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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"
To receive a costing for any of these extensions, email me here
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.
What follows are 6 different extensions which dovetail beautifully with the above safari, but which are only booked on a per request basis. The thinking behind these extensions is simply to maximize your time in Africa as you would have flown all the way out to Africa from afar. Since you will be here already, it makes sense to stay longer. Each extension also offers totally different and unique photo opportunities:
*4 day 'great elephant herds of Mount Kilimanjaro' extension - Amboseli National Park: A 45 minute flight will take you into the heart of an exclusive private conservancy in Amboseli National Park. Here you have full access to the national park but more importantly you will enjoy our own private conservancy away from the minibus tourist vehicles. Inside the conservancy you will enjoy exclusivity and total freedom as you go about your photography. Our aim on this extension of your Kenya private safari is to photograph beautiful herds of elephants and giraffes with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Of course you will also track down predators and you will enjoy exceptional landscape opportunities. Our camp is situated at the base of Mount Kilmanjaro and sipping your 'beverage of choice' in the bar, you will enjoy the finest view of Mount Kilimanjaro of any safari camp in Africa. Our camp is of Italian origin and organic produce is freshly grown on the lodge grounds. The cuisine has a distinctly Italian flare and this, combined with the view from the camp, means that you will enjoy the finest traditional safari experience, as only Kenya can offer. An Amboseli photo safari is the perfect end to your safari as the vista is incredible and so are the photographic opportunities. I work with an excellent guide in Amboseli who knows exactly what photographers want. Our private safari truck is also open sided to maximize your photographic experience.
*5 day Rwanda gorilla extension: If you are still not ready for your adventure to end, then we can arrange a Gorilla trekking extension. Rwanda is just a 1 hour flight away from Nairobi and we will take you to the very place where Diane Fossey did her research. You will need a minimum of 4 extra days to do this extension which includes two gorilla treks. This extension is booked on a per request basis only and seeing the gigantic gentle gorillas in the flesh, is an absolute bucket list experience so don't think twice about doing it. Permits are limited so book now.
*4 day Wild Dogs of Laikipia extension: One of the best kept secrets in Kenya is the thriving, yet different wildlife to be found on the Laikipia plateau. Laikipia is situated on the highlands of Kenya and this wild bush country, when combined with the great plains, makes this a truly remarkable safari. Laikipia is an excellent location for Grevy's Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe and Gerenuk (giraffe antelope). A must do activity when in Laikipia is a helicopter flip over the flamingoes on Lake Bagoria which is an 'out of Africa' experience not to be missed.
*4 day Rhinos of Mount Kenya extension: Not many photographers know this but Kenya is the best place in Africa to photograph rhino. I know a secret location where you can photograph white rhino with babies as well as the elusive black rhino. We can also photograph reticulated giraffe and lion in a secret forest below the Aberdare mountain range. The birdlife is prolific and our accommodation is in Kenya's finest and most luxurious boutique lodge which has only 6 rooms. This extension is our latest addition and an absolute must. It dovetails easily with the wild dogs as we can transfer by road between locations.
*4-7 day Elephants of Samburu extension: This extension is the perfect addition to your safari as it is a continuation of what you saw and experienced in the south rift valley but this time your adventure is with elephants, the Samburu culture and the incredibly unique landscapes of northern Kenya. Basing ourselves at a very special and rustic camp in Samburu, you will track elephants with researchers who know each elephant's personality, and you will meet the colourful Samburu tribe. A helicopter safari to the north of the country is highly recommended and will allow you to complete the entire rift valley, building on what you saw and photographed in the south rift! This safari can be a single flight or a week long, depending on your time and budget but Samburu will be the base from which we launch. If you an all-rounder wanting more wildlife, culture and landscapes then this is the extension for you.
*4-7 day Masai Mara Great Migration extension: This extension is all about the greatest wildlife show on earth. I have been following the migration for 14 consecutive years now and I know where to base you so that not only can you access all the wildebeest crossing points but where I can show you the far-flung corners of the reserve. This is one of the last great mammal migrations left on the planet and July is a perfect time of year as the herds have arrived in the Masai Mara and the crocodiles are hungry.
Your Guide and hosts:
Greg and Claire du Toit are your guides and hosts for Great Rift Valley safari. If you book any of the 6 exciting safari extensions listed above, Greg will be your guide as Claire has a day job to get back to. Greg is a professional wildlife photographer who, together with his wife Claire, spent two years living in the south rift valley of Kenya. During this time he photographed around one waterhole in particular where his mission was to capture images of free-ranging lion on camera. It took him 16 months to do, and leaving Claire to run the camp it was all worth it in the end, as the image he finally captured, was used by the National Geographic Society to promote his 'Authentic Africa' exhibit in Singapore many years later. His waterhole story appeared in the BBC Wildlife Magazine and his time spent in the south rift clinched a cover story in the Africa Geographic Magazine titled 'Living on the Edge'. He was interviewed by the BBC World Service about how he sat submerged in the water for over 270 hours to get his shot and both Greg and Claire appeared on live NBC television where Claire was more the focus, as the TV host wanted to know how she herself survived the project and stays married to such a mad photographer? Greg has been following and photographing the great migration for the last 14 consecutive years now and his image titled 'Crossing Frenzy' depicting a wildebeest migration crossing won a Gerald Durrell Endangered Wildlife Award in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition back in 2009. Greg and Claire will host you on this safari as you explore 'real Africa' and take in the sights of what has been dubbed 'the greatest wildlife show on earth'. For guest reviews click here...
'I thoroughly enjoyed this trip, we set out to do something off the track and you delivered in spades. Amboseli was magical, especially the time we spent with Tim the tusker! The South Rift was special on so many fronts, as a geologist, as a photographer and as a human being - seeing the work that Samantha, Guy and others are doing to help protect a working model of humanwildlife coexistence, to help preserve a way of life while helping to guide it into the future and to educate the residents of the valley and those around the world interested in this magical corner of Africa was something I will never forget, and of course finishing up with a photographic feast in the Mara was the cherry on the cake. I think this some of my best work to date and I attribute this to your tutelage, your inspiration and your willingness to share your view of Africa with me, thanks my friend. '
Randall Bacon (USA)
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