Sunday, February 28, 2010

Masai Mara Safari, Kenya: Masai Mara, Safari trips to Masai Mara

Masai Mara Safari, Kenya: Masai Mara, Safari trips to Masai Mara

The Masai Mara is one of the best known and most popular reserves in the whole of Africa. At times and in certain places it can get a little overrun with tourist minibuses, but there is something so special about it that it tempts you back time and again.

Seasoned safari travellers, travel writers, documentary makers and researchers often admit that the Masai Mara is one of their favourite places. So why is that? Perhaps it is because of the 'big skies', the open savannahs, the romance of films like 'Out of Africa' and certainly because of the annual wildebeest migration, the density of game, the variety of birdlife and the chance of a hot air balloon ride.

Also because of the tall red-robed Masai people whose lifestyle is completely at odds with western practices, and from whom one learns to question certain western values.

A combination of all these things plus something to do with the spirit of the place - which is hard to put into words - is what attracts people to the Mara over and over.

The Masai Mara lies in the Great Rift Valley, which is a fault line some 3,500 miles (5,600km) long, from Ethiopia's Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique. Here the valley is wide and a towering escarpment can be seen in the hazy distance. Most of the game viewing activities occur on the valley floor, but some lodges conduct walking tours outside the park boundaries in the hills of the Oloololo Escarpment. The animals are also at liberty to move outside the park into huge areas known as 'dispersal areas'. There can be as much wildlife roaming outside the park as inside. Many Masai villages are located in the 'dispersal areas' and they have, over centuries, developed a synergetic relationship with the wildlife.

There are four main types of topography in the Mara: Ngama Hills to the east with sandy soil and leafy bushes liked by black rhino; Oloololo Escarpment forming the western boundary and rising to a magnificent plateau; Mara Triangle bordering the Mara River with lush grassland and acacia woodlands supporting masses of game especially migrating wildebeest; Central Plains forming the largest part of the reserve, with scattered bushes and boulders on rolling grasslands favoured by the plains game.

In a short stay during the wildebeest migration you could see thousands of animals, at other times there are still hundreds. The plains are full of wildebeest, zebra, impala, topi, giraffe, Thomson's gazelle. Also regularly seen are leopards, lions, hyenas, cheetah, jackal and bat-eared foxes. Black rhino are a little shy and hard to spot but are often seen at a distance.

Hippos are abundant in the Mara River as are very large Nile crocodiles, who lay in wait for a meal as the wildebeest cross on their annual quest to find new pastures.
Cheetah on 4x4 vehicle.

Every July (or sometimes August), the wildebeest travel over 600 miles (960km) from Tanzania's Serengeti plains, northwards to the Masai Mara and the Mara River is the final obstacle. In October or November, once they have feasted and the grass has all but gone, they turn around and go back the other way.

The Mara birds come in every size and colour including common but beautiful ones like the lilac breasted roller and plenty of large species like eagles, vultures and storks. There are 53 different birds of prey.

Altitude is 4,875-7,052 feet (1,500-2,170 metres) above sea level, which yields a climate somewhat milder and damper than other regions. The daytime rarely exceeds 85°F (30°C) during the day and hardly ever drops below 60°F (15°C) at night.

-Rainy Season: It rains in April and May and again November and this can cause some areas of the Mara to be inaccessible due to the sticky 'black cotton' mud.
-Dry Season: July to October is dry and the grass is long and lush after the rains. This is a good time to come and see the huge herds of migratory herbivores.
-Hottest time: The warmest time of year is December and January.
-Coldest Time: June and July are the coldest months.

· Wildebeest Migration
. Wildebeest Migration River Crossing.
· Hot Air Ballooning
· Huge savannahs of golden grasslands
· Big skies
· Rift Valley escarpment
· Lion sightings

.This is a malarial area
.The reserve covers an area of 1,510 km²
.There is no night driving and vehicles must be back at the lodge by 6pm.
.Several lodges are located outside the park's boundaries, but as there are few fences you may not be aware of this.
.This is a Reserve rather than a National Park and it belongs to the Masai people.

