Masai Mara Migration

At a Glance

Schedule Overview

DAY 1

  • Arrive at Nairobi International Airport
  • Accommodation at Hotel in Nairobi

DAY 2 

  • Scheduled flight to Masai Mara
  • Afternoon game drive
  • Accommodation in Masai Mara

DAY 3 – 7

  • Morning game drive
  • Afternoon game drive
  • Accommodation in Masai Mara

DAY 8

  • Morning game drive
  • Scheduled flight back to Nairobi
  • International flight home
 


We all know that the Masai Mara is home to the ‘greatest show on earth’. So we decided to run the best photo safari we could muster in the heart of the greatest show.

The Mara River – A place where wildlife meets conflict: in its millions. The migration is a constant dynamic. But at one point during the cycle, a major obstacle stands in the way of the momentum. At first it causes a stutter and a pause, but then the surge comes, and millions of animals cross the Mara River in one of the most spectacular wildlife scenes on earth. We have reserved a small, intimate and private camp in the heart of the action in perhaps the best time of year to see this phenomenon.

DESTINATION

The Masai Mara, as Africa’s loveliest game reserve is affectionately known, forms the northernmost limit of the greater Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, where an abundance of Africa’s game roams over the seemingly endless grasslands. A year-round destination with a temperate climate and seasons dictated by rainfall, the Mara never fails to deliver, and is a breathtaking setting for wildlife photographers, safari enthusiasts, first-timers and seasoned travellers alike.

Named in honour of the Masai people who call this corner of Africa home, the Mara is world renowned for its exceptional populations of lion, leopard, cheetah, herds a thousand-strong of buffalo, the rare black rhino and of course the thriving elephants. In approximately July of each year, the Great Migration arrives for an annual four month stay.

Typically defined by the annual movement of over two million migratory wildebeest – these seasonal wanderers are just one element of the greater Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Numerous distinct habitat types exist, with soil type and rainfall being the main influences. The ecosystem is driest in the southeast (where the Crater Highlands form a ‘rain-shadow’) and wettest in the northwest.

South of the Kenyan border, Tanzania’s Serengeti consists of various types of woodland and grassland. It is on the ‘shortgrass plains’ – an area of shallow, volcanic soils west of Ngorongoro – that the wildebeest’s story begins. Here, they give birth to young calves every January and February. These plains flush green with highly nutritious grass after the rain, but are grazed flat and dry-out completely by March when the herds trek north. Their destination is the Masai Mara, which is still blanketed with nutritious grass when the rest of the ecosystem has dried out.

Around July, the rainy season comes to an end and the Mara is carpeted in tall, rippling swathes of seeding grass. To the south, the oceans of Serengeti fodder have been denuded by over a million wildebeest that have been milling around, rutting, mating and feeding since late March and April. They are not alone. Over 200,000 zebra are part of the procession. Slowly but steadily, this tide of herbivores moves north.

It could be in the last week of July – perhaps sooner or later depending on rainfall patterns – but eventually over half a million of these wildebeest and zebra cross the invisible border that demarcates Kenya from Tanzania, and the Mara from the Serengeti. Like any invasion, there are always frontrunners. Bands of bewildered-looking wildebeest canter in loose columns, wide-eyed and alert to the dangers of awaiting predators. Beyond them, the rising clouds of dust betray the vast herds. Migratory wildebeest may enter through the eastern Mara but the herds that marched north through the Serengeti’s Western Corridor are programmed to overcome one last hurdle: to reach the pastures that will sustain them through the dry season, they must cross the Mara River. No matter how high the river is, or how rapidly it is flowing, the wildebeest are not deterred. To cross, they must withstand the crash-landing of leaping off the embankment, avoid the jaws of crocodiles and lions that wait in ambush, paddle and thrash their way across the river, and finally they must hope that they do not get simply crushed in the commotion. A good many have their journey tragically ended at the crossing points, and in some years, piles of bloated carcasses accumulate to provide an ongoing banquet for crocodiles and vultures. The Great Migration is a clockwise, round-trip journey of around 600km during which an estimated 250,000 wildebeest perish each year. Exhaustion, hunger, injury and predation are the main factors, with newborns within their first year and those older than fifteen being the most vulnerable. As the star of the show, with its shoebox snout, spindly legs and tousled beard, the wildebeest looks a little less than elegant, and appears to have been put together by a committee. In addition to its ungainly appearance, it seems – even at the best of times – to be a somewhat confused and bewildered creature. But like everything else, it is built for a purpose, and that is to consume vast quantities of grass and have enough stamina to cover great distances. Often simply called a gnu (which is a fairly good description of its singular vocal ability), in both of these roles, the wildebeest excels.

