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    Photographic Safari to Kenya, East Africa - September, 2010

    A trip to the Dark Continent after some amazing creatures


    Leopard mother and cub in Samburu National Reserve

    Once in while, the chance of a lifetime comes along and an opportunity to visit Kenya in East Africa to photograph wildlife became a reality.


    A pride of lions in the Masai Mara National Reserve

    When I was younger, I dreamed of going to Africa as a hunter with a gun. I collected many books and magazines on the subject and learned about this remarkable place with its spectacular array of wild animals. But it has always been just a dream until last year.


    Elephant family group by the Eweso Nyiro River in Samburu

    More than 25 years ago, I dropped the gun and decided it was time to record nature instead of destroying it. I made a promise to the ‘spirits of the wild’ to photograph as much wildlife as possible before it was too late. I’m glad I started when I did, as I surely would have missed a lot.


    African cape buffalo and oxpeckers in the Masai Mara

    It took almost a decade to buy my first camera and lens. It was a Nikon FE manual film model with a 50mm lens, and my first attempt to photograph wildlife was quite dismal.


    White rhino in Lake Nakuru National Park

    I was way to short in the lens to say the least. A quick up-grade to a 400mm Sigma and a Nikon N90s film camera was next, and things then began to fall into place.


    Cheetha male on a termite mound in the Masai Mara

    It took me awhile but I stuck with it like knowing what to do with the danged contraptions. I wasted loads of slide film when I did not read the exposure correctly.


    Black-backed jackal in the Masai Mara

    Camera and lens evolution has played a very important role in my photography work and I now use the latest Nikon D3s digital body and a long Nikon 400mm f 2.8 telephoto lens for most of my photographs.


    Wildebeest on the run in the Masai Mara

    I also use tele-converters in 1.4X, 1.7X and 2X to increase to subject size without moving when needed.


    Leopard coming down from a tree in the Masai Mara

    Smaller Nikon D700 and D7000 bodies with an 80-200mm or a 70-300 zoom lens is always by my side. Other lenses include 28mm and 50mm for landscape work, and a 90mm and 200mm for macro shots.


    Southern ground hornbill in the Masai Mara

    One of the toughest jobs is how to read light and exposure. Being at the right place, right time with the right equipment and right technique, and a good tripod or solid support like a bean-bag is the secret to good sharp photographs.


    Flamingos at Lake Nakuru

    Photographing wildlife is one of the toughest jobs in the world (but not the toughest – a combat or war photographer win hands down) where the element of danger in the forest is out there to get you.


    Zebra abstract in the Masai Mara

    Anyway, Africa was beckoning and I made the decision to go with Trans-World Safaris in Nairobi after recommendations from the Thai Embassy in Kenya.


    Warthog in the Masai Mara

    After three months of preparing for the trip with safari fees, visa to Kenya, air tickets, yellow fever shots, etc, the departure date finally came and I left Bangkok on Kenya Airways just after midnight on September 5, 2010.



    Vultures playing 'king of the hill' in the Masai Mara

    The eight-hour flight to Nairobi was straight and uneventful. I slept some of the way hoping to arrive fresh but that is always not the case after being cramped into an airplane seat for that long. Getting up and walking around once in awhile can help to get the blood flowing and relieve tension.


    Secretary bird on the savanna in the Masai Mara

    I arrived at 5.30am the next morning and it was a quick trip through immigration and customs. All my bags arrived and out the gate I went.


    Hyena in a donga (dry streambed) in the Masai Mara

    Sati Lota, the manager of Trans-World was waiting outside with two drivers, Patrick and George, and two safari vans specially modified for wildlife viewing and photographic work. I was with a group of like-minded photographers from Thailand.


    A topi on a termite mound in the Masai Mara

    We loaded-up the vehicles and were on the road in no time at all. Traffic in Nairobi is hectic but we made good time this early in the morning.


    Zebras on the savanna in the Masai Mara

    About five kilometers from the airport, we made a stop at a ‘supermarket’ to buy some food stuffs and green peas for the bean-bags that are very important for quick and solid support on the van when photographing wildlife.


    Wildebeest coming up from the Mara River

    The Masai Mara plains in the southwest section of the country adjoining the Great Serengeti in Tanzania, plus a few other protected areas in Kenya are the ultimate safari experience. The Kenyan people are very proud of their wildlife heritage.


    Wildebeest on the savanna in the Masai Mara

    The road then got tougher as we crossed the Great Rift Valley into the Masai Mara National Reserve. As we got closer, we began to see antelopes and zebras along the way.


