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Ultimate Safari Photographic Experience

6th to 26th September 2020

 
Do you long for an old-fashioned photographic adventure? If the answer is yes, then this safari experience may be exactly what you are looking for. During our three-week Ultimate Safari Photographic Experience, you will travel over 2,000 miles around one of the most diverse countries on the planet, visiting several National Parks and Reserves with a huge variety of wildlife and habitats.

From the desert scrub of Tsavo, to the high grasslands of the Masai Mara, to the Rift Valley Lakes and finally the incredible beauty of the rainforest at Kakamega, nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking beauty and diversity of this amazing country.

This is no sanitised, luxury safari with sundowners and all the comforts of a posh hotel. This is a true adventure, where you will experience the African wilderness first hand, as you pitch your tent in wild places and get closer to the natural world than you ever imagined. There will be no semi-tame animals baited in to give the tourists easier photo-opportunities: every image you take home will mean so much more, because you will have earned it and it will carry with it the memory of what you did to achieve that image.

Camping in Tsavo East

Camping at Ndololo in Tsavo East National Park as an Elephant strolls by
 
We begin our adventure with a drive from Nairobi to Tsavo East National Park, where we will camp for four nights at Ndololo. This will be our base as we explore Tsavo East National Park. Each evening we will pitch our tents and in the mornings, strike them again so that the Baboons do not destroy them looking for things to steal.
 

Giraffe

Ndololo is something of a through-way for wildlife, with everything from Elephants to Lions passing through

Yellow Baboons

The Yellow Baboons may look cute but they have a dark side
 
Our camp site at Ndololo is close to one of the most magical places in Tsavo East National Park; Kanderi Swamp. In the past, this swamp was fed by the Voi River and during the wetter months became a soggy flood plain but in recent years the combination of drought and water being drawn off for human consumption and farming around the National Park has left much of the swamp drier than it used to be. It is still a massive draw for wildlife and the plus side of being drier is that it has a lot less Tstese Flies around than it used to. It is not uncommon to see huge herds of Elephants, Zebra and Buffalo in the swamp and this in turn makes it a draw for predators like Lions and Cheetahs

Elephants & Zebras

Elephants at Kanderi
 

Cheetah Brothers

Cheetah Brothers on the lookout at Kanderi

Highlights during our time in Tsavo East will also include the Galana River and Lugard's Falls. The Galana is the only continuous source of water in Tsavo East. It is filled with huge Nile Crocodiles and pods of Hippos. The draw of water attracts all kinds of other wildlife, including predators. The power of the River has carved some amazing patterns in the rock too and the backdrop of the Yatta Plateaux, the longest continuous plateaux in the World, is spectacular.

Mudanda Rock is a mile long sandstone rock that overlooks a huge waterhole. In the past it was used as a place to dry meat by the Kamba people. Now it is a great spot for Lions to rest and watch out for game. The views from the rock, across uninterrupted wilderness as far as the eye can see are breathtaking.
 

View from Mudanda Rock

The huge waterhole at the foot of Mudanda Rock and the view beyond give a true feeling of how wild Tsavo is
 

Mudanda

The incredible view and the number and variety of animals that can be seen from Mudanda Rock is breathtaking
 
A large part of Tsavo East National Park is the Taru Desert and this means we can find wildlife in Tsavo East that is found in very few other places. The Strange looking Gerenuk (Giraffe-Necked Antelope) has fully rotating hips that allow it to stand upright and a long neck to add additional reach. Its tiny head lets it get between the thorny branches to locate tasty leaves that other antelope species cannot hope to reach. The Somali Ostrich has distinctive blue-gray skin instead of pink and was originally thought to be a subspecies of the Common, or Masai Ostrich. However, research in 2014 concluded that it is in fact a completely separate and distinct species of Ostrich. In the mating season the males develop bright blue colouring on their blue-grey legs.

The Tsavo ecosystem, of which Tsavo East National Park is the largest portion, is home to around 500 species of birds, making it a dream location for bird photographers. Around a dozen species of Antelope can also be found, from the tiny foot-tall Kirk's Dik Dik, that every first-time visitor finds unbearably cute, to the horse-sized Eland. Other species commonly spotted are: Grant's Gazelle, Impala, Waterbuck, Lesser Kudu, Fringe-Eared Oryx, Kongoni (Coke's Hartebeest), Gerenuk, Topi and if you are very lucky, the extremely rare Hirola.
 

Gerenuk

Female Gerenuk feeding. The desert-adapted Gerenuk can obtain all the moisture it needs from the leaves it eats.

