Safari Diary, MAASAI MARA – Sep 2012

SAFARI DIARY

Photo Tour, Maasai Mara in Kenya

1 September 2012

I was greeted by a clear view of Mount Kilimanjaro on my way up to East Africa! What a nice way to say hello! Tomorrow we’ll explore a few places in and around Nairobi as our guests will be arriving throughout the day from all around the world!

20120901_4118 | N-A < HumanHand, Kenya in Kenya1-2000 sec at f - 2,8, ISO 80   |   iPhone 4 +    |   Normal,_

 

2 September 2012

We took a short trip to Hell’s Gate National Park after some extra guests arrived this morning. Photography was not great as we explored the park in the middle of the day in the harsh light. It is a beautiful place though with canyons and strange geological formations on top of a geothermal hotspot. Tomorrow the real photography will start in all earnest as we’ll fly into the Masai Mara in the morning. I cannot wait!

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3 September 2012

It’s great to be back at Entim Camp! We arrived just in time for a great lunch and then a 3pm start to the afternoon drive. Like some afternoons during this season, we had to endure a quick thunderstorm and our first bit of photography was done in poor light. Two lionesses and a mating pair of lions, then jackal with pups and finally a cheetah mom with four cubs playing on a big rock in the last rays of light to finish our day!

20120903_4936 | Cheetah, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-200 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 1600   |   NIKON D4 + 200.0-400.0 mm f-4.0 lens   |   Aperture priority, -1-3 EV

 

4 September 2012

Our first full day in the Masai Mara and it did not disappoint. A mass of wildebeest crossing the Talek river just as we left camp this morning. After a bush breakfast we found lions and then a secretary bird chasing grasshoppers. We had a break for lunch and some downtime at our camp before an afternoon spent with the cheetah with four cubs. A typical Masai Mara dramatic sky rounded off a great day.

20120904_5412 | Wildebeest, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-200 sec at f - 5,6, ISO 2500   |   NIKON D4 + 200.0-400.0 mm f-4.0   |   Aperture priority, -1-3 EV

 

5 September 2012

It was overcast the whole day with patches of drizzle. We went north to some of the famous crossing points on the Mara river where huge numbers of wildebeest were gathering. On our way up we found many lions and hyenas, most of them on recent kills. After a bush breakfast on the banks of the Mara river (with some of the biggest crocodiles I had ever seen) the excitement for a wildebeest crossing started. We followed the wildebeest as they would run to the river’s edge, walk up and down for a while and then run back to the plains to graze again. What is going on inside a wildebeest’s head? After repeating this behaviour a few times, and to our disappointment, we had to leave them to return to camp before dark.

20120905_5188 | Crocodile, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-160 sec at f - 8,0, ISO 200   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark III + EF16-35mm f-2.8L II USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

6 September 2012

A day of crossings, but not what you might think. In the morning we found the Marsh Pride of lions in the swamps in the North of the reserve. We followed two females with six cubs walking through the marshes. At one point they had to cross a small stretch of water. There were lots of drama as two of the cubs did not have the courage to swim across to the other side. After the mothers jumped back a forth over the water several times the cubs finally made it through. In the afternoon we watched an unsuccessful attempt of a pride of eleven lions trying to catch a wildebeest. In the last light of the day they crossed the Talek river where a large herd of wildebeest had been gathering.

20120906_6804 | Lion, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-2000 sec at f - 5,6, ISO 400   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF70-200mm f-2.8L IS USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

7 September 2012

We had an overcast day with patches of drizzle. The good sightings made up for the bad weather however! We found a black rhino walking across the plains at sunrise and shorty after that found the cheetah mother with the four cubs stalking a Thompson’s gazelle. Our afternoon drive started with a leopard sighting close to camp and finished with playful black-backed jackal pups on top of a termite mound.

20120907_7174 | Black Rhino, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-4 sec at f - 11, ISO 100   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF600mm f-4L IS USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

8 September 2012

Our day started with a slow drive north towards the wildebeest herds in the middle of the reserve, close to their favourite crossing points. We saw lots of wildebeest running towards the Mara river and that could only mean on thing! A large herd were gathering at the water’s edge and they had us wait for four hours before they eventually started crossing. We were out for the whole day and on our way back to camp we found a leopard stalking a Thompson’s gazelle to finish off a great day. This was the last full day for my first group – I can’t believe the time has gone so fast!

20120908_4607 | Wildebeest, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-500 sec at f - 8,0, ISO 400   |   Canon EOS 5D Mark II + EF70-200mm f-2.8L IS USM   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

9 September 2012

This day was a cheetah day. We finished the last drive with the first group with a sighting of the cheetah mother and her four cubs waking up from the night’s rest, stretching and then getting into a playful mood. After breakfast and saying goodbye at the airstrip the next group arrived. Our afternoon started with that same cheetah mother eating a recently caught gazelle. A storm approached and we made our way back to camp, photographing some landscapes with trees and zebras against a dramatic sky backdrop.