    Hippos on the Talek River in Masai Mara

    We finally arrived at the Mara Simba Lodge just after noon and checked in. After depositing our bags in the room, it was straight to the buffet lunch set-up overlooking the Talek River.


    Hippos in the river by the Mara Simba Lodge

    As we got there, a pod of hippos showed up for a sunbathing session on a sandbar. Egyptian geese and a lazy crocodile were also by the river.


    Eygptian goose taking off from the river

    As I had my medium camera and 80-400 zoom lens with me, I made quick work of the situation. I was asked by the group why I had my camera and I said, “You never know when you might see something”.


    Nile crocodile and wildebeest carcass in the Mara River

    I made quick work of the situation while the rest ran back to their rooms after their cameras. The hippo’s size filled the frame and I also got some flying shots of the geese.


    African banded mongoose by the Talek River

    After a quick bite, I took a stroll near an electric fence surrounding the lodge and bumped into a pack of banded mongoose. Four species in less than an hour of arriving; things were certainly looking up.


    Griffon vulture in the Masai Mara

    At 3.30pm, we had some tea and readied ourselves for our first afternoon ‘game drive’ as they are called. As I left the lodge, we began to see wildlife right away.


    Impala and a baboon on the first game drive on the Masai Mara

    After a short while, we bumped into a pride of mature female lions with their cubs enjoying the late afternoon sun, and setting out on a hunt. It was exciting to say the least.



    'Magic eyes' - leopard on the first day in the Masai Mara

    About 5.30pm, we saw a large group of safari vehicles surrounding a tree out in the savannah and George our driver said it was probably a leopard.


    My first leopard encounter in the Masai Mara

    We quickly motored to the spot and found the mystical cat sleeping up in the tree. George was very skilled at getting us into a good position.


    Sleepy male lion on the Masai Mara

    I managed to get some very close facial shots of the carnivore with my new Nikon D3s and my old 400mm. Funny enough, the catch-lights in the eyes of my leopard were provided by a Canon flash used by a companion next to me. Strange how things work out sometimes but I was elated to say the least.


    The classic 'MGM' lion yawn on the Masai Mara

    If you get the leopard, it is said you will get the ‘Big Five’ and that is exactly what I was able to accomplish over the next five days.


    Male lion portrait on my second day

    We also managed to get some very good African lion, buffalo and elephant shots the first and second day.


    Buffalo and oxpeckers on the second day

    After four days, we finally left the Masai Mara and headed to another reserve named Lake Nakuru National Park where rhinos and flamingo live around the lake.


    Mother lion and cub playing near the Mara River

    On my first day, I managed to get rhino and flamingo plus cape buffalo and the very rare Rothschild giraffe. It was great and after two days, we were on the road again.


    Wildebeest crossing the Mara River

    We arrived at Sweetwaters Private Reserve not far from the eternally snow-capped Mount Kenya. It was very cool at night down to 10 degrees Centigrade.


    Sunrise over Mount Kenya at Sweetwaters Reserve

    The hotel was a tented camp and the staff provided a hot-water bottle placed in the bed at dusk. It was the best sleep I had while on Safari.


    An African fish eagle taking a fish from the river

    The next morning we were out in the sanctuary at daybreak and bumped into a lion mother with her two small cubs. She had a radio collar around her neck so the staff could monitor her movements.



    A herd of Elephant in Samburu

    At mid-day, we left Sweetwater for the last leg of our journey and arrived at Samburu National Park in central Kenya. It was hot and dry like all deserts.


    White rhino in Lake Nakuru

    But the wildlife was great. As soon as we got in the gate, we bumped into giraffes and a large herd of elephants.


    Thompson Falls at 2,360 meters above sea level

    On the next to the last day, we found a leopard mother and her cub eating a little tik-tik antelope, Africa smallest antelope. Over the course of three days, we saw leopard everyday.


    Baboon eating a guineafowl in Lake Nakuru

    The bridge over the river had been washed out and so we did not see lion or buffalo that lived on the other side. But we saw many new animals including male and female dik-dik, Grevy’s zebra, waterbuck, reticulated giraffe, gemsbok (oryx), gerunuk and elephant.


    The rare Rothschild giraffe in Lake Nakuru

    The safari finally came to a close and we headed back to Nairobi. The flight out was delayed 24 hours but we got free lodging for the night in Nairobi.


    Impala buck in Lake Nakuru

    As I flew back to Thailand the next day, I looked back on the last 14 days and the tremendous opportunity I had photographing Africa’s wildlife, and made a promise to return.I guess I have caught the 'African bug'!


