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2022 Kenya Great Migration Safari

Key Information

Date: Friday, August 19, 2022
Duration: 12 days
Cost: provisional £6960, $9290, €7750, AUD12820. Nairobi/Nairobi. Single Supplement: 2022: £880, $1180, €980, AUD1620.
Places: 7

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KENYA: MAASAI MARA MIGRATION WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES

Our inaugural Wild Images ‘Migration Special’ in Kenya’s Maasai Mara in August 2020 not only lived up to all expectations but greatly exceeded them! The Blue Wildebeest crossings were unusually numerous this August and included a truly epic Mara River crossing of over 50,000 individuals right at our camp at Entim! We have been sending groups to stay at the well-appreciated Kicheche Bush Camp in the Mara’s Olare-Motorogi Conservancy for some years, which is a truly superb place for photographing big cats and other wildlife, but if you want to see the awesome wildebeest and zebra crossings during the migration from July to October, staying on the Mara River, inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve, is a must, and Entim is the best-positioned camp of all for experiencing the crossings.

In the Maasai Mara National Reserve, we will be based at famous Entim, a luxury safari camp (more like a luxury lodge in quality and spaciousness, with huge fixed sleeping tents with private bathrooms and a wonderful, spacious dining and lounge area overlooking the Mara River). For those who want to witness the awesome wildebeest crossings of the Mara River, Entim has the very best location of any camp in the Mara, being spectacularly situated beside the river with a famous crossing point right beside the camp! We have witnessed up to 50,000 or more wildebeest crossing at a time at Entim, flowing like a river of life from one side of the river to another. What could be more spectacular than that, and right where we are staying?!

It does cost more to stay in such luxurious safari camps, for the very reason that they are both very comfortable and have the prime settings in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, where all the famous crossing points are situated. Most of the camps and lodges in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, let alone those in the surrounding Mara Conservancies (for example, Mara North, Mara Olare-Motoropgi and Naboisho) are far too distant from the Mara River crossing points. Instead of having just 10-40 minutes to drive to a crossing, you have up to 2 hours or more one-way! By the time you even hear about a likely crossing, it is too late. Most times the wildebeest and zebras will be across the river before you even get there. In our view if you want to have a truly special ‘Mara Migration’ experience, this is the way to go: you have to stay at Entim or one of a tiny number of other strategically-situated camps east of the river, and Entim with its crossing on-site is the best-placed of all. (The Mara Triangle accommodations are less well-sited, in our view, as access to the river banks is much more restricted on the west bank of the Mara.)

Imagine the vast expanses of the Maasai Mara stretched out before your eyes. An incredible plain, contiguous with the much larger Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania, that is home to one of the largest wildlife migrations on earth, the annual Blue Wildebeest migration. At its peak in August-September over a million Blue Wildebeest make their way across the Mara, joined by up to 200,000 Common Zebras to form what is undoubtedly the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth!

A migration special is not a conventional photo safari where there is little pressure and you just wander about trying to find this or that subject: the crossings are the absolute number one priority, and deservedly so as they truly are ‘The Greatest Wildlife Spectacle on Earth’. I prefer this description to the commonly quoted ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ – these brave, determined creatures are not putting on a ‘show’ for us, but participating in the greatest drama of the East African plains as they migrate between their calving grounds in the southeastern Serengeti and the lush grasslands of the Maasai Mara and northern Serengeti. It is an epic journey that all must make, and many die in the process.

At a typical Mara crossing there is a build up of several thousands (or more) of Blue Wildebeest and a few Common Zebras on one bank of the Mara. Sometimes the animal numbers build up slowly, with columns of wildebeest marching to the river, but on other occasions the gathering is more frenzied, with thousands charging to the banks. They may hesitate before creossing (even for a couple of hours or more), or they may immediately plunge down the banks, or leap from the earthen cliffs, and started to cross the Mara River. Large crossings are a pandemonium of hooves, legs, faces and horns, complete with a deafening cacophony of lowing and grunting voices! As the stream of animals reached the edge of the water, some just waded in while others take great leaps, ending in sheets of spray, as they tried to shorten the crossing time and the length of exposure to the ever-waiting crocodiles! A sea of faces and bobbing horns heads for the far bank, where the vanguard is already scrabbling up the banks or cliffs, anxious to clear the gullies and bushes, where Lions and Leopards often lurk, and regain the open grasslands. Huge Nile Crocodiles lie in wait for the stragglers. Eventually, the bedlam subsides and you feel half numb from the sheer awesome spectacle you have just witnessed, and also have a numb trigger finger from the hundreds of images you will surely have shot!

