Harvest in the Savannah - Wildlife Photography Tour
You've relished films, admired coffee-table books, and ogled at online galleries. The scale, the diversity and the beauty of the continent have enthralled you for long. All the while you have nursed a dream - a dream of a pilgrimage to the Mecca of wildlife, to photograph beautiful animals in orgasmic light. Someday, you have promised yourself, you will live it.
That time has now come. It's time to unleash your camera and harvest the riches. It's time for Africa.
How is it?
To the green at heart, a mention of Africa evokes its primordial picture - plains, prey and predators teaming up to spawn the most spectacular wilderness site on the planet, where large animals still maraud wild and free. And Kenya is its best showpiece.
It doesn't matter that the Roget's Thesaurus doesn't say so, but this East African country named after its highest peak really is a synonym for 'ecological affluence'. With over ten national parks and nature reserves harbouring bounteous wildlife that is easy to view, Kenya is the crème of wild Africa.
And that means if you haven't visited the continent yet, this is your chance. We suggest you grab it.
For Kenya is a venue for all seasons. Such is the opulence of its natural treasures, that an infertile visit under Toehold's guidance at any time of the year is as unlikely as a deluge in the Atacama. Even in the rains.
The myriad dramas, the triumphs and the tragedies that compose life in the wild show up in a mélange of hues. And topping this spectacle is a blessing from the weather god, who is known to let His hair down at around this time every year.
As the day advances, a dark grey curtain of clouds hoists itself down the distant horizon ahead. Behind you, the nomadic wind, never one to be stopped in its ceaseless flight, nudges the water-bearers, exposing for now the nearest star which seizes the moment to bask in its own glow by shining with full resplendence even as a rainbow graces the sky as a giant ornament.
In an instant, everything before you has turned into an impossibly exquisite canvas of golden éclat; memories of a lifetime have become enshrined in a moment of magic. It happens only in Africa.
What you will see and photograph:
For tourists, this is technically the low-season but the wildlife doesn't seem to know it, for save for the overwhelming numbers of ungulates that are otherwise a prerogative of the Great Migration seen here between July and September, virtually all the other spectacles of the savannah are in due attendance for photography while the off-season rates ensure that you don't have to sell your house to afford the Tour.
Chief exhibitors at the extravaganza are the apex predators and the very emblem of African Wildlife - lions. The relatively easy pickings of the Migration having not yet begun, these custodians of the land must be mobile to earn their dinner, which keeps all the other members of the ecosystem rightfully on their toes. And thus springs a great chance to photograph action and the many unknown facets of natural behaviour that unfurl themselves on the plains each day.
MASAI MARA GAME RESERVE
The famous venue of the BBC Big Cat Diary series and countless inspiring stories is a theatre of dreams. Masai Mara is where the first-time visitor to Africa starts his love affair with the continent's wildlife. For, not only does this miniature paradise have a flourishing population of lions and the rest of the Big Five, it is a most splendid place to photograph them.
A part of the Greater Mara Ecosystem and covering 1510km2, the Masai Mara National Reserve is home to what is effectively a bona fide wildlife symposium, with over 250 species of birds and a mindboggling diversity of mammals on show.
Here lies the best opportunity in Africa to photograph the notoriously elusive leopard, which is often seen arresting the watcher's breath by flaunting its beauty from atop a tree or on the ground. And where there is a cat, a spotted hyaena with its trademark psychedelic calls is never far away, plotting relentlessly as it does to usurp an adversary's hard-earned kill.
Masai Mara is a land of terrestrial superlatives. The world's fastest land mammal, the cheetah, is often found sitting pretty on a termite mound, surveying the plains to locate breakfast, while the planet's largest land mammal, the African elephant, takes its size in its stride as it moves about in genial majesty.
The largest living bird on earth, the ostrich, always likes things to be to its satisfaction. And to top all this, the giraffe, the world's tallest land mammal, uses its ground clearance to look down on one and all from the upper reaches of its slender neck. Decidedly, the denizens of this system appear to love setting records.
Rather less ambitiously but with equal beauty, an impressive variety of antelope roam the rolling plains. While the fleet-footed Thomson's gazelle