Africa has captured the imagination of the whole world when it comes to ‘wild nature’ . It is normally the ‘top of the charts ‘ of a nature lover’s bucket list . For me, it is the ‘mecca’ of the natural world …atleast what remains of the natural world . Always dreamt of going to this great continent for a shoot , and my dream turned to reality in August this year when I visited the place with my dad and my brother Sandesh Dhareshwar who also is a very good wildlife photographer .
This blog is dedicated to my dad who is a nature lover and who instilled the love for nature in me .
For me and Sandesh , it was trip more from the photographic point of view , and so we were trying to limit the number of places we wanted to go in those 9 days . But for my dad , it was purely the thrill of seeing more and more places in the African continent . So we finally zeroed in on the itenary in May trying to balance both objectives and it was firmed up . Since our plan was to go in August we thought that Kenya would be the perfect place to go as we could catch the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara . The final itenary was
1. Ol Pajeta Sweetwaters
2. The Ark in Aberdere
3. Lake Nakuru
4. Masai Mara
5. Lake Naivasha
Travelling to Africa entails that you get a yellow fever vaccination done in advance . Mumbai now has an entire bldg named ‘Airport Health Organisation’ dedicated to vaccinations / quarantine etc. This was thrown open in July .
The bldg is situated a 100m or so before the flyover. Its a new structure AND surprisingly very clean and neat (as of now). They have a pantry too .
Procedure remains the same:
1. Go there to register (10am – 11:30am)
2. Passport and tkt required (with the 13 digit tkt number)
3. The guy there will write your regn number on the reverse of your tkt.
4. You are asked to return by 11:45am
5. First 30 are taken to the 1st floor. Fill up the ‘yellow card’ yourself and await your turn.
6. When your number is announced, pay the fees (Rs. 300) and submit the pp / yellow-card at the counter / sign the register
7. You are let into the doc’s room in batches of 5.
8. Its over in a jiffy and absolutely painless!
9. Collect pp / ‘yellow-card’ on the way out!
10. REMEMBER TO TAKE THE CARD ALONG WHEN U TRAVEL
Note: Only 70 vaccinations per day. It would be wise to send someone ahead to register and then land up there at 11:45 .
There was a checklist I had prepared in advance , so that I did not face any difficulties . Do remember to take warm clothes ( Kenya can be very cold )!! Also , ensure you take a external hard drive to download images , and a international power adaptor for your laptop . Battery chargers , CF cards , and if possible more than one camera body .
We reached Nairobi early morning on 13th August . It is a very small airport by international standards . Be sure to buy a SIM card there . Calling back India is cheap from a local number . A top up of around 400 shillings should suffice for around 10 days , if you call everyday . I had taken ‘Safaricom’ and I must say their coverage is to be experienced to be believed . Even in the Mara , there was a strong mobile signal .
The drive from Nairobi to Ol Pajeta took around 6.5 hrs and we reached Sweetwaters around evening . There were a lot of Maribu Storks in Nairobi , but other than that we did not see much bird life around . When we reached the path which leads to the park , there was a Black Shouldered Kite perched beautifully .
There were also some superb starlings , and the colour on them was awesome . We were soon to discover that they would be the most abundant of the birds we would encounter in Kenya .
We checked in the resort and then proceeded to drive around the game park . The slight drizzle helped me make a very nice image of the zebra .
The evening safari yielded the first sighting of a one eyed lioness who was very close to an alert group of 4 warthogs . They ensured that there was a fair distance between them and the lioness .
We retired for the day after a long wait , for the lioness to attack the warthogs , which did not materialize after all .
The next day safari was quite a memorable one with sightings of an elephant and its calf , another lioness , a failed chase of a lioness , resulting in the antelope being killed by the electric fence , some bustards and rollers put in for good measure .The crowned Hornbill sits perched high up a tree in the resort .
The masked weaver bird , while we were on the way out of the park .
The lilac breasted Roller , one of the most beautiful birds I saw on the trip and the Black bellied Bustard in the grassland at Ol Pajeta .
The yellow throated Spurfowl foraging the undergrowth
The warthog distancing itself from the hungry lioness , and a protective African elephant mother and its young calf .
Post, the lovely stay at Ol Pajeta , we moved on to ‘The Ark’ in Aberedas , which is basically a wooden hotel overlooking the Yasabara saltlick waterhole. The biblical name is reflected in the lodge’s wooden structure and simple, cabin-style decor. The lodge’s 60 en suite rooms (divided into singles, doubles, twins and triples) are set out on different decks, and the lodge itself is accessible only via drawbridge. Each room comes equipped with a bedside buzzer which can be set to wake you should any animals come to the lodge during the night!
We spotted the elephant , hyenas and a lot of birds which were around . It seemed like a great place for birding .
This almost ‘red’ elephant was shot at ISO 3200 because of the heavy overcast conditions and also because it was quite late in the evening .
While ‘The Ark’ was a beautiful place , I was eager to leave it , as my next destination was the world famous ‘Masai Mara’ . The drive was a long one …took almost 6 hours to reach there . We did sight some raptors on the way .
But , the excitement was immense , to say the least . We were eagerly anticipating to witness the great migration . More importantly vivid images of the river crossing were crossing the mind , the ones I had previously seen on NGC , Discovery , etc and was praying that I get to witness the same . When we reached the gates of the Mara , it was late afternoon , and we were itching to get on the Mara .
After a quick lunch , we pushed quickly to get ourselves on to the famed Masai Mara grasslands. The story of the following 2 days in the Mara was almost like a fairyland story .I will just let the images tell the story .
The skies are clear and the terrain flat !
The long tailed Starling gave a glimpse of its lovely iriscidence when it perched in awesome light .
The helmeted Guinea Fowl is quite common to sight , but scurries at the sight of a vehicle . Nervous ? Who would’nt be with predators lurking around !
The most efficient of the scavengers in the Mara .
The siblings battle it out to establish domination , and a mousebird at the Sopa Lodges , Masai Mara .
God ! I hate flies !!
The nubian vulture perched near the lions waiting for a meal , the yellow throated longclaw on a lovely perch , and the Oxpeckers on their favourite perch , the Cape Horn buffalo .
The handsome Crowned Cranes always found in pairs.
My parents have left me in charge ! Hushhhhhh! They are just 20 mts away !!
The wildebeest herd caught in a flash storm at Masai Mara , and a pair of Southern Ground Hornbills looking for a grub .
Upclose and personal with the African elephant !
The famed 3 brothers of the Mara , after a full meal of a wildebeest .
Mother child bond !!!
3 days in the Mara, and I felt the excitement had just started . The best thing was that we had sighted the Big 5 . The food, the service at the Mara Sopa lodge was brilliant . The local people across the country are very friendly !
The next stop was Nakuru . This was a 1 day stopover before we moved onto Naivasha , and then for our return back to Nairobi .
Our luck ran out at Nakuru , where our vehicle had an issue and our driver had to go to the city to get a mechanic to fix it . we lost some precious time and ended up getting only 2 hrs in the park .
Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge was the most royal of our trip so far . Wished I had got my family atleast here . The resort touches the lake , and wild animals including giraffes , hippos , apes, waterbucks roam the vast acres of the lodge . The food is top notch , the rooms really luxurious !!!! Got the most beautiful Malachite kingfisher here .
Definetly going back to Africa , and one thing I realised is that you should have Africa mentioned atleast 5 times in your top 10 bucket list items !!!