While the crossings are the major focus of this tour, there will be plenty of time for other wildlife encounters. Sometimes there are no crossings for several days (a major problem for those photographers who only chose to have 5-6 nights in the Mara: we have even heard of folk who have visited without experiencing any crossings in such a stay, although that is uncommon).  In any event, early mornings and late afternoons are typically without crossings, so we can concentrate on predators or their prey while the light is at its best.

Typically we will go out before dawn, after early morning coffee or tea and biscuits, and take a picnic breakfast (perhaps to be eaten under one of those charismatic flat-topped acacias). We return in the late morning. After lunch, there is time for a siesta, or photo reviews, or one on one tuition from our leader. We go out again when the light improves in the late afternoon, returning to camp not long after sunset. On occasion, if the animal movements require, we may take a picnic lunch and stay out all day.

The Maasai Mara is home to an abundance of wildlife other than wildebeest and zebras, including African Elephants, Masai Giraffes, a great variety of antelopes and African Buffalos, making it a photographer’s and naturalist’s paradise. Lions are positively numerous, Cheetahs and Leopards are frequently encountered, Servals are regularly sighted, Black Rhinoceroses can be still be found in the reserve’s bushland and rafts of Hippopotamuses plus enormous Nile Crocodiles are numerous in the Mara River. Common Warthogs abound and antelopes include the stately Common Eland, Defassa Waterbuck, Impala, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, and the sweet-little Steinbuck and Cavendish’s Dik-dik. Other common critters include Spotted Hyena, Black-backed Jackal, Olive Baboon and Banded Mongoose.

The Mara also has over 450 resident bird species, including plenty of vultures, other birds of prey, storks and others.

 

Is the Mara River Migration Spectacle the right photo safari for you?

The crossings of the Mara River in Kenya are an awesome, unforgettable spectacle, but a ‘migration special’ is not for everybody. We want you to enjoy this very special safari, so please bear in mind the following:

1. The great migration of the two million wildebeest around the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya is the last great mammalian migration on earth, but there are many casualties along the way. It is all part of the wheel of life after all. You are sure to witness animals being taken by crocodiles, being trampled and drowned in the crush or injure themselves as they plunge down the earth cliffs that skirt the Mara prior to crossing (to become prey to Lions, Leopards and Spotted Hyenas).

2. It is often necessary to hurry to a potential crossing, as news comes in. Mara tracks are rough, so a bumpy ride cannot be avoided. If you have back or neck issues, you should bear this in mind.

3. As this is a migration special safari, less time with other, more usual, safari subjects is inevitable, although there will still be plenty of opportunities in between going for the crossings.

4. Waiting for the wildebeest to cross sometimes involves a long wait in the vehicle, parked by the river. They may assemble and then rush across almost immediately, or dither for hours. It is impossible to predict in advance. Patience is often necessary if you want to witness and photograph this incredible spectacle.

 

Accommodation & Road Transport

The Entim luxury safari camp used during our Kenya: Mara Migration Special photography tour is of a very high standard and is wonderfully situated. There is a spacious dining and lounge area overlooking the river and truly huge sleeping tents with twin or king-sized beds, large bathroom areas and a large porch. Plenty of storage space and power points. Entim is unusual in having a photo studio on-site, with two big-screen Apple Macs you can use to review or download photos. The wifi at Entim is pretty good for a remote area and there is even 4G mobile/cell reception.

There are plenty of rough tracks in the Maasai Mara and plenty of ‘off-road’ driving. Photo safari transport is by one or two (depending on group size) Toyota Landcruiser 4x4s with open sides and open roof hatches (but no image-blocking canopy). We will only take up to four guests per 8-seater safari vehicle, giving you plenty of space to photograph.

 

Walking

Minimal, as one can only leave the vehicle for picnics or ‘marking one’s territory’ as the driver-guides so charmingly put it.

 

Climate

Most days in Kenya’s Maasai Mara will be warm or hot, dry and sunny or overcast, or a mixture. There could well be some rain.

 

Photographic Equipment

If you use a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera for wildlife photography you should bring telephotos (and if need be converters) that will cover the range 100-600mm (even more if you like to photograph small to medium-sized birds). Most mammal images in the Maasai Mara will be taken at between 200-400mm. You will also find a wide-angle lens of around 24mm good for landscape photography, while focal lengths up to 70mm can be good at river crossings and on other occasions. (There will be almost no opportunities to use a macro lens.)

You can also get great photographic results in Kenya’s Maasai Mara with a good quality bridge camera. It will be best if it has an optical zoom of 18-20x or more, combined with a reasonable wide-angle at the other end of the zoom range.

Be sure to bring plenty of spare battery power. Dust is an issue in Kenya’s Maasai Mara if the weather has been dry for some time, so cleaning equipment is important. A beanbag and/or a monopod are very useful here for wildlife photography from the vehicle. (There will be virtually no opportunities to use a tripod.)

If you would like to talk over suitable equipment, please contact our office. We will be happy to advise you.

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