Just a few degrees south of the equator, there are only minor fluctuations in the length of day and temperature over the year. What does vary however, is the rainfall: there are two distinct seasons, the long rains from mid-March through June; and the short rains during the months of November and early December. Clear bright mornings are the norm throughout most of the year, and in season, the rain tends to arrive in the afternoon and evening. Far from being a depressing event, the rain in the Mara is a life force. To be out in the midst of it – on the plains amongst the wildlife – is to be in the middle of nature’s celebration, and the approach of a storm is spectacular, with its darkening sky and accompanying lightning and thunder.

The question is often asked, ‘when is the best time to visit the Mara?’ To be truthful, there is not one correct answer, as safari travellers to the Mara are assured of astonishing and abundant wildlife sightings all year round. For guests wanting to experience the Great Migration and the dramatic crossings of the Mara River, July through September or October are the best months to visit. Others prefer a gentler time with less visitors and enjoy the Mara all by themselves – together with the resident population of game, the numerous resident herds which quite rightly do not deem it necessary to leave this beautiful reserve by embarking on the annual trek to Tanzania.

All members of Africa’s Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and black rhino – are regularly sighted in the Mara, together with hyena, jackal, cheetah and the bat-eared fox, and the Mara River is home to numerous pods of hippo and some of Africa’s largest crocodiles. Great photographic opportunities present themselves with topi standing perched on anthills, Masai giraffe moving gracefully across the plains, and both Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles grazing peacefully amongst Coke’s hartebeest, impala and herds of lovely eland, the continent’s largest antelope.

The Mara is also home to more than 470 bird species, including almost 60 raptors. Surely the loveliest of them all has to be the graceful crowned crane, always found in pairs, together with secretary birds, lilac-breasted rollers, long-crested eagles, superb starlings, pygmy falcons and endangered ground hornbills to name just a few. Entim private Camp’s experienced guides will make every effort to deliver a life-changing wildlife adventure for guests, be it for first timers, birding enthusiasts, photographers of all skill levels, or safari devotees whose great joy is just to simply be amongst Africa’s creatures, both great and small.

It’s simple really – find a camp in the middle of the action, book it exclusively for 8 photographers only with the best camp operator in the business and then have professional photographers personally guide you whilst on safari. Isak Pretorius have had many seasons in the Mara and has mapped his own special places and secret spots which he will share with you while being driven around. The Mara is a very large system and much of the conventional tourist traffic concentrates on a small section of the river. There is so much to see and photograph, and with these knowledgeable professional wildlife photographers as your guides, you will have the best positions available. You will be taken to the far-flung corners of the Masai Mara, you will not only get to experience the migration, but also the beauty, freedom and wilderness of one of Africa’s greatest ecosystems. Each photographer will have their own seat with window and roof hatch, ensuring that everyone has ample room to photograph from. Brackets, braces and clamps can be fixed onto the rails on the vehicles for tripod heads and flash brackets. Everything is designed to aid your photographic enjoyment.

We have negotiated, in the interest of photographic excellence, a camp right in the heart of the action, in the middle of the Mara.

  • The camp is inside the Masai Mara National Reserve with a view of the main crossing point
  • You are within 5 minutes from the main crossing points and 10 minutes from the other crossing points. Most camps are at least 60 minutes from these central areas.
  • The position of the camp is within the two main rivers – the Talek and Mara rivers, meaning easy and fast access to the most productive game viewing areas.
  • You will be personally guided and driven by professional wildlife photographers who know the Massai Mara eco system exceptionally well.
  • No gate restrictions or racing for the gate during the best hours of light. (All gates close at 18h30, and as most camps are outside the reserve, vehicles must leave the reserve) we are inside the Mara, thus can stay till dark
  • We will have 4 x Land Cruisers game viewing vehicles for our use. There will be 2 photographers per vehicle. Non-photographers can share the same bench as the photographer, or sit in the front seat. Each photographer will have a whole row as well as a roof hatch.
  • We will have the whole camp to ourselves.
  • The camp is a permanent tent camp – tents have flush toilets and running hot water showers
  • There is a battery bank and silent generator for charging batteries and laptops

Notes:

