Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Samburu and Maasai Mara

A hunting lioness scans a herd of Buffalo. We were privileged to watch a dramatis, albeit unsuccessful hunt with only two other vehicles present.  
Here are some images from a trip  with a lovely English family to the north of Kenya where we spent time in private concessions adjacent to Samburu and then in the very impressive Mara North concession adjacent to the Maasai Mara National Reserve. These concessions are a firm favorite of mine at the moment as it is incredibly well managed and the quality of sighting are of the best in Africa.  It also allows the freedom to do walks, sleep outs and activities such as fishing. In addition to seeing all the large animals we were also privileged to spend quality times with herds of elephant just enjoying their majesty.  IN the Mara we had really high quality sightings including finding and spending a time with a pride of lions 24 strong. Being in a private concession we were also able to follow the big cats after dark, a time when they become active. There are few experiences as exhilarating as being surrounded by two dozen lions of which the majority cannot be seen and for all intents and purposes may well be looking at you from their dark realm with questionable intentions!

Many people think photographic safaris is just about sitting in a vehicle and taking pictures. Yet we often get out and explore the areas on foot. Here a Samburu askari accompanies us on an afternoon walk to our sundowner spot.

An inquisitive Guenther's Dik dik allows close approach at Sasaab lodge.
Leaving the comforts of the lodge we opted for a night under the stars and on equal footing to animals who can easily turn us into a meal :)

But nothing beats waking in the wilderness!!

one of our constant dinner companions, a Large spotted Genet!

Aptly described Superb Starling in Samburu National Reserve

We visited an out of the way (and non-touristy!) Samburu village.

All the younger men had to leave the area temporarily as they had to take their herds to better grazing leaving only old men and woman in the village. The spear at the door means a man is home.

And the Genets kept coming. This one joined us for dinner at Serian Camp in the Maasai Mara.

Excerpts from my Guest book:

Thank you for helping to make our trip so memorable. You have dealt with our endless questions (and general nonsense) with great patience and humour, sharing some of your vast knowledge along the way. I can only hope that when you look back on the last ten days guiding our family, you realize you’ve learnt just a little bit more about handling wild animals, particularly when in groups of 6 with their young in tow. Do look us up if you’re in London anytime – you’re going to need another healthy dose of sarcasm before too long. Thanks so much again. L - London

Dear Albie. Thank you very much for being a very good guide. My favorite thing was the leopard we saw on the last night, Best Wishes. JT – (8)  

We had so much fun with you. How do you spot all those animals? My favorite things were the lion cubs, because they are adorable, cheetahs and the leopard.  You are an awesome photographer even though the animals get away most of the time, befoe you manage to bring your camera J All my thanks, JT, - (10)

Albie It has been a great pleasure. I’d been thinking that the Leopard was the highlight until we saw that mouse. Twinkling through the headlamps, with a sound like tiny bells – quite the cutest safari experience ever. Bring the Family to visit Tokyo – Experience some proper concrete. Best wishes and many thanks, AT – Tokyo.

Thank you very much for the best last 10 days. We learned so many things about the animals and we had a great time. Thank you so much. ET – Tokyo

Dear Albie

Others in my family have written about your outstanding qualities as a guide, which have added hugely to the great pleasure we have aall had from our holiday in Kenya, but I would like especially to compliment you on the serenity. Resilience and patience with which you have faced your barrage of questions, attempted witticisms, slightly salacious double meanings, insubordination and general misbehavior. You are very experienced but I do believe that we added considerably to your capacity to cope with family mayhem, and that another time you will be able to manage to manage with less support from my long suffering daughter. Congratulations and THANK YOU VERY MUCH INDEED. VT - London

Best of Botswana

Timeless. The legendary San people who got immortalized by Africa's most eloquent writer, Sir Laurens van der Post.
I have just returned from a safari that allowed me to share the best of Botswana with a lovely family from the UK. Among their ranks was a Wildlife photographer, Travel-writer and a Musician! I cannot recall a dull moment while on trip and the wildlife, general experiences and all round energy of the safari was highly memorable.

