Back to the Mara - Part 4

March 14, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Where does the time go? It's been quite a while since I last posted a blog update, and since I've been up to a few things since last year's Kenya trip, I think it's time to motor on through some more Mara updates to try and catch up to where I am now!

So, where were we?

In the previous post, I talked about kit, techniques and practical stuff so for this time it's back to the events and wildlife of the trip itself. The morning after my memorable leopard encounter dawned particularly early. Actually, I'm getting ahead of myself. It started before dawn. Rewinding to the evening before, Paul, our guide and resident pro photographer had noted that we were in for quite a clear night, which might make for some great Milky Way photos, as the main things you need for that are big skies, a lack of artificial light and some interesting foreground (more on that shortly...). All things the Mara has in abundance.

So, numbers were taken for early risers and we were packed off to bed with instructions to set our alarms for 4:30am...

Groggily stumbling out of bed a few hours later, I stuck my head out of the tent to be rewarded with as clear a sky as you could hope for. After fumbling around for some clothes, I collected my kit and head torch and headed up to the main tent.

While waiting for the few other hardy souls to turn up, I grabbed a quick test shot by the chairs that had surrounded our camp fire the night before. Promising...


By now, we'd be joined by the other early starters so we piled into one of the landcruisers and off up the slope out of the back of camp. Paul had his eye on a lone tree in a clearing a few hundred yards from the edge of camp. As we arrived, bouncing along the track, the landcruiser's headlights picked out the unmistakeable shape of a massive male lion, uncomfortably close and watching us. After a brief pause, Paul said "right, come on!" (or words to the effect). We all piled out, headed over to our planned spot and set up tripods.

Up until now, we'd had the relative comfort of the vehicle headlights and our torches for security, but then it was "lights off!" for the long exposures and we were plunged into darkness. Longest few minutes of my life...

Suffice to say, I didn't get eaten and the end results were more than worth it. Our Masai guides made for an interesting shot and we were even rewarded with a shooting star.

Under African SkiesUnder African SkiesThe Milky Way, a couple of shooting stars and the southern night sky, from the Masai Mara

All too quickly, it was back into the vehicles and back down the hill into camp. A quick dash back to the tents to collect the rest of our gear, everyone else who didn't fancy the early start, and out again. A detour to spot some crested cranes against the slowly rising sun followed...

Crested Cranes at SunriseCrested Cranes at Sunrise Before the highlight of the morning being a wonderful reunion with Amani against a glorious dawn sky.

Amani at DawnAmani at DawnAmani the cheetah at dawn, Masai Mara, Kenya

That afternoon was all about the Gold Leaf pride of lions, as we followed them around, which I may well cover in another post. But the day wasn't over with surprises yet. Seeing the clouds rolling in, we made the bold decision to leave the lions and chase the oncoming storm. A frantic quarter of an hour ensued as we desperately tried to find a giraffe or elephant to put between us and the storm clouds, but in the end we made do with zebras and wildebeest. And they stepped up to their role very well indeed!

Zebras and the StormZebras and the Storm

About five minutes after this was taken, the storm clouds hit us and the most torrential downpour I've ever been in. The road back to camp turned into a river and our guys did a remarkable job to get us back without getting stuck. Beers were well and truly enjoyed that evening.


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