Our Kenyan safari with “Images of Africa,” hosted by Gavin Slabbert is now over. It wasn’t just a great trip, it far exceeded almost all of our expectations. It was an experience of a lifetime and should be on everyone’s bucket list. Overall, I would recommend Gavin and his company if you choose to go on a safari. And I would recommend Sentinel Mara Camp, especially if you want to experience a Safari in the style of an 1890s safari.
1890s living does not have many of the modern conveniences we are all used to. Actually, it has none. We struggled a bit in the beginning with the accommodations at the camp. For example, it took us awhile to get used to the water situation. There was no running water unless you count the hot water poured into a large bag hanging from a post next to our tent. Our tent steward (a Masai) would pour the water into the bag so that we can stand in a makeshift shower. I will say the water was hot and with great pressure. Unfortunately, it ran out in just 3 minutes. The first shower left me with hair full of shampoo. The next shower I made sure to wash my hair first. You can’t fool me twice. Continuing with the water situation, we were given a ewer of water for washing our hands, etc, and a bottle of water for brushing our teeth. After a few days, I was able to juggle the ewer, bottle, toothbrush, and washcloth to effectively get ready for the morning’s game drive.
There was limited electricity in the cabins – solar powered batteries were used to power the lights. Power stored in these cells was limited as we found out when we accidentally left our tent lights on when we went to dinner… oops. There was solar powered electricity (with outlets) in the main tent but it was sporadic at best. This did cause some difficulties for us photographers. We constantly needed to keep our camera batteries charged and our laptops charged. Overall, it was nice to shed some of these conveniences. I rather enjoyed going to bed soon after it was dark.
The Sentinel staff was phenomenal from the owner (Peter) to the chef (Joshua) to the wait staff (Sukoya, Mac, Hosea, Jonathan, et al) to the Masai warriors who protected us from the roaming animals at night. They took care of us in most every way imaginable. They were always polite (almost to a fault) and always wore a big smile. They served us at all times – we truly felt like visiting royalty.
The food was very good, catering to our needs and wishes. They were especially good about Kathryn’s celiac/gluten issues, bringing in a lot of gluten free foods from a health store in Nairobi. Do they really have a health store in Nairobi? We’ve been to Nairobi and it seems a bit far-fetched. But, we did get gluten free foods and she stayed healthy the entire trip. Joshua, our chef, cooked all of our meals. His specialty seemed to be soups and sauces which were always delicious. He even snuck in a traditional roast similar to our pig roasts. But, he used what the local Masai like – sheep and goat. Although not my favorite meal of the trip, I appreciated the touch of tradition. The final night was a traditional stew using the more familiar chicken which was quite yummy. Overall, there was more food than any of us could eat. Some of us skipped lunch which was served just a couple of hours after breakfast while others often gave up the desert. I don’t think any of us lost any weight on this trip.
Our guide for the safari, Dominic (Dom), was incredible. As much as we raved about him, our other safari mates raved about their’s – Duncan and Boston. They are all very knowledgeable, friendly and full of well-earned tip money. He made sure we saw and had the opportunity to photograph as many animals as we could handle. He made sure we were present (and in great position) if there was a kill. I asked for elephants one afternoon and got a family of them front and center. No request was too large.
Her is our final animal checklist, all in the wild, nothing staged:
- Giraffe (we witnessed a giraffe fight)
- Zebra (we parked in the middle of the herd, zebra, wildebeest and birds everywhere)
- Warthog (skittish animals but we figured out how to shoot them)
- Black Rhino (very rare)
- Leopard (watched her on a failed hunt – lucky gazelle)
- Grant’s Gazelle
- Thompson’s Gazelle
- Black-faced Monkey (cute and energetic)
- Baboon (very funny animals – true showmen)
- Cape (or African) Buffalo
- Hyena (not so funny an animal – truly mean)
- Lion (witnessed a kill and many failed hunts – fascinating how they work together)
- Mongoose (Striped, White Tailed and Dwarf varieties)
- Hippo (made us laugh with their antics – never a dull moment)
- Impala (not the Chevy)
- Harrier Lizard
- Cerval Cat
- Kirk’s dikdik (don’t go there)
- Africa Hare
We also saw a lot of bird species, too many to enumerate. Here are some of the highlights:
- Lilac Breasted Roller (probably the prettiest bird we saw)
- Little Bee Eater (yes, it eats bees!)
- Grey Crown Crane
- Maribu Stork
- Sacred Ibis
- Martial Eagle
- Black Chested Snake Eagle
- Fisher Eagle
- Saddlebag Stork
- Egyptian Goose
- Spotted Thick Knee (this one is for you, Moose)
- Batchelor Eagle
- Yellow Throated Long Claw (they do have long claws!)
- African Houpoe
- Secretary Bird (looks like a chicken on steroids)
- Southern Ground Hornbill
- Red Neck Spur Fowl
We got pictures of most of the mammals and birds I listed. Truly amazing.
Overall, we went on 16 game drives. With the bumpy rides and early mornings, it would have been easy to skip one or two. But we went on each one. And to our surprise (and joy) each one surpassed the prior. Some of them were absolutely thrilling. We would definitely go on another safari with Dominic leading, of course.
As part of the safari we made sure to capture some quintessential Africa shots. Here are a few:
Finally, I think my favorite safari tradition is the Sundowner. At the conclusion of the afternoon game drive, our three safari vehicles would meet up by the Mara river’s edge and drink a glass of wine (or two), recap our exploits, and marvel at the scenery.
Heading home was disappointing but needed. It was time to get back to the customs and conveniences we all enjoy on a day to day basis. Thanks for following along on all of our exploits. If you missed any of our safari posts you can click on the links below:
- Getting Ready for Our First Safari
- Jurassic Park
- LOL – Lots of Lions!
- The Iconic African Landscape
- The Maasai People
- Up Close and Personal
- Happy Hippos of the Mara
- More Bacon?
- The Red Zebra
- Those Fighting Animals
- A longer lens in our future?
- I won’t put a link for the warp-up – ‘cuz you just read it!
And remember, it’s all about the light!