KENYA: MARA MIGRATION & LAIKIPIA EXCLUSIVE PHOTOSAFARI
'The Big 5', Cheetahs and African Wild Dogs, Cheetahs in style!
KENYA: MARA MIGRATION WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES
Kenya! If there was ever an African country that embodies the ultimate wildlife photo safari experience, this is it. Our Kenya photography tours are carefully planned to coincide with the height of the wildebeest and zebra migration in the famous Masai Mara (and of course the famous Mara River crossings where Lions, Leopards and crocodiles lie in wait) and also include an optional extension to the magnificent Ol Pejeta Conservancy on the Laikipia Plateau, the best location for African Wild Dog (Hunting Dog) encounters and photography.
In both areas we will be staying on, and exploring, private conservation concessions, which we will only have to share with a small number of other visitors. At the Masai Mara in particular this means that we can avoid the crowds of vehicles at the river crossings inside the Masai Mara National Reserve and enjoy the wonders of the crossings without distraction. Now that is wildlife photography in style!
It does cost more to stay in the exclusive and luxurious safari camps in the concessions, for the very reason that so few guests have all that wildlife to themselves. In our view, if you want to have a truly special ‘Mara Migration’ experience, this is the way to go. Yes you can stay in lovely lodges or camps inside the Masai Mara National Reserve (sometimes referred to as Masai Mara National Park), but the crowds in Mara Migration season have become quite extraordinary, with sometimes many dozens or even over 100 safari vehicles parked at a river crossing! Instead, why not experience the marvels of the Mara as they used to be and as they still can be?
Imagine the vast expanses of the Masai Mara stretched out before your eyes. An incredible plain, contiguous with the much larger Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania, that is home to one of the largest wildlife migrations on earth, the annual Blue Wildebeest migration. At its peak in August-September over a million wildebeest make their way across the Mara.
They are joined by around 200,000 Burchell’s Zebras to form one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, but it doesn’t end there. The Mara is also home to an abundance of other wildlife including African Elephants, Giraffes, a great variety of antelopes and African Buffalos, making it a photographer’s and naturalist’s paradise. Leopards are frequently encountered here, Black Rhinoceroses can be still be found hiding in the reserve’s bushland and rafts of Hippopotamuses plus enormous Nile Crocodiles can be found in the Mara River. The area also has over 450 resident bird species.
Situated between Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, the stunning Laikipia Plateau is home to several packs of the beautiful African Wild Dog, sometimes called Hunting Dogs or Painted Dogs. Here we will spend our days on photosafari at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, looking for the region’s famous Wild Dog packs, their denning sites, pups and territories, as well as other exciting wildlife.
Accommodation & Road Transport
The luxury tented safari camps used during our Kenya photography tour are of a very high standard (two of the very best in the country in fact) and are wonderfully situated. Main roads are mostly good or reasonable, but we do not use them to reach the Masai Mara as we fly and thus save a lot of time for more photography. There are plenty of rough tracks in the concessions and some ‘off-road’ driving. Photo safari transport is by one single Toyota Landcruiser 4×4 with open roof and sides.
The walking effort in the parts of Kenya being visited is easy throughout. Walking is restricted to a few specified areas. This is of little hindrance and indeed we can approach many mammals and birds far more closely in a vehicle than we could on foot.
Most days in Kenya will be warm or hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are not infrequent and there could be some rain.
If you use a full-frame DSLR or mirror-less equivalent for wildlife photography you should bring telephotos (and converters) that will cover the range 200-500/600mm. You will also find a wide angle lens good for landscape photography. There will be only limited opportunities to use a macro lens.
You can also get great photography results in Kenya with a good quality bridge camera. It will be best if it has an optical zoom of 18-20x or more, combined with a reasonable wide-angle at the other end of the zoom range.
Be sure to bring plenty of spare battery power. Dust is ever-present in Kenya, so cleaning equipment is important. A beanbag and/or a monopod can be useful here for wildlife photography from the vehicle. If you would like to talk over suitable equipment, please contact our office. We will be happy to advise.
Other Wild Images wildlife photosafaris in Africa:
- Stunning experiences with Kenya’s largest & most successful pride of Lions. Watch cubs at play or watch the awesome power of fully-maned adult males.
