Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mara Magic - Isak Pretorius Safari Diary

Safari Diary - 8 September 2014

Photo tour, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya


With the traveling day behind us we finally made it to the Maasai Mara for the start of our photo tour. After arriving at our camp, we had lunch and time to refresh before leaving on our first afternoon game drive. Shutters fired furiously at our first sighting of small herd of elephants walking across the savannah. That was followed by mating lions in good light and a cheetah crossing the Talek river. On the way to camp we stopped to photograph wildebeest on the crest of a hill in front of the rising moon. Not a bad way to start the week and everyone is excited to see what is in store for the rest of our time here.

Cheetah| 1/1000 sec at f/5.3, ISO 640  |  Nikon D4 + Nikon 80-400f/5.6  |  Manual mode, -1/3 ev

Safari Diary - 9 September 2014

Photo tour, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya


Our first morning drive involved the magic golden light that only the Maasai Mara can deliver and we made good use of it photographing a pair of Bateleur Eagles, lions with small cubs and a cheetah chasing a gazelle. After brunch in the bush we made our way back to camp, photographing general game along the way. A small herd of wildebeest gathered on the edge of the Mara river right  in front of our camp and we spent most afternoon waiting for the potential crossing. In typical wildebeest style they had us on the edge of our seats as it looked certain that they would cross a number of times but then eventually turned around and went back. With an hour of light left we went on a quick drive and found a black rhino hiding in a bush. What a great day and we can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring!

Bateleur | 1/2500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 3200  |  Canon 1D X + Canon 600mmf/4  |  Aperture priority, 0 ev

Safari Diary - 10 September 2014
Photo tour, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya


An exciting day started with a sighting of a serval and then a large herd of buffalo on the way to mating lions. After spending some time photographing the lions we had a bush brunch and waited at a cheetah sighting for some hunting action. While we waited at the cheetah we were called to a sighting of wildebeest crossing the Mara River close-by. We caught the tail-end of the crossing but other wildebeest started gathering on the edge of the river not far from us. We waited in the heat of the day, sacrificed our lunch at camp and then with a teaspoon of patience and a pinch of luck were rewarded with a spectacular crossing. We took a slow drive back to camp, arriving at sunset to end a spectacular day in an amazing place!

Wildebeest | 1/2000 sec at f/8, ISO 800  |  Canon 1D X + Canon 600mmf/4 lens + 1.4x teleconverter  |  Aperture priority, 0 ev

Safari Diary - 11 September 2014
Photo tour, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya


Another great day in the Mara started with a wake-up call at 5:30 and a morning game drive shortly after. A beautiful sunrise was our first photos but then a short period of cloudy conditions put a damper on proceedings. Luckily that did not last long as we photographed vultures in the last remaining golden light. But then we were called to a sighting of a cheetah with five small cubs and the memory cards were filled quickly. We were exhausted after photographing non-stop for an hour but then got a break for brunch on the Sand River. After returning to camp for a short rest and lunch we embarked on our afternoon drive that delivered great bird photos, general game and a pride of lions at sunset. This concluded another fantastic day!

Landscape | 1/500 sec at f/11, ISO 100  |  Canon 1D X + Canon 600mmf/4 lens   |  Aperture priority, 0 ev
Safari Diary - 12 September 2014

 Photo tour, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya


Our aim for the day was to photograph another wildebeest crossing and so we headed north across the Talek River. We found the Rekero pride of lions with a bunch of small cubs and then a leopard in a tree with a kill. After the leopard climbed down the tree and disappeared into the bushes we found the mating pair of lions from the other day sharing a meal. After brunch the wildebeest in front of the main crossing point started to get into migration mode and we sat waiting for hours for them to cross the Mara River. This time unfortunately we waited in vain and eventually gave up and went back to camp late afternoon - but not before we spotted and photographed a beautiful male leopard on the banks of the Mara river on the opposite side. We rested at camp for a while and then utilised the last hour of light for animal portrait photography close to camp as well as sunset landscape shots. We also managed to find and photograph a den with small jackal pups which ended the day on a high note!

Lion | 1/1600 sec at f/5.6, ISO 320  |  Nikon D4 + Nikon 80-400mmf/5.6 lens   |  Manual mode with Auto-ISO, -1/3 ev

Safari Diary - 13 September 2014

Photo tour, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya


With the build up of wildebeest we saw yesterday afternoon we knew we had to give a crossing another shot. So, our plan was to go to the cheetah with five cubs in the morning, then have brunch at camp and immediately go to the main crossing area with packed lunches in the vehicle. Our plan worked perfectly, and not only did we see the cheetah family in golden light as well as a massive wildebeest crossing, we also saw Bhati the leopard hunting impala on the way back to camp. This was our last full day on this safari and what a day it turned out to be! There was another treat in store for our clients however. Famous travel photographer Art Wolfe was in camp and Shem had arranged for him to give our group photo critique on a selection of their images after dinner. We learnt a lot and had great laughs with this great photographer. This was the perfect end to a fantastic week in the Maasai Mara. Tomorrow we only had a short game drive before taking the 11am flight back to Nairobi and then on to home.

Cheetah | 1/640 sec at f/7.1, ISO 200  |  Canon 1D X + Canon 600mmf/4 lens + 1.4x teleconverter  |  Aperture priority, 0 ev
Safari Diary - 14 September 2014
Photo tour, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
 Our last morning drive of this photo safari arrived much earlier than expected and we were wondering what were left to see and photograph after our wonderful week in the Mara. Without any expectation we drove out of camp and found four male lions not more than 500 meters from our camp. It was the Notch boys and we spent the entire morning photographing them with the rising sun, backlit, front lit, chasing wildebeest, eating an old carcass, drinking water and wandering over the plains. What a perfect end to a great safari.
Lion      |   1/400 sec at f/4, ISO 500   |   Canon 1D X + Canon 600mmf/4 lens   |   Shutter priority, 0 ev
This was a fantastic week with great sightings, the magic of the Mara and its people, and great friends that were made. Thank you Entim Camp, Jackson, Antony, and Julius for a great time and we're all looking forward to return soon! 
By Isak Pretorius



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