This video sums up what it’s like to be on one of our safaris (best seen full screen with the sound up)
“Wow…. what can I say!!
Thank you both so much for another unforgettable experience. I didn’t think it could get any better than last year…..yes it did!! The accommodation at House in the Wild was even better and Purity’s cooking….wonderful food. I learned new photographic techniques from both of you as well as much more knowledge regarding the habitat / wildlife / conservation of the Conservancies and the Mara from our wonderful guides Moses and Boston.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this Safari to any wildlife photographer and those who also combine it with wildlife conservation. To all those thinking about this kind of safari I would say ‘go for it’. You will not regret making that decision.”
~ Sue Veal, 2015, 2016 and 2017 safaris with us. We’re very proud that several people have enjoyed themselves so much, that they return with us
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!
Ah, the wonderful Masai Mara… it almost needs no introduction. Made famous by multiple BBC and National Geographic TV natural history series for its incredible abundance of exotic wildlife, this is where lions roam free and wildebeest and zebra perform the epic Great Migration. Majestic elephants and stealthy leopards call the Mara their home and hundreds of species of colourful birds abound, such as eagles and the beautiful lilac-breasted roller.
All the Big Five – lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhino – are in evidence, as is a cast of innumerable other species such as cheetahs, giraffes, gazelles, crocodiles, wildebeest and zebra.
Unlike almost anywhere else on Earth, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the breath-taking abundance of wildlife to photograph. The Mara is truly a spectacle of nature’s finest animals and they’re just waiting for your camera.
Every year, I team up with good friend and fellow professional wildlife photographer Alan Hewitt as well as our usual superb and highly qualified Maasai guides: Moses and Boston. Our accommodation is in a beautiful location on the banks of the River Mara. There’s no compromise on quality at any point – House in the Wild is a fantastic place to stay and has access to the Masai Mara National Park and several private conservancies. And the food is fantastic. We haven’t made enough of this fact in the past, but people keep telling us how excellent the food is. We agree!
All you need to add are flights and a Kenya visa. We’ll walk you through every aspect of this to make it painless. Flights from the UK to Nairobi are around £600 – 700 and from Nairobi to the Masai Mara approx. £295 at the time of writing. A visa is about £30. If you’d like someone to take the hassle out of booking the international flights, contact a travel agent. See the FAQ section for details of an agent we’ve used several times.
We’ll be staying in the wonderful House in the Wild in true Kenyan wilderness on the banks of the Mara River – an ideal base with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere in beautiful surroundings and with access to all the private conservancies and the National Reserve. The food is superb and the staff certainly know how to make us feel at home and welcome. We’ll mix the days up between the National Reserve and the various conservancies we have access to. In the National Reserve, we’ll be looking for Great Migration river crossings as and when they happen. In my opinion, the conservancies are the best places to see the wildlife because it is quiet and it often feels like we have vast areas to ourselves. As well as the National Reserve, we’ll visit Mara North, Lemek, Enonkishu and Ol Choro conservancies – possibly also Mara Triangle – for the full experience.
We’ve timed the trip to coincide with the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra between the Mara and Serengeti. You can never tell exactly when this natural phenomenon will happen, but this is a perfect time to try and we’ve so far seen it every time we’ve been. Check out the croc attack in the video!
For a sense of what it’s like to be on safari with us, have a read of 2015’s blog and watch the video above.
We ensure that there’s always plenty of room in each vehicle for you and your photography gear. There’s nothing worse than a vehicle packed to the gills when you’re trying to get that special shot.
Some of the accommodation is set up with twin beds and other doubles, so the maximum number of people we take on the safaris with us depends on the mix of couples, and the balance of male / female individuals. You may end up sharing with a like-minded photographer of the same sex.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer a guaranteed room all to yourself, that’s not a problem. The single-supplement charge is only £250.
How to pack and prepare for a photography Safari to Africa
You can either pay the deposit straight away to reserve your space, or email me or ring me on +44 7866 435 084 for anything you’d like to ask.
- 10 day round trip wildlife photo safari holiday.
- 7 nights’ accommodation at House in the Wild at full board.
- 7 days in the Masai Mara (6 full days and two half days).