- Repeated encounters with the magnificent Cheetah and the usually wary and retiring Leopard
- Spend time up close with the Black Rhinoceros
- Complete the 'big five' with the iconic and magnificent African Elephant and the impressive African Buffalo
- Witness the amazing spectacle and danger of a Mara river crossing
- A fantastic array of other photogenic mammals including Grevy's Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe and Beisa Oryx
- Some of the best opportunities to photograph African Wild Dogs anywhere!
- The exclusivity of getting away from the crowds on private conservation land concessions that are ideal for wildlife photography
- The amazing abundance of wildlife on the Masai Mara
- The incredible scenery and wildlife of the Laikipia Plateau, near Mount Kenya
- Transport by custom-built Toyota Landcruiser with open roof hatches and open sides that can accommodate photographic heads. The perfect photography platform that can go anywhere.
- Maximum of 6 group members and one vehicle only.
- Luxury permanent tented safari accommodation throughout
Wild Images Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.
Our tour prices also include these flights: Nairobi-Masai Mara-Nairobi.
Tips/Gratuities are not included. We suggest you allow around US$300 per person for the main tour and a further $150 for the extension.
Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.
TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)
2019: £4510, $6090, €5160 Nairobi/Nairobi.
Laikipia Plateau Extension: £1950, $2630, €2230.
2020: £4560, $6150, €5210 Nairobi/Nairobi.
Laikipia Plateau Extension: £1960, $2650, €2250.
Single Supplement: 2019: £503, $680, €576. Extension: £222, $300, €254. 2020: £510, $690, €590. Extension: £220, $300, €250.
If you are travelling alone, the single supplement will not apply if you are willing to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.
This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.
KENYA: MARA MIGRATION WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Our Kenya wildlife photography tour starts in Nairobi this evening with an overnight stay at a comfortable hotel.
This morning we transfer to at Nairobi’s Wilson Domestic Airport, from where we take a flight to the Masai Mara, our base for the next six nights. Here we will stay at the marvellous Kicheche Bush Camp, situated in one of the private wildlife conservancies situated to the north of the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Throughout this tour, the tented safari camps we use are truly ‘luxury lodges under canvas’ rather than camps as such. With a modern touch added to the very comfortable conditions, they bring out the spirit, although not the rough conditions, of the big game safaris of the early twentieth century. A major advantage of using the conservancies is that we have the ability to go off road and there is a very low ratio of visitors to the acreage of the conservancies. This ensures that most of the time we will have very exclusive access to large animals for photography. This area offers some of the best predator photography in the whole of Africa with its large numbers of Lions, Cheetahs and Leopards.
We will arrive in the Mara in time to take our first wildlife photography drive this afternoon.
We will spend these five full days exploring the Masai Mara, with its abundance of large mammals and diverse birdlife. Our daily routine here will typically start with a morning safari, during which breakfast is taken al fresco on the plains, usually under the shade of a flat-topped acacia, whilst watching the herds and often in the company of a Topi, the Mara’s most diligent predator spotter, perched up on a termite mound. After lunch there will be some time to relax before going out for the afternoon drive to look for some of the Moniko pride of lions. This is a very large and successful pride owing to the high density of plains animals in the area.
We have the option to either have full days out in the field when both breakfast and lunch can be served out on the savanna, or we can return to camp for lunch.
Big cats are a very prominent feature of the Masai Mara and, as well as Lions, both Cheetahs and Leopards are fairly straightforward to find in our concession.
We are definitely at ‘Predator Central’ here and there can be few, if any, wildlife spectacles anywhere in the world, that can rival the tension, drama and emotion of a Mara crossing. As many as a million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras attempt this epic journey each year. Watching as thousands of wildebeest and zebras gather at a crossing point you can almost feel the pressure build on the animals at the front as they consider the right time to attempt to cross the dangerous waters of the crocodile-infested Mara River. It is, however, a time of plenty for the gigantic Nile Crocodiles that live in the river and lie in wait as hundreds of thousands of animals head north from the vast Serengeti Plains of Tanzania to feed on the lush Mara grasslands. The foaming waters, noise and drama of a Mara River crossing has to be experienced to be believed and offers dramatic action photo opportunities.
