experience had caused a bit of stress for Karen but not much.  Since I wasn't there for the startling parts, I thought the whole thing was pretty funny and I got a good laugh about it.  In the end all was good.  The staff came and cleaned the rooms.  They also managed to find Karen's hairbrush in the bushes and the lid to the Tupperware container.  They never could find the bottom though unfortunately.

We ended up inspecting the zipper and figured out that it could be opened very easily by just pushing my pinky finger in to open up a hole.  Then a head and body could easily push it's way in.  So, we ended up putting some plastic ties on the zippers to prevent a repeat event.  A couple days later, the monkeys got into another tent at lunch time so at least we weren't the only ones.

Vervet Monkeys weren't the only mammals seen in the camp.  This Bushbuck and her baby were seen often as well:

At 4PM we met George and Tipa who would be our guides for the duration of our stay.  We really enjoyed both of them a lot.  They were excellent guides and good company.

We started out by driving to a nearby river where there were lots of rocks.  At that point, I asked George if they had any Rock Hyrax around and he said Yes.  He stopped the vehicle and looked around for less than a minute, pointed, and said "There".  Talk about great service!

Yellow-spotted Rock Hyrax:
Yellow-spotted Rock Hyrax


Unlike at Selenkay, the land around Porini Mara was more open with trees.  So, we started to see the iconic African animal behavior of them seeking shade.

Gazelles in the Shade

Our first Banded Mongoose sighting:
Banded Mongoose

The always beautiful Lilac-breasted Roller:
Lilac-breasted Roller

We woke up this Spotted Hyena lounging on a river bank and it wasn't too pleased about that.  To show its displeasure it proceeded to "fart in our general direction".  Since our general direction was downwind, we got the heck out of there...
Lounging Hyena

We had more excellent giraffe sightings at Porini Mara.  They are just such an amazing animal to see in person.  I had a serious Jurassic Park moment at one point looking out into a grove of trees.  All of a sudden, one giraffe lifted its head and looked our way, then another, then another. Trade those giraffes for "veggie-a-suaruses" and it was right out of the movies.

We also saw an official tower of giraffes:
A Tower of Giraffes

One of the little ones proceeded to walk under its mother and stand there for a bit:
Under the Bridge

Always keeping an eye on us

Later, as we were driving along, George shouted "Slender Mongoose".  Sure enough, this mongoose was bounding full tilt away from us but I managed to get a proof shot of this lifer mammal:
Slender Mongoose

Well, the lifers didn't stop there as we came upon a troop of Olive Baboons:
Olive Baboon

Olive Baboons

The next sighting we owe to our wonderful guides and some giraffes.  The giraffes were all looking in the same direction and for once that direction wasn't right at us.  So, the guides were pretty sure there must be lions in that direction.  Well, also in that direction was a huge patch of bushes. But, after driving around a bit, they were able to spot the Lions hidden in the bushes way before we did and then they managed to get the vehicle into position to see a couple. They knew the pride and told us they had cubs.  We were quite excited at that news.  However, most of the lions were sleeping and hidden by brush.

Juvenile Lion

I named this one "Tommy Two Ticks".  Guess why:
Tommy Two Ticks

We did manage to get an opening to see one of the cubs:
Resting Cub

Since the lions weren't coming out of the bush, we drove over to see some elephants nearby.


Then we returned to the lions to wait.  After all, there were cubs!  It was here that we enjoyed our first real African bush sundowner.  At Porini Amboseli everyone did sundowners together at the watering hole viewing platform.  But, for the rest of our trip we had them out in the bush which I liked much better. Especially, when we could sip a gin and tonic while watching lions.  It doesn't get much better than that!

In the end, it was a hyena that rousted the lions.  It came running by with a bone in its mouth:
Showing its prize

Once the lioness got a whiff she came out of the brush:

Instead of coming closer, the Hyena did the wise thing and kept running away:
Hyena with Prize

But, with the lioness up now, the whole pride stirred and one by one they came out of the bushes.  Including the cubs...  Be prepared for lion overload...

Lion Cub

Just a little pin prick...

Lion Cubs

Play Time!

It was great to see the lions being..well just being cats.  If I didn't know better I would think we were watching common house cats playing but with more deadly claws and less holier than thou attitudes.

It was great how they played and lounged right in front of us.  This was our best look at lions yet and I was a lot more enamored with them that I thought I would be.


Here's a wide shot that also shows the bushes they came out of. George mentioned that they like that type of bush because it has a natural insect repellent.  I jokingly called it a "no fly zone".  It turns out that these were the most bug free lions we saw the whole trip (Tommy Two Ticks not withstanding).

The Pride

They did notice that we were there and would look at us from time to time.  Notice the reflection of our vehicle in the eyes:
Lion Closeup

The light was getting pretty low by now so I tried a creative moon, lion, elephant shot:
Under the Moonlight

By bumping up the ISO I managed to continue to take pictures of this regal pride.

Tommy Two Ticks posing for the paparazzi

The diminishing light did nothing to deter the cubs from playing however.

Stalking Cub

Cub Fight

Fight's Over

The Cubs

At that point, the light just got too low for decent enough photos.  Plus, George and Tipa hinted that we needed to go.  Reluctantly, we did leave and we got back to the camp around 7:30PM.

What a great first drive at Porini Mara!

After a great dinner we went to bed very satisfied from both the food and the days entertainment.

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