Remarkably our very first photographic subject was the rate and seldom seen Aardwolf.
Our first stop was the Makgadigadi pans. Now this is probably not for first time visitors to Africa as the big cats can be hard to find (although we did find fresh tracks!). However, the big cats was not on our agenda as we wanted to experience the vast salt pans and the remarkable, rare and seldom seen animals that call this hostile place home. And nothing could raise our expectations more than a sighting of the very rare cousin of  Hyenas, the seldom photographed Aardwolf. In stunning afternoon light!!! Only to be followed by a stunning family and equally photogenic Bat-eared Foxes. I can carry on like this and include the in-your-face habituated Meerkats or the gentle San Bushman who showed us some of the deserts secrets. But in short, San Camp in the Makgadigadi Pans turned out to be an all round favorite for everyone.  

Next in line was an equally photogenic family of Bat-eared Foxes.
Then it was off to the Okavango Delta where we had our sights on the big cats. After an initially slow start to find these cats (They are designed not to be seen after all !), we did manage to locate during our stay a pride of lions and no less than five individual leopards. This all in the scenic Okavango - Slap bang in the middle of the largest sandpit in the world.

Just you and the vasy saltpan. Our sundowner stop after a quadbike adventure.
I can only hope that the images below will convey our experiences but know that it’s a very far cry from the true drama when you find yourself completely immersed in the ancient Kalahari and its anomalous oases called the Okavango Delta.

Close up of Meerkat lookouts.

A very photoshoot where the image of the trip was taken. Sadly (or fortunately) not by me :)

We also spend some time at a hyena den where this little cub provided endless opportunities.
Our very first Leopard encounter at Vumbura plains.

In total we saw five different leopards on safari like this one at very last light. 

Guest Book Comments.

August 17, 2013

This will wind up reading like a testimonial, although that is not my (sole) intention. Sfter two decades of traversing the South and East African bush, I can safely say that our experiences with you was exceptional, you belong with the best. Your unfailing good homour, indefatigable energy, great patience and remarkable skill behind the lens made you a terrific resource for us to have by our side. I hereby swear never to knowingly centre any photograph with front light! The joys of backlighting, giving animals space in the frame and most of all the joys of flash photography are all lifelong skills you’ve given me. I am sure our paths will cross again. May your Leopards all be in sausage trees with pink light behind, A – UK

For the first time in a myriad of Safaris, I filmed buffaloes lying on my tummy, used flash in bright sunshine and put my subject in a corner. Albie, we met you as our guide but we are parting as friends. Love to have you and your family in the Indian Jungles someday. GJ - UK

Africa premier Safari

End of June this year I hosted a fantastic trip all over Africa. An incredible safari jetting from one spectacular destination to the next. Victoria Falls, Chobe river boat cruizes, the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and lake Manyara National Park.  Seven flights, two boat trips, one Jetboat, one Hot air balloon trip, an elephant back safari, three countries, the big five and then the usual African cultural and biological diversity to add to the mix.  Here are a few images of our trip.
Our Safari started in the very smart Shongololo lounge waiting to board the flight to Livingstone
The first wildlife encounter on the Main road in Livingstone. 

Unique view of the worlds largest waterfall. the Victoria Falls from above the falls at Livingstone island.

Grumeti Elephant herd

After a long search me managed to find this Leopard at night, our second sighting of the most elusive of Africa's cats.

Doing wjhat lions do best. Relaxing!

View from our Hot Air Balloon. 

What the guests had to say.

June 2013
Dear Albie

Thank you so much for your generous hospitality. Your knowledge and love of Africa is simply amazing and has inspired us to come back again and again. Youyr kind gentle spirit serves you well as a tour guide and in life. You have truly made this once in a lifetime family vacation very special. You have been part of memories that will last a lifetime! Who will ever forget the Leopard and black Rhino adventures ??!  S&K T, Seattle Washington, USA.