- All food full board, snacks, most alcoholic and all soft drinks, coffees & teas.
- All road transfers in Kenya.
- Included in the headline price, we’ll book extra baggage allowance on the internal flights so you can bring your full luggage with you. Many other photo safaris add this on as an extra cost, or simply require you to fly with a total of 15Kg of luggage – that’s hold plus hand baggage together! We think it’s essential to include this in the price, because otherwise you’ll be stuck with 15Kg, which is definitely not enough for a photographer.
- As much or as little tuition as you’d like – that’s camera settings, creative techniques, post-processing – whatever you need.
- English-speaking highly qualified, nationally accredited Maasai guides who are wonderfully knowledgeable and are well versed in photographers’ needs. They know we don’t just want the Big 5 ticks and understand the patience and dedication necessary for photography.
- All game drives, Conservancy fees, National Park fees, vehicle fees, local taxes.
- Sun-downers: drinks in the wild while watching the fantastic African sunset.
- Unlimited access to the surrounding wildlife Conservancies (Lemek, Ol Chorro, Enonkishu), plus two visits to the National Reserve (or one to the National Reserve and one to Mara Triangle, depending on where the best wildlife is on the day) plus one visit to Mara North Conservancy.
- Electricity, hot water and wifi at the house. NB Don’t rely on the wifi: it can be a bit patchy!
- Normal flushing toilets
- Hot showers – some en-suite, some shared between other rooms.
- Flights. To keep costs down, we’ve decided not to go for ATOL bonding. This would have allowed us to offer holidays with flights included, but it would increase prices by more than £1000 per head. We didn’t feel that was anywhere near good value for money, or necessary. The flights are in two legs: firstly from wherever you are to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital; then we fly from Nairobi to Ngerende airstrip in the Masai Mara. International flights at the time of writing from various UK airports to Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta airport are between £600 and £700. Safari Link flights from Nariobi to the Mara are about £295 return. Don’t worry, we’ll help you with every step of this booking process and tell you exactly what you need to do. It’s just we’re not allowed to do it ourselves. See FAQs for flight recommendations.
- Tips to your Maasai guides and the staff at House in the Wild. We’ll help let you know what’s appropriate.
- Any items of a personal nature.
- Travel insurance. You can either buy insurance for the period we’re away, or there are very competitive yearly policies available. A travel agent can usually arrange this for you – see FAQs.
- Anti-malarials are recommended. We find Malarone (or its generic counterpart) to be the best tablets and ASDA, Boots and other pharmacies offer a cost-effective treatment course. Current prices from these outlets are approx. £1.25 per tablet.
- Any travel vaccinations you may need. The easiest thing to do is visit your doctor or a pharmacist that offers a travel clinic and they’ll advise on what you will need.
- Kenya visa, which is US$ 51 (about £30) payable in advance online. We’ll advise on how to do this well in advance.
- Meals and drinks at airports and on planes.
TRIP 1: 29 Aug – 7 Sep 2019
International Flights and Hotel
Here are our international flights so you can book yours to meet us in Nairobi:
If you’re not 100% sure about booking your own flights and hotels, we’d recommend going through a travel agent. If you’re not sure who to contact, we often recommend Travel Bureau in Newcastle.
We tend to use Amsterdam as a preferred hub, but there are several other options. If you’d like to do the same as us and are on the same flight, we’ll meet you at Schiphol airport for a beer!
We’ve also booked an overnight stay at The Four Points Sheraton Nairobi Airport (note this is NOT the one at Hurlingham) on Thursday 29 Aug 2019. We booked this through Booking.com. The rooms and food are good here.
So, practically speaking, we’ll meet you at the hotel (there’s a free shuttle bus from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta airport) on the evening of Thursday 29th. Probably in the bar!
Over the years, we’ve found these day flights better than the other option, which is to fly into Nairobi overnight and arrive about 6am. The prospect of an overnight rest in a comfy bed and a fresh start to get into the Masai Mara has the edge over being tired and grubby. However, if you’d still prefer the overnight flight, we’ll just meet you in the morning.
When you’re booking, consider the amount of time at connecting airports. We had the option of cheaper flights through Amsterdam where the layover was only 1hr 5 mins. That may be enough in most cases, as Schiphol airport is efficient and has a ‘short connections’ shortcut through security for those with imminent departures. I wouldn’t risk it though, as you may still miss your connection.