20120909_9183 | Cheetah, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-800 sec at f - 5,6, ISO 1600   |   NIKON D4 + 200.0-400.0 mm f-4.0   |   Aperture priority, 1-3 EV

 

10 September 2012

Overnight rain meant that the Talek river came down with force. It was impossible to cross and thus ruined our plans of driving to the north to find the six lion cubs. Instead we photographed some general game and ended up at two cheetah sightings. We first found the mother cheetah with one cub and then the cheetah mother with the four cubs again, close to Lookout Hill. On our way back to the camp after breakfast we found one of the cheetahs again and had a special experience. She jumped onto our vehicle to get a better vantage point and sat there for almost 15 minutes. In the afternoon we photographed some general game, lazy lions and elephants against a dramatic stormy sky. We finished our drive at the jackal den close to our camp with the pups playing on top of the termite mound.

20120910_5552 | Cheetah, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-640 sec at f - 8,0, ISO 200   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark III + EF16-35mm f-2.8L II USM   |   Aperture priority, 1-3 EV

 

11 September 2012

Our objective for the morning was to photograph a wildebeest crossing. We went to the Sand River in the South and although we found some herds they did not look interested in crossing. The Sand River is a beautiful area and is great for bird photography. The afternoon drive started earlier because we heard that the wildebeest are about to cross the Mara River in front of Lookout Hill. They almost did but they somehow lost interest in that idea again. There are lots of wildebeest on both sides of the river there at the moment and hopefully we’ll be lucky with a crossing tomorrow. A good lion sighting of a male and female as well as more cheetah finished the drive on a high note.

20120911_8601 | Southern Ground Hornbill, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-800 sec at f - 5,6, ISO 320   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF600mm f-4L IS USM   |   Aperture priority, 1-3 EV

 

12 September 2012

A wonderful sunrise was an exciting start to the day. We had hoped to see the wildebeest gathering at the edge of the Mara river to cross but they were in grazing mode the whole day. Instead we found some lions and general game to photograph during the morning drive. After a small wildebeest and zebra crossing through the Talek River at the start of our afternoon drive the heavens opened for about an hour. Every condition has an opportunity and this was great for photos of zebra and topi in the rain. We finished our day with a sighting of a young female leopard, Bahti, stalking some impala.

20120912_1135 | Impala, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-640 sec at f - 8,0, ISO 320   |   NIKON D4 + 200.0-400.0 mm f-4.0   |   Aperture priority, -1-3 EV

 

13 September 2012

More overnight rain meant that we could not cross the Talek River to go to the northern side of the Reserve. Our plan to do good photography was simple – spend the whole morning with the cheetah with four cubs. With great excitement we left camp early in the morning but never found the cheetah. Instead we found a topi giving birth, rhino, elephants and sleeping lions. We went to find the cheetah again in the afternoon and this time found her with her cubs finishing off a gazelle meal. On our way there we also found a baby zebra who adopted our car as its new mother and a lioness with two tiny cubs. A great afternoon turned in a slow start to the day into a fantastic one.

20120913_5810 | Zebra, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-320 sec at f - 9,0, ISO 400   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark III + EF16-35mm f-2.8L II USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 1 EV

 

14 September 2012

Today was our last full day in the Maasai Mara. Our plan to go to the swamps in the north of the Reserve in an attempt to try and find the two lionesses with their six cubs was successful, but not before we found the Rekero pride of twelve lions on the plains close to the Talek River during sunrise. Bush breakfast was served on the banks of the Mara River at one of my favourite spots in the Reserve. The afternoon drive was done on a ‘per vehicle sightings request’ basis. The vehicle that chose Lookout Hill were the clear winners with sightings of a lioness on a wildebeest kill, the cheetah with four cubs eating a gazelle and mating lions all in great light. My vehicle was one of two that chose a leopard hunting attempt. It was a great sighting until it got interrupted by heavy rain and then our plan of photographing the Rekero lions in the rain failed because of low light.

20120914_9827 | Lion, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-640 sec at f - 5,6, ISO 400   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF600mm f-4L IS USM +1.4x   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

15 September 2012

Two magical weeks of photo tours in the Maasai Mara have come to an end. This morning was our last game drive. A beautiful sunrise was followed by sightings of hyenas chasing wildebeest, mating lions and the cheetah with the four cubs. Both weeks have produced exceptional photography and very happy clients. We were troubled by unseasonal rainy weather during our second week which was unfortunate but the wonderful sightings have certainly made up for that. I can’t wait to return next year to this place with its friendly Maasai people and incredible wildlife. This IS the original safari country!

20120915_6425 | Common Ostrich, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya1-250 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 1600   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF600mm f-4L IS USM lens   |   Aperture priority, -2-3 EV

 

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About the Author

Isak is a specialist wildlife photographic guide from South Africa. His discovery of nature's special moments at a young age shaped his aspirations of today: to showcase the beauty of his continent's natural wonders in a creative way.

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