Safari Diary, MAASAI MARA – Sep 2015

SAFARI DIARY

Photo Tour, Maasai Mara in Kenya

7 September 2015

The Safari Link flight from Nairobi arrived at 11:00 at Ol Kiombo airstrip in the Maasai Mara National Reserve. My guests were welcomed to the Mara with with the sight of wildebeest as far as the eye can see. Our plan to drive to camp from the airstrip changed into a photographic detour with my guests photographing a crossing even before they had checked into camp. After this very exciting start to the photo tour we arrived at camp at 2:30pm, checked in, had lunch, and then it was time to go out again. During our first official game drive we fought through a sea of wildebeest to find a cheetah mother and her four small cubs as well as a few mating pairs of lions. These got the shutters firing fiercely and was a great way to start our week in the Maasai Mara!

20150907_6214 | ,  in 1-1600 sec at f - 8,0, ISO 800   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF100-400mm f-4.5-5.6L IS II USM   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

8 September 2015

Our first full day in the Maasai Mara and the plan was to go straight to the main crossing point on the Mara river where we saw the big herds of wildebeest the day before. On the way there we found a leopard to photograph and then we waited at the river’s edge. Then, after some time, the drama started as we photographed a dramatic crossing with a few casualties to the crocodiles. After that excitement we returned to camp for lunch and rest before embarking on our afternoon drive. We found a male cheetah hunting wildebeest calves and lions to photograph before sunset. What a first day, and we can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!

20150908_9655 | ,  in 1-640 sec at f - 5,6, ISO 200   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF600mm f-4L IS USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 2-3 EV

 

9 September 2015

With yesterday’s success we decided to follow the same plan to head north to the main crossing points. Unfortunately there we no wildebeest around but we found a male lion on a kill and decided to watch the typical cycle of life of a carcass – lion, hyena, jackal and then vultures finishing it off. We had picnic breakfast on the banks of the Mara river before a slow drive back to camp, photographing general game along the way. In the afternoon we drove south and through the biggest herds of wildebeest I’ve ever seen. They were in grazing mode. With stunning golden light against dark storm clouds we photographed the wildebeest and general game and finished the day with photos of an Egyptian Vulture. This was a “lifer” for everyone.

20150909_9940 | ,  in 1-250 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 1600   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF600mm f-4L IS USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

10 September 2015

A beautiful and typical Maasai Mara sunrise welcomed us onto the plains at the start of our morning drive. We photographed some wildebeest, general game and lions before we found a rhino at the Sand River. After breakfast we went to Lookout Hill and photographed a number of wildebeest crossings. We returned to camp for lunch and to clear space off our memory cards. We then searched for a leopard during the afternoon drive but only caught a quick glimpse. On the way back to camp we found two beautiful male lions during sunset. Another stunning day in the Mara and we’re looking forward to see what tomorrow will bring.

20150910_9248 | ,  in 1-2000 sec at f - 8,0, ISO 640   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF600mm f-4L IS USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

11 September 2015

The 04:30 wake-up for a balloon flight was easy as we had the prospect of flying over the massive wildebeest herds for iconic views of the migration. It did not disappoint and we managed to fill a number of memory cards by the time we landed and enjoyed a breakfast in the bush. After breakfast we went to look for wildebeest activity along the Mara river but it was quiet and the herds were in grazing mode. We returned to camp where we got to see a large herd of wildebeest cross the river right in front of our camp just after lunch. This was fantastic! Leaving for the afternoon drive we felt that nothing could beat the photos we had already taken so far. We were over the moon with more stunning photos, this time of a cheetah mother and three cubs backlit and wildebeest silhouettes in the setting sun!

20150911_1966 | ,  in 1-500 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 320   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF600mm f-4L IS USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

12 September 2015

The plan for the morning drive was to find a lioness with cubs that they had seen north of the Talek river the day before. Although we saw many lions on the way to the area we did not manage to find the exact lioness we were looking for. After picnic breakfast on the banks of the Mara river we took a slow drive back to camp where we saw two giraffe fighting. During the afternoon drive we returned to the same area north of the Talek because of a carcass in a tree we had seen in the morning. This time the owner of the carcass was there and the shutters were firing wild as we photographed the leopard. We also saw lions hunting wildebeest and then another pride hunting warthogs before enjoying sundowner drinks, to celebrate a fantastic week’s photo tour.

20150912_2836 | ,  in 1-500 sec at f - 11, ISO 1600   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF24-70mm f-2.8L USM lens   |   Aperture priority, 2-3 EV

 

13 September 2015

The last morning of our first safari arrived and we did not have to drive far from camp to start our morning’s photography. A massive herd of wildebeest was on the move, and heading towards the Mara river, although still far from the river at that stage. We photographed running wildebeest with every possible photographic technique and even the conservative photographers in the group filled a few memory cards. Then it was time for breakfast and to see the guests off at the airstrip where we picked up the next group for the start of a new week’s photo tour. With the new guests in the vehicles we raced from the airstrip directly to the Mara river to see this morning’s group of wildebeest cross the river. Unfortunately we got there just too late and only got to see the last wildebeest exiting the river. Disappointed with our “miss” we decided to drive north along the river’s edge. Somehow our luck changed and we did not have to wait long to see the start of a new massive crossing! Everybody was ecstatic! After a picnic lunch we took a drive across the plains photographing everything from vultures to cheetah with cubs and lions before returning to camp. What a start to this week’s photo tour!

