1er to 12 september 2021
This year, we decided to go on a photo safari in Masaï-Mara - Kenya via Melting Pot Safaris managed by Tony Crocetta, wildlife photographer, and Simon Chebon, kenyan guide. We travel with Etienne, Stephane and their friend Martine. We will stay at Melting Pot Bush Camp in the Masaï-Mara National Reserve.
For this trip during the covid period, we needed a lot of papers : health pass (to leave and enter France), visa, QR code (to be contacted if a passenger is positive to covid), negative PCR test and TT code (required by Kenya).
We leave with all this photo stuff :
Tuesday august 31 : David's mother drives us to the station of Malesherbes at 1:15 pm to spend the night in Paris and to avoid us to get up too early tomorrow and to make the road by car. We have a train for the Gare du Nord at 2:25 with a change in Corbeil-Essonnes. At the arrival at 4:15 pm, Etienne waits for us and leads us on foot to his apartment. We spend the evening together with Stéphane and Martine whom we meet.
Wednesday september 1st : up at 6:45 am for a great breakfast that Etienne prepared with croissants, pancakes... We have appointment at the station with Stéphane and Martine at 8:20 am. At 8:30 am, the train to the airport starts. At Roissy CDG, we pass the check-in and the controls with all the paperworks and the security. Our direct flight for Nairobi is at 12:25 am, we are wide ! We take off finally with 1 hour of delay. We arrive in Kenya at 10:15 pm. At the exit of the plane, first control of the fever and the test PCR. Second control of the QR Code. Control at the Customs of the visa. Finally, we recover our suitcases. We still have to pass a control of the hand luggage, pfff!... When we go out of the airport, we are welcomed by Mike and Steve with their Melting Pot Safaris sign.
We load the luggage in the car and Mike leads us to Roussel House. It is a convent with a big garden and well fenced. We are welcomed by Sister Georgette who gives us the keys of rooms. They are very simple.
We eat the bananas put at our attention in the room. It is midnight. Sleep.
Thursday september 2 : up at 6:10 am. Breakfast at 7:00 am. Our driver guide arrives and settles down with us. He introduces himself : David. And he calls David : "David photocopy" ! We make a little knowledge, he speaks English and understands a little French but does not speak it. Then we leave in his 4WD (Toyota Land Cruiser) at 7:40 am towards the Melting Pot Bush Camp.
The sky is overcast. Between the works and the broken roads, it shakes a lot. And the Kenyans drive in any way and honk before every passing ! We pass by a mountain and from there, we see the Rift Valley, also present in Ethiopia. We make a stop pipi in a store of souvenirs with real wc with water (not as in Ethiopia !). We pass miserable cities/villages : earth roads, no sidewalks, houses in tin or wood, full of garbage everywhere... Herds graze along the road and their shepherd is lying on the side of the road. We stop to fill up with gasoline which is at 1,09 €. At 10:45 am, we leave the asphalted roads for tracks. We see already some zebras, giraffes, gazelles or impalas, baboons, wildebeests. We leave the track for off-road which shakes well and we arrive at Melting Pot Bush Camp at 12:30 am. The camp is located in the bush/forest on the edge of the Mara river. It is very calm except the sound of hippos in the river. We are welcomed by the team dressed in Masaï : Wilson, Benjamin and Passy. We are offered a small glass of mango juice in the tent "bar-lounge" which consists of a bar, club armchairs and low tables as well as tables and chairs to recharge the batteries of cameras and computers. Then Wilson leads us to our tent. It is called "Zebra" and the terrace overlooks the Mara River. It is very classy with 2 beds, tables for the suitcases, a small bathroom with dry toilets, sink without tap but with a thermos of hot water and a pitcher of cold water. Adjacent, a shower under the sky and the trees. So cool!
