Just a note

“We are finally home from all our travels. It is hard to express our feelings about our trip with you all. It truly was a highlight of our trips anywhere.

I would like to point out some special special things, but as I think about them, they are too numerous for this note. Suffice it to say that from the first moment, our experiences exceeded all expectations—animals(from elephants to cheetahs, lions, gazelles, topis, I could go on and on), scenery(oh, beautiful Kenya, the expanses of the plains, the sunlight, the grasses, flowers, mountains, rolling hills), food(what can I say, we all put on weight!!), the camp experience(hot water in the morning and for showers!!!) but most of all our experiences with you all, your children, and guides Elijah(a godsend for kids), Jackson(I wouldn’t have made it out of the lava caves without him, believe me), and all the rest of the guides too. And Kip—a man of patience and integrity. We are so lucky to have met him and had him with us also. The Masai are wonderful people in every sense of the word.

And Ninian: what can I say. We were so fortunate to have him with us. The word guide does not even begin to describe him. His knowledge of animals, plants, you name it, added a dimension to our trip that I know we would not have had with any other person. And above all his temperment with our group—well, let’s just say he is blessed with lots of patience; but most of all his enthusiasm was so contagious. We are very lucky to have benefitted from his experience and love of Kenya.

Again, I would like to say how great it was to have met your beautiful children also–it added so much, and I know the children loved having Amelia along. Jamey seems to be growing up as fearless as his father—you saw him run with Ninian after that Python!

And a very special thanks to Lara.  Everything was taken care for us beyond any expectations we might have had. I know without you none of this would have run as smoothly and efficiently as it did. We are ever grateful.

We count you all among our friends now. How lucky we are.

With much affection.”

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The Mara in August – camping amongst the migrating herds of Wildebeest and zebra

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IMG_3634Camp was surrounded by tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra.

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Mnemba Island – Exquisite beach retreat

Mnemba Island off the coast of Zanzibar in Tanzania  is the perfect place to go at the end of a safari to relax and unwind before heading home.

P1150113The lodge only has 12 rooms – all thatched and open, with plenty of comfortable places to relax , each with a fabulous sea view and direct access to the beach. Bare foot luxury at its finest.

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This is a small and exclusive lodge, it only takes around 25 minutes to walk around the island  and the sand is the prettiest whitest sand we have ever seen, littered with shells, and the sea is aquamarine and clear. We felt as though we had the place to ourselves.

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The island lies within a marine reserve and there are several turtle nests that the management keep an eye on until they hatch. We were lucky to be woken up one night to watch a turtle laying her eggs – a first time experience for all of us. The next day our luck continued and we got to watch a hundred or so turtles hatch from a different nest and make their way to the sea. It was incredible.

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We swam with wild dolphins, Jamey and Ninian went diving every day, we goggled, ate delicious food, had massages played in the sea and came home feeling utterly spoilt!

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Samatian Island, Lake Baringo

We have just returned from an amazing trip to Lake Baringo in the heart of the Great Rift Valley where we stayed at Samatian Island Camp. The lake is famous for its incredible birdlife (over 400 species have been recorded here!)  but it is also home to  hippos, crocodiles and a small population of Rothschild giraffe reintroduced by NRT and the  Ruko  conservancy which includes over 16,000 hectares of community land on the Eastern shores of the Lake.  Over the past three years the waters of the lake has risen to unprecedented levels,  rising over fifteen feet.

Opinions vary  over the reasons for the risen water but the most likely explanation is  that the changes are due to seismic shifts in the Rift Valley floor.  Sadly the rising waters have destroyed  homes, hotels and left many people displaced, but it has also changed the Lake and the surrounding landscape. What was once muddy brown has now become crystal clear. Forests have been submerged creating a haven for fish amongst the tree trunks. The fish population which had dwindled has exploded.  The camps and lodges are reinventing themselves and the lake remans a birders paradise.

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View from our bedroom

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Clear water and water plants create a haven for fish.

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Resident Verreux Eagle Owl  – know as WOO

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The Samatian swimming pool currently under water.

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Wild flowers added brilliant splashes of colour to the landscape.

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Cormorants and Darters nesting in submerged trees.

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Land of the Big Cats – Serengeti

Ninian has just returned from a short safari to a remote Eastern corner of the Serengeti that was closed to the public for the past 20 years. He was one of a handful of select guides invited to help site a new camp (Namiri Plains)  that will open this July and to choose the best areas for game drives.  In the three nights they spent in the area they saw 80 lions, 16 cheetah, three leopards, honey badgers, caracal, an African Wildcat as well as numerous plains game and big bull elephants. We are very excited that this area will now be accessible and look forward to sharing it with with our guests.

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Safari Do’s and Don’ts – top tips from Ninian and Lara

 

Over the years we have traveled all over Africa always searching for new places to share with our guests. There are a few key DO’s and DON’Ts that can make your safari a really special experience.

