Fly into uncharted territory, to a place that’s ancient and wild, a place where man and beast still coexist and where the scenery, sights, sounds and smells transport you back in time. It is here that I found a waterhole close to the wall of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley and where I spent 16 months photographing the wildlife of the south rift valley. The project lead to a sell out National Geographic exhibit as well as an Africa Geographic cover story titled ‘Living on the Edge‘. This is a corner of Africa that is yet to be photographed by the masses, a place so wild and free that time has stood still. It is a true wilderness, guarded and kept by the traditional Maasai tribes-people. This safari offers you truly unique imagery, making this a safari unlike any other.
The south rift valley of Kenya is home to the most traditional Maasai left in East Africa. You will get to see and photograph their customs and traditions and you will learn the true meaning of the word ‘conservation’ from Africa’s own original conservationists. You will also track down free-ranging lion with lion researchers and you will photograph the wild frontier that is Lake Natron from a helicopter. This is the largest breeding ground in the world for Lesser Flamingo. You will gaze upon the beasts and plains of Africa’s Great Rift Valley as you explore some of Africa’s wildest country. Your exclusively booked camp is situated in splendid isolation on the banks of a hidden river and from this base, you will explore the floor of the Great Rift Valley without seeing other tourists. I invite you to come and experience ‘real Africa’, the way it once was.
This safari really offers it all from East Africa savannah to the dusty floor of the rift valley. The experience includes lakes; rivers; lions; research; cultural photography; bird and landscape photography from the air; plains game; big game; mountains; kayaking; predators; wilderness; rare animals and much much more. Only space for a maximum of 3 participants and only one departure per year on this highly exclusive safari. Travel is by private chartered planes and helicopters.
There are no fewer than 6 exciting tour extensions offered on this tour including the remote north of Kenya, rhinos and wild dogs of Laikipia, elephants of Amboseli and Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda.
This is a 5 night (6 day) photo safari with night 1 spent on the edge of Nairobi National Park. The next 4 nights are spent in Africa’s Great Rift Valley and more specifically in a portion of the valley known affectionately as ‘The South Rift’, which is also Kenya’s best kept secret.
14-19 July – FULLY BOOKED!
11-16 July – ONLY 3 spaces available
US$14 180 per person.
This tour also makes for a wonderful private safari in which case the cost will be revised accordingly and will include exciting extensions to other special parts of Kenya. You can read more about these here.
There is no single supplement charge. The above rates include all accommodation in an exclusively booked camp; meals; drinks (excluding premium brands); all transfers, all internal flights by private charter including meet/greet and airport drop off; extra luggage; private safari drives and all excursions; conservation fees; community fees; speaking fees of resident scientists; photographic tuition and the guiding services of professional wildlife photographer Greg du Toit and two chartered helicopter flights for photography totalling 3 hours of helicopter flying per person.
Not included in the cost are visas; purchases of a personal nature; staff gratuities; personal travel insurance; your international flights. 30% deposit confirms your booking. Only spaces available for a total of 3 people on this exclusive safari and only one departure per year. The above cost only applies if the tour is booked with 3 participants.
This tour can be booked on a private basis in which case it will be re-costed based on the number of participants.
Once you are settled into your new home, a tent under the fig trees on the banks of the river, you will receive a master class on light from Greg before heading out for an introductory exploration of one of Kenya’s last true wildernesses. On this safari drive you will, possibly for the very first time in your life, see an abundance of wildlife existing in Africa as it once did. In other words, this is not an official park or reserve but rather, it is community land, where wild animals live alongside the Maasai tribesman. This is the ‘real Africa’, the way it once was with no fences, restrictions or park rules. You will practice working with back-lighting and with the wall of the Great Rift Valley as a backdrop, the herds of plains game are dwarfed by the spectacular ‘Out of Africa’ rift valley scenery. A scrumptious dinner and campfire is accompanied by an introductory talk by Greg on the area, its people and its wildlife. Both Greg and his wife, Claire, lived in this part of Africa many moons back and you will hear more about how their lives alongside the Maasai and lions played out. Turning in for the night, you might hear lions roar while sleeping in your tent and if you do, it will be the first time that you have heard ‘Livingstone Lions’ roar. This last sentence will make more sense once you have heard Greg’s talk.
Tea “Rebuilding the Pride”
Guy Western is currently busy with his PHD through Oxford University and he heads a fascinating and exciting project called ‘Rebuilding the Pride’. This unique project is studying both the Maasai and the free-ranging lion population of the south rift valley. As mentioned, the south rift of Kenya is one of the only places in Africa where the lion population is on the increase. This is especially remarkable when considering that Kenya only has 2000 lion left and even inside its national parks, lions are decreasing in number. The ‘Rebuilding the Pride’ project is trying to identify all the factors that come in to play in the south rift, which are making it such a conservation success story. Once these factors have been identified, ‘Rebuilding the Pride’ want to design a model that can hopefully be replicated elsewhere to help conserve both wildlife and people. This exciting lecture will open your eyes to the incredible conservation ethics of the Maasai. It will enlighten you regarding lion behaviour and you will gain unique insight into the dynamics of one of Africa’s most diverse, dynamic and unique ecosystems. The discussions will broaden your horizons and challenge your thinking on the concepts of both wilderness and conservation. ‘Rebuilding the Pride’ is a one-of-a-kind project that will give you in-depth insight into world leading community-based conservation.