We will be too good here ! Well, on the other hand, there is no hot water or pressure in the shower. Apparently, a hippo crushed a pipe. We have lunch at 1 pm in the tent "dining room", buffet : composed salads, lasagnes of vegetables, pastas, meat, salad of fruits, fritters of bananas. Really good. We make knowledge with the other safarists. There are 3 Belgians who share their 4WD with a woman of Andorra. Two of them already came here. There are also 2 other persons who do not speak ! We also make the acquaintance of the inhabitants of the camp : a varan, mongooses, many birds which come to eat the rests that the cooks give them. We "mould" until 4:30 pm for our first safari. It is heavy. We borrow tracks and we also make off-track. We see zebras, wildebeest, gazelles of Thomson,
Masa¨giraffes, topis, cobes,
3 lionesses et 3 lion cubs of 3 months old, too cute,
a lion and et des buffaloes.
Great for a first outing ! Return at 7 pm. We connect the batteries of the cameras, telephones. First aperitif - which will not be the last ! The guys test the local beer Tusker, white wine for Martine and Coca or Amarula for me. We make knowledge with the other safarists and we tell each other our days. Dinner at 8 pm. Sleep at 10 pm to the sound of hippos and other noises not identified in the night!
Friday september 13 : up at 5:30 am. Breakfast at 6 am. Safari at 6:30. It will be like that every morning! We join the 4WD and find our driver/guide David who proposes us the bars with the special hooks for the cameras and the been bags. By leaving the camp, we see a hyena. We attend a weak sunrise !
Then, wee see baboons, buffaloes.
Alerted by the other drivers, we go to see a lion that holds a hyena in its mouth then deposits it on the track.
Our driver is getting closer. The hyena is in agony. It is strange to see that. The guide indicates us that lions do not eat hyenas, it is a protection of territory and cubs. Precisely, we approach the old trunk of tree as yesterday and we see the same cubs as well as 3 others even smaller - 3 weeks old tells us the guide. They are adorable, cuddly ! We crack.
Then, we see our first elephants. Around 9:35 am, we stop at the edge of the Mara for a breakfast (sausages, eggs, pancakes, mini bananas, bread, jam, honey, coffee, tea, chocolate) accompanied by the hippos. At 10:30 am, we start again. Roller with long sprigs, baboons, impalas, elephants, zebras decorate this first morning.
Back to the camp at noon. We try to take a shower but it is always cold. We are going to use the shower of Stephane and Etienne. At the lunch of 1 pm, Sylvie, the wife of Tony, joins us as well as Simon Chebon, the co-founder of Melting Pot. At the camp, Benjamin shows us a chameleon. It is all green.
Rest until 4 pm. In the afternoon, we see buffaloes, fishing eagles,
They are superb and how peaceful they are. We could sleep in the car that we would not even hear them pass so much they do not make noise. Well, except when they graze!... We visit then a male jabiru (he has the black eye and the female has the yellow eye). He fishes frogs. The goal is to make the same photo as Tony with the frog in the air in the beak of the jabiru !
Then, mongooses, a jackal and we return to see the lionesses and cubs.
The light becomes softer and the setting sun tints the savannah with ochre. It is too beautiful. Back at 6:50 pm. The 2 persons who did not speak left and 3 other Belgians arrived. The man has already come several times. Wilson informs us that our shower is repaired.
Saturday september 4 : no nice sunrise this morning. Our guide leads us to Paradise Plain to try to see the leopard Siri, lions and a crossing* of wildebeest and zebras (*crossing the river). On the way, we see a crested kingfisher
and we come ti say hello to the small family of lionesses and cubs.
There are 15 cars ! Away we see 5 giraffes. They are very beautiful and majestic.
We cross the road of a lioness and 2 babies of 3,5 months and a roller. We arrive in the area of Paradise Plain at 8:15 am where we see crocodiles in the Mara river.
We are going to take the breakfast. But we shorten a little because we see zebras and wildebeests getting ready to cross the river. We park the 4WD and we wait... we wait... In the river, there is a sacred ibis, hippos and crocodiles. Some zebras approach the river, drink, think... then turn around. Others show up and do the same. Finally, a wildebeest gives the starting signal and several follow.
During the crossing, 2 or 3 zebras and wildebeest are eaten by crocodiles, which are not very awake because some animals pass under their nose and they do not even pretend to catch them !