Watching the sunset from the Laikipia Highlands in Kenya

DO the research and talk with friends and friends of friends who have already been on safari. They will know what you will like and their take on the places you are thinking of going will be honest. They will have spent enough time with Ninian to know if you are going to enjoy his company as a guide. They will also know if you will like the camping or if you would be more comfortable staying in lodges. Most of our safaris combine both, but we are very flexible and ultimately want you to get the most out of your experience.

Lowis & Leakey private mobile camp

DO talk to us often during the planning and in the run up to your trip– the more questions you ask us the more we can tailor your experience to suit you and what you want to get out of it.

DO make sure each person has their OWN pair of binoculars. If something exciting is happening you don’t want to miss the moment because you are sharing. Ninian says “DON’T go for the very expensive brands. I think you need to go for the Nikon “Monarch” range. The magnification should be 8×32 up to 8×50 or 10×42 up to 10×50. The 8×32 will be plenty. The second number is very important, the “32” relates to the width of the lense and this controls the width of your view but also the amount of light that comes in (important in the evening). So do not buy an 8x pair that is less than 32, and do not buy a 10x pair that is less than 42. The bigger magnification needs more light. Do not spend more than $230 on the binoculars unless you are going to use them every year.

DO bring a camera. I have a lightweight Lumix with an optical zoom that I love because it can go in my hand bag and Ninian uses a Canon 650 D. If you don’t have a camera and don’t want to invest in one, then an  iPhone or Samsung Galaxy would work well enough to document your trip. In fact some of the most beautiful images I have seen have been taken on smart phones! DO bear in mind that you can’t alway get close to your subjects so a proper camera with a good lense is best for wildlife photography.

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If you want a private guide and your CHOICE of best lodges and camps then DO book and plan in advance as the best places and the best safari guides like Ninian get booked up a year or more in advance.

Having said that, DON’T worry about looking into booking at the last minute, if you don’t ask it won’t happen, and sometimes things fall into place and if they don’t we won’t sell you a trip we aren’t comfortable with.

DO purchase trip cancellation insurance.

 

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DO speak with your Doctor  and always follow the advice they give you regarding innoculations  and anti-malarial prophylactics. Requirements for Yellow Fever vaccinations vary from country to country so make sure to check.

DON’T forget your prescriptions and DO bring a  basic first aid kit.

DO drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration which can make you feel miserable. You will need to drink more than you do at home as you are outside in the elements. Ask your doctor about powdered electrolyte concentrate which you can  add to drinking water to help keep hydrated – bring some in your medical kit.

DO leave your heels at home! If your stay includes a city en route where you will want to be more presentable or fashionably dressed then pack two bags and leave your city clothes stored during the safari.

DO pack carefully, it is essential to pack lightly, preferably in a duffle bag that will fit in the hold of a small aircraft or the back of a car easily. You should be able to get laundry done in most places weather permitting. We find that dressing in layers works best.

DO pack for all weather. Weather can be unpredictable, so make sure to include a few articles of clothing for unforeseen hot or cold days as well as a waterproof jacket. DO check on the expected weather in the country you are going.

DON’T forget a HAT, GOOD SUNGLASSES and good SUNSCREEN. There is nothing worse than feeling ill from sunstroke or the agony of sunburn. The sun is strong enough to cause third-degree sunburns if you are not careful, so apply sunscreen regularly and cover up. For more information on getting the right sunglasses check out How to pick good sunglasses.

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DO rely on our local knowledge. Its easy to post pretty photographs on nice websites but they don’t always tell you enough about the actual place, people or experience.

Contact us to  book your safari.

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Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud”

When Flanders and Swann wrote this in 1939  they were picturing hippos but I think they would agree that it is just as suited to this happy herd of elephants. It was magical to watch as they frolicked and played one afternoon on Lewa Downs.

 The elephants were one of many highlights on this spectacular safari. If you have a moment have a look through some of Ninians other photos by clicking here.

Elephant 1 ©Ninian Lowis

Elephant 2 ©Ninian Lowis
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Rubondo Island Magic!

 

Rubondo Island Camp

We set off in a state of huge excitement from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to see in the New Year at a newly opened camp on Rubondo Island in the south west corner of Lake Victoria, Tanzania. This was a first visit for all of us and we had high expectations with a list of must-sees and dos that included seeing the spotted-necked otters, catching Nile Perch and getting a glimpse of the resident chimpanzee population.

The flight is stunning. Leaving Nairobi we flew over the Rift Valley, and enjoyed great views of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. It was fun having Ninian point out landmarks in the Serengeti like the Grumeti River and Lobo Kopjes, probably most exciting was our first glimpse of Lake Victoria, its waters muddy where it is fed by the Mara River. Our first stop was Mwanza, a mining town on the edge of the lake, where we cleared immigration to enter Tanzania before continuing our journey by light aircraft.

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This is the second largest freshwater lake in the world – a massive 68,800 km² (26,564 miles²); the water was blue with occasional fields of green algae. We flew over a verdant patchwork of fields of rice and other staples colored every shade of green under the sun. The lake was dotted with islands, some with pretty fishing villages,others seemingly empty. From the busier islands, part of the trading route between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, we saw ferries carrying boatloads of people and vehicles, and dhows with white sails that looked miniscule from above.

