Maasai Mara safari – Trip Report: June 11th–18th 2016.
7-Day Wildlife Photographic Safari in the Maasai Mara
Hosted by Wildlife Photographers Andy & Sarah Skinner
Accommodation: Mara Intrepids Camp
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It is always a challenge when writing these reports to sum up a safari to the Maasai Mara, when it is a location that continually fills each game drive with such fantastic sightings. To do it justice one would have to write an essay rather than a summary! However, to follow is instead a brief report with a small selection of images from the 6 days that our group spent in the Maasai Mara on the Big Cat Safari photographic wildlife safari held June 11th – 18th 2016.
June can be a fantastic time to travel to the Maasai Mara and to avoid the well known crowds that the Mara has sometimes become associated with during the peak season of July – end September. However, as this summary demonstrates it by no means offers less game viewing and photographic opportunities. This time of year continues to deliver a multitude of excellent sightings, with the big cats still in abundance. On this trip we were certainly not short of the feline kind.
During our time here on our Maasai Mara safari the weather was stable, with some lovely clear mornings and just one afternoon storm (which provided a lot of fun as we slipped and slided through the mud that particular afternoon, oh and we got stuck!!) It was a lovely comfortable temperature in the day and rarely exceeding 26 Degrees C, but a little chilly at night. However, with our luxury tents at the renowned Mara Intrepids Camp (complete with hot water bottles at night!) everyone kept nice and warm! J
The reason why many people chose to visit the Maasai Mara is that it’s undoubtably one of the best places in which to view the big cats and a reputation earned for good reason. By the end of the trip our group almost lost track of how many lions were sighted! Nearly every single game drive delivered lions and within this some fabulous sightings. Getting out early and doing many hours on the plains always reaps rewards and this safari was no exception. A huge thanks to our group who were certainly not afraid to put the hours in with an average of 9-5-10 hours a day spent game driving. Spending the mornings and afternoons on the plains and staying out until sunset. Our time spent on the plains resulted in many full memory cards by the end of the trip.
Some of the lion highlights included the opportunity to spend time with some beautiful male lions and indeed lions that have become some what ‘famous’ across the Maasai Mara and those who we have been fortunate to have followed for 12 years. Such lions included the Olkeju Rongai Pride, (including ‘Napejo’ and it’s the new pride male ‘Longface’), ‘Lipstick’ and ‘Blackie’the 4km male coalition, the Topi Plains pride and the Paradise Pride. In addition to many other lions. During so many of the sightings throughout our Maasai Mara safari we were able to view many different behaviours. Including mating lions, lionesses with cubs. lions on a kill and a lionesses attempting to hunt. What follows are just a few of our lion sightings documented with the images below.
No trip to the Mara can be complete without seeing the leopard! This is a cat that is shy and secretive in its’ nature but where in the Maasai Mara they have became a little more used to game vehicles and therefore providing excellent opportunities for those that wish to see these stunningly beautiful cats in the flesh. We saw several different leopards and on two occasions we saw this stunning leopard below around the Double Crossing Area. During one sighting this beautiful cat was so relaxed as it sat besides the vehicle, providing our group with some great photo opportunities
Staying on the theme of cats the group we were not without several opportunities to spend time with cheetahs, again witnessing some great behavior. Including an attempted hunt, that was sadly a failed attempt for the cheetah. As well as a male cheetah that had successfully made a kill and was feeding on a male thomson gazelle. This same male then narrowly missed an altercation later on with a leopard, who approached the kill late one particular afternoon. The small spotted cats also made an appearance with a lovely serval sighting one morning.
Not only did we experience some great cat sightings but we also had some lovely encounters with elephants. With a particularly special encounter with elephants feeding in the Talek River late one morning as we returned to camp. Suffice to say with such a lovely sighting as they grazed on the grasses in the river we delayed heading back to camp that morning, a very memorable elephant sighting indeed.
June is the month that approaches the start of the famous wildebeest migration, which is generally at its peak from July through to end September, however with the wildebeest often arriving early and/or remaining in the area for much longer. With their continual cycle determined by weather patterns and grazing. This year we were incredibly lucky as the herds started moving into the Mara ecosystem much earlier than normal. Hearing that the herds were moving north one day we took a long drive down to the Tanzanian border, to an area known as ‘Survey Hill’ and viewed many thousands of wildebeest as they started their passage toward the Mara plains. Taking a extended breakfast looking across the vast plains into the Serengeti. It was also a great time to try out some creative photography, whilst taking in one of wildlife’s great events. With the herds also come the scavengers and there was no shortage of vultures feeding on the wildebeest that had expired through exhaustion, sickness or predation
During our game drives we spent plenty of time photographing many other different wildlife species and on a numerous occasions had some lovely up close giraffe sightings as they walked past our vehicle. This provided our group a great opportunity to get some nice close up shots of the giraffe’s features and experiment a little with different perspectives of this well photographed animal.
Spending plenty of time on the plains meant we were also able to witness many intimate and fascinating behaviours. One particular highlight was seeing a female spotted hyena carrying her young pup from one den to another. A rare and lucky sighting indeed for our group and another great photographic moment. In addition were able to as photograph two male buffalo performing a dominance display on the plains one afternoon.
Each day we took breakfast out on the plains, which is always nice to allow time to stretch your legs but also do a little photography on foot. During a couple of bush breakfasts our stops were well placed to photograph hippos from a safe position, something that is always a welcome addition to any breakfast stop.
The afternoons and mornings were also a great opportunity to take a moment and enjoy the beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the Mara. No trip to the Mara can ever be complete without photographing lone trees against a backdrop of colourful or dramatic skies!
As a treat for our guests toward the end of our Maasai Mara safari we arranged a special talk after one lunch one day Dr. Elena Chelysheva , a Russian zoologist with a broad knowledge of captive and wild cheetah ecology and behavior and over 30 years of experience. Elena is a dear friend of ours and kindly agreed to provide a talk to our group about the cheetahs of the Maasai Mara and cheetah behaviour. For many years she has called the Mara home and has been researching and assisting in protecting the cheetah population there for many years. It was a fascinating talk and one (where possible) that we are repeating again on our 2017 departures . Any donations to her project (which is directly assisting the protection of the cheetah in the Mara) were entirely voluntary, with no obligation to donate in order enjoy this talk, as Elena is always passionate to talk about ‘her’ cheetahs of the Mara! Yet our kind and generous group were so touched by her talk and her project aims that they provided donations totally $500, which was so incredibly kind and goes into direct protection and ongoing research of the cheetahs of the Mara.
We concluded our photographic safari in the Maasai Mara with a special treat for our guests in on the last night in which we were able to celebrate and reflect on our 6 days spent in the Maasai Mara. It was a trip with many memorable sightings and with a fantastic group who certainly put in the hours photographing on the plains. A group with which it was an absolute pleasure to host, sharing some lovely wildlife moments and photographic opportunities. Of course the trip was certainly not without lots of laughing. Having great some discussions over dinner and each evening recounting the days wildlife highlights.
If you are looking to join one of our photographic wildlife safaris in 2017 or beyond please do contact us at email@example.com or check out the page here on our website for 2017 dates. http://www.imagesofwildlife.co.uk/join-us-on-safari/2017-tour-dates/
To read our guest feedback from our trip above please check out this link below