Nairobi Airports Transfer
One way or the other, you’ll need to be ready to be picked up by 7:30am Friday 30 August 2019 from the Sheraton hotel lobby so we can transfer you to Wilson airport for the Safari Link flights into the Mara.
Safari Link Flights to the Masai Mara
This is the internal Kenya flight from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to the Ngerende Masai Mara airstrip, at which we’ll be met by our guides, who will whisk us off to House in the Wild. There’s a café at Wilson airport for coffees and food. They also sell Masai Mara maps. The reason we ask to meet at 7:30am at the hotel is that it can take a while to get through Nairobi traffic and there are additional security checks at Wilson airport before boarding.
Safari Link operate the flights into the Masai Mara and we’ve booked the following flights:
Don’t worry about the 15Kg baggage limit; we take care of the extra freight by booking additional luggage weight so that you’ll have at least as much allowance as for your international flight.
NOTE: please let me have your Safari Link ticket details once you’ve booked. We need the booking references to coordinate the extra weight allowance we’ve booked for the group.
TRIP 2: 6 – 15 Sep 2019
Itinerary to come.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
You may also find this article useful: How to pack and prepare for a photography Safari to Africa
How do I book the flights?
Please see the Itinerary tab and below for travel agent recommendations.
What cameras, lenses and other equipment should I take?
Ideally, the kitchen sink! But that’s not usually practical. You’ll probably find that most of your shots are taken between 200-400mm. If you have an APS-C sensor camera (i.e. not full frame), the crop-factor gives you extra reach by a factor of 50-60%. Micro 4/3 will give an even longer reach. Don’t rule out wide lenses though for landscape shots. I tend to take a flash with me wherever I go, just in case. If you have two camera bodies, you can leave a different lens on each. This luxury means you’re ready for any eventuality and there’s less opportunity for dust to get onto the sensor if you don’t have to change lenses so often. Generally speaking, if you have a zoom lens that will go up to 300mm you’ll be absolutely fine. Bridge cameras are also very effective, although usually lower in quality.
Should I take a tripod, or other support?
If you can fit it in your luggage, I’d definitely recommend some kind of support. Most of the photography we’ll be doing will be from vehicles, so a bean-bag of some sort is very useful to rest on the rail / platform. You can bring this empty to be filled in Kenya. We usually fill ours with small polystyrene balls, which are virtually weightless – the type that fill the sort of bean bag you sit on. A double bean-bag is best if you have one. Tripods are perhaps a bit less useful, buy you may well still want to bring one for sunset and landscape shots, or if you’re doing any video or time lapse. If in doubt, bring one. A monopod is a good compromise on weight and portability, but obviously isn’t free-standing unless you’ve got one with fold-out legs.
Do I need travel / holiday / medical insurance?
Yes, just as you would when travelling anywhere in the world on holiday. We have public liability insurance in case of our own negligence (e.g. if you trip over my tripod!) but you’ll need to cover yourself against any problem that may happen, such as if you become ill, the flights are delayed, someone nicks your camera, or your luggage is delayed. That’s not an exhaustive list and travel policies vary quite a bit. Travel insurance tends to come in two flavours: one that is for your holiday only and the other is an annual policy. The latter can be surprisingly cost-effective if you travel abroad more than once and this is how I cover our entire family and business. If you’re not sure what you need, talk to a travel agent and they’ll sort you out.
Do I need camera equipment insurance?
That’s entirely up to you, but I’d definitely recommend it. If you don’t have specific photographic insurance, chances are your household contents policy will cover you at least in part. It’s essential though to check with them that your camera equipment is actually covered away from home and specifically on the trip you’re about to embark on. Lastly, check the small-print about where the gear is covered. For example, some policies will not cover your equipment if it’s in the checked luggage, i.e. the aircraft hold.
What’s the passport / visa situation?
You’ll need a valid passport to travel to Kenya and it must have at least 6 months to run after the end of your trip, as is standard in most countries. If you need to update your passport, it’s best to do this in non-peak holiday periods to avoid the rush. If you are running a bit late, you can pay extra to expedite a passport renewal, but you’ll have to visit a specific passport office in person and this can involve a bit of a trek.
