Big Cats of the Masai Mara, Kenya - February / March 2015

February 27 - March 7, 2015

Safari Leaders:
Grant Atkinson

Please see our Safaris and Workshops section for more workshop and safari dates.


About The Photographic Safari

In February/March 2015 Grant Atkinson will lead a private group of photographers to Kenya's famed Masai Mara. Come and avoid the crowds by Masai Mara at this time of year to take advantage of the fact that the migration has moved south into Tanzania, leaving the Kenya side of Mara-Serengeti eco-system largely uncrowded. For those who have experienced the Mara in the "off migration" season, this is their "big secret", as only the wildebeests and zebras migrate south, while all the resident cats and other plains game remain and big cat viewing at this time of year is superb in the Mara and surrounding reserves where we will be staying.

This safari combines some of Africa's finest wildlife photography experiences, superb accommodation, and expert guiding. If you have ever wanted to be in the best location and have the best opportunities for lions, cheetahs and hyenas hunting their prey, this is the safari for you. These types of photographs take an enormous time out in the field, and you will be with like-minded photographers who are willing to put their time in to get the photos. We will have sole use of a luxury camp on private land, and we will have the ability to drive off-road in order to get the best angles possible of our subjects.

Safari Highlights

• This safari will be split between two camps: Mara Toto in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, and Mara Plains Camp in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy next door to the game reserve. This combination will allow for the best way to view and photograph wildlife in the Masai Mara ecosystem.
• Game drives in the private Olare Motorogi Conservancy (where Mara Plains Camp is located), bordering the Masai Mara to the north. Unlike the Mara itself, this reserve is private to the very few camps located here, so we will not experience the larger crowds present inside the Mara Game Reserve. With this said, we will have the option of driving into the Mara each day if we decide to.
• Game drives in the Masai Mara Game Reserve (where Mara Toto Camp is located), which allows us access to the Mara River and south to the Tanzania (Serengeti National Park) border.
• We have modified vehicles, specifically setup for photography, with only 1 person per row of seating (the vehicles have either 2 or 3 rows behind the driver, plus a seat next to the driver if you want to be lower down to the ground.) The vehicles are open 4x4 vehicles with shooting platforms, storage areas, auxiliary power and regrigerators allowing for unhindered movement for photography.
• Private and exclusive use of our guides and game vehicles.
• Mara Plains Camp is, by far, the nicest camp in all of the Masai Mara and its sister camp, Mara Toto, is one of the quaintest.
• Extra luggage allowances to accommodate the special needs of our photographic equipment. The Nairobi-Mara charter flights will allow for an average of 30-35kg (66 to 77lbs) per person.
• This itinerary focuses on up-close and real wildlife experiences from the surroundings of premier accommodations.

Is This Safari For You?

Here are some key points to help you decide:

1. We welcome photographers of ALL levels. This safari will be conducive to learning from one another and offer an experience that will suit everyone’s photographic needs.
2. We are BIG on photographing in the field. We will spend most our time and effort on safari / photographic activities and making images.
3. Non-photographer or videographer spouses / travel companions will love this safari. The wildlife experiences on this trip will appeal to anyone with a love for animals and nature.

Olare Motorogi Lions

The Schedule

February 27-28, 2015; (1 Night)
The Emakoko - Nairobi, Kenya

On your arrival in Nairobi, you will be met by our local representative, who will assist you across the terminal and to your Emakoko transfer vehicle. The drive to your hotel will take you through Nairobi National Park, where the Emakoko is located.

The Emakoko allows guests to start their safari in the wildlife environment they have traveled so far to enjoy. Within 15 minutes of clearing customs they can be viewing game in Nairobi National park. The only “transfer” delays likely to be encountered en route to or from The Emakoko are the natural pauses to watch a pride of lions or waiting for a rhino or journey of giraffe to cross the road.

The beautifully appointed rooms look out over the game park so one can fall asleep to the sounds of Africa, a lion roaring or the cry of a lone hyena, an amazing contrast to the sounds of traffic, ambulances, fire engines and dogs barking, which are the normal sounds of any sleeping city. There are five rooms on the same level as the main areas and a further five rooms with the most spectacular views positioned on top of the cliff, overlooking the valley.

The Emakoko is situated on the Nairobi park boundary and they have direct access into the park. The Emakoko has 4 Toyota Land cruisers, converted especially for game viewing. The guides are also KPSGA qualified and have a huge amount of knowledge on the flora and fauna in the area. Nairobi National park is famous for its very healthy black Rhino population and is renowned for very close encounters with lions.

On the morning of the 28th, our group will be transferred to Wilson Airport, where we will board our scheduled SafariLink air charter to the Masai Mara and Mara Plains Camp.

Mountain Gorilla

February 28 - March 3, 2015

Mara Toto Camp - Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya

Mara Toto opened in January 2013 just downstream from its sister camp, Mara Plains. Lying just inside the north-central border of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, it is an oasis surrounded by wildlife-rich savannahs and dense riverine forest. The camp is subtly placed, intended to be invisible to any passersby.

Drawing on the safari of yesteryear, Mara Toto incorporates contemporary functionality with authentic decor. The expansive main tent, consisting of draped light-colored canvas, is romantic and inviting, but also highly functional as a place to gather, offer photo workshops and dine. The adjacent library doubles as a place to learn, or a place to rest and relax. The spaces are adorned with handpicked pieces from African markets, adding to the rich environs. A main dining table graced with candelabras and chandeliers hosts breakfast and dinners on drizzly nights. It is a warm, yet refreshing space. Just outside the tent, mere steps away, is our fire pit – place of many stories and lore.