Kirk's Dik Dik

Kirk's Dik Dik in Tsavo East National Park
 

Somali Ostrich

Somali Ostrich Male looking after his chicks in Tsavo East National Park
 

Yellow-Necked Spurfowl

Yellow-Necked Spurfowl is one of the more common ground birds in Tsavo East National Park
 

Lilac-Breasted Roller

Lilac-Breasted Roller in Tsavo East National Park
In addition to a huge variety of birds and other wildlife, Tsavo is home to some unique predators. It is the most important conservation area in East Africa for Cheetah, with the largest population outside Namibia. Tsavo's Lions are also unique. Many of the males are either almost or completely maneless and Tsavo's male Lions are not the lazy overlords seen elsewhere. The male Lions of Tsavo are active hunters and contribute equally to their prides' hunting efforts.

Lion

This male Lion in Tsavo East National Park is around four years old and shows little sign of developing much of a mane
 
After four nights camping in Tsavo East National Park, you will have experienced the exhiliration of living in close proximity to many of nature's greatest animals and had the opportunity to take some amazing photographs of their lives. Nothing can compare to the sound of Lions roaring their challenges out in the night as you lay in your tent, or waking up to the rumble of Elephants feeding on the trees around you. If you lay out a camera trap, you can even enjoy seeing the night-time activity around camp as you review your images or video footage during breakfast.

Spending four nights in the bush will leave you wanting a decent shower, and a bit of relaxation and there is nowhere better to do that than our next stop, at Ngutuni. This is a private reserve that shares an un-fenced border on three sides with Tsavo East National Park and offers a luxurious and relaxing break whilst still providing unparalleled game viewing and photography opportunitites.

As you arrive at Ngutuni, you will be met with a warm cloth to clean the dust from your face and a cold, refreshing glass of fruit juice. Every comfortable room has a balcony that overlooks a busy waterhole. As you sit down to dinner in the evening, you will be serenaded by the rumbles and trumpets of Elephants at the waterhole, or the roars of Lions and the snarls of Leopards. We will spend two nights at Ngutuni, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and the superb hospitality, whilst exploring the amazing opportunities this fantastic Reserve offers. Previous highlights have included Elephants fighting Cape Buffalo for the best water at the waterhole, tracking Lions to a Buffalo kill and filming the shy, nocturnal Aardwolf in a rare day-time moment. These remarkable relatives of the Hyena are normally only active at night but on this occasion, a mating pair had become locked together as dawn broke and we were even fortunate enough to find another male still roaming in the daylight, searching for the female in heat.
 

Ngutuni

The bar and restaurant at Ngutuni has a terrace that extends out towards the waterhole
 

Lions on kill

A coalition of maneless male Lions guarding their Cape Buffalo calf kill at Ngutuni Reserve
 

Clash of Elephant and Buffalo

The loud crack echoed across the reserve as horn and tusk collided when this Buffalo tried to muscle in on the best water at Ngutini

Room with a view

Room with a view ~ Every room at Ngutuni has a balcony overlooking the waterhole
With batteries recharged (metaphorically and literally), after two nights at Ngutuni, we will head for yet another part of the Tsavo ecosystem, Tsavo West National Park. This part of Tsavo is quite different to the arid East, with rolling hills, huge pyroclastic lava flows and deep valleys, Tsavo West National Park is also home to the remarkable oasis of Mzima Springs, where crystal clear water bubbles to the surface in a series of small lakes, filled with Barbel, Hippos and Crocodiles.

In Tsavo West National Park, we will spend three nights at Rhino Valley Bandas. Nestled on the lower slopes of the Ngulia Hills, this stunning lodge has a very rustic feel, with rooms reminiscent of a Flintsones movie set! There are two waterholes below the lodge that regularly attract wildlife and it is not uncommon to find a Leopard wandering the lodge at night, so guests must wait to be escorted by an Askari (guard) after dark.

From Rhino Valley Bandas, we will explore the stunning variety that Tsavo West National Park has to offer, from the lush Rhino Valley to the Chaimu Lava Flow and Mzima, you will have the opportunity to photograph wildlife in unique circumstances. There will also be opportunities to take a walking safari with an Askari. As you climb the steep slopes of the Ngulia Hills, it is astounding to look around and see that Elephants have climbed even higher. In the rainy season, many of the Elephants even climb to the very top of these impressive peaks to get away from the sticky mud on the valley floor! At Mzima Springs there is even an underwater viewing area that allows you to see and photograph Hippos, Crocodiles and Barbel underwater, although you do need to check that there are no Crocodiles having a siesta in there first!
 

