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First Impressions of the Maasai Mara

I’m sitting on an old safari-style camping chair along the banks of the Mara River as I type this. The guests at Nkorombo Camp are out on their morning game drive. I have the local pod of hippos and a Black-headed Heron that just flew in for company until they return for lunch. Through the sound of gentle rapids there’s a heard of elephants snapping branches as they feed across the river. In the fast paced world of today, wild Africa is a tranquil escape and a welcomed break from rushed schedules and constant to-do lists.

My journey to the Maasai Mara began with my arrival at Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, followed by a flight by light aircraft into the Maasai Mara, which lies astride the Kenya-Tanzania border. The adventurous spirit among guests on the plane is contagious. You’ll soon find yourself starring out of the window; eyeing herds of animals wandering the savanna and pointing it out to fellow travellers that you’ve just met. It reminds me much of the scene in Jurassic Park where they fly into the unknown (but we’ll skip the man-eating animals!).

The conservation area is made up of the Maasai Mara National Reserve for the most part and it extends into neighboring independently managed properties, known as conservancies. I find myself traveling between Alex Walker’s Serian camp in the National Reserve and their camps in the Mara North Conservancy.

In essence, the conservancies have limited vehicles traversing the land and therefore offer a more exclusive and authentic experience. Unlike the National Reserve, off-road driving, bush walks and nights drives are permitted within the conservancy boundaries. The National Reserve also has its pros: it is where the majority of the famous wildebeest crossings occur and covers a much larger expanse of varying landscapes to explore.

I was struck by the colourful mosaic of habitats that make up the Mara, which include open plains, woodland and bushland. The open plains are most impressive, probably because it is incredibly unique to the Southern African habitats that I have come to know so well. At times there are scenes of wildebeest dotting the landscape scattered into the endless procession of plains. Surely the adrenalin-filled moments of a wildebeest crossing is a photographic delight, but it’s also these vast landscapes that every visitor learns to appreciate.

For the avid wildlife photographer, the Maasai Mara is a destination to create a portfolio of clean minimalist portraits of iconic African species mixed with images of animal behaviour and of course, dramatic wide-angle scenes. Highlights include lions, cheetah, leopard, wildebeest crossing the Mara River, elephant, birdlife, hippos, gigantic crocodiles and so much more.

Top Tips for the Mara

1. Unless you are using an iPhone, you don’t need to be too close to your subject. You are at an elevated position in the vehicle, so photographing your subject from a distance allows for an improved point of view and ultimately better backgrounds.
2. Look at the big picture. Try include the clouds.
3. Be careful when changing lenses. It gets dusty out there!
4. Bring an empty beanbag. Ask the camps kitchen to fill it up with something for you.
5. Rains can be sporadic. Always keep a plastic bag or two in your camera bag.
6. Do bring along a wide lens and something longer. A 300mm will get satisfactory results, but a max focal length of between 400mm and 600mm will be ideal.

I hope to have you join me in the Mara in 2018 for a magical Migration experience!

Kirsten Frost

To journey into the Maasai Mara is to celebrate the diversity of life to be found: the great predators, the wonders of the migration, the people. For the ultimate Mara experience, be sure to read more about ORYX’s Best of the Mara Migration Photo Tour in September 2018 with professional photographic tour leaders Kirsten Frost and Penny Robartes.

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