Chasing Dreams - The Great Migration at Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

subratseet

Subrat Seet
Jumbo! Karibu

Jumbo means Hello and Karibu means welcome


Good morning ladies and gentleman. This is your captain from flight deck. Welcome abode Kenya Airways. We will be completing our journey to Nairobi approximately by six hours and 30 minutes. Till that time enjoy our Kenyan hospitality on board. I will come back to you as we descend towards Nairobi.

Every wildlife photographer/hardcore wildlife enthusiast will definitely dreamt of visiting few selected places, which are called Mecca of wildlife. Worldwide, there are many but Maasai Mara is one of those places where every wildlife photographer will try to visit before he/she signed off from this earth. Maasai Mara is famous for its Great Migration of animals. The Great Migration called one of the “eighth New Wonders of the World”. The Great Migration of millions of Wildebeest (Gnus) crosses from the Serengeti, Tanzania side to the Maasai Mara, Kenya put up a spectacular natural show.

Prologue

Places of Interest: When you register for a social media or travel website, they ask your places of interest. So, I set that in the year 2010 that Maasai Mara is one of my dream destinations. Presently, other places have also been added to my wish list but Maasai Mara is still intact at its own place. Though, I have done with many National parks in India, still much more remains to cover. However, this year, I decided to fulfil my dream with Maasai Mara.

It all started with a casual discussion with my office colleagues in March 2015, though i was serious. Entire responsibility was on me to arrange the trip. Still, people are scared to visit Kenya and there are lots of reasons attached to it. But i will explain and i can declare proudly that it is another safe country to travel.

Over the years, i have developed a good circle of friends’ viz., amateur and professional wildlife photographers, and many tour operators’ especially related to wildlife. Immediately, i contacted two of my friends and got the quote. And the process got accelerated until we completed our journey.

I wanted this trip to be successful in all aspects and without any glitches. There are many way of doing wildlife tours. One can just picks up any tour operators and fix the tour to see wildlife. Another way is, my way of doing things. For wildlife safaris, the most important thing for me, which comes first, is an excellent driver/naturalist. Also, who can tolerate photographer’s non-sense. Hope you got what i mean. If the driver doesn’t deal with photographer before then for sure he is going to sought at you. Anyways, that’s apart you definitely need a good naturalist. So, i contacted one of my friends to customise a tour.

Tour Dates: Mara is good throughout the year. However, July to October is the best time to experience the Great Migration. Millions of wildebeest crosses the river and predators are active. So, we decided to embark on a trip from August 8-15, 2015.

Detailed Itinerary:

August 8, 2015: Mumbai to Nairobi and night stay at Nairobi.

August 9, 2015: Nairobi to Maasai Mara. Reach by lunch time and then to the most awaited evening Safari

August 10-14, 2015: AM to PM game drive. The safari starts at 6.30 a.m. and ends at 7.00 p.m. There are options of morning and evening drive also. I mean you can pack your breakfast and lunch, if interested to do full day game drive. Another option is packed breakfast and back to resort for lunch and then again 3.30 p.m onwards game drive.

August 15, 2015: Check out and back to Nairbo while doing morning game drive.

Flight options: There are many flight options from Mumbai. However, i took the morning 7.25 a.m. flight which arrives Nairobi at 11.25 a.m. Nairobi is two and half hours behind India. Return flight was at 9.25 p.m. on August 15, 2015.

Nairobi to Massai Mara: There are two options viz., by road and inland flights. By road it is around 270 k.m. and it takes 6 hours. Narok is the last city from Nairobi to Mara. Last two hours is dusty and bumpy ride to reach Maasai Mara. Nairobi to Mara - Flight is a good option. There are many air stripes in Maasai Mara viz., Mara Serena, Musiara or Keekorok airports located within the Reserve or Mara Shikar, Kichwa Tembo or Ngerende airports located within the Conservation area. The fare is approximately USD 213 one way and it takes just 1 hour but one has to travel from Nairobi international airport to Wilson Airport (domestic) which is approximately 17 k.m. If you are lucky, i mean less traffic then it may take 30 minutes or your luck. A note of caution is that Traffic is extremely bad at Nairobi city.

Tour cost: Per person US$ 2785 which excludes international air tickets, Visa charges, tips and gratuity etc. Air ticket we paid around 40,000 per person, visa was on arrival upto August 30, 2015. Since September 1, 2015, Visa is not on arrival which used to be earlier. One has to have visa before boarding the flight and one can apply online visa by paying USD 53.