Travelling around the concession in purpose-built Landcruisers with open sides and roofs, and with specially built platforms for bean bags or for attaching photographic tripod heads, we will be able to get up close to all kinds of photogenic wildlife, including Lion cubs, old males and even Lions on a kill.
After a final game drive this morning we will take a flight from the Masai Mara back to Nairobi, where our tour ends.
LAIKIPIA PLATEAU EXTENSION
We will drive past towering Mount Kenya, situated in the central highlands and straddling the equator, as we drive to our luxury safari camp on the Laikipia Plateau, our base for the next three nights. There is some excellent mammal viewing and photography on the way, and we should have our first sightings of Black Rhinoceros before we reach our lodgings.
We should arrive at excellent Laikipia Bush Camp in time for lunch, with some time to unpack and relax before embarking on our first afternoon photo safari. We return back to our camp for dinner before embarking on a night drive. Unlike the national parks and game reserves, where night drives are not allowed, here at Laikipia we can go out freely, providing us with an entirely different way of experiencing the local wildlife and giving us the opportunity to see and photograph some nocturnal species.
Our time at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy will be spent exploring its 90,000 acres of plains grassland by way of early morning, afternoon and optional night wildlife drives, following a similar routine to our time at the Masai Mara.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy holds two packs of African Wild Dogs and they can be highly mobile unless there is an active den, but with three days available we should be able to locate one of the packs and enjoy some great photography. Wild Dogs are usually high on the wildlife photographer’s wanted list and there is even a good chance that we will encounter them during our first game drive!
With Lion, Cheetah, Spotted Hyena and Black-backed Jackal, as well as plenty of large herbivores, there will be no shortage of photogenic species. Nestled at the foothills of the Aberdare Hills and in the shadow of Mount Kenya, the reserve is also home to some species that typically inhabit the drier areas of Northern Kenya, such as the endangered Grevy’s Zebra, Beisa Oryx and Reticulated Giraffe.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy was set up to protect the Black Rhinoceros and has perhaps the highest density of Black Rhinos in Kenya. White Rhinoceros is also present here, but in smaller numbers.
The early morning light here is superb and makes for some great landscape photography as the sun rises from behind the highest of the six peaks of Mount Kenya. This is the best time to be out and about, not only for the magnificent wildlife, but also if you want to shoot landscapes and/or silhouette shots as Mount Kenya is swathed in a blanket of cloud from mid-morning onwards. To maximize the photo opportunities during the best light of the day, breakfast is served out on the plains whilst keeping an eye for large predators! Being situated on the Equator, with the sun directly overhead, the light is harsh during the middle of the day and it makes sense to return to camp for lunch and a break.
Laikipia has no wildebeest, but has lots of other large mammals to photograph such as the range-restricted Jackson’s Hartebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, Steinbuck and large herds of Impala.
Apart from the fantastic mammal selection on offer, Laikipia has some amazing birdlife. The enigmatic Secretarybird strides the plain as well as the enormous Kori Bustard.
Being a private conservancy, Ol Pejeta also allows night drives, which offer photographic opportunities for some of the nocturnal species such as Bat-eared Fox, White-tailed Mongoose, Zorilla and, with luck, we will find an Aardwolf or a Striped Hyena, or if we are very lucky even an Aardvark. As most of the large predators hunt at night the plains animals tend to behave differently in the dark and are usually closer together than during the daytime, resulting in the formation of large herds. Hyenas are also on the move and will often trail the Cheetah and Lions and attempt to steal their prey. The spotlight used during night drives is fitted with a red filter to minimize disturbance to the animals.
After our morning game drive we return back to camp for lunch and to collect our bags before driving south to Nairobi, where our Kenya wildlife photography tour will end this afternoon.
Kenya: The Masai Mara & The Laikipia Plateau Photography Tour Report 2017
by Chris Galvin
Where do you start trying to compile a list of highlights of a visit to Kenya that is concentrating on the Big 5, Cheetahs & the Great Migration? I suppose, in a way, you must take into account about how it met the clients’ expectations. Did we achieve what we set out to? Not quite, […]View Report