    Cape buffalo in Lake Nakuru

    I have just come back from yet another exciting safari to Kenya’s Masai Mara and this time, the Nairobi National Park near the city. I will post a new thread on this trip as soon as possible. I hope you have enjoyed the show. Cheers.
    Last edited by Bruce Kekule; 27-08-2011 at 11:00 PM.

  2. #2
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    Fantastic pics and running comentary ,,,,,,,,, shame about your copyright plastered all over them .

    Not sure if this is in the right forum ,, mabe World travels ? just an idea

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    I had the same experience of a photo safari in Kenya when I was working in Saudi Arabia. Great experience and I took lots of similar pictures but did not see a leopard. It was only a 3.5 hours flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Kenya and I went with one of the nurses I met at the hopital in Al Baha (she was American). We actually took a flying safari which cut out the hours of driving from wild life part to wild life park. We arranged it through the Nairobi, Hilton Hotel and was one of the best trips I ever took.
    We flew from Wilson Aiport in Nairobe up to Amboseli Game Park near Mt. Kilimanjaro on a private dual engine plane and I remember the pilot having to buzz the runway to scare off any game that might be taking a nap on the landing area. Spent two days looking at big game such as elephant, lion and then flew to Governor's Camp near the Masai Mara River where they filmed "Out of Africa" starring Robert Redford. Lots of Hippos in the river where our guide told us to be extra careful. Flew on to another area called Keekrock Lodge and saw many cheetah as in the pictures and spent another great 5 days before heading back to Nairobi.
    I am not sure if they are still offering these "Air Safaris", but if they are, they are the way to go. Lots of dusty miles of driving to get to all the game parks in Kenya and a lot of time wasted. If anyone is even thinking about such a vacation, I would HIGHLY recommend Kenya. It all brings back great memories.

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    Mid
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    Quote Originally Posted by nigelandjan
    Fantastic pics and running comentary
    indeed , and again thank-you for the time and effort Bruce

    Quote Originally Posted by nigelandjan
    shame about your copyright plastered all over them .
    not a problem , this is the internet and you are getting them for free .

    Quote Originally Posted by nigelandjan
    Not sure if this is in the right forum ,, mabe World travels ? just an idea
    an understandable mistake , and not a biggie .

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    Regret the copyright plastered all over the pictures but there are too many people who take my photos and use them for their personal or company use. Theft is a big problem on the net.

    I thought that a comparison of wildlife in Africa and Asia would be OK for this thread. Thanks anyway for your comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by nigelandjan View Post
    Fantastic pics and running comentary ,,,,,,,,, shame about your copyright plastered all over them .

    Not sure if this is in the right forum ,, mabe World travels ? just an idea

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    Mid
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    I keep looking at this one and thinking it's a painting ................


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    Mid,

    Thanks as usual. I really appreciate your comments. Maybe I'll have to post my next thread on Africa in 'World Travels' ....! But I like the comparison between Thailand's wildlife and African wildlife. It gives perspective.

    Cheers,
    Bruce

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    rickschoppers,

    It sounds interesting to go by air to save time. I actually will be going to Amboseli and Tsavo in May of next year. Thanks for all the insight.

    Bruce

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mid View Post
    I keep looking at this one and thinking it's a painting ................

    Mid, It was an amazing sight and I have another one for you.


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    Absolutely fantastic shots!

    Curious what this total adventure cost?

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    Bruce, thanks for the memories. I travelled through Africa in 1988 and spent 8 months on the road. 4 of those were in Kenya, I just couldnt get enough of the place. Highlights were climbing mount Kenya and The old Arabic trading port of Lamu. I didn't get to see many animals as I was just a dirty backpacker but it was a real adventure. Never forget hitching out of Nairobi and seeing giraffes on the side of the road. Everyday something happened. Reminds me to get the old photos scanned.
    Fahn Cahn's

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    Seen several films about the Wilderbeast,s annual trek ,,,,,,, poor bloody things when they have to cross the river,s and the croc,s are waiting for them .

    BTW that was,nt critisysm about the position of the post ,, I just thought it might help get you more views in the World travel post
    I'm proud of my 38" waist , also proud I have never done drugs

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    Great pics.
    Amazing, the creatures we share the planet with. Unfortunate for them that they must share a planet with us.

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    Great - I luv the buffalo with the two birds!!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by hillbilly View Post
    Absolutely fantastic shots!