Read more to include trips and safaris, tours to Masai Mara:

I'm with Coco

I'm with Coco

The image comes from  The creator encourages fans to use it around the web.  I found it after reading a Tweet from Rainn Wilson (Dwight Shrute, from NBC's The Office).

If you haven't heard, six years ago, Jay Leno planned to retire from the Tonight Show in 2009.  Conan O'Brien would take over the 11:35 PM institution, following in the talented footsteps of Jack Paar, Steve Allen, and Johnny Carson. Conan passed up other lucrative opportunities because of this plan, contract, and commitment.

Apparently Jay decided he didn't want to go last year.  He began undermining Conan almost from the start, with his silly 10:PM show that cannibalized Conan's ratings, indicated NBC gave up on prime time, and cost local news stations a fortune.  But that wasn't enough.

Now, Jay apparently wants his old job back and NBC is content to treat Conan quite shabbily in order to appease Jay.

NBC already let the brilliant David Letterman get away.  Now they are trying to chase away the future again, but doing this to Conan.

Today, Conan released a statement and announced he would not do the Tonight Show at 12:05:

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show.

He went on to say that pushing the show back to keep him on the air would not be fair to his own replacment, Jimmy Fallon.

He mentions a few current and former members of the latenight community.

  • Jimmy Fallon
  • David Letterman
  • Johnny Carson
  • "My predecessor"

You can see the letter here.  It's a great read. What strikes me is that even though Conan has chosen to go public with his anger and animosity, he's done it in such a way that he is still a class act.

Jay Leno, on the other hand, comes across as the 21 year old guy who never went to college, and still hangs out at the local high school to pick up 17 year olds.  Let it go, Jay.

What do I want to see happen now?

I think is would be awesome to see David Letterman, who has his own issues with NBC over how they treated him when Jay originally go the tonight show, negotiate an early end to his contract so Conan can take over Letterman's show, and then smash Jay in the ratings.  I could see Letterman doing this just to mess with NBC and Jay Leno.

It may be more likely that Conan goes to FOX, but this would be an awesome way for Letterman to go out.

Just One Of Those Weeks

Just One Of Those Weeks

This has totally been one of those days.  I attempted to go shopping for Christmas presents, but it’s just too much of a madhouse out there for me to deal with in my current state of mind.  This is one of those days I’d like to pick a place on the map, oh let’s say like the Dominican Republic, and say ok let’s search for puerto plata hotels and get the heck out of here for a few days or weeks or even months!

I’ve been ill all day mostly because it seems like everything I buy lately is either broken in the box, quits working right after I get it home, or doesn’t match the label on the box.

Hubby’s entertainment system I bought him for Christmas died a week after we bought it.  It’s an RCA RT2870.  It worked fine for days then one day I tried to turn it on and nothing happened.  The red light on the power button is on, but when you hit the button or try to turn it on from the remote the blue light around the volume control flashes then nothing happens. Then I started smelling that hot wire smell you get when wires are melting.

I would take it back to the store, but Hubby threw away the box even though I’ve told him a gazillion times never throw away a box for anything electronic or anything that costs that much until I know I’m not going to need to return it.  I told him to put the receipt on my desk, but I can’t find that either, so if he threw it away we’re screwed.  We can’t RMA it without the receipt!  I swear he never listens.

Sigh.  I think the issues are just with Hubby’s presents because his other Christmas present didn’t work either.  I bought him the installation kit to hook up his stereo in the Blazer, and it ended up being the wrong kit.  I didn’t buy the wrong one.  The wrong kit was actually placed in the wrong packaging.  Luckily I had the receipt for that one and returned it, but not until after Hubby spent an hour taking the dash apart in the Blazer to install the thing.  That put him in a bad mood which means it put me in a bad mood, too.  When he’s ill he’s going to make me ill!

