BEST of KENYA photo safari TRIP REPORT Nov 2015
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 27th Nov 2015
This photo safari took place in three of Kenya's top wildlife parks, Samburu, Lake Nakuru and the Masai Mara. There was also an extension to Rwanda to photograph the Mountain Gorillas.
Some of the highlights included a swimming Oryx, an Aardwolf, incredible Samburu Birds, a Crowned Eagle, 17 different Cheetahs, Bahati the Leopard with her two cubs, Zebras swimming across the flooding Mara River, 4 Black Rhinos together as well as Cheetah and Lion hunts, tremendous rain storms, dramatic skies, superb sunsets, mud, flooding rivers and river crossings, this safari proved again that November in Kenya is one of the best times to visit and take photographs. It is also out of the peak tourist season so there are fewer vehicles around.
Our first stop was Samburu Reserve which is noted for its very different terrain and habitat and the unique species that live there. Gerenuk, Reticulated Guraffe, Vulturine Guineafowl, Somali Ostrich, Grevy's Zebra and Elephants crossing the Ewaso Nyiro River are the sought after shots and all were achieved, along with an unusual sighting of a swimming Beisa Oryx and a very rare sighting of the shy termite eating Aardwolf ! A male Cheetah, a Lioness with tiny cubs and an amazing diversity of birdlife rounded off another great stay in Samburu Reserve.
Next up was our 2 night stay at Lake Nakuru which still does not have the traditional number of flamingos due to high water levels in the Lake. However Lake Nakuru always provides a number of different photo opportunities and we enjoyed an interesting sighting of a large Lion pride interacting with a White Rhino, great bird photo opportunities of a variety of smaller birds as well as with the Pelicans and a group of Flamingos, Olive Baboons and Defassa Waterbuck, Cape Buffalo and the Rothschild Giraffes kept our memory cards full.
Final destination on the scheduled safari was the Masai Mara which was split into two different locations. We were very fortunate to find out that two Cheetah mums were close to our camp and we spent a lot of time following them. Malaika and her three sub adult cubs as well as Nora and her two young cubs of around 3 months were seen every day. Both of these Cheetahs had also been seen on our August Migration Photo Safari so it was nice to catch up with them again. Over the next 4 days we photographed the Cheetahs hunting, resting, swimming and playing. A special interaction between Malaika and an injured Wildebeest played out in front of us, if her three cubs had backed her up instead of sleeping through the entire interaction they would have been able to overpower the Wildebeest, instead Mailaka was left on her own and ended up being chased away by the Wildebeest which managed to get away and live another day. Lions were also in abundance as they usually are in the Mara and we watched an interesting interaction between a group of young Lions and a herd of Masai Cows and their Moran protectors.. We also photographed a young male Leopard near the main crossing point area, Giraffe, Topi, Spotted Hyaena, Hippo, Coke's Hartebeest, Eland, Black Backed Jackals, and a variety of birds. On our final morning we were very fortunate to find the female Leopard known as "Bahati" with her two young cubs. It is always a special treat to see a Leopard, but extra special when they have small cubs. This was the perfect way to end our stay on the northern side of the Mara River.
Due to heavy rains all the main rivers in the Mara were flooded, the Olare Orok, and the Talek rivers were impassable so we took the main road to the Mara bridge and the Mara River itself was an impressive sight to see. Our guides had never seen it so high.
We crossed over onto the southern side of the Mara river to the area known as the Mara Triangle and this is where we spent our final days on the scheduled safari. Sunrises, sunsets, Giraffe, Lions, Black Rhino, a Lion hunt and Zebra crossing the raging Mara River were some of the highlights we experieinced and before we knew it the safari was at an end.
Huge thanks to our expert driver guides, James, Julius and Mamai, not ony did they put up with all our crazy photographic requests, they drove us safely to all our destinations and found us fantastic photo opportunities, it is always a great pleasure to work with all of you and I am looking forward to the next safari already.
Thank you also to all the staff at the camps and lodges we stayed at, Elephant Bedroom, Lion Hill, Little Mara Bush and Mara Serena and to Sunworld Safaris for another great photographic experience in Kenya.
Finally a huge thanks to Rita, Aggie, Michael, Toni and Larry - thank you for joining us on a Wild4 "Best of Kenya" photo safari. It was a great pleasure to have had you all on safari with us.
The optional extension to see the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda was my first visit to Rwanda and a very exciting one it was. To see the Gorillas up close and observe them going about their daily routine is really a once in a lifetime opportunity and highly recommended. Rwanda as a country is very impressive, clean, safe and the people very welcoming and friendly.
I joined Aggie on a Gorilla trek to see the "Agashya" family group, we were lucky to not have rain and it took just over an hour to reach the Gorillas. The hour you get to spend with the Gorillas flies past so quickly but at the end of it you really feel you have been fortunate to have observed such amazing creatures in their natural habitat. With only a total of around 900 Mountain Gorillas remaining in the world, it is an opportunitiy well worth taking.
Here are a few photos from the safari - enjoy !
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I found Wild4 through an article in Popular Photography magazine about how to choose a photo safari. They were one of five recommended in the article. After checking them all out, I saw that Stu and Wild4 offered the kind of experience that I wanted: 1) Small groups of dedicated photographers 2) Variety in wildlife viewing 3) Tuition on photography and wildlife behavior 4) Good communication and organisation. I can say that Wild4 met and exceeded all expectations on all points (and then some). 1) We used one vehicle for three photographers. Stu is a trained photographer himself, so his goal was always to get us into the best position with the best light. Having only three on the tour meant plenty of room for equipment and the ability to shoot from either side of the vehicle when surrounded by a herd of elephants! It also gave us the flexibility to be patient and wait for the shot. 2) The three places we visited each provided a unique experience and wonderful variety in scenery and wildlife viewing. 3) Stu's tuition was excellent. It was there if we needed it but never pushed. Tips, reminders, anecdotes on wildlife behavior. All given with patience and good humor. 4) From the first email, the communication was timely & clear. Justyna was a joy to work with and handled the back-office part of the tour seamlessly. It can't be as easy as she makes it seem. Wild4 didn't provide the wildlife or the spectacular sunsets that we experienced, but they put us in position to enjoy and capture a little piece of it in our cameras and in our memories. Our Safari was amazing and I would not have changed a thing...well, maybe I would have eaten a little less. If you're looking for a Photo Safari, there is nothing to consider. Just go ahead and contact Wild4 Photographic Safaris. You will not be sorry.
Doug Croft, USA
The Wild 4 team made my trip to South Africa a truly memorable experience. Photographing some of the orphaned captive animals at the private game reserve on the extension was a great way to start the holiday, and Stu's tuition on techniques, composition and familiarity with your gear was the foundation for the rest of the trip. In Kruger we had some wonderful sightings - including the 'Big 5' all in one day on two consecutive days! The highlights were spending 20 minutes with a leopard cub in a tree no more than 30 metres away, and on the last day watching a pride of 14 lions stalking a herd of zebra for more than an hour - just wonderful experiences! I'm sure the quality of the shots I took was infinitely better than if I'd gone on a regular safari, as the whole focus of the experience is expertly designed to maximise photographic opportunities - including only 3 photographers in the specially designed vehicle. Stu's knowledge, enthusiasm and patience were boundless, and Ann's spotting and catering skills were also priceless! I hope to visit Africa again soon, and without doubt Wild 4 will be my first option.
Greg Morgan, UK