It is rather exceptional to attend a crossing. We leave at 12:00 am, while passing near impalas. Lunch, shower, rest. The Masaïs of the camp sell souvenirs : jewels, cups, covers... I buy bracelets and cups. At 4:30 pm, we leave. We see an impala and its baby,
birds, warthogs, a southern bushbuck,
an owl and a big herd of buffalos. It is the first time that we see some (we had not seen some in Namibia). We spend the end of the afternoon with them in a beautiful golden light.
Some are impressive because of their size and horns.
We are amazed by the facility to locate animals sometimes very far from our guide David. He is impressive! We are on the territory of the leopard Romi in forest but there are many zebras and gazelles, sign that she is not there ! "Tomorrow", as our driver David does not stop saying ! Back at 7pm. A genet has dinner with us !
Sunday september 5 : nice sunrise.
We will greet our family of lionesses and cubs.
Attempt to hunt a lioness on a topi but no... she was spotted and the topi ran away. While continuing our road... well... track... we meet a serval. Superb !
But not easy to take pictures, it is fast and moves all the time. Then great moment, we see our first cheetahs, 2 brothers. How beautiful they are and slender ! We stop to Rhino Ridge for the breakfast around 9:45 am. Then we return to see the cheetahs. They are eating a gazelle.
On the way back to the camp, we see a hyena in a pond, a heron, 3 ostriches and giraffes. One of them drinks in a pond, it takes all its precautions, watches the surroundings before bending down with its legs spread.
Her friend is on the lookout. Back to the camp at 12:45. Two new people arrive, regulars ! And return of Simon who was absent. In the afternoon, we cross a hippo and its baby, a lizard half red and half blue,
an ibis tantalus,
giraffes, vervet monkeys (or blue vervet and given the color of their attributes, we understand why !)
eagle, vulture, zebras, baboons, bearded woodpeckers.
At the end of the afternoon, we go to "Hippo Pool". The light is very nice but the hippos are not very active.
The goal of the game tonight is to take a picture of one yawning.
But they are not very tired, it does not yawn much! Back to the camp at 7 pm, passing in front of a herd of impalas. There is a storm in the distance.
Monday september 6 : the day begins in the very first light with the meeting of a herd of elephants.
We follow them during almost 1h30 in a total silence. We see some birds then : hoopoe,
adult and juvenile bateleur eagles,
then hippos, herons, crocodiles. Our guide "feels" well that there will be a new crossing. So we join the river and we wait. Not long. Some wildebeest cross.
A young is caught by a crocodile in front of his mother.
The poor mother turns back every time the little one squeaks. She hesitates, she turns back, she doesn't know what to do. She ends up giving up, she can't do anything anyway. Poor, it must be hard for her. It makes us sad but it is the law of the savanna. We cross then the way of a solitary lion on a small hillock...
ah no, they are two. The other prefers the shade of a shrub. On the return, we see again an elephant.
Back to the camp at 12:15. Passy, Benjamin and Wilson are posing for the photo.
In the afternoon, we stay in the vicinity of the camp and we see an impala and her baby of 2 hours, says the guide. He even shows us a rest of placenta. We see then a bucorve of the South, elephants, a cobe, warthogs, vultures of Ruppell,
In Paradise Plain, we stop at the lioness hill. There are 13 lionesses and cubs. Around 5:30 pm, all this small world goes down from the hill. Waouh! A lioness goes hunting for a wildebeest. It starts to get dark and the cameras have a hard time to focus. That's it, the lioness runs away and the wildebeest runs away, then holds its head,
the lioness backs away and he goes back. What a mistake to turn his back to the lioness, he has no chance. I try to make a movie but I can't see anything because the focus is not right, too dark, but on the other hand, I can hear the sound of the heavy footsteps of the animals in full race approaching. The chase stops at 5 meters from our car. The lioness grabs the wildebeest by the neck.
Impressive hunting ! The rest of the troop approaches the meal and the little ones cling to the wildebeest and tap it.
We have the impression to be in the school of the cubs, they learn from their mothers. It is dark when we return to the camp at 7:25pm under the emotion of what we have just lived. In the camp, we look at this scene and we almost all missed our photos and videos, except Stephane who filmed well the hunt but then the animals being too close to the 4WD, he did not have the killing. The images with the troop of lions agglutinated on the wildebeest are very noisy. There is a new couple who arrived at Melting Pot. It starts to rain and there are thunder flashes in the distance.