I seriously need to just take a nap, but with the baby wide awake right now that’s not going to happen.  She’s fussy as well, so she must be reading off our moods.  Maybe I just need to walk outside and scream real good.

Billy Joel and Elton John Face 2 Face Concert in Seattle

Billy Joel and Elton John Face 2 Face Concert in Seattle
Let me begin by saying I have been a huge Billy Joel fan for nearly 25 years.

I attended this show at Key Arena on Saturday night.  My ticket was just over $100 and my seat was in the upper reaches of the stadium.  This is the best picture I got of the performers when I zoomed in:

Was it worth it?  Nearly.  Now, let me alienate a chunk of my readership here with this next statement: It definitely have been worth it if Elton John wasn't on the bill, and it was all Billy Joel.

The show opens with a half hour of Billy Joel and Elton John playing their own pianos, facing one another.  They alternate songs -- an Elton song, followed by a Billy song.  They sing each song together. After that first half hour, Billy Joel goes away, and his piano sinks into the stage (which is pretty cool) and Elton plays songs for an hour.  Then, Elton goes away, and Billy comes out for an hour.  After that, Elton comes back and they do another 45 minutes together.

I like Elton's work.  He's a great musician.  But I don't own any Elton John albums.  All the Elton songs I own are on various compilations.  So, while Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Tiny Dancer, and others are all great songs, I'm not a big enough fan to go out an buy them.

In contrast, I have all the Billy Joel albums.  In many cases I have the same album on both cassette and CD.

The problem is that most people probably had a significant preference for one artist over the other, and this hurts both of them.

After a pretty intense opening sequence, the show slows down for Billy Joel fans as we wait for an hour through the Elton John concert to get back to the performer we really wanted to see.  For the Elton John fans, they experience a great start, then another hour of Elton, then the show kind of stops for them as Billy Joel comes back out to perform, and they are left waiting for the conclusion.

The problem is that regardless of whom you're a fan of, the momentum of the show is going to hit a wall at some point.

But what about those who are just casual fans of both artists?  With ticket prices of $89, $108, and $181.50, I don't think casual fans are attending.

I'm not sure if the momentum issue was the reason behind my other observation or if it has more to do with the nature of Seattle fans.

When Jon and I saw Billy Joel in Vegas in 2006, it was an amazing show.  The whole show quickly turned into a sing-a-long for 12,000 people. The fans loved what they were hearing and even sang along with the more obscure songs.

In Seattle it was different. Is that the Seattle concert fan?  I'm not sure.  But for most of the show, nearly everyone actually stayed in their seats.  There was no great mob singing along to the classic tunes.  People for the most part observed the concert.

Is was a diverse crowd age wise.  The 50+ set was well represented, as was the 25- set.  And the rest of us in between, so that may have had something to do with it.  But it was definitely weird.

That's one of the reasons why that Vegas show, or the show I saw him at with Scott and Adam in 1989, was a better show.  Those shows were much more fun.  We were all a part of something. We found it exciting and could not contain our enthusiasm.  That wasn't the case at the Seattle show.

To be fair, it wasn't a Billy Joel crowd.  It was an Elton John crowd. When Billy made his initial entrance everyone cheered.  When Elton made his, the crowd erupted.  Probably 2/3 of the crowd was there to see Elton.

But they still stayed in their seats during the whole show. 

Unless a critical mass of people were going to just assume they could sing and stand and go nuts, no one was going to do it.  And I'll admit to bowing to the social pressure to be more reserved than I would have cared to.  But it was clear that sort of behavior would not have been welcomed by the patrons sitting near me.

Perhaps if they had separated the Elton John fans from the Billy Joel fans, it would have been a more exuberant crowd, like at a High School basketball game. We all could have been surrounded by our "own people," and the enthusiasm could have built. I can't really expect the Elton John fans to know the words to Allentown, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, and We Didn't Start the Fire.

Momentum, format, and Seattle-ness all impacted crowd behavior.