Afternoon “River Exploration”
After Guy’s talk there will be plenty of time for questions and thereafter we will head out with our Maasai guide, Nixon, and explore the river upstream of camp. This can take the form of a drive upstream or a river walk. A great way to explore the river is on a kayak whereby you float silently beneath the giant fig trees, whose large buttress roots sip water from the gently flowing river. We will keep a look out for wildlife, who all use the river as a waterhole and if you are really lucky, you will glide beneath a troop of Colobus Monkey. The river is home to the largest Sycamore Fig Forest in Kenya and taking an afternoon to explore the river and its surrounding environment is a refreshing break from the safari truck and one which will allow you to connect with the environment. The birdlife is exceptional along the river with kingfishers and fish eagles using the river plus many other delightful species. Nixon is not only a local Maasai but also a bird specialist! A campfire next to the river and a scrumptious dinner with our hosts, Sam and Johann, who own and run the camp and raise their two children (Seyia and Taru) in the bush, will bring to an end another perfect African day of adventure.
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.
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.
– Most safaris start in heavy traffic in Nairobi but this one starts in Nairobi National Park. Not only do we totally avoid going into Nairobi but you will take your first photograph before we even get to our overnight location on the outskirts of town. For those of you wanting to recover from jet-lag and fly in a day or two early, you can enjoy being on safari and photographing instead of staying in a hotel in town.
– There is no doubt that Africa is a great, wild and enchanting continent but as with the rest of the planet, human population growth and explosion have seen the continent change drastically over the last few decades. As a professional wildlife photographer I dedicate my life to searching for pockets of Africa which remain unchanged. These secluded places offer a wild freedom and a rugged beauty that transport one back in time. If you want to experience the so called ‘lost Africa‘ or as I prefer to put it, the ‘real Africa‘, then this is the safari for you.
– This safari plays out in the south rift valley of Kenya. If you look on a map it is between the Masai Mara and Amboseli (right on the border of Kenya and Tanzania), but this is not a destination on the regular safari circuit. Therefore, if you are looking for something different, special and unique, and if you wanting to get off the beaten track – then this is definitely the safari for you.
– Most safaris offer you a mix of safari drives only, but this safari is very different in that there are a number of very special activities that have been specially prearranged. These include presentations from leading conservationists, flying over rift valley lakes by helicopter, authentic cultural activities, differing genres of photography, tracking free ranging lion, and much more.
– One of Africa’s major attractions lies in its diverse array of traditional cultures. The Maasai are one such famous culture and this safari plays out on their land. If you want to have a genuine cultural experience then this is the safari for you as you will be introduced to a traditional Maasai boma and family. You can even join in with the daily boma activities such as herding cattle and milking goats. There are very few authentic cultural experiences left in Africa and this is one of them. You will get to experience and photograph the daily life and culture of one of the most traditional clans of the Maasai tribe left in East Africa.
– Africa has lost 40% of its lions over the last few decades and the south rift valley of Kenya is one of the last strongholds for free-ranging lion. It is also one of the only areas in Africa where lion numbers are on the increase, which is even more incredible considering that they are found on community land. Guy Western, currently having submitted his PHD at Oxford University, heads the ‘Rebuilding The Pride‘ project. Not only will you go out and do field research with his team but you will be given a fascinating talk explaining the incredible dynamics that have resulted in this being one of the last thriving free-range lion populations on the continent.
– The south rift valley of Kenya is possibly the most diverse geographic location on the African continent. From soda lakes, to freshwater wetlands, to rivers, to mountains, to grasslands, to savannahs, to forests – this area has it all and you will see it all.
– Africa is famous for its rift valley lakes but very few people get to visit Lake Natron, due to its remote and isolated location. It is the largest breeding ground in the world for Lesser Flamingos and they breed there because no one else goes there. On this safari you take in the incredible sight of Lake Natron and its associated spectacular rift valley scenery. The lake is the most dynamic land-form on the planet and you will photograph it from a helicopter!
– This safari is so diverse that is caters for everyone, not just photographers, so non photographers you are very welcome.
– This safari caters for every kind of photographer. Those interested in cultural photography will be given an authentic opportunity to photograph Maasai living their daily lives while landscape photographers will enjoy photographing incredibly expansive vistas, that have not yet been done justice with a camera. Wildlife photographers will enjoy photographing a range of incredible subjects as well as ‘animals in their environment’ type shots with expansive rift valley scenery as a backdrop.
– For those of you who enjoy being out on foot, this safari offers a wild freedom that is absent in more established parks and reserves. You will take in true rift valley sights, sounds and smells whilst outside the vehicle.
– This safari gives you the opportunity to help conserve Africa’s wildlife and people. A portion of the fee for this safari is paid directly to the community in the form of conservancy fees. By signing up and joining this safari, you are helping strengthen the community and supporting them in their belief that tourism is the only long term sustainable solution.
– With a maximum of just 3 participants this tour offers an intimate and authentic safari experience with our very own tented safari camp for a base.
– All levels of photographers are welcome.
– We charter our own plane and helicopters for this safari, there are therefore no luggage restrictions or airport lines.
– There are no fewer than 5 different ways of extending your safari to make this the ultimate African safari of a lifetime. Read all about the extensions below. Any one or combination of these extensions can be booked.