Tuesday september 7 : this morning we have a colorful sunrise with a topi in front.
The road is decorated with a lioness and an umbra bird.
Then we go to see hyenas on a carcass of topi.
The adults hunt the young. Then, we go in search of the leopard named Kaboso in Kaboso Area but it is not there. We observe then a long crested eagle,
3 giraffes with 3 youngsters, so cute,
an old buffalo, a topi,
a roller that fights with a grasshopper that it ends up swallowing.
We see other warthogs with 4 funny babies,
an owl, an elk, wildebeest, gazelles. We pass near a river that smells the sulphur like in Yellowstone. In a tree, we look at 2 vultures among which a young one which has stripes on the chest.
And one more warthog with 2 babies. Return at 12:10 pm. In the afternoon : giraffes, bee-eaters, topis, cobes,
and the family of lionesses and cubs on their tree trunk. When we arrive, the cubs are all alone and then the mothers join them.
Wednesday september 8 : today is a full day game drive. Ostriches are walking quietly in the morning light
as well as hyenas
and topis. Two cheetahs prepare to hunt... but they are spotted ! We see gazelles of Thomson, yellow-throated gangas,
zebras, kingfisher. While passing a river bed, David turns back, he spotted a small green snake in a shrub. But how does he do that? It's a boomslang - apparently dangerous.
On the way he shows us a sausage tree. Indeed the fruits, which are not eaten, look like very big sausages.
We meet then 4 cheetahs which arrive in the distance and come to lie under a tree in the shade.
We are the only car close to them, a rare thing ! While continuing, we see a falcon with black shoulders,
then a sagittarius messenger
who disturbs a whippoorwill well hidden in the high grass.
Some giraffes are grazing not far from there. Then suddenly, David is on to something ! That's it, he found a leopard. That's great !
We take him in photos under all the angles, not easy because he changes place all the time and ends up curling up under a shrub. We will have seen it during almost one hour only but what a chance! Then, it is almost the routine : elephants, giraffes, zebras, baboons, birds of which a sacred ibis. We stop at 2:40pm to picnic under a tree with the guide Edward and his safarists.
We have each our box with a small burger, chips, apple, banana. We leave at 3:30 pm. In the distance, the sky is stormy.
Drops of rain begin to fall then it is the deluge. We close the roof. We pass in front of 2 cheetahs sitting in the grass
and elephants snorting in a small pool of mud. A little further, a vehicle is stuck in the mud. Our driver helps by towing the 4WD. We attend then a hunting of a cheetah on a gazelle but it is spotted... it is missed ! It is a female and she joins her 3 youngs. They are beautiful all 4.
Back to the camp at 7pm. It rains the rest of the evening.
Thursday september 9 : the tracks are very muddy this morning and it's slippery. No sunrise. A hyena poses for a picture in the middle of the path, a hippo, a hoopoe and impalas wake up quietly.
We attend the breakfast of lionesses and their cubs : wildebeest carcass on the menu. We see then topis and a young male lion. His mane is just emerging under his chin.
We join Albert in difficulty with his 4WD, he is stuck. The drivers make us come down from the car because that risks to shake. David pulls the vehicle of Albert without problem and we leave. Two rescues in 2 days, not bad ! We approach 2 cheetahs and impalas. We go to have breakfast at the edge of the Mara with hippos and dwarf bee-eaters.
Back at 12:15 under the glance of cobes. At the camp, Benjamin calls us: he shows us a small snake: a boomslang.
During the lunch, two new ones arrive. In the afternoon, behind the camp, there are 2 cobes and a baby less than a week old, the guide tells us. A hippopotamus dips in a pond. We remain in the sector and it is the "ornitho moment". We observe some kinds of ducks, a jacana with golden breast,
bee-eaters, a kingfisher with grey head,
a Marshall eagle
and... striped mongooses. We see again a cobe with a baby of 3 days. It is too cute. It looks like a cuddly toy.
We continue our road crossing zebras,
impalas with a male. We arrive in edge of river and on a beach, there are full of hippopotamuses. Then we return to see our troop of lionesses and lion cubs in their dead tree. Always so adorable, these cubs! It begins to rain. We take the way of the return. We stop in front of 2 fishing eagles, impalas which try to take shelter under a tree without big success.