So how was the rest of the show?

Elton did a nice job with his songs. He doesn't really engage the crowd, though.  Friends on Facebook have said it looks like Elton is phoning it in, and I can see it.  The only time he talked to the audience was when he screwed up his song order.  A couple times, he "conducted" the audience.  Had I known his songs better, I could offer more insight, but all I can really say is it was a very capable performance.

Billy put on an enthusiastic show.  I'm not sure why he even has a piano stool.  He just keeps bouncing off of it.  He talked to the audience between songs, acknowledged the crowd, and told jokes.  He also made a point of introducing each of his band members after they were featured in a song.  He really seems humbled by the fervor of his fans.

He even slipped a few bars of "When the Saints Go Marching In" into a few songs, presumably because of the Superbowl.  I don't think Elton did anything like that, though if he did slip in something that calls to mind Manchester United, I would have no idea.

Billy puts on a great show, and he really seems to love what he does. He runs around with energy and enthusiasm that are fantastic to see.  Elton seem more technically minded.  I suppose you could say Elton is the Spock to Billy's Kirk.

The sound quality in the Arena wasn't great.  The mids and highs seemed muddled.  The instruments would blend together (not necessarily in a good way) and they would drown out the singers.

I do like the idea of these two great pianists working together, but a more tightly integrated show might have worked better.  Or better still would be to do a more intimate show for maybe 100 people and make it more of a discussion of the music.  We could hear Elton and Billy talk about their songs and piano-playing experiences.

Of course, there is no way I'd ever be able to get tickets to such an event so it's a a moot point.

Still, despite my kvetching, Face 2 Face was a very good show, and I'm glad I went.

Snow photos from Aberdeenshire

Snow photos from Aberdeenshire

An auld friend of mine who lives in Aberdeenshire sent me photos of his garden. He does occasionally read this blog (once or twice a year, and sometimes may even leave a comment), so when I say 'auld' I mean auld, as in I've known and kept in contact with him for many a year. I actually worked for him for a few years too.

Here's an idea of what the country folk are up against in Aberdeenshire, the below photo is of his driveway out, before heavy snow hits he will usually leave the car at a nearby farmers house, you can see why, those drifts are easily covering the fence, and if you look very closely in the field you'll see a sheep sledging down the hill. That thing in the background is just his rotary clothesline.

Sea Sports and Sea Fiesta at Black Rock

Sea Sports and Sea Fiesta at Black Rock


Veggie Time

Veggie Time


Absolutely Absecon

Absolutely Absecon

Back in August, Jersey Iggy beheld the Absecon Lighthouse, located near the north end of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. It is said to be New Jersey's "second tallest lighthouse" with a height of 169 feet.

In existence since 1857, the light that shines from its tower no longer serves as a navigational aid, but visitors can still climb it for a small fee and view the historical exhibit at the mini-museum in the replicated 1925 Keeper's House down below.

Jersey Iggy couldn't help but notice how the nearby casinos have dwarfed this lighthouse! (Effectively defeating its purpose)


Planning a Trip to London

Planning a Trip to London
Most people cannot say they know London well which makes planning a business trip quite daunting. To know London completely is impossible. Home to inhabitants for over 2,000 years now London has grown to a sprawling metropolis, the ideal platform for constant illustrious activity and business meetings.

If you are travelling at the weekend a five star hotel in the middle of the city is available for less than one hundred pounds a night, and can be very quiet. During the week however it’s quite another matter. City hotels are notorious for being completely empty on weekends, hence the great rates. Tourists pay over the odds to stay at trendy hotels when they could stay at other places for a much better price.

They key points to remember when planning a business trip are to make a schedule so you can plan your stay and to book into a hotel with all the amenities that you may require. It’s very important to book your hotel in a central location so you can reach your meetings and clients quickly and without too much trouble.

Make sure you have a guide book so you can find the best restaurants and bars to entertain clients and so you sound knowledgeable about the city and its heritage. You will be trying to make a good impression and planning is very important in meeting your client’s expectations.