  • For each safari, we have organised a minibus that will take our cargo luggage from the Nairobi Serena Hotel to the Camp and back again upon return.
  • The entire weight limit for the internal flight is 15kg. This is strictly enforced by SafariLink. We have provided the transport for the cargo luggage for your cargo luggage. It is up to you to ensure you are within the limits for the internal flights. You will be liable for any excess weight.
  • There are bean bags in the camp. These are filled with beans. If you would like to bring your own bag to fill with rice or sand, we will provide rice.
  • For those not arriving from South Africa, we will have separate airport transfers to meet you. All transfers for single arrivals will have your Surname typed on a name board that the driver will hold up.
  • It is very important to get your yellow fever injection and certificate. It should be done no later then 2 weeks before your trip. It is valid for 10 years, so if you have had one done, you should just remember to bring the certificate.
  • On all our safaris we may ask participants to rotate seats in the vehicles, taking it in turn to sit in the more popular seats in the front and the less popular ones in the rear. This requirement applies to everyone. If there is some reason why you can’t take your turn in the back of a vehicle (e.g. a bad back or travel sickness) please inform our office at the time of booking to see if we can accommodate you. We regret that anyone failing to inform us of such limitations before the safari will be expected to rotate seats in the same way as everyone else.
Booking Form

Complete this enquiry form to book

ITINERARY

Arrive in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. This photo safari starts and ends in Nairobi, so it is your responsibility to arrange your own international flights. If you need help with this please email me at isak@theafricanphotographer.com for a quote and options.

A representative will meet you at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. A 45-minute road transfer will take you to the African elegance of the Nairobi Serena Hotel. You will spend the evening in the lush and open surrounds of the Serena Hotel. One of Nairobi’s original hotels, this hotel has all the comforts of the past with the convenience of the modern era: The perfect place to relax for the evening. Isak will make contact with you at the hotel to arrange dinner for the photography group and discuss the logistics of the following morning.

Your heavy cargo luggage should be ready early morning to be transferred from Nairobi to the Masai Mara by road. Isak will confirm those logistics with you at the hotel the previous evening.

Breakfast is served from 6:30am. At 8am we’ll be transferred to Wilson Airport in Nairobi. We depart for the Masai Mara on the 10am scheduled flight and touchdown at Ol-Kiombo Airstrip after a short 1-hour flight. From there we are transferred by road to our camp situated in the Mara. You will be staying in a classic East African style safari camp consisting of canvas tents, staffed by local Masai. You will have en-suite bathrooms with flush loos, flowing water and hot showers. While traditional, the camp is comfortable with large beds and private verandah’s. In the afternoon we will embark on our first game drive to sample one of Africa’s greatest ecosystems.

For these five full days, we will focus on showing you the best of the Masai Mara and this will include tracking the migration and getting to the heart of the action. You will be taken out each morning in first light. We will have Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles with roof top hatches and large windows from which to photograph. Each client will have their own row in the vehicle with open windows and hatch, ensuring that everyone has ample room to photograph from. Brackets, braces and clamps can be fixed onto the rails on the vehicles for tripod heads and flash brackets. Everything is designed to aid your photographic enjoyment. Depending on how and where the migration is moving, we might spend whole days in the reserve taking a picnic lunch along with us. We will find the best crossing points on the Mara River and spend pleasant hours watching the wildebeest mass on the banks with hungry crocs waiting below. If we are patient enough and fortune favours us, we will witness a wildebeest crossing, arguably the most spectacular wildlife event on the planet. Beside the actual visual spectacle, the noise of the crossing is something that will never be forgotten. Besides tracking and following the migration, we will search for as many predators as possible, including cheetah, as the great plains are home to these majestic cats. You will also enjoy unfamiliar sights of general game such as Topi standing aloft termite mounds and tiny shy dik-dik’s going about their daily routine. The Mara also houses some of the largest buffalo bulls on the continent and a huge density of raptors. A special for birders, amongst others, is the large and relatively common Ruppell’s Griffon.

Our time in the Masai Mara will not just be about the wildlife though. We will take you to seldom-visited parts of the ecosystem and indeed right up to the southern boundary where the Masai Mara and Serengeti adjoin. Here, there is little human traffic, and we will enjoy the peace and quiet of the great plains as well as some private game viewing. This element of our safari is unique as most safari operators concentrate all their efforts on the river but we feel that by combining superb game viewing with a wilderness experience, we will offer our guests the very best of the Masai Mara.

The evenings will be spent sitting around the campfire and dining on excellent camp cuisine. As the coals die down, the warm camp beds beckon and everyone retires to bed.

The aim of this photo safari is to help you take amazing photographs and improve your own photography, no matter what level of photographer you are. The C4 photo guides will help you and during the safari will also present a series of photo critiques, Lightroom and other slide show sessions in the evenings. These are always immensely popular and helps our clients gain some insight into the skill levels and experience of our guides- who easily impart their knowledge to you. Should you have any other specific requirements, you are welcome to ask for your guides expert advice.

