Monday, July 18, 2011

THE MASAI MARA – A PHOTOGRAPHER’S PARADISE?

From the air the myriad of animals on the plains of the Mara can be seen. Then the wheels of the plane touch down on the dusty runway and the show begins.  The short drive to the camp is filled with involuntary arm extensions as I compulsively reach for the camera bag and silently curse the fact that everything is so well packed. Animals abound on all sides and it takes brute willpower to drive on by.
Entim Camp is one of the southern-most camps in the Mara. The Mara River meanders by in full view of the tent and the whole camp. Lunch is served in an open Bedouin-like tent with a show of grazing animals on the other side of the river. This must surely be heaven.
Finally 4pm rolls on by and the first game drive is no longer anticipated, it has arrived. Not even 500m from the camp and the first animals curiously watch as the vehicle rolls on by. In the Mara animals standing staring are ignored as they do not offer any exciting prospects. There is enough time and enough animals for careful consideration of setting, lighting and composition. Rarely does one get this opportunity elsewhere. The open plains are easily accessible by vehicle and there is very little hampering a good sighting. It is only on the river banks that the bush presents an obstacle. However, a good driver can beat these odds in this environment and there is seldom an insurmountable challenge.

The sighting list reels off like a book of the animals of East Africa.

DAY ONE
Waterbuck, Impala, Warthogs, Leopard, Giraffe, Cheetah, Elephant, Buffalo, Topi, Cox Hartebeest, Thompson’s Gazelle, Banded Mongoose, Blackback Jackal, Bateared Fox, Olive Baboons, Wildebeest, Zebra and Spotted Hyena.
Highlight shot of the day:
DAY TWO
Lion, Bateared Fox, Leopard x 3, Hippo, Southern Ground Hornbill, Elephants, Dwarf Mongoose, Spotted Hyena, Giraffe, Cox Hartebeest, Thompson’s Gazelle, Hippo, Zebra, Waterbuck and Impala.
Highlight shot of the day:
DAY THREE
Hyena, Cheetah with 6 cubs, Lion pride, dead Buffalo, Spotted Hyena, Giraffe, Elephants, Banded Mongoose, Blackback Jackal, Thompson’s Gazelle, Dik-Dik, Topi, Grant’s Gazelle, mating Lions, 4 x Lionesses, Zebras, Cox Hartebeest, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Buffalo, Vultures, Warthogs, Hippo.
Highlight shot of the day:
DAY FOUR
Mating Lions, Topi, Cox Hartebeest, Buffalo, Zebra, Cheetah with 6 cubs, Ostrich, Bushbuck ram, Spotted Hyena, Thompson’s Gazelle, Grant’s Gazelle, Giraffe, Elephants, Warthogs, Hippo, Whiteheaded Vulture, Ruppels Griffon Vultures, Yellowbilled Oxpeckers, Pygmy Kingfisher, Black Rhino, Lion pride.
Highlight shot of the day:
DAY FIVE
Thompson’s Gazelle, Cox Hartebeest, Topi, Buffalo, Impala, Eland, Cheetah, Waterbuck, Lion cubs, Tawny Eagle, Black Chested Snake Eagle, Lilac Breasted Roller, Ruppels Griffon Vultures, Red Billed Woodhoopoe, Olive  Baboons, Spotted Hyena, Crested Crane, Hamerkop, Grant’s Gazelle, Ostrich, Zebra, Warthog, Elephants, Lion, Leopard, male Lion alliance, Lion mating pair, Giraffe,Southern Ground Hornbill, Bateleur.
Highlight shot of the day:
DAY SIX
Thompson’s Gazelle, Topi, Giraffe, Hartebeest, Leopard, Lions on Hippo kill, Dik-Dik, Zebra, Buffalo, mating Lions, Vultures, Blackback Jackal, Impala, Marabou Stork, Spotted Hyena.
Highlight shot of the day:
DAY SEVEN
Thompson’s Gazelle, Topi, Cox Hartebeest, Spotted Hyena, male Lion alliance, 2 pairs mating Lions, Blackback Jackal, Hooded Vulture, Marabou Stork, Ruppels Griffon Vultures, Zebra, Impala, 3 dead Zebras struck by lightning, Crested Cranes.
Highlight shot of the day:
Drive after drive presents more opportunities than can be pursued. Each day there is a choice of locations and sightings and when the animals are lazing away under trees and there is little activity the plains of the Mara present landscape opportunities of note. The days are filled with frantic activity while camera equipment is put to the test.
At the end of the stay there cannot possibly be any sense of disappointment – just one day in the Mara is like a week anywhere else.
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