    Curious what this total adventure cost?
    Hillbilly,

    Thank you for your kind words. The cost amounted to about 80,000 Baht for the nine day trip and another 35,000 for the ticket plus another 300 $ for tips and water which is extremely expensive over there. I'm planning another trip in May of nest year but this time to the South where Mount Kilimanjaro is. I want that shot of a big tusker with the mountain in the background. Cheers, Bruce

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bung View Post
    Bruce, thanks for the memories. I travelled through Africa in 1988 and spent 8 months on the road. 4 of those were in Kenya, I just couldnt get enough of the place. Highlights were climbing mount Kenya and The old Arabic trading port of Lamu. I didn't get to see many animals as I was just a dirty backpacker but it was a real adventure. Never forget hitching out of Nairobi and seeing giraffes on the side of the road. Everyday something happened. Reminds me to get the old photos scanned.
    Bung,

    My pleasure. I would love to do a 4-month safari there. I might want to do that someday where a road-trip to the Masai Mara and then on down to the Serengeti in Tanzania, and then further to Botswana....it's just a dream now but could become a reality....Thanks again for your comments. Cheers, Bruce

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    Quote Originally Posted by nigelandjan View Post
    Seen several films about the Wilderbeast,s annual trek ,,,,,,, poor bloody things when they have to cross the river,s and the croc,s are waiting for them .

    BTW that was,nt critisysm about the position of the post ,, I just thought it might help get you more views in the World travel post
    Nigelandjan, not a problem, I should have know better and actually the webmaster moved the story over there when I was on safari (the first post). Needless to say, I'm always open and appreciate constructive [at]font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } criticism. You are right, it is better in the World Travel posting!

    There are so many wildebeest (I think it is estimated at 2 million) but it is natural selection where the crocs, lion, cheetahs, hyenas, etc.etc are waiting for them. The numbers are never affected by the carnivores. This year I got three different kills and will be posting all this soon. Thanks again. Bruce

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    Quote Originally Posted by Koojo View Post
    Great pics.
    Amazing, the creatures we share the planet with. Unfortunate for them that they must share a planet with us.
    Koojo,

    Yes it is amazing and Kenya is the 'Holy Grail' for wildlife photographers. Now, if people will just protect the remaining places where there is wild creatures living in their natural state, at least we have done something for them. I just hope my photographs will create awareness and instill a sense of commitment to protect and save the natural world. Cheers, Bruce

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    Quote Originally Posted by pangsida View Post
    Great - I luv the buffalo with the two birds!!!!
    Pangsida,

    Thank you my good friend. I also like that one and all I can say, shutter speed with the Nikon D3s is the trick. Being in the right place and all that other stuff comes into play.

    Cheers, Bruce

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Kekule View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by hillbilly View Post
    Absolutely fantastic shots!

    Curious what this total adventure cost?
    Hillbilly,

    Thank you for your kind words. The cost amounted to about 80,000 Baht for the nine day trip and another 35,000 for the ticket plus another 300 $ for tips and water which is extremely expensive over there. I'm planning another trip in May of nest year but this time to the South where Mount Kilimanjaro is. I want that shot of a big tusker with the mountain in the background. Cheers, Bruce
    You will have no problem getting that shot with Mt. K. in the background if you are going to Amobseli. Lots and lots of tuskers there. As we were flying in, I did get a few shots of the top of Kilimanjaro and the pilot said that we were lucky since most days the top is not visible due to cloud cover. I will try to find some of my pictures and post them on here. Safaris have gotten a lot more expensive than when I went in 1985, but still worth the trip if anyone has the opportunity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickschoppers View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Kekule View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by hillbilly View Post
    Absolutely fantastic shots!

    Curious what this total adventure cost?
    Hillbilly,

    Thank you for your kind words. The cost amounted to about 80,000 Baht for the nine day trip and another 35,000 for the ticket plus another 300 $ for tips and water which is extremely expensive over there. I'm planning another trip in May of nest year but this time to the South where Mount Kilimanjaro is. I want that shot of a big tusker with the mountain in the background. Cheers, Bruce


    You will have no problem getting that shot with Mt. K. in the background if you are going to Amobseli. Lots and lots of tuskers there. As we were flying in, I did get a few shots of the top of Kilimanjaro and the pilot said that we were lucky since most days the top is not visible due to cloud cover. I will try to find some of my pictures and post them on here. Safaris have gotten a lot more expensive than when I went in 1985, but still worth the trip if anyone has the opportunity.
    Thanks for the info and yes, going to Amobseli. The price with the group I use is still very reasonable and they really do a good job of logistics while on safari. Look forward to your post.

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    Nice pictures! What's with the cape buffalo? Only one had any real horns. Are they being poached off?

    In Zimbabwe and Republic of South Africa, just about all the buffalo had big nice sets of horns. The bulls usually had horns from 34 - 45 inches with bosses from 13 - 16 inches.

    Still it looks like you had an interesting trip.

    RickThai

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