Two years ago, I went on my first safari. It was a great experience and I decided to return to Mara North Conservancy in Kenya on the 27th September 2018.
Again, it was a dedicated photo trip with the objective to bring home some fine images besides enjoying the amazing wildlife on the savanna in the good company of my wife and fellow photographers.
In 2016 I had the tendency just taking a lot of documentary images being my first time on a safari.
Therefore, I hoped to be more relaxed on this second trip as well as selective before hitting the shutter in order to get better images.
Like the first visit we stayed at the eco friendly Karen Blixen Camp in Mara North Conservancy. It is a great camp with 22 luxurious tents and you really enjoy the place and the amazing staff.
The Mara North Conservancy is one of the new conservancies created in 2009. It lies adjacent to the National Reserve and covers an area of 30,000 ha being only about 20 percent the size of the Masai Mara National Reserve.
One huge advantage is that you are allowed to drive off-road as it is a private reserve. Therefore, you can get very close to the animals.
Each day we went out at 6 o’clock in the morning before sunrise to be with the animals when the light was at its best. Also, this made for some nice sunrise images. When the light became too harsh we returned to the camp by 9 o’clock for breakfast.
In the afternoon we started at 4 o’clock and stayed out until it was too dark to take pictures. Back at the camp we finished the day by having a great dinner before bedtime – you don’t get much sleep!
Obviously, we came across the same kind of animals as on the first trip. This time though, we had the fortune to see more lions. One day we counted 18 lions including two 9 months old and two newly born cubs.
Another special experience happened one morning. A dead elephant had been spotted and we went to the place as did many other cars.
It turned out to be quite a feast for a huge number of vultures and hyenas. An exciting experience although based on a sad event.
Several times we observed two cheetah brothers. One time they ate a kill and on our last afternoon safari we witnessed them catching a wildebeest. However, they had to leave their dinner to a strong group of hyenas.
Apart from the many different species of mammals on the savanna there are also a huge variety of birds. On this trip we did not spend much time photographing birds, but I got a few decent shots after all.
One morning we went to the Masai Mara National Reserve. The objective was mainly trying to find a leopard. Unfortunately, we did not succeed.
Still, it was nice to be in the Masai Mara again and we enjoyed other fine animals as cheetahs and elephants.
Also, we saw a huge group of wildebeest drinking from a pond. Actually, on this trip there were lots of wildebeests compared to last time. You could thing it was due to us being one month earlier and therefore the great migration not over yet. However, we were told by our driver Peter that these wildebeests were locals.
Furthermore, the great migration has been abnormal this year. Due to more rain than usual on their route from Serengeti the wildebeests, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles did not need to go that far to get green grasses.
In the afternoon we returned to Masai Mara and would have liked to see some rhinos. Unfortunately, there had been no observations in the Mara Triangle where they usually are located so we went to the Wetlands to find some lions and elephants instead.
Soon, we met four lions resting on an elevation in the nice afternoon sun and had the opportunity to take close up images with a nice green background.
Later, we found a male lion besides a female both asleep. After a short while all the other cars left as nothing happened. However, I managed to persuade my fellow passengers to be patient. About half an hour later, the lions suddenly raised and mated just in front of us – what an experience!
Just before sunset we drove up to a group of elephants grazing at the wetlands. Behind the trees the setting sun created a beautiful golden light crying out for images.
A great day in the Masai Mara despite the lack of leopard and rhinos.
However, it turned out that due to an error with our entry permit we were still allowed to go to the Masai Mara National Reserve on the next morning until 9 o’clock.
Therefore, we decided to return trying to find a leopard. While searching a huge area for leopard we encountered a hippo. It is not often that you see a hippo walking on land during daytime so we felt lucky to see it before entering the bushes.
Shortly after we had to cross a minor watercourse. As often before, we drove slowly down the steep slope. As we reached the bottom and the driver was about to connect the four-wheel drive the hippo from before came running against us from the right-hand side with its huge mouth wide open.
The driver hit the gas pedal and the car nearly overturned as we went up the slope in front of us – we escaped the hippo by about three metres!
Unfortunately, I did not get an image of the chasing hippo but at least we were all alive and an exceptional experience richer.
After this frightening hippo encounter we continued the search for leopard. Suddenly, we saw two other cars in front of us waiting by a three – they had spotted a leopard!
Only a few minutes later the leopard went down. In the meantime, more than 30 vehicles had gathered around the three and we had difficulties getting into position. At least, I managed to get a few images of the leopard, but actually felt bad about the experience.
I have to admit, that taking great images on a safari is difficult.
Firstly, you rely on the animals being in nice surroundings and light. Most often, they are just standing on a dull spot on the savanna.
Secondly, you are restricted to a seat in a safari vehicle and cannot shoot from ground level to get a good perspective.
Besides, you are not alone! When a leopard has been spotted it is only a matter of minutes before the savanna looks like rush hour. Especially in Masai Mara National Reserve it is a bloody mess.
Last but not least – you get excited!
I enjoyed the second trip just as much although my objective to get better images was not fully achieved.
However, I managed to get some other kind of images to my portfolio this time.
Furthermore, having the privilege to stay at the Karen Blixen Camp and spend the day among the great wildlife on the savanna is worth more than a few great images.
I may even enjoy going on a safari without my camera … ; – )