Ngulia Hills

Rhino valley Bandas is nestled on the lower slopes of the impressive Ngulia Hills
 

Wlking in Tsavo West

Taking a walking safari in Tsavo West
 

Rhino Valley

Panoramic view of Rhino Valley from the balcony of one of the bandas

Hippo at Mzima Springs

Hippo at Mzima Springs

Saddle-Billed Stork

Saddle-Billed Stork at Kuldip's Ponds in Tsavo West National Park
 

Leopard with kill

Female Leopard with her Impala kill stashed above her in a tree in Tsavo West National Park

Crocodile

The crystal clear water at Mzima Springs adds another dimension to photographing huge Nile Crocodiles swimming
After three nights in Rhino Valley Bandas, we will leave the Tsavo Ecosystem and head north, stopping near Kiboko at Hunter's Lodge. This recently refurbished lodge was originally built by the son of a Scottish hunter, coincidentally named Hunter, who had a dubious role in the history of Kenyan wilflife. J.A. Hunter was employed by the colonial Government to clear the area around Kiboko of Rhino, so that the Kamba people could be re-settled there, following their expulsion from the recently created Tsavo National Park. Living up to his name, Hunter slaughtered 996 Black Rhino in under one year. In later life Mr Hunter regretted his actions and became a vocal advocate for conservation but by then he had already succeeded in eliminating the Black Rhino from one of their last remaining strongholds.

The lodge itself is just off the main Mombasa to Nairobi Highway, by the Kiboko River and has  numerous bird species, butterflies and a resident troop of Vervet Monkeys to keep your shutter clicking. After a restful evening, we continue to Nairobi, where we will spend the night before heading to the Masai Mara.
 

African Darter

African Darter drying its wings at Hunter's Lodge
 

Hadada Ibis

Hadada Ibis at Hunter's Lodge
From Nairobi to the Masai Mara is only about 120 miles but the drive will take around six hours. During the journey, we will climb over the edge of the Great Rift Valley, stopping at the viewpoint to marvel and take photos of this incredible scene. Although the road from Nairobi to Narok is fairly good, the steep climb over the Rift Valley Escarpment slows the heavy traffic of delapidated lorries to a crawl and after Narok, the rough track for the last 60 miles is a bone-shaking endurance drive. As we arrive at our lodge for the night, near the Sekenani Gate to the Masai Mara National Reserve, the relief will be powerful.

After a night in the lodge, we head into the Masai Mara National Reserve, continuing all the way through the reserve to the Mara Triangle, where we will camp for the next three nights at Oloololo. The Masai Mara is rightfully World famous. Each year, around a million Wildebeest and tens of thousands of Zebra and Thomson's Gazelle cross the Mara River and Sand River repeatedly during one of the greatest migrations in the animal kingdom. We have timed this safari so that we will be in the Mara Triangle towards the latter end of this part of the migration. Not only do we avoid the huge crowds of earlier in the migration, the grass will also be shorter as the animals will have been grazing in the Mara for two months. This makes getting un-obstructed views for photography much easier.

Although well publicised poor management of the main Masai Mara National Reserve is having a terrible effect on wildlife, with vehicle scrums around big cats and at the crossing points, increased human-wildlife conflict, cattle invasions, poisonings and spearings, the Mara Triangle is managed as a separate trust and is much better controlled by the Rangers. Rules to prevent tourist harassment of wildlife are enforced and we have even seen a vehicle with diplomatic plates ejected from the Reserve for approaching a crossing point before the animals have started crossing (this affects their confidence and judgement and can lead to animals crossing at the wrong time or in the wrong place, which results in hundreds and sometimes even thousands of deaths).

Nothing can prepare you for the spectacle of so many large animals driven by instinct and necessity to cross a river full of huge Nile Crocodiles. Just seeing the vast herds on the plains of the Mara is breathtaking enough! This is witnessing the struggle for life at its most primal and it never fails to touch the heart. It is also a photographer's dream!

Migration

The sheer number of animals involved in the Great Migration cannot be contemplated and needs to be seen to be believed

Wildebeest Crossing

At each crossing, some animals try to gain advantage by leaping the first few metres.

