It’s only taken me four months to get around to this! I’ve been busy on video projects until Christmas, but now I’ve finally been through all my Kenya images, I thought I’d blog the trip. Anyway, now BBC’s The Hunt has finished on telly, I need another dose of Africa!
Alan Hewitt and I have been running safaris together for a few years now and always have a laugh together. One of the key things I want in a safari is for everyone to feel relaxed, involved and to have fun. Alan is a good friend of mine and a great photographer and safari leader. I had no hesitation in working with him again on this trip. Anyway, we have the same tastes in beer…
In early planning for the 2015 photo safari trip, I knew I wanted to use my trusty guide, Moses Nampaso; his unparalleled knowledge of the wildlife and friendly and professional nature make him an obvious partner. For this year’s trip, I needed a new venue and took Moses’ advice on House in the Wild. As always, he was spot on. House in the Wild is a beautiful, quiet, friendly place on the banks of the famous River Mara. Owned by Lippa and Tarquin Wôod, it is a delightful offshoot of their farm, Naretoi and nestles on the edge of Enonkishu Conservancy north east of the National Reserve.
Our journey from the UK (some of us from the North East of England and the remaining clients from London) took us via Amsterdam to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport. A quick hop across to Wilson Airport and we were winging our way into the Mara to be met by an ever-smiling Moses as well as Boston, our other superb guide for the duration. We did have another superb guide, Joseph for a short time after a mishap with one of the vehicles. More on that later! Seeing Moses again was emotional: he’s an inspiration to other Kenyans as well as us and is a real pleasure to be around. He’s currently studying for the highest qualification of the Koiyaki Guiding School: gold. When I spoke to Moses about this qualification, the study required and what he had to demonstrate, it sounded more like a PhD than a guiding qualification! Good luck in 2016 Moses.
If you’ve never been to the Africa’s plains, you might not realise that it’s hard to avoid seeing wild animals, which are everywhere. It’s a bit like an open zoo with all the famous animals you’ve ever seen on TV, spread out in front of you. Even our short trip to the camp from the airstrip was a mini safari in itself, with crocodile, zebra, baboon and impala amongst others putting in an appearance.
I’d spent a long time in dialogue making sure that we had the right vehicles with photography platforms available to us. There’s nothing worse than being given a crap vehicle with cramped conditions and no facilities for photographers. Indeed some of the more dodgy ‘guides’ in the Masai Mara are simply taxi drivers that take people into the reserve. Consequently, these vehicles offer a poor experience and often get stuck in the mud or on rocks. It’s important to me to not only have a properly qualified guide / driver, but a really good all terrain vehicle with enough space for three clients plus a tutor.
Delightfully trigger-happy with the shutter buttons, we drove to House in the Wild with a smile on our faces and Norman’s underpants on his head, setting a new trend in sunhat wear. After a very warm welcome from the lovely staff, our rooms were divvied out, with Alan and I consigned to a twin snoring chamber. Just as well for the rest of the group, who were spread around the rooms in the grounds away from the inevitable cacophony. The accommodation comprises a number of permanent huts with either fixed doors, or tented fronts. I loved the rustic bathroom and shower in our room: an outdoor shower under the stars with hot water was a delightful luxury after a warm day out on the plains. All beds have mosquito nets and duvets for the cool nights. There are a bunch more photos of House in the Wild here.
This is a probably a good point to say that I don’t really do heat very well. But that’s ok in Kenya, as I’ll explain. I was born in New Guinea where I really should be used to tropical humid heat, but I’ve never been good at that sort of climate. I went to Costa Rica a couple of years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the wildlife, but the humidity just about did me in. The good thing about Kenya is that, even though it’s more or less on the Equator, the altitude of the plateau makes the temperatures in the mid 20s celsius. Halleluja! Rather like we’d love to get on a regular basis in the UK for our summers. Dream on Kaleel…
Anyway, back to the safari. Once we’d settled in to our rooms and had some lunch under the shade of the trees next to the river, we headed out on our first proper game drive. There was the usual cast of thousands including gazelles, antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, ostriches and giraffes, but what made the end of the drive so special was to come across a lioness and her three cubs chilling out before an evening hunt. When we arrived at the pile of lions they were sleepy and relaxed. As dusk settled in, they became noticeably more alert: the cubs played with each other and started tearing around after each other. One even jumped on the lioness’ head! Eventually, their mother started to move off into the dark to hunt, calling after them to follow and they disappeared into the gloom.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, in the distance a procession of silhouetted giraffes sauntered across the horizon as we had sun-downers: beers and soft drinks whilst watching the sun sink onto the horizon. The chatter round the evening’s camp fire was excitable to say the least. Here are a few shots from that magical first evening.
Come and join us on 2016’s Kenya photo safari!
Part 2 of the blog is here.
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