Here’s the second trip report from this autumn’s two photo safaris to Masai Mara in Kenya. This safari was from 6–12 September 2011.
Day 1 – 07.09.2011 Group # 2 with 9 photographers (7 from Norway and 2 from UK) arrived Masai Mara around 11:00. After meeting the guides and drivers, we headed to our camp. On the way, we photographed some lions.
After lunch we crossed the Talek river, since our guides had heard about a leopard in the area. This leopard was well camouflaged in the bushes so it was hard to locate. Our guides are extremely good and they found the leopard hidden in the bushes with a fresh Wildebeest kill. It was a difficult situation to photograph and it was important to give the leopard some privacy, even here in the Masai Mara!
After the leopard, we found a herd of impalas and a lion with a freshly killed Wildebeest.
That evening we got ready for the sunset, but it was much too cloudy for any great light.
Day 2 – 08.09.2011 30 minutes before sunrise, we headed out to find a small family group of elephants. We decided to photograph these great animals in back-light from ground level. This was a new experience for most of my guests. It was quite difficult to get the correct exposures, but everybody enjoyed the situation.
After sunrise our 3 vehicles separated. My vehicle photographed some birds like the Tawny eagle, before we found a group of lions with a fresh Wildebeest kill. There were two female lions looking after a group of cubs playing nearby. It’s always fun to observe these animals.
We suddenly got a message about wildebeest crossings in the Talek River. We were not far from the river, and in a few minutes we were ready for more action. The Talek river is narrower and shallower than the Masai River, so it is far easier for the wildebeest to wade across the river. There were lots of other safari vehicles, so we had to fight to get the best location, but we did manage to photograph some nice crossings.
That evening we found a group of lions, and the big male was busy mating with a lioness. Dark clouds were approaching and suddenly it started to rain like crazy. All of the other safari vehicles left, but we got some really nice images of the lions in heavy rain. In weather situations like this you often get your best pictures!
We had a very difficult journey back to the camp. All roads and grasslands were flooded, almost like in Botswana. I was very impressed with how our drivers got us safely back to camp. Thanks!
Day 3 – 09.09.2011 A new morning with new opportunities! We drove to the nearest lion herd for the sunrise photo shoot. This morning the lions were busy feeding on three freshly killed wildebeests. Both the adults and cubs had a great breakfast, and the vultures and jackals were not far away.
After the morning session we headed west to the Masai River, to look for opportunities for Wildebeest crossings, but it didn’t look very promising. Instead two of the vehicles found a Black rhino, Two hours later all 3 vehicles had a great sight of another Black rhino. Two of these rare animals on the same day was great.
We spent the evening close to camp, which proved later to be a good decision. We started photographing a Southern Ground Hornbill feeding on beetles. In a few minutes we got information about a Cheetah hunting in the area, but the conditions was not great for photography.
Then, suddenly we got news about a Serval just a few hundred meters away. Here was a great opportunity to observe and photograph this rare cat, and a few seconds later we were ready. The Serval was very well camouflaged in the grass. The first time the cat ran it was to difficult to get any good pictures, but the Serval stopped 50 meters away so it was much easier to see. The next time the Serval ran we were ready and got some really nice images of this cat. Wow, this was exciting, and almost too close for my 600 mm lens. We had one more opportunity with the Serval before it hid in the thick bushes. This was my first Serval ever, and a great experience.
It is hard to top that experience, but we drove to a field for the sunset. Again, it was too cloudy, so we decided to go back to camp. About 500 meters from camp we suddenly spotted a leopard crossing in front of our vehicle. This cute female leopard was very friendly to photographers, and we got some really nice images. She crossed only 6 meters away, and some of us panned the Leopard with great results.
Day 4 – 10.09.2011 Again we started with the closest lion group, but this morning they were not feeding. The cubs were playing around, but at sunrise they walked away into the bush. It’s not every morning the lions cooperate for photographers. Instead we photographed some impalas and wildebeests in great light.
Later that morning, we received information about a new Leopard with fresh kill. Unfortunately, this Leopard was well hidden in the bushes so we decided to leave. That was a very good decision because on our way back we saw the rare Caracal sprinting in the brush. This Caracal was shy and fast, but we managed to get quite close. Suddenly the Caracal ran again and in a fraction of a second it ran through a small clearing and we got a few shots. These were my first images of this rare cat. We had now seen all five diurnal cats in Masai Mara in only 16 hours, which is great!
We barely started our afternoon game drive before we got information about more caracals. To be honest, I didn’t expect to see or photograph more caracals since they are so shy, but it was well worth to try. This must have been our Caracal day, because the caracas were visible and actually not too difficult to photograph. Two Caracal cubs were playing around in the bushes just 15 meters away from us. Most of the time they were hidden, but other times we could get a clear view of them. Very interesting! After an hour other safari vehicles arrived, and the caracals became more cautious.
Day 5 – 11.09.2011 The next morning we tried another area for the sunrise shots, a pond with hippos and birds. There were some African Jacanas, herons, Grey Crowned Cranes and Long-toed Lapwings together with the hippos. It was exciting to photograph the hippos and birds together in the beautiful light.
Later that morning, we photographed hyenas, cheetahs and various birds, before we drove back to our camp.
That evening, we were really hoping for a nice sunset. As we approached the selected spot for our sunset images we saw a herd of cattle and three masai shepherds. In a light rain and evening light we took this opportunity to capture some cultural images, also important on safaris.
It looked promising for our sunset, and we found some topis and gazelles in back-light. Again, the Topi turned out to be the easiest animal to photograph. Finally group #2 got a great sunset, and everyone was happy!
Day 6 – 12.09.2011 On this last morning we separated the vehicles for the sunrise shoot. My vehicle drove to the same pool as the day before, and had almost the same situations with the hippos and birds.
After sunrise we drove to a Masai village where we had booked a visit. This may sound like a tourist trap, but the Masai people here lived permanently in the huts so it was good enough. We enjoyed and photographed Masai warriors dancing, singing and jumping. We also had some minutes inside the huts to see how they live. Very interesting.
After the Masai village, we headed back to the airstrip to fly back to Nairobi. It was time to end this safari.