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Great Rift Valley - Helicopter Safari
by private charter
Day 3 - morning "Dancing with Lions"
This is an exciting day because we will join the 'Rebuilding the Pride' researchers in the field. Researchers get up even earlier than photographers so our day will begin long before sunrise. Leaving in the dark we will search the floor of the rift valley for the elusive free-ranging lion and in the process we will, using a spotlight, also seek out its nocturnal denizens. The south rift has an incredible array of nocturnal creatures including aardwolf; civets; genets; hyena; whitetailed mongoose; owls; african wild cats, zorillas and servals, amongst others. Peering out the roof of the safari truck with nothing but wild Africa all around you and the starry heavens above, you will once again be touched by the awesomeness of true wilderness. Of the approximated 50 lion in the area, only 4 have been collared with a GPS satellite tracking collar. In an area that is over 100 000ha (1000 sq-km or 386 sq-miles), we will track down the lions of the south rift valley. These are no ordinary lions though, they are free-ranging lion, carrying out a free existence on Maasai community land. This is a part of Africa where man and beast still coexist, and on this morning, you will get to experience this firsthand. I am sure many of you have seen lots of lions before but if you think about it, everywhere you have seen a lion, it is because man has been excluded out of the area, as is the case in national parks and game reserves. This experience is very different in that the Maasai and the lions live side-by-side! Once we have located the lion, we will pass by Maasai villages and/or herders and share our findings with them. You will not only see and photograph free-ranging lion but you will get to experience what it is like to be a field researcher in wild Africa. You will assist the 'Rebuilding the Pride' project and you will play a part in conserving this splendid and unique corner of Africa.
This safari affords you the special opportunity of getting to terms with one of the most fluid and dynamic ecosystems left in Africa. The rainfall, river and swamps all affect grazing for the cows and wildlife of the area. Why do the lions not eat the cattle and in turn why do the Maasai not kill the lions? What makes this ecosystem tick and what challenges lie ahead? What better way to answer these questions than by getting out and into the ecosystem, by spending time with both the Maasai and the lion. On this morning, you are not on a normal safari drive; you are on an exploration back in time to study an ancient relationship between two apex predators, both of which are at the top of the food chain and sharing the same resources. How do the Maasai, with their cattle and goats, coexist in the same area as Africa's top big cat? These questions and many more will be answered.
Afternoon Day 3 and morning day 4 - Helicopter Shoot "Lake Magadi and Natron"
After years of trying, we have finally found the best way to unlock the photographic potential of the spectacular south rift valley scenery. The place is so vast and wild, that the only way to do it justice with a camera, is to photograph it is from a helicopter. That is why for this safari we have chartered a helicopter to take two photographers at a time for a photo shoot over Lake Magadi and Lake Natron respectively. In the afternoon, you will fly for an hour over Lake Magadi which often has zebra and other wildlife on its fringes. The following morning you will fly over Lake Natron, which has been heralded by NASA as one of the most dynamic land-forms on the planet. It is the most alkaline lake in the world and also the largest breeding ground for Lesser Flamingo in the world. From the air, Lake Natron's many shapes and forms take on an otherworldly dimension and your images will be truly inspiring. These helicopter sessions are included in the cost of this safari and you will receive a lesson from Greg on composition as well as on aerial photography, before flying, to help you maximize the experience. To entice you, see google's collection of Natron Images here.
Day 4 - tea "SORALO talk"
SORALO is the "South Rift Association of Land Owners". This trust was formed to take care of all the land between the Masai Mara (to the west) and Amboseli (to the east). It is an incredibly diverse area and SORALO is a community driven initiative that aims at directly improving the livelihoods of the communities, creating linkages and assisting in resource mobilization for the development of the south rift valley region, all the while taking into consideration the key threats and challenges in the area. On our last afternoon we will be hosted by the founding member of SORALO, Samantha du Toit. Sam, a Kenyan by birth, moved into the area in 2007 and her gentle, patient and caring relationship with the Maasai is what makes this such an incredibly successful conservation initiative. We will hear a bit more from Sam about the SORALO projects being initiated over an informal cup of tea where questions and discussions are welcomed. Sam has played a pivotal role in empowering the Masai woman and you can here all about it from her!
Day 4 - afternoon "Herding Cattle"
The south rift valley is a truly wild piece of Africa. It is hot, dry and dusty, dotted with Acacias and the wall of the rift valley is an ever-present backdrop. The Maasai not only live in this wild rugged countryside but they subsist here without growing crops and living among Africa's wild beasts. The Maasai herdsman are therefore shepherds of biblical proportions. Each day they have the huge responsibility of taking their family's cattle out grazing and to be watered. Armed physically with only spears, they are responsible for their family's wealth. Lions are on the prowl and the herdsman are on the watch. This afternoon, we join the Maasai herdsman and we help them ferry their cattle back to their bomas at dusk. Walking behind a herd of Maasai cows, listening to their bells and watching the dust that they kick up, you will experience Africa the way the Maasai do. Our herdsman will have their spears close at hand but this afternoon, you will come to realize that their true weapon is the knowledge of not only their land but the wisdom that has been passed down to them by their forefathers. You will gain firsthand experience as to just what incredible pastoralists the Maasai really are. Walking on the dusty floor of this ancient land, you will feel truly alive and photographing back-lit scenes of Maasai herdsman and their cattle in clouds of dust will invigorate you photographically.
Day 5 "Farewell to Africa"
A safari drive on your last morning will see you ending at the airstrip, where a 30 minute charter flight will take you back to Nairobi for your onward travels home, with transfers already prearranged. Arriving back home and processing your photographs, you will relive the incredible experience. You will cherish having experienced 'real Africa', which very few people get to do.
End of tour
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