Wild Dog And Big Cat Photographic Safari 2021
27th March – 6th April 2021 – 1 Space Left
Group Size: 8
Tour Leaders: Tom Way On Behalf Of Natures Images
Kenya is rightly recognised as one of the premier countries for wildlife in East Africa and this trip looks to combine some of the highlights of its premier reserve in the form of the Mara North Conservancy and one of its less well-known gems, Laikipia, in the north of the country. The result is the potential to see not only the big cats but also wild dogs.
The first half of the trip will be based in the conservancy area of Mara North and at this time of year it is relatively quiet and so this trip, based at the comfortable Offbeat Mara camp will allow us to make the most of the space this offers. We will have exclusive use of the camp for our entire stay. The area we will be based in has excellent numbers of lion, cheetah and leopard too and these big cats will be the main focus throughout, and we have the flexibility here to work off-road, from vehicles offering a row per photographer and without time pressures to get back to camp for sunset either.
For the second half of the trip we will transfer by charter to Laikipia Conservancy where we will concentrate on African Wild (or Painted) Dogs. This Conservancy is a stronghold for a number of packs and we will have incredible access to them using tracking capabilities, following them on their daily hunts with the youngsters who should now be above ground in hot pursuit at this time of year and when each pack will be looking to hunt successfully several times a day, all of which offers high adrenalin photography opportunities. Laikipia also offers excellent elephant photography opportunities.
Overall this promises to be a very different and rewarding trip in locations that will allow us privacy and space to really concentrate on quality images as well as experiences.
Day 1: We will look to arrive in Nairobi in early evening after our international flights and will transfer to our local hotel, Macushla House, for our short overnight stay.
Day 2: In the morning and after breakfast we will head to Wilson Airport for our 45-minute charter flight to our camp in the Mara North Conservancy, in time to settle in, meet our local drivers and guides. We have chosen the charter option to ensure we limit the weight related issues with the scheduled options. After lunch we will head off for our first afternoon drive returning to camp after sunset before relaxing in front of the campfire and enjoying our first camp-based dinner.
This is a very isolated camp, some considerable distance from other camps in the conservancy which itself is only open to member camps. Add in the strict viewing etiquette that is operated here and we will once again have the opportunity for very intimate photographic encounters, which is part of what will make this trip and location so special.
Days 3 – 5: This is a corner of Africa that is famous for its big cats – lion, leopard and cheetah will be our main priorities for our time here in Mara North. The conservancy is an excellent location to work with all of these species as we have flexibility to work off road and also in terms of times we have to be back at camp and so we will never have to leave a leopard up a tree in great light to get back. There is a great discipline here too at sightings which means relaxed subjects and quality photography opportunities as a result. The pattern to each day will be similar – we will embark on our first drive at 6.00am and will continue until late morning longer dependant on animal activity and light conditions with a short break for a light breakfast and refreshment during this outing. Every photographer will have a whole row of seats on each drive, ensuring ample space and flexibility for photography. On returning to camp there is time for lunch, a short rest, downloading images and time for some advice on your images and processing as you wish. We will return to our vehicles for an afternoon drive and return after sunset to again look to relax by the campfire and for dinner.
Day 6: After a final morning drive and breakfast we will make the transfer, again by charter plane to Laikipia Wilderness Camp, a stunning location and setting and which we will have sole access to during the course of our stay. A first afternoon game drive will follow lunch on our arrival.
Days 7-9: Our three full days at Laikipia will be very busy. The conservancy has 2 packs of African Wild Dogs in the area and there are radio collared individuals in them allowing us to track them. It is denning time in March and so the pack will be hunting regularly and returning with food to the youngsters throughout the day and we will be able to adjust or manage our time out in the vehicles (and even on foot too) to suit ourselves and best fit in with their behaviour at the time. Night drives are also an option in this respect, and we will be able to photograph from out of the vehicles on occasion which can mean some amazing encounters. It will be a full on 3 days of tracking, observing and photographing these incredible animals at a busy time of year for them, as well as some of the other elements the area has to offer, especially busy elephant water holes.
Day 10: We should have time for a final morning drive out of camp as we return to Nairobi. We will rest up and freshen up at an airport hotel there en route and ahead of our evening international flights home.
Day 11: Arrive home in the morning after our overnight flights.
Our accommodation consists of the comfortable tents typical of African safari lodges with all bedding and towels provided. If you have any special dietary requirements we can sort that out when we get to camp but if there is anything very unusual in that respect do please let us know in advance. Bottled water is provided at all times in the camp. The day time temperature is typically around 20 – 25 degrees celsius so in terms of clothing you will need light¬weight and shower-proof clothing with a fleece or warm outer layer for the early morning drives and evenings around the camp. Footwear needs to be just of the sensible outdoor variety. Sun cream, a hat, lip moisturiser and sunglasses are also recommended, as we will be exposed to the sun for long periods as the vehicles have an open hatch. Malaria tablets are recommended, and please liaise with your doctor as to which to take and bring. Insect repellent is useful as they can occasionally be a nuisance and other items like aspirin and the like are good for peace of mind. Laundry is provided daily at camp.
Finally in terms of tips for our drivers and camp staff then the preferred denomination for this (and any expenditure generally) is US$ and as a rough guideline $10 – $15 per day for the driver is advised: there is also a camp tip box for the camp staff which you can optionally contribute to on the last day. Other than this there should be no need to pay anything in the camp as all food, water, soft drinks and local alcohol is included in the price; the only extra charge would be for non-local alcohol like foreign wines and spirits.
In terms of camera kit it very much depends on your style of photography. Lenses of up to 400mm (assuming a full frame body) will suffice for 90% of your needs as the animals can get quite close: if you want to work on your bird photography while you are here a longer lens will be required though. Supplementary lenses for other opportunities such as a 24- 70mm for wide-angle opportunities and definitely an intermediate zoom (70-200 or 100-400) so that you do not miss the chance for some images that put subjects in more of a setting are also recommended. The camp is quite happy to fill beanbags so you could look to bring an empty one of these with you. Tri-pods are not necessary really as they are not vehicle compatible and even more so given their weight. If you want to use a tripod head then it is possible to attach it to the vehicles but you will need to have a clamp attachment to do so. If you have and wish to use a monopod then this is a further option but a beanbag generally works best and offers the most flexibility. Bring plenty of compact flash cards with you as well because if you get a good drive you will take a lot of images! With the extra cargo seats we have pre-booked the flights out to the Mara have a strict weight policy of 25kg so your camera kit and everything else that you take needs to meet that very strict maximum.
During the mid-day rests and evenings we will have a chance to critique and look at individuals work if you so wish so feel free to bring anything you would like to share on either a laptop or memory pen/CD. If you have any questions or concerns during the trip please ask, we are here to help.
There is power in the camp (although the generators are turned off overnight), so a laptop for storing/reviewing images is fine as a method of storing images as you go. Plugs are British conformation.
Cost includes: All transfers, park fees, game drives, meals and accommodation in Kenya.
Cost excludes: International flights, Kenya visa, sundry items, non- local alcoholic drinks (ie spirits) and tips/gratuities for camp staff and drivers.
If you have any questions at all about this trip please do not hesitate to get in contact with either Tom (07876 333787) or the team at Natures Images (01952 411436). You are able to book this trip directly through this link: https://www.natures-images.co.uk/holiday/kenyas-big-cats-wild-dogs-africa-2021/