During the next five full days the daily schedule will remain more or less the same. The times are flexible and might vary slightly depending on the sunrise times, the sightings and our activities (e.g. we might decide to stay out longer if wildebeest are congregating at the river’s edge and the likelihood of seeing a river crossing is high). Generally we follow this schedule:

05:30     Wake-up and meet for coffee and a small meal

06:15     Game drive

09:30     Breakfast in the bush

10:00     Game drive

11:30     Return to camp for rest and own time (depending on what we see and the likelihood of seeing a wildebeest river crossing, this might be later)

13:00     Lunch, followed by rest and own time

15:30     Meet for high tea

16:00     Game drive

19:00     Return to camp

19:15     Photo presentation and client photo feedback (not compulsory)

20:00     Dinner and then retire to bed for another day of more great photography

After a last morning game drive, we return to camp for a hearty brunch before departing to the airstrip at 11:00 where we return to Nairobi. A transfer back to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport/your hotel concludes the safari. Most of the international flights depart in the early evening and this fits with most connections. This is unfortunately the end of the safari and another special package from Isak Pretorius.

Isak Pretorius looks forward to hosting you in the Mara for the greatest wildlife show on the planet.

ACCOMMODATION

Serena Hotel

Justly famed for its exceptional standards of efficiency, service and five-star hospitality, the elegantly sophisticated Nairobi Serena is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group and is consistently voted ‘Best Hotel in Nairobi’ by airlines and international travel magazines alike. 

Despite its pivotal central location, the Serena Nairobi hotel remains true to its title and offers an oasis of serenity amidst the bustle of one of Africa’s most vibrant capital cities. The Nairobi Serena Hotel offers a number of dining experiences, and a selection of bars, coffee shops and café areas, both inside and out. The hotel also features a dedicated resident’s lounge: The Bambara Lounge, which offers a café service, newspapers and private seating throughout the day. Or try our restaurant in Nairobi, the Mandhari, renowned for the excellence of its seasonally inspired menu and extensive wine cellars. An internationalized buffet breakfast and lunch are served in the Moroccan-styled Café Maghreb, which also features a table d’hôte dinner menu and 24-hour brasserie service.

Entim Main Camp

Entim meaning “forest” in Maasai is discreetly tucked on the edge of the riverine woodlands. From the shaded seclusion of this attractively designed camp, guests can relax in luxury and admire unforgettable views over the Mara River and across expansive plains, with the distant backdrops of undulating escarpments and volcanically-sculpted hills. From the veranda of each tent it is even possible to witness the breath taking sight of thousands of Wildebeest crossing the river during their annual migration through this vast wilderness area. 

We have kept the camp eco-friendly and small, with only ten, tastefully but differently furnished, well-equipped tents. Our decor aims to enhance the surrounding environment.

All 10-guest tents overlook the Mara River and are well placed, en-suite with flush-toilets and hot showers. There is a cosy lounge area with a small library, separate bar and dining area, which is open-fronted allowing guests the unmatched experience of eating meals while watching the animals move to and from the river to drink and forage for their food. The camp has been designed to give guests the feel that it is part of the landscape. The experience at Entim is not your average hotel or lodge experience: it’s about being right in the hub of one of the most famous wildlife reserves in the world and part of a quintessential Kenya Safari Experience.

Picnic lunches can be taken on longer game drives and enjoyed al fresco, while out exploring this vast and diverse area. Early evenings can be enjoyed over sundowner drinks in discreetly selected spots away from camp; or after a game drive and hot shower, around the campfire. The dining area offers a more intimate setting for our delicious home-cooked meals. We have a selection of house wines from the famous wineries of South Africa. Bread, cakes and pastries are all baked in camp, while fresh produce is flown in regularly. We aim to produce healthy, balanced and enticing menus, and are happy to cater to your individual requirements. If you wish you can dine privately on your own veranda, whilst enjoying the personal service of our helpful, well-trained staff.

WHAT OUR GUESTS SAY

About this wonderful safari

5/5
GALLERY

Click on the thumbnails to get a glimpse of the photos you could be taking.

costs
  • USD 8,350 price per sharing person

  • USD 9,350 price per single person

30% deposit confirms your booking. Balance payable 8 weeks prior to your departure.

Maximum of 9 clients. There will be 3 vehicles with max 3 clients per vehicle. There will be two C4 Guides that will rotate between the three vehicles.

The above costs include:

Costs do not include:

Travel insurance

Is vital for any tour anywhere in the world. The foresight to protect not only the experimental investment of the safari i.e trip cancellation, travel interruption/ban, flight cancellation, but also the traveller themselves when in need of primary medical care, evacuation to the hospital of choice most of the time in nearby countries is one of the most important decision you can make to assist in a stress free trip. Please speak to your travel agent/insurer for available options that will best suite your needs. Please note that when travelling with C4 Photo Safaris, that Travel Insurance is mandatory for all of our tours.

Terms and conditions are clearly described in the PDF brochure under “Booking Information”