Other Requirements for visiting Kenya: First the yellow fever vaccination and polio. In Mumbai there are many places, one can take these two vaccinations. Best is to go to J.J. Hospital where no queue and if you are in a group of five then it is instant by paying INR 310. Polio vaccination must be taken before one month and yellow fever before one week of your journey to Kenya. Also, there are other places in Mumbai for the vaccination.

Please note that due to some issue me and my senior colleagues started one day earlier.

August 7, 2015 │Mumbai to Nairobi

It is 3.30 a.m. and i woke up to the alarm and got ready for the onward journey to Nairobi. Boarded the pre-booked cab at 4.00 a.m. and headed for Mumbai International Airport - on the way, picked up my senior colleagues.

Reached Airport around 4.30 a.m. For the first time, i was travelling international with lots of camera and lenses which weight around 19 k.g. other than the 15 k.g. checked in baggage. Now days, it’s a stress to travel with lots of equipments but that’s the price one has to pay for getting right kind of photographs. Always my heart beats beyond tolerable limit while checking in because of the hand baggage weight restrictions. Somehow, check-in was smooth with Air Kenya. The baggage allowance is two pieces of 23 k.g. each for checked in baggage in addition to 15 k.g. hand baggage. That’s a fair amount i guess.

Then comes the security check in: Fortunately, they didn’t ask me to open the camera bag (which is frequent in many airports) to see the equipments. That was also smooth.

Finally the custom clearance: When you are travelling with lots of equipments, i would recommend you to list all the equipments with serial numbers, price and name in a paper and after immigration ask the custom officials to put a stamp on it, so that you are safe while returning.

Finally, we boarded the flight to Nairobi. In-flight food and other things were good.

Continued from the beginning...................

Captain from the flight deck: Ladies and gentleman we are descending towards Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and in 8 minutes we will be landing.

It was an absolutely smooth landing on time at 11.25 a.m. Again heartbeat is at its high after touching the ground. Lots of fear in mind – how the visa and custom clearances would be? However, honestly, it was much smoother. We had our e-visa and it took just 10 minutes to clear everything. All our trepidation was put to an end. We collect our luggages and headed towards the gate. There the custom officials checking and asking to open all the bags and frisking if they feel so. I showed the equipments letter signed by our custom officer and she asked where you are going? We replied that we are going to Maasai Mara and she wished us good luck with a smile. I didn’t know that it would be so smooth again.

There we are out to the African land. Our tour guide (two Kevins) were waiting for us. After the meet and greet service, we were being taken to the money changer for Kenyan Shilling for our local expenses. In Kenya, generally everyone accept US Dollar also.

Finally, Mr. Ole Sitima, Naturalis/Driver was waiting with the monster Land Cruiser, our safari vehicle. He welcomed us with his Maasai Language. Jumbo means hello and Karibu means welcome. Sitima asked us that your first time to Mara. I said yes and he replied that you are in good hands. You are going to have a blast in terms of sightings animals and photography. I said thanks and settled down inside. It was exactly 12 noon.

One Kevin bids us good bye and other Kevin came with us for few Kilometres as his office was on our way to Mara. After 3 k.m., other Kevin also got down and wished us Good luck. Then, we were with our Naturalist Ole Sitima. I asked that we want to buy water for our trip as well as beans for the bean bags. The bypass from Nairobi to Mara is jam packed and bumpy. Sitima explained that the Chinese are building all infrastructures in Kenya.

Note: Water at lodge is damn costly, so better to buy from a super market.

Heard a lot of issue while driving on the road but honestly, there was not a single problem arisen. We were so scared that we even packed some dry lunch from home to eat on the way to Mara so that we can avoid any contact with people. We drove non-stop till Narok the last city form Nairobi to Maasai Mara. We picked up 4 crates of 1*12 liters water and 8 kgs of bean for two bean bags. It was around 2.30 p.m. and we were feeling hungry. Sitima said that after Narok we will have lunch on the move. Before leaving the highway, Sitimia took us to a Souvenir shop, where we took out our lunch boxes and then saw few things and rolled again and had lunch while driving towards Mara.

Finally, around 4 p.m. we left the highway and started towards Mara. The road is dusty and bumpy at places. It’s really tiring too. A Thomson's gazelle welcomed us to the lands of plains. Further, as we move ahead, it was getting bit chilly and i had to pull out my warm pullover. Suddenly, the golden light spread across the plain and i was dreaming what will happen when i will get this light along with my favourite subjects. We were heading towards the equator so climate was bit volatile. All of a sudden the cloud appeared and started covering the golden light and the drama created in the sky. There i could not resist, i took out my camera and shoot some landscapes. As we were moving closure got a group of 15 zebra far in the grassland. Finally, the wildebeest (Gnus) welcomed near the gate. It was getting dark and around 6.25 p.m. we reached the Talek Gate to enter the Maasai Mara reserve. Sitima went to do the formalities and i took few pictures there. Finally, after long day we reached our destination/Camp at 6.45 p.m. Sitima told us that is it ok to go for the morning safari at 6.30 a.m. with packed breakfast. We agreed and sitima wished us a good sleep and see you tomorrow.