Mayhem

As more and more animals join in, the river foams with moving bodies and dust clouds are kicked up on the banks

Torpedo of death

As one Wildebeest is caught by a Crocodile, another desperately leaps over the carnage to escape
 

Caught

Although a photographer's goal, the brutality and visceral nature of a large predator kill is truly shocking
 
The Masai Mara is still a magical place, especially in the well-managed portion of the Mara Triangle but it is more than just somewhere to photograph the "Big 5". In your three nights camping at Oloololo, you will experience a connection with nature that not only affects you for a long time to come, it enhances your ability to connect with wildlife through photography.

At over six thousand feet above sea level, the temperatures in the Mara are quite temperate and much less severe than you will have experienced in Tsavo and even the same wildlife species look quite different. Lions have full manes, the Grant's Gazelles are a different subspecies and look very different and the Elephants are grey, not red.

The Mara has a unique ability to throw up some genuine surprises too. In 2011, as we were packed and leaving Oloololo, full of delight at the photographic experiences we had already had, something happened that had us frantically fumbling to retrieve cameras from the luggage. We came across a single African Painted Dog. Not only was this a fantastic addition to our subject list for the trip, it was also a chance to witness history in the making. The African Painted Dog had not been seen in the Mara at all for over ten years and was considered locally extinct. This was, in fact, the witnessing of the return of an iconic predator species to one of its former ranges.

African Painted Dog

To our astonishment, a creature declared locally extinct walked straight towards us!
 

Serval

Serval in Masai Mara National Reserve

Mongoose Sneaky Fucker

Subordinate Banded Mongoose caught mating by an alpha at our camp site at Oloololo
 

Boing!

Burchell's Zebra watching as a young Thomson's Gazelle practices escape and evasion

Cup of tea with a Zebra

Even when you take a tea break, the widlife just keeps coming!
 
After a fantastic three nights in the Mara, we head north to the great lakes of the Rift Valley, stopping to camp at the most famous of these, Lake Nakuru National Park. This is the lake that was used for the amazing flight over the Flamingos scene in the movie Out of Africa. Watch Flamingos and Pelicans by their thousands at the lake and if you are lucky you may be able to photograph Spotted Hyena hunting Pelicans by the lake shore.

Lake Nakuru National Park is also home to Black and White Rhino populations, Lions, Cape Buffalo and many other species, including the endangered Rothschild's Giraffe. The viewpoints at Baboon Cliff and Out of Africa Viewpoint are spectacular.

Rothschild's Giraffe

There are only around 1,600 Rotchschild's Giraffes left in the World

Camping at Lake Nakuru

Camping at Lake Nakuru National Park
 

Sunrise on Lake Nakuru

Dawn at Lake Nakuru National Park
 

Cliff Chat

Cliff Chat at Baboon Cliff, Lake Nakuru National Park
 

White Rhino at Lake Nakuru

White Rhino at Lake Nakuru
 
From Lake Nakuru, we will head to the vibrant town of Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria. Along the way we will drive over the Mau Escarpment, which rises to 10,000 feet above the Rift Valley floor and pass through Kericho, the centre for the tea plantation industry in Kenya. After a night in an hotel in Kisumu, we make the short journey to Kakamega in the morning, for a two night adventure in the rainforest.

Kakamega Rainforest National Reserve is one of the last remnants in East Africa of a rainforest that once stretched unbroken across the entire continent. It is a fascinating area to explore and gives completely different photographic opportunities to the other places we have visited. The trees are alive with many species of bird, reptile and primate, including Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Sykes (Blue) Monkeys, Red-Tailed Monkeys and even the rare DeBrazza's Monkey. Butterflies fill the air and scatter the ground.

We will take a fascinating hike through the rainforest with our guide from the Kakamega Environmental Education Project (KEEP), learning about the history of the rainforest, some of the traditional uses for plants we find along the way and photographing the amazing variety of species we will not have seen elsewhere. On one of our treks, we will visit an abandoned gold mine that is now home to several species of bats. The thrill of walking along the mine shaft as dozens of bats whizz around your head adds a real "Indiana Jones" feel to the experience!

The biodiversity of Kakamega is truly remarkable, with 410 different species of bird, including over 30 found nowhere else in Kenya, 120 species of tree, 40 species of snakes, 400 species of butterfly and more. This makes Kakamega a fitting way to conclude the exploration and adventure part of our safari, before our final night in Nairobi.
 