Firstly you should find out exactly where and when you are conducting your meetings. If you need to book function or meeting rooms then now is the time to do it. Book a meeting in an upmarket central hotel and your client’s will be impressed.

Once you know your schedule you can book your accommodation in the best possible location. Make sure you visit the hotels website to see if they offer the best facilities your expense account can afford. Check the hotel has internet and fax facilities as well.

After you have booked the hotel it’s a good idea to look at some local bars and restaurants to entertain you during your stay. Maybe visit some restaurant review websites and book a table at a couple of the local eateries to entertain your clients and business contacts.

Travelling to London is quite easy but it needs planning. Whether you are getting there by car, train or plane you need to use the underground so visit the website and buy a tube map to help you.

In summary when you are visiting London you need to make sure you know where you are going and make good plans. Make sure you book a good hotel with the facilities you will require.

Recipe: Asparagus Pasta Spring Rolls

Recipe: Asparagus Pasta Spring Rolls
Ingredients 1/4 teaspoon salt 8 dried lasagna noodles 1 pound asparagus spears 1 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) 2 tablespoons snipped chives 2 tablespoons milk 1 to 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon 8 fresh chives (optional) Preparation Bring [...]

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Recipe: Asparagus Pasta Spring Rolls

1/4 teaspoon salt
8 dried lasagna noodles
1 pound asparagus spears
1 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream
cheese (Neufchatel)
2 tablespoons snipped chives
2 tablespoons milk
1 to 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
8 fresh chives (optional)

Bring 3 quarts water to boiling in a large pot; add salt and lasagna noodles. Cook noodles for 10 to 12 minutes or until pasta is nearly tender.

Snap off and discard fibrous stem ends of asparagus. If necessary, trim asparagus to 5-inch lengths. Add asparagus to pasta; cook 3 minutes more. Drain; rinse with cold water. Drain again, and pat pasta dry with paper towels.

Combine cream cheese, snipped chives, milk, dill, garlic, lemon juice, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl.

Spread about 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture evenly over each lasagna noodle. Divide salmon evenly among the noodles, placing a single layer of salmon on each noodle.

Place three asparagus spears on one end of each noodle, letting the tips extend beyond the edge. Roll up each noodle. Tie with a fresh chive, if desired. Stand spring rolls upright to serve.

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Recipe: Asparagus Pasta Spring Rolls


Family Connections

Family Connections

Gearing up for an exciting family session this weekend, had me “brain storming” for ways to reveal a family connection.

Besides preparing the equipment with clean lenses, fresh batteries, new memory cards and recharged cameras, ideas for poses are reviewed and any additional props added.

In this session, the location I chose was a beautiful setting along a tranquil lake. The vibrant backdrop was provided by none other than Ms Mother Nature herself as well as some spectacular backlighting!

Because of the very damp, wet conditions of the day before. Seating was in the form of several straw bales (very appropriate for this time of year) and a simple tweed blanket for an accent.

Now let’s begin the fun!

I’m always thrilled with a family’s attention to their coordinated wardrobe for a group shot.

The parents looked amazing in their natural brown tones.  

While the children looked fun and they really popped out in bright red shirts with one blue to add contrast.
Way to go!

When getting everyone together in a shot, I strive to see their bonds and connection

It always seem to happen quite naturally, but sometimes I might help with a hand placement here or ask for a lean in there. It really is a natural thing when you have a family that is genuinely as close as this family.

Not only did I get to spend some time with and have the honor to photograph a true family moment, but I can honestly say that I have gotten to know this family as incredibly beautiful inside and out!


The Perfect Morning

The Perfect Morning
I woke up this morning and had the idea of taking my camera along with me on my morning run. Turned out to be the perfect morning for some photography:

I woke up this morning and had the idea of taking my camera along with me on my morning run. Turned out to be the perfect morning for some photography:

You can view the full size images on my Flickr page.

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