Private Kenya and Botswana Photo Safari with Penny Robartes
Part 1: Laikipia Wilderness, Kenya
In July 2023, I joined 3 repeat private safari guests on a photo tour that was pretty wild and mesmerizing. While these ladies are a lover of nature and its wildlife, they are fans of African felines and so I out together a photo tour that would take them on a photographic journey not to be forgotten!
The world has gone wild for Laikipia’s famed Black Leopard, Giza Mrembu, and it is glaringly clear as to why. This leopardess is drop-dead mystical, magical, unreal to see. She is so gorgeous; it really is hard to keep one’s head when you see her and photograph her as you get caught up in her allure and enchantment. As lover of wild cats, and sightings of Giza becoming more regular, I knew this would be a desirable experience for my guests and one that would likely not happen again for them.
Coming from Australian to the African continent is a massive journey, so instead of only spending a week in Kenya’s Laikipia, we added a week post Kenya to Botswana to one of my favorite wildlife reserves; Mashatu Game Reserve. While Black Leopard may not be a highlight of this destination, Mashatu’s wildlife offering is nothing short of outstanding and powerful. Its Leopard sightings and density are comparable to South Africa’s Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, and their Elephant and Lion numbers and birdlife is numerous and a photographer’s dream.
The Laikipia region in Kenya is known for multiple sightings of black Leopard, although most of these Leopard are shy and rarely seen. They are more like a glimpse of darkness in a stark landscape before disappearing. In the dry season, there are certain places where it is difficult to imagine life occurring as the dusty ground and dry foliage seem to offer little nourishment to those that graze and browse. However, along the river and in certain gullies where water is more common, you get a better idea of how this area could look when rain has soaked into the land. Apart from a healthy population of Leopard, both golden and black, Laikipia is famed for being home to rare and endangered species such as the truly dazzling and large Grevy’s Zebra, the Reticulated Giraffe which are terribly pretty, and African Wild Dog which are always a highlight to see and spend time with. Hyena are common here and love to trail behind the dogs as they hunt. We even had a sighting of a young Hyena lying next to an adult African Wild Dog under the shade of a tree one late morning!
Giza Mrembu is an interesting cat. Let’s ignore the fact for now that she is melanistic and therefore, our interests are already peaked and instead, let’s look at her behavior. Giza is a young female that hunts in and patrols a large area of her mother’s territory. While they have been sighted together over there last 2 years or so, it isn’t common to see the golden and black beauties together. There is another Leopard whom a guest is very likely to see on a night drive when searching for Giza, and that is of her step brother. He has a curved spine which is very identifiable, but what is very interesting with this duo’s dynamic is that he will try to follow Giza every night to steal her kill. He can hunt and kill for himself, and he does, but he will try track and trail Giza whoever possible. She has adapted her hunting process to take this annoyance into account by easily leaving her first duiker kill to him as quickly as possible so that she can gain distance from her brother and hunt in peace. For a Leopard, her hunting routine is also pretty predictable. Close to late afternoon and evening, we wait at a lookout point that gives us a vantage view of 2 river crossing points that Giza uses to cross from her daytime abode to the side of the river where we are located, which is also her evening to night hunting grounds. In the early morning, it is well worth starting a game drive by looking further down the river where another crossing point is located, and she usually uses this point to head back to the other side for the day.
After a week in Laikipia focusing on Giza, Africa Wild Dogs and other Laikipia specials, we flew to Botswana’s Mashatu Game Reserve for the final destination of my guests Private Kenya & Botswana Photo Tour
Part 2: Mashatu Game Reserve – coming next!
Stay passionate, and see you in the wild.
, your Senior ORYX Photo Tour Leader
To join Penny on a privately led and guided photo tour, email .
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