Welcome at the Fig Tree Camp

The Maasai lady with her dark red and black stripe beautiful Maasai attire welcomed us.

Maasai Lady: Jumbo and Karibu to Fig Tree Camp. Then the welcome drink and we were allotted tent no.8. It was 7.00 p.m. and the guests were having their dinner after a long day of wildlife safari.

We moved to our tent and settled down. It was getting colder. After having a cup of hot tea, i started preparing things for Tomorrow’s morning safari. I knew that after dinner it would be difficult to keep awake for a moment. Finally, we went for our dinner at 9.00 p.m. and back to tent by 10.00 p.m. Before going to bed, a sound attract our attention, the hippo went out of the water from the tent side river for his food and told us that Karibu. After few minutes, the night queen Hyena welcomed us with her crying/laughing. Then, i was off till the wake up call at 5.00 a.m. The Maasai Man with standing outside our tent with tea and wished us jumbo and good morning.

About the tent: The tent is good with comfortable stay and Indian food.

So for now the usual BCMT customary Teaser. We will start the morning safari soon.

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debarshiroy

Super User
What magnificent captures as if straight out of Nat geo!!!...The first one :prayer::prayer::prayer:

Subscribed and waiting for morning safari. (Hope you will complete this blockbuster show 8-[)
 

tuzusun

Active Member
Lovely pictures and superb captures Subrat.

Thanks for sharing.
Waiting for more...
Keep Posting...:mrgreen:
 

Shantanu Roy

Well-Known Member
AT LAST.......!!!!
And about time too....I was waiting from the day I came to know that you are travelling to Masai Mara and recently almost lost hope that I will be able see these captures here in BCMT.
On a serious note...Great and classy captures as usual.
Subscribed and waiting for more.
 

subratseet

Subrat Seet
What magnificent captures as if straight out of Nat geo!!!...The first one :prayer::prayer::prayer:

Subscribed and waiting for morning safari. (Hope you will complete this blockbuster show 8-[)
Thank you so much. I will complete this log religiously as no trips planned till January 2016.

first snap is mind blowing .... :)
Thank you so much. That Cheetah picture is the highlight of the trip.

Just wow....hooked and subscribed :)
Thanks for liking it.

Lovely pictures and superb captures Subrat.

Thanks for sharing.
Waiting for more...
Keep Posting...:mrgreen:
Thanks dear. I will upload.

AT LAST.......!!!!
And about time too....I was waiting from the day I came to know that you are travelling to Masai Mara and recently almost lost hope that I will be able see these captures here in BCMT.
On a serious note...Great and classy captures as usual.
Subscribed and waiting for more.
Thank you Shantanu Da. BCMT is the first place where i share my pics except Facebook.
 

subratseet

Subrat Seet
Let me just give you further details about the photography. Honestly, it is an herculean, back-breaking, difficult task to process each and every images and upload.

Total Photographs: 7 and half days of safari - Mostly full day. I managed to click 197 GB of Photographs.
After two rounds of cleaning up, now it is 150 GB from DSLR. Then, many videos and photos from Iphone.

Equipment used: Two 5D MK III, One 7D, Lens, 600 f/4 L IS II USM, 300 f/2.8 L IS II USM, 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II USM, 24-70 f/2.8 L USM.

So, let me take the liberty to tell you that i will upload as much as possible with minimum required post processing. At the end of the travelogue, i will share my favorites with seriously processed pictures. Please don't misunderstood that the ones i will upload is bad or else. Honestly, i am bit lazy or whatever, i do not take out my DSLR While travelling. So mostly from i phone.

So let me start uploading pictures starting Mumbai international Airport.

This is not clicked by me. It was shared by one of my friend in FB. He was there just before me and his Land Cruiser was overtaken by the world famous Cheetah called Mallaika. Its a common phenomenon there.

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At Mumbai Airport - i also started taking selfie

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Mumbai International Airport - T2 - One of the best
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Boarding Now - Excitement

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Waiting for Take off - Zoom

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Breakfast was Yummy - Liked it.

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Finally Landing

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At Narok Super Market - buying Water and Beans

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Shantanu Roy

Well-Known Member
Great updates.
What a moment featured in the first photo of this post!!!
Are the wild ones there that much tourist fierndly???
 
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