20150913_4276-2 | ,  in 1-1600 sec at f - 9,0, ISO 800   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF100-400mm f-4.5-5.6L IS II USM   |   Shutter priority, 2-3 EV

 

14 September 2015

The Maasai Mara is an incredible place for wildlife photography where sighting that would usually be a highlight of a day or even a whole safari often gets little or no attention simply because there are so many other exciting wild things happening. This morning we photographed hyenas on a kill with the rising sun behind them. Then it was off to the Mara river for a wildebeest crossing, followed by two male lions walking through the grass in golden light. Elephants on the plains concluded our early morning’s photography before a picnic breakfast was served to our happy photography clients. After lunch and rest time at the camp we embarked on our afternoon drive where we were treated to the perfect visual of a leopard kill. A leopard called Bhati wasted no time as she stalked and then pounced on a male impala right in front of our eyes. The shutters were firing fiercely, but photographs aside, everyone felt privileged to have witnessed this moment which is so rare to see.

20150914_6510 | ,  in 1-2000 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 640   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF600mm f-4L IS USM   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

15 September 2015

We were still on a “safari high” after the excitement of the previous day, but things started for us where we left off. The plan for the morning was to go to the main crossing site and on the way there, just before sunrise, we saw a cheetah make a kill. Lions with cubs, a group of wildebeest on the river bank and a leopard sighting concluded our pre-picnic breakfast photography. After breakfast we saw a large crossing at Kaburu before returning to camp for lunch and rest. In the afternoon we saw a cheetah with three cubs, then another cheetah with three cubs make a kill, and finally another cheetah with four cubs on the way back to camp. The sightings have been off the charts and our hard drives are starting to run out of space!

20150915_7883-2 | ,  in 0,5 sec at f - 8,0, ISO 640   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF100-400mm f-4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens   |   Shutter priority, -1-3 EV

 

16 September 2015

Our morning started in a grand way with a family of cheetah in a tree silhouetted against the rising sun. After the cheetah we saw a massive herd of wildebeest on the move and then another cheetah with cubs before breakfast. We photographed general game on the way back to camp where we enjoyed lunch and some rest. The afternoon drive was dedicated to finding tiny lion cubs from the Rekero pride. We had some rain and the lions were in a bush, but as soon as the rain stopped the mother lioness brought the cubs out in the open and we enjoyed fabulous photography of the little ones!

20150916_8733 | ,  in 1-2500 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 200   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF600mm f-4L IS USM   |   Aperture priority, 0 EV

 

17 September 2015

A big male lion at sunrise got the morning off to a great start. We photographed wildebeest on the move and a vulture feast before breakfast, and then made our way back to camp. In the afternoon we photographed mating lions, hyenas at a den and then a serval (sorry Martin), before finishing the day with a classic tree-in-the-setting-sun shot.

20150917_9950 | ,  in 1-500 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 1000   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF600mm f-4L IS USM   |   Aperture priority, -2-3 EV

 

18 September 2015

Our last full day in the Mara arrived much too quickly, but little did we know what was in store for us. We set off on the morning game drive and found male lions and then bat-eared foxes in first light. On our way to the main crossing point on the Mara river we saw a pride of lions showing interest in a warthog hole. The next moment a warthog popped out of the hole and was caught by the lions right in front of our vehicles. They then did not waste time killing and devouring their meal. After this action we drove to the main crossing point and witnessed a 90 minute massive wildebeest crossing. Emotionally and creatively drained we return to camp for lunch. We decided to have an “easy” afternoon drive where we looked for cheetahs but found some lions and other game to photograph before the group met up on a hill for a last sundowner drink.

20150918_2004 | ,  in 0,4 sec at f - 16, ISO 100   |   Canon EOS-1D Mark IV + EF100-400mm f-4.5-5.6L IS II USM   |   Shutter priority, 1-3 EV
 

19 September 2015

Our last morning of the safari arrived along with our heavy hearts. The plan was to have a short game drive, then breakfast in camp and a chance to get ready for the long journey home. On the drive we were welcomed by a perfect Mara sunrise shot with a tree and a cheetah, Malaika, with her 3 cubs. This was the perfect good-bye and we were all sad to leave this wonderful place. We were blessed with excellent sightings this week and stunning photography. Thanks to Entim and staff, Musa, David, and Suzi. Thanks also to our fabulous Masai guides, Pilot, Jackson, Sammy and Julius!! We’ll see you next year!

20150918_0786 | ,  in 1-640 sec at f - 4,0, ISO 160   |   Canon EOS-1D X + EF600mm f-4L IS USM   |   Aperture priority, 0 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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