‘The National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson once said “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” As glib as this may sound, it speaks to a simple undeniable truth, and one of the many reasons that I am drawn to Kenya over and over again. Within hours of landing on Kenyan soil I am training my lens on t he tallest animal in the world craning its neck through a window to join me for breakfast. It is this unique encounter with an endangered animal that makes Giraffe Manor the most incredible place to start a photo safari with a difference.
A hungry long necked guest joins us for tea.
I meet with my group of avid photographers at the Manor for breakfast. The cameras are out immediately – as giraffes appear on all sides the opportunities for composition and creativity are boundless, and the only real dilemma is deciding when to swap the camera for a pellet to offer the gentle giants or go in for a slick giraffe kiss. After breakfast we take a quick trip to the nearby elephant orphanage to watch baby elephants frolicking in pools that look like drinking chocolate, splashing unsuspecting onlookers with delight, before returning for afternoon tea with giraffes bathed in the orange glow of the evening sun. Leslie, an avid photographer in the group, turns to me between shots to express concern that she may not have brought enough memory cards.
Grevy zebra and vulturine guinea foul.
The following morning, after a round of feeding giraffes from room windows and patios, we continue our photo safari north, to the luxuriant Sasaab and the new visual world of Samburu. We gather to discuss composition, light, and the technical aspects of making the most out of the photographic opportunities ahead before heading out on a game drive to put the theory into practice. We follow elephant footprints to find a small group feeding on toothbrush trees, and it is hard to stop clicking until the last vestiges of light are sucked from the sky. And then it’s time for a gin and tonic by the river.
Elephants on safari in Samburu.
An early game drive the next morning treats us to the sight of the sun rising behind a group of a dozen wild dogs as they pad past. The morning goes from good to better, as a leopard-lion encounter unfolds just feet from our vehicles, and by the time we stop for a delicious cooked bush breakfast our memory cards are bulging grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, leopard, lion, oryx, monkeys and wild dogs.
So lucky to see wild dog and to get so close!
After our first game drive we take some time to enjoy the serenity of Sasaab during the day, cooling our feet in our individual plunge pools overlooking the most incredible vista, and spotting elephant, ostrich and baboons on the river winding its way to the horizon far, far away. As the sun sinks low in the sky we hand-feed the resident dik-diks outside the front of the lodge before setting off on foot and camel- back to sundowner rock.
Our camel ride to Sundowner rock is a great way to see the wilderness from a different perspective.
Sundowner rock is the ideal spot to capture images to impress your friends and hone your photographic skills. A vast unbroken landscape, the orange glow of a sun dipping behind distant hills, and handsome Samburu warrior guides have all the makings of a Vogue photo shoot. Here we spend time experimenting with shooting into the sun, using fill flash and warming gels, swapping portrait for wide-angle lenses, as our Samburu guides are patiently photogenic.
Capturing the magnificent landscape.
Our days at Sasaab are a flurry of amazing wildlife, photogenic people and colorful tradition. On our last full day here we watch the sun rise behind a Samburu village and fall behind Samburu warriors dancing on a dry riverbed, illuminated against a deep blue sky by a crackling fire, before dining underneath a million stars.
Nothing compares to sleeping under the stars.
One of my favorite aspects of Samburu is the opportunity to spend time with a culture that visually expresses so many deep traditions – through dress and dance. And because the Safari Collection works closely with these local communities, providing opportunities for education and income, the relationship is one of mutual benefit. This means that spending time photographing the local communities feels very much like collaboration between those photographing and being photographed.
Before departing Samburu we stop at a local school, where young children sing beautifully, answer and ask questions, and draw their favorite animals on the blackboard for us to guess.
Showing a Samburu elder a photo of himself.
After three nights at Sasaab we swap the deep blues, warm oranges and vibrant reds of Samburu for the lush greens and ethereal yellows of Solio, where a whole new cast of characters awaits our lenses, including the iconic black and white rhino. Solio may well be my favorite place to photograph. The light has a golden quality, and filters through fever-bark trees to produce a magical setting to shoot lion and buffalo.
A stunning sunrise at Solio
Rising from the fever-bark forests are plains on which rhino, giraffe and plains zebra roam against the dramatic backdrop of Mount Kenya, behind which the sun rises. For a group of photographers, it is like being a kid in a candy store.
By the final morning we have seen everything we hoped for, with the exception of Solio’s resident cheetah. And so we rise early to greet the sun, and the cheetah appears sidling through golden grass to bid us farewell. We all buzz with excitement – it is a fitting end for an incredible week with a fantastic group of avid wildlife photographers. And as for standing in front of more interesting stuff, I think we did pretty well….
A white rhinos powerful profile.
As I leave Kenya I am already counting down the days until the next photo safari – who wants to join me??’
Robin Moore will be hosting The Safari Collection’s next cultural photographic safari in March 2018. The safari commences on the 16th March where the adventure begins at Giraffe Manor for one night. The next destination is Sasaab where three days will be spent immersing in the vibrant Samburu culture and vast African wilderness. The trip ends with a two night stay at Solio Lodge in the foothills of Mount Kenya and the Aberdare mountains. To find out more and to book your cultural photographic journey please email [email protected].