In the past 6 or 7 weeks Beverly and I visited all of our camps as I like to do regularly in a quick round of the properties and I will be reporting to our Great Plains followers and interested people on small things we pick up, that I take note of or want to change from these visits.
Of course I had to deal with Mara Toto and the wash away of that camp. David Stogdale (our Kenan MD) and I sat down and elected to move all our staff to Mara Plains, employ them there and keep them active while we scratched our heads on what our next move was. As a result Mara Plains is probably the best serviced camp in the industry (in the history of the industry) with a staff ration of something like 12 staff to one guest! The flood cannot be blamed on markets or anything that is any staff member’s fault so it didn’t seem fair to just lay people off. At the same time we scouted a dozen locations for a new site for an exciting new Mara Toto. I think we found one.
We also scouted a few very exciting new locations outside of the Mara for a totally new camp and location to add to our Great Plains circuit. Watch this space…
Once again though I am just blown away by the wildlife in and around Mara Plains at this time of the year. The sheer beauty of the skies and sunsets take my breath away and while I must have filmed 12,578 sunsets by now, I got really excited to do a few more. But we followed cheetahs and lions and a stunning leopard and for some reason, a confused migration of wildebeest and zebra from Loita now hangs around in the conservancies almost permanently. If you get a chance to visit the Mara for a safari in December, January or February, it is my favourite time of the year.
We took a helicopter down the Rift Valley and saw small pockets of buffalo in almost rainforest covered misty hills on a direct route to ol Donyo Lodge. Over the past few years ol Donyo’s predators have been steadily increasing. Now over 50 lions move in and out of the proximity of the lodge and a good population of cheetah hunt the plains near the airfield. For me a day spent just in the presence of a half a dozen of the giant tusker elephants at the hide is peaceful, exciting, meditative and exciting all in one. Early one morning I tip-toed out and placed three Go Pro cameras right at the water and covered them and my tracks with elephant dung, set them and waited.
Ten minutes later warthogs, Fringe Eared Oryx, Zebras and Giraffes came in for just enough time to drink and settle any scent that I had left. Then the giants came in. They scattered everyone and dominated. More arrived and eventually I was imagining my Go PR frame as being full of great grey giants. An elephant researchers call Snaggled Tooth, stepped back and his back foot touched the camera (great shot!) but then, as if his reputation of being a little dramatic, swung around sniffed the camera then smashed it to pieces. All I could save was the card.
Within minutes the other two camera were underfoot and bent out of shape as well. I had to leave them there half embedded in the soil because the heat was up, water was scarce and 25 bull elephants jostled for that precious moisture. I determined that it would be rude to interrupt and a little unhealthy to sneak in amongst them to retrieve the pieces of gear scattered around. Shaun, (the manager) sent those remnants of a good idea a few days later.
But what I love about all this is that each day, each visit to inspect our camps is a deep pleasure for us because we know that we are in the right locations – exciting places where we are making a difference and providing moments like these to people who would otherwise not share similar moments of appreciation of Africa.
All the best