Visas for Kenya are not a problem and are simply bought for $US 51 online in advance. We’ll advise on how to go about this.
How should I pack for air travel?
For aircraft travel, I tend to make sure all my important and expensive stuff is with me in my hand luggage. I don’t think I’d ever trust it in the hold. Hand luggage can actually be quite large and heavy and I use a camera roller case that has specially padded sections inside it. You don’t need to do this if you don’t have so much gear, but I find that solution very convenient. The key thing is to take cameras and lenses in hand luggage so you know where they are at all times. Again, this is covered in How to pack and prepare for a photography Safari to Africa
What are the airline weight allowances and are there any costs for excess baggage?
Regarding excess baggage, there shouldn’t be any unless you really are bringing a kitchen sink. Depending on the international flight you take, you should get 20-23Kg of hold baggage on the main international flights plus hand luggage that’s not usually weighed, but often has a limit of £12Kg. Hand luggage is usually only a concern if it doesn’t fit in the over-head lockers, which is why it’s essential to use standard airline regulation hand luggage, whether it’s a specific camera case or not. They may weigh your hand luggage at the airport, but it’s usually more important to make sure the dimensions of your bag are in line with the airline’s guidelines, otherwise you may find your hand luggage put in the hold. Some airports and airlines have started weighing hand luggage, though, so be aware of this before you leave home.
Normally you only get 15Kg allowance on the small internal flights in Kenya – and that’s including hand luggage! That’s why we always include the extra freight allowance for the group. This means your internal flights will have at least the same allowance as your international allowance, if not more. You’ll have a minimum of 38Kg of total luggage allowance on the Nairobi to Mara plane.
What currencies should I take
The most useful currencies are US dollars and Kenya Shillings (KES). I would take the bulk of your money in dollars and a smaller amount in shillings. We’ll advise closer to the time how much you’ll need for tips and suchlike. The shilling exchange rate can be found here.
What electricity will be available?
It’s the same as the UK at 240v and 50Hz, with the same three-pin plug sockets. If you’re traveling from a country other than the UK, a UK adaptor can be used. Electricity is available in each of the rooms and central area for charging batteries, phones and powering laptops and so on. I find it useful to take a multi-way block so that you can run several things from the socket at once. Even better is a short, lightweight 3 or 4 way extension lead so you can move the power to where you need it. All rooms have electrical sockets. Electric power and light is available from the generator for about 5 hours a day (some rooms have 24 hour electricity and light from the solar system), but we can request the generator to be on longer if you need it. For late nighttime, House in the Wild can provide lanterns and torches, but we’d still recommend to bring a torch, too. Head torches are the most useful as they allow you to still use both hands. A torch with a red setting is particularly useful if we’re out on a late evening game drive; it means you can still use your torch without blinding the wildlife.
What time of year is best?
August and September! Actually, any time of year is good but August / September is in the drier season when the grass isn’t too long to hide the animals and they are more likely to come to water to drink. All good for visibility and great photos. The Great Migration should be happening at this time, although being a natural phenomenon, it’s impossible to predict. The wildebeest and zebra will follow the rains around the Mara / Serengeti ecosystem and hopefully we’ll see the spectacle of tens of thousands of animals on the move and possibly even witness a river-crossing.
What’s the weather and temperature like?
In summary, very pleasant indeed! Kenya is usually pretty dry in August / September and very pleasantly warm, with comfortable, low humidity. Even though Kenya lies on the equator, the Masai Mara is on a raised plain at an altitude of about 1,500m, so you can expect mid to high 20s celsius during the day and about 10 at night. Early mornings can be quite chilly, so it’s worth bringing a warm top for early starts / late evenings. I take a lightweight down jacket for mornings and evenings. Whilst you will need suncream and a sunhat, because of the altitude, the conditions are not at all like equatorial jungles and are like what I think we all in the UK would like our summers to be like – but rarely are!
Am I allowed to use the photos I take for commercial use and photo competitions?
Of course you are! You can do whatever you like with them – they’re yours. We’ve heard of at least one safari operator that specifically excludes this. That’s just not the way we do business.