Red-Tailed Monkey

Red-Tailed Monkey eating figs at Kakamega
 

Crossing the river

Crossing the Isiuku River in Kakamega Rainforest
 

Straw Coloured Fruit Bat

Straw-Coloured Fruit bat roosting in the abandoned gold mine in Kakamega
 

Giant Charaxes

Giant Charaxes or Giant Emperor (Charaxes castor) on the Kakamega Rainforest floor
 
After two nights in the rainforest, we will return to Nairobi for our last night in a comfortable hotel, where you will have time to unwind and share memories of the amazing adventure you have just completed. In the morning, we will visit the Sheldrick Trust Nursery to witness the amazing work carried out by this pioneering operation that rescues orphaned Elephants and other animals and cares for them over several years until they are ready to be gradually re-introduced to the wild. You will have a chance to photograph the Elephant babies as they have their two-hourly feeds of the special milk formula devised by the late Dame Daphne Sheldrick and capture them rolling and playing in their daily mud bath.

Afterwards, we will have time to head to the National Museum of Kenya, where there is a collection of artefacts and wildlife specimens to rival any of the great museums in the World, including the skeletons of the earliest hominids found by the Leakey family, "Turkana Boy" and "Lucy", as well as specimens of every single bird found in Kenya to help you identify those rare species you have photographed on your adventure. Finally we head to the airport to say our goodbyes and take our separate flights home.

By the end of this Photographic Experience, you will feel like you have been living a completely different life. You will be taking with you a huge collection of photographs and each one will elicit the memory of the adventure you took to obtain it. Not only will you have a ton of amazing images to edit when you get home, you will have enough memories to enthrall your friends with stories for a lifetime.
 
Feeding time
Baby Elephant receiving a bottle at the Sheldrick Trust
 
The price for this amazing photographic safari experience is £5,495. A deposit of £1,000 will secure your place, with the balance of £4,495 due by Friday 10th July 2020. Alternatively you can pay the deposit, followed by three payments of £1,000 and a final payment due by Friday 10th July 2020 of £1,495.
Included in the price are the following:
  • All accommodation and meals (excluding drinks)
  • All travel between locations
  • Photography tuition as required
  • All National Park Conservation Fees (most safari companies do not include these in the price they quote because in the case of this safari it would add around £900 on top of the price. We prefer our guests not to have that unpleasant surprise)
  • Entry to the National Museum of Kenya
  • Entry to the Sheldrick Trust Orphanage
 
What is not included in the price?
  • Flights to and from Kenya ~ you should fly out on the 5th September 2020 on an overnight flight, aiming to land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi in the early morning of the 6th. You should book your return flight for the evening of the 26th September
  • Holiday Insurance ~ You should ensure that you have sufficient holiday cover for the duration of your entire trip.
  • Equipment Insurance ~ Please make sure that you have adequate insurance to cover all of your photographic equipment.
  • Flying Doctor Insurance ~ Whilst not essential, we do recommend you take out Flying Doctor Insurance as standard ambulances can take several hours to reach some remote areas and several more to get you to a hospital. Flying Doctor Insurance will fly into remote areas to airlift you to a modern hospital, should you suffer an injury or severe illness during your safari.
  • Most drinks ~ Soft and alcoholic beverages are available in all of the accommodations at an extra cost. At Ngutuni, tea and coffee is included with your accommodation. We will provide clean drinking water during game drives and whilst camping.
  • Tips ~ it is customary to tip waiters, porters etc. Your guide notes will contain suggested amounts for tipping.
  • Items of a personal nature (toiletries etc)
 
Why take a Safari Experience with us?
  • We are photographers. On most organised safaris, you have a guide who is fairly low paid and needs good tips to make a living. Guides know that to get good tips they either have to be lucky with the Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino) or show as much as possible. They tend to move on quickly from one animal to the next. As photographers, we want to be able to capture something different with an animal, so we wait for behaviours or gestures that will add to the story we want to tell with the images. We will take whatever time is needed with each animal because we do not have to work to a strict timetable, or cater for guests who just want to tick off a big list of animals.
  • Our Researcher, Karen, is a zoologist. She has a Bsc in Zoology and an Mres in Ecology and Environmental Sustainability through the University of Aberdeen, one of Scotland's oldest and most respected universities.
  • Our Senior Photographer, Howard, is as passionate about wildlife as he is about photography and this shows in the way he interprets nature for our guests, from identifying hundreds of bird species to tracking Lions to a kill. Feedback from previous guests has often referenced this.
  • We have run photographic experiences since 2004 and have taken safaris in Kenya since 2006. Our aim with every Photographic Experience is to have our guests/participants go home with images to be proud of, new knowledge to add to their skill-set and happy memories of a great photographic experience.
 
To book your place on our Ultimate Safari Photographic Experience, please select from the PayPal options below.

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