Masai Mara…Photography Safari 1
The Masai Mara National Reserve lived up to expectation on a recent photography safari. Endless rolling grassland plains, a huge variety of animals, spectacular birdlife, thickets and acacia woodlands – a most pictorial scenery. Starting on the safari organized by African Horizons Travel & Safari – for the Bangalore Photography Workshop team from India, there was no knowing for sure what nature would offer us.
Lights, camera, action, and our safari group in four land cruiser vehicles led by head guide Mustafa Diriye, and tour leader Ashish Parmar, set off to explore the Masai Mara. On arrival in the Mara, on our way to check-in to the Keekorok Lodge, we got the surprising reception of a leopard sighting. Leopards are solitary animals, elusive; they hide a lot, camouflaged on trees or in thickets. They can be difficult to find on safari and maybe meeting one so soon on arrival should have been a sign that we were up for good things.
The photography safari game drive hours are unlike ordinary safaris. Every day, the sun “woke up” and found us on the move and “went to sleep” as we got back to the hotel. On our first game drive/ in the afternoon on arrival day, we came upon Malaika, another member of the Big Cat family. The famous cheetah was with her four children doing what they do best – “greeting” visitors to the park. Malaika has a fondness for safari vehicles, especially the land cruisers. She enjoys the elevated view of the Mara plains from the top of these vehicles, and as do her children. Although they are wild animals to be approached with caution, Malaika is friendly and has posed for pictures both with willing/excited and unwilling/apprehensive visitors. We were to meet her severally during the six day photography safari.
Photos by Ashish Parmar:
The Masai Mara presented us with all the Big Cats. The lions were always there – families of them – eyeing prey, mating, the lioness and playful cubs having fun, all well fed, living. The jackal was there. The Hyena – particularly one eye catching one looking all rugged and rough coated – fresh from a mud bath to cool off the heat. It was on few occasions that we saw a predator dealing with prey and the plains game seemed to take it easy – the gazelles and antelopes appeared to be less at ease – as though knowing that the presence of thousands of wildebeest meant it would be many days before they were the star hunt. Even the buffaloes we saw on the sixth day were playful, less angry than normal. There was a somewhat peaceful coexistence. As if the animals had decided to be on their best behavior.
The wildlife determined our every movement. It was on the day three that I got into the real rhythm of the safari. We traveled back and forth, sometimes moving a few meters, even a few inches this way and that way, to the left, to the right, trying to position ourselves for the right picture angles. There were many other visitors in the park so it was a plus to set off early and to get good viewing points at sightings. There was patience to be learned as the animals posed, unposed, hid away, minded their own business. The cameras clicked away fast. We met all the Big Five. The Elephants were here and there about.
On the second day, while absorbed in snapping away at a cheetah and her delightful cubs, two black rhinos unexpectedly sneaked up on us, and were the only rhinos we saw during the entire safari. Without that moment, we would not have been able to boast of a complete check list of the Big Five (Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, and Leopard)
Photos by Tuhin Mehta:
The Mara River told a story. It too was well fed by the heavy long rains in the months of April and May. Looking down below from the Mara River Bridge, a large crocodile willed us to take pictures – basking lazily on the rocks in the middle of the river. There had been a feast for these reptiles since the start of the migration. Wildebeest carcasses washed down river during migration crossings still lay in the river, with only a few vultures enjoying them. A hippopotamus also posed for us by the Mara River banks. The birdlife enjoyed the water as well, wading on the edges of the river and the smaller ponds where we found Egyptian geese. The little bee-eater, black shouldered kite and lilac breasted roller are only some of the birds that were beautifully captured on camera. The yellow billed ox-pecker was captured hitching a ride on the buffalo, feeding on its ticks, helping clean it up.
Each day we woke up wanting the animals to be there and Masai Mara favored us. It was kind. The animals though wild and constantly on the move “cooperated” with us. The weather too. We had sunny days and star filled nights with partial moon. Both the sunrise and sunset gave perfect landscape pictures with balloon safaris underway in the early morning scenery. The world’s tallest mammal, the world’s largest land mammal, fastest mammal, the largest bird, the Big Five, Big Cats…..Masai Mara’s diversity, the heart of it, was all captured incredibly on picture by the great team of visitors we took on this safari. If duty calls again I will glad to heed the call.
The pictures in this article are thanks to some of the Bangalore Photography Workshop members – Ashish Parmar, Tuhin Mehta and Bishara Mustafa.
Photos by Bishara Mustafa:
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