Mountain Gorilla

The five custom-designed tents open on the horizontal for an indoor/outdoor living space, at ground level. High ceilings, careful design and tasteful decor create a place that, while humble, befits royalty. The private veranda, dressing area and en-suite facilities provide ample space to unpack, unwind and soak in the magic of this special spot on the river’s edge.

Our first three days on safari will be spent inside the Mara Game Reserve, so we will take this opportunity to explore the various habitats here to search for lions, cheetahs and leopards, as well as the local clans of spotted hyenas that live here. As mentioned above, the Reserve will be much less crowded during our visit, as the migration will have moved south into Tanzania and the Serengeti portion of the eco-system, allowing us to enjoy the Mara in relative exclusivity.

After our third night here, we will make the short transfer (5 minutes drive) north into the Olare Orok Private Concession and our next camp.

Mountain Gorilla

March 3-7, 2015
Mara Plains Camp - Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Great Masai Mara, Kenya

Mara Plains is located on the northern border of the Masai Mara Game Reserve in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy. Rarely a night passes without lion roaring nearby, while leopard are regularly found to wander through the camp and cheetah have established territories on the savannah off the main area.

The camp (newly rebuilt in late 2013) is a small, luxurious camp under canvas and on raised decks with sweeping views across Kenya’s notable savannahs. It is among the smallest and most personal camps in the Mara region. As one of just three camps currently operating within the Conservancy, which boasts the region’s lowest vehicle density, no mini-buses and only one guest room per 700 acres. It is possible to avoid the higher tourist density of the Masai Mara Game Reserve proper, if desired.

No other camp in the greater Masai Mara Game Reserve or Olare Motorogi Conservancy has the privilege of traversing opportunities of Mara Plains Camp. Guests are able to traverse three areas (Mara North Conservancy, Olare Motorogi Conservancy and Masai Mara Reserve) as part of their stay at Mara Plains.

Our plans are tailored around the whims of the day and as the wildlife dictates.

Typically we rise just before dawn, have a quick bite, and head out at first light to see what has happened overnight. We look for tracks and signs of nocturnal activity, perhaps heading in the direction of the lion calls and hyena laughs we heard from bed. The big cats are usually quite active in the early hours. As the sun begins to rise in the sky, and the heat mounts, we head back to our mid-day resting post, Mara Plains Camp for a brunch and a bit of a siesta. Or, if guests prefer, it’s a lovely time sit quietly and bird on the river. Our guides will introduce us to the abundant bird life and can help you identify trees and local plant species, or sharpen our wildlife tracking skills. Quite often we have hunting cheetahs near camp, and we often choose to have lunch brought out to us while we sit and watch for drama to unfold. This is the magic of Mara Plains; the ability to do what we want, to have many photographic opportunities close by and to enjoy the experience of taking photographs in one of Africa's best locations.

In the late afternoon, as the sun wanes, we are off again in search of wildlife. It’s a time to savor the African sunset with refreshing sundowner drinks and snacks before continuing our drive as nocturnal animals become more active with dusk. A hearty dinner awaits us back at camp whenever its time to return. We share stories of the day around the campfire and under the stars. So goes another blissful day in Africa.

We will also have the opportunity to visit a local Masai village (or "Enkang" in Maa) to learn more about the traditions and culture of the surrounding community and photograph the people and their village.

Hot air balloon safaris are also available. This is a very early morning activity, giving stunning views of the sunrise, the landscape and a sense of the sheer size of the Masai Mara region.

March 7, 2015
Safari Ends

Today we will catch our scheduled air charter flight back to Wilson Airport in Nairobi. On arrival, we will be met by our representatives and will have some day rooms at our disposal (at the Ole Sereni Hotel) to shower and get ready for our international flights back home. International flights may be scheduled to depart that evening to home destinations. See note below regarding travel extensions.

The Cost

The cost of this all-inclusive safari is $10,990 per person. This fee includes all in-country ground and air transportation as well as hotel accommodation (double occupancy) and all meals (except as noted above and in exclusions below).

What's Included?

• Accommodation on a shared basis.
• 1x trip leaders (Grant Atkinson).
• Private safari vehicles at both safari camps.
• Luggage allowance for Nairobi-Mara air charters (extra freight seats have been arranged): 70-75 pounds per person in total.
• All safari activities and transfers to/from the airports and the hotels.
• All meals and drinks at both safari camps.
• Daily laundry at both safari camps.
• Olare Motorogi / Mara North Conservancy fees and Masai Mara Game Reserve fees.
• Meet & Assist service on arrival in Nairobi.
• Round trip scheduled air charters between Nairobi and the Masai Mara camps.
• The current Tourism Levies and all relevant Value Added Tax or Government Sales Tax.
• One row per guest on game drive vehicles - (note that the front seat next to the driver is also counted as a row for this purpose).

What is Not Included?
• International airfare and/or other transportation between your home and Nairobi.
• Dinner / drinks in Nairobi on Day 1, due to late arrivals (except at breakfast).
• Gratuities for hotel staff in Nairobi.
• Gratuities for vehicle drivers in Nairobi.
• Gratuities for safari camp guides and staff (assume $25-$30 per day for 7 days).
• Laundry or extras at Nairobi hotels.
• Visas, travel insurance, personal purchases (including curios, spirit liquors, telephone calls etc.)
• Optional pre-/post- safari tours and meals or accommodation before or after the safari.

• Combined gratuities for camp guides/drivers and staff are recommended at USD $25 to $30 per day.
• Any additional gratuities for guides, staff and trip leader should be paid out in cash.
• Note also that the safari camps will only accept cash for curio purchases.

What Do I Do Next?
Our group size is limited and we expect that this trip will fill up. If this exciting trip has your name on it; if you're excited by the thought of becoming a member of this trip, then now is the time to register. Remember, there will be limited space available for this workshop. When they're spoken for, that's it. If you have any questions before registering, send us an e-mail with any inquiries to