Back to the camp at 6:40pm under the rain. We make the acquaintance of Samuel, the steward of the personnel, back from vacation. He speaks a little French.
Friday september 10 : it's almost the end of the stay... The tracks are always muddy and slippery. We begin the day by going to see a herd of elephants.
Then we find our lionesses and lion cubs with the 2 lions on the track of the airfield. We expect a hunting but not. We go to Double Crossing. We see a bustard with white belly.
Cheetahs are there too, a mother and her 3 children (a male and 2 females). They are magnificent and they take the pose on their mound of earth. Superb !
At breakfast on the edge of the river,
we see herons. Not far from there, a lioness hides under a shrub with her baby. The guide tells us that she had 2 but while crossing the river with a baby in the mouth, she dropped it and a crocodile made only one mouthful. What a sad story. A few kilometers later, we see a Thomson's gazelle in a funny position. Oh, she is giving birth, a baby has already the half of the body out.
Poof, the little one falls. The mother licks her but when a car arrives, she gets scared and runs away. The baby, still stuck in his pocket, can't follow her. Fortunately, she returns. We leave them quiet and we go away. It is great to attend a birth in live. What a moment! Return at 12:30. Classic afternoon: hyenas, baboons,
Then we return to Hippo Pool to take the aperitif with Edward and his safarists. They leave tomorrow morning early and go to the Lake Baringo. In the "pool", it is tense. Hippos are running at each other. They are not happy !
A goliath heron watches them. Return at 7 pm. Sylvie takes the aperitif with us and greets us because we shall not see her tomorrow. We thank her for the reception, the quality of the camp and the kindness of all the staff.
Saturday september 11 : this time, it is really the end. Last safari this morning. We have a magnificent sunrise. Better late than never!
We pass to say goodbye to our small family of lions, lionesses and cubs.
If one day we return, we will not know if the big lions are the cubs of today. Then, we attend a fight of 2 male impalas who fight for the herd of females. The horns clash and snap.
Without ceasing, they stop and watch the surroundings and hop a new blow of horns. It lasts, it lasts... we leave before the end of the fight. Elephants rub their horns against a tree. Farther, we see a lion, it is superb in the beautiful light of the morning,
then 2 lionesses with 2 babies even smaller than the others. The guide did not know that they were there, we are all alone to observe them. But that does not last because David warned by radio the other drivers. Last breakfast at 8:30 am at the edge of the Mara river.
Back to the camp at 9:40 am. Last shower in the open air under the sky and the trees.
We buckle our bagages. Last lunch at 11:45 am. We say goodbye to Wilson, Benjamin, Passy, Samuel and the others and we leave the camp at 12:20 pm the ball in the stomach. We do not want to leave, we are too well here ! The road to Nairobi seems long. That does not speak a lot in the car, we think again of our wonderful stay, we fall asleep... As at the start of our trip, we make a pause pee in the same store of souvenir. Around 4:45, David stops the car on the road side, we have a flat wheel.
Some guys help to change the wheel and we leave half an hour later. David drops us in Roussel House at 5:40 pm. We find Mike and his car. It is him who drives us to the airport at 6:30pm after having said goodbye to David. We arrive at the airport at 7:30 pm. Before entering there, we are taken the fever, then control of the French sanitary passes, control of the luggage, registration, security... At 8:15 pm, we settle down to have dinner of a burger. We take off at 1h15 (with 1h20 of delay). A meal is served but we are not very hungry. Then we sink in the sleep.
Sunday september 12 : a breakfast is served before arriving in Paris at 8:10 am. Martine takes a cab alone to go back home. And us, we take a cab with Etienne and Stéphane towards the RER of the Gare du Nord. We say goodbye to them and we take the train at 10:20 am. We arrive to Malesherbes at 12:05 am where the mother of David waits for us. Return to the house tired but enchanted of our stay !
A big thank you to Stephane, Etienne and Martine for having accompanied us for this stay. We spent very good moments.
That will remain in the best memories of trip.
Copyright Magali and David BELLEC