Rubondo Island is much bigger than I had imagined – it’s a vast uninhabited gem. We flew in over a dense canopy of rainforest broken by beautiful glades and papyrus beds. Landing on the grassy strip, the place looked like something out of Jurassic Park.The drive to camp wove through giant trees and lianas down a sandy track with quartz rock and the occasional glimpse of bushbuck. The camp is built on a stunning white beach set amongst towering fig trees. We were woken each morning to the bassoon-like sound of the resident colobus monkey on his territorial patrol.

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We had sitatunga visit our room on numerous occasions, which was ridiculously exciting. Other visitors in camp included bushbuck, vervet monkeys, monitor lizards and hippo. Elephant were seen on the airstrip and, though we didn’t see them, the giraffe weren’t too far away. Otters swam lazily across the bay as we fished from the beach – MAGIC!P1090956

P1100033The island is so far west that the climate is more like Central Africa than Tanzania – even the sun rises and sets an hour later. The birds also have more in common with Central than Eastern Africa and we spotted Grey Parrots, Eastern Gray Plantain Eaters and a new bird for Ninian, the Vieillot’s Black Weaver. This is a birder’s paradise, and even the birding amateurs amongst us could tell that this was a very special place to see birds.

P1100048 We quickly realized that seeing a chimp was going to be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack – they are not habituated and the forest is extremely dense (the main island is 26 km long and ranges from 3 km to 10 km in width) – but that didn’t stop us from trying, unsuccessfully I may add, but they are seen very occasionally.

P1080981 The National Park comprises Rubondo and eleven smaller islands covering 457 sq km². 80% of the park’s surface is sheltered by unspoilt forest and the smaller islands were interesting places to visit by boat.

The walking was fantastic, especially for the kids, as there are no buffalo to worry about. It is by far the best way to get around the island.
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P1080971 We were bitten by the occasional tsetse fly and there are lots and lots of insects – but really amazing insects so it’s ok.

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We had picnics on deserted sandy beaches, caught Nile Perch and Tilapia (they have a catch and release policy there) and Ninian caught his first ever Perch on fly.

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It rained heavily for almost 11 hours on one of our days – but we didn’t let that deter us from having fun. It rains fairly often here, but it is a rainforest after all, so best to come prepared with adequate rain gear.

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We walked, we fished, we swam (not for everyone – the waters are teeming with crocs), we danced until midnight to see in the New Year and we left very reluctantly, having run out oftime, and with a feeling that there was still so much to see and do. We can’t wait to go back and share it with our guests.

 

 

Rutundu and Lake Alice

We met these zebra in the forest as we drove up the track to Lake Rutundu on the northern slopes of Mt. Kenya

Kizita gorge is very deep so you leave your cars on the opposite side to the cabin and hike the last section to the cabins. There is a precarious looking winch system that works perfectly to get bags, firewood and supplies across the gorge so you don’t have to lug them across.

Baggage handling at Rutundu!

Amelia helps operate the luggage pulley at Rutundu

Lake Rutundu

Rutundu has two log cabins built out of cedar logs, the cracks between the logs have been stuffed with moss to keep the wind out. The main cabin has a quaint sitting and dining room with a big fireplace, a verandah with the most amazing view of the lake and the peaks of Mt Kenya beyond, and the small kitchen is perfcet . The main bedroom sleeps four and has en-suite  bathroom an the second cabin also sleeps 4

The main cabin

The main cabin

The area is beautiful and the big draw for our family was the hiking and fishing. There is a little boat on the Lake and on our first evening we caught a lovely big rainbow trout for supper.

Ninian on the boat with Jamey and Amelia

When the fog comes down you can’t see much!

Lake Alice, is over 1,000 feet higher up the mountain and the hike takes about  two-hours walk further up the mountain (Amelia who is 8, managed it happily).

On the Rutundu airstrip with the peaks of Mt. Kenya behind us

Hiking up to Lake Alice – Lake Rutundu and the cabins are behind us on the other side of the valley
Jamey fishing on Lake Alice

Jamey fishing on Lake Alice

The end of our climb and the amazing view of Lake Alice

The end of our climb and the amazing view of Lake Alice

We also fished the little crystal clear river that runs through Kizita gorge that is stocked with Brown trout.

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Hungry Mara Crocodiles 2013

The start of the migration and  the crocodiles were hungry

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  • About us

    Lowis & Leakey is a dynamic African safari company founded by Ninian Lowis and his wife Lara Leakey. We are based in Kenya where Lara and Ninian’s families have been involved in exploration and safaris since the late 19th century. Ninian is a professional guide who has over 20 years of experience leading safaris throughout Africa. Lara runs our office and manages the safari logistics as well as the day to day business of the safaris. Both Ninian and Lara delight in sharing their passion for Africa’s people, wildlife and wild places with their guests.
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