Hopefully the first part of my trip report has peaked your interest! I finished the first part with our afternoon session at the Ngiro swamp, and after a short night drive back to camp from the swamps, we called it an early night as we would be out before sunrise with Guy and the Rebuilding the Pride team.
After spending 4 hours with Nasha the previous morning, we went in search of one of the other collared females that Guy and his team track on a daily basis. With a twirl of the telemetry set, Guy once again picked up a signal and, almost on cue, we heard the unmistakeable sound of lions squabbling over a meal in the distance. Our movements in the direction of the signal and the noises we had heard were cut short as two males made their presence felt through their deep, guttural roars.
Guy and his team could not have planned this any better. Not only were the females and their youngsters here, but they were in the company of two of the territorial males from the region. Moving slowly through the dense bush, the sight of one of the males was met with excited gasps by the guests.
We spent a good 2 hours with the two males, two females (one of which is the well know Namunyak, a female that Greg had photographed as a cub during his time in the waterhole), and their youngsters.
Heading back to camp for a welcome breakfast, we were able to capture some images of the general game that abound on these plains, and one of our vehicles was fortunate enough to see a male cheetah before he darted off and took cover in the Acacia thickets.
Some welcome down time in the afternoon gave everyone the chance to prepare for our afternoon activity where we met some of the local Maasai in the field as they were herding their cattle back to their boma’s for the evening. We had hoped for an incredible sunset which would allow us to capture dramatic backlit images of the cattle through the cloud of dust that they leave in their wake, but it was not meant to be.
The experience in itself was more than enough and, despite the difficult light, our group got stuck right in and enjoyed the experience of being surrounded by the herds of cattle on the move.
That evening we had a presentation hosted by Samantha Russell and John Kamanga from the South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO). A formally registered Trust that was created in 2004 in order to provide a legitimate body to represent the needs of land owners and push for joint management of 15 group ranches which form the bridge between the famous Amboseli and Maasai Mara National Reserves.
This is a community based and a community driven initiative whose primary role is to bring land owners together for effective management of resources in order to directly improve livelihoods, network and assist in resource mobilization for the development of the South Rift Valley region, all while taking into consideration the key threats and challenges in the area.
Together with Guy and the Rebuilding the Pride team, they are doing some incredible work in the region which has seen both local communities and wildlife benefit.
Our last day, as with all of the other days, was once again jam packed and kicked off with a walk along the Nwas Ngiro River where we also met up with the local Baboon Research team. The local troop of baboons are monitored on a daily basis and has become very comfortable with humans being in close proximity to them – a photographers dream come true!
Taking advantage of the low angles provided by the numerous erosion gully’s, we were all able to get some fantastic images as the sun peered out from behind a small bank of clouds in the east.
After enjoying a picnic breakfast in the river bed, we headed back up to the Resource Centre where some of the local woman had gathered to share their incredible beaded jewellery with the group.
From here it was back to camp for a bite to eat, followed by an early departure back to Lake Natron where we would spend the afternoon capturing Mount Shompole and the lake in the fading light of the late afternoon. Once again, our approach to the lake provided yet another special photographic moment as a lone Maasai warrior carrying a spear made his way across the salt encrusted lake shore.
Being the last afternoon of a rather emotional journey for many, it came as no surprise that some of the guests wandered along the lake shores and enjoyed the silence as they took a moment to digest the previous days activities.
This trip was always planned to incorporate culture, conservation and photography, but both Greg and I were amazed at how well the concept had been received by this group. In a world where so many photographers are driven by the need to capture the perfect image or gain an online following via likes and comments, it was refreshing to see that there are still photographers out there who have a genuine passion for the bush and wildlife.
This was the first time that I had ever heard a guest say “I wish she would just turn her head slightly so that I can see her collar” in a lion sighting. This is without a doubt linked to the understanding of the conservation work and just how unique it is to have lions and people living together in harmony.
From a South African perspective where conservation areas are for the most part completely fenced off and secluded from humans, this safari provided an insight into what Africa was like all those years ago.
As one of our guests put it in their feedback form:
“An incredible experience! Interesting, informative and a glimpse of Africa from bygone days! Treasure this little bit of untouched Africa!”
A big shout out and thanks to our guests for joining us on this inaugural safari, Isaac and the entire Wild Eye East Africa team, Samantha from SORALO, Guy and his team from Rebuilding the Pride and, of course, Greg for sharing this special part of Africa with us all.
I for one can’t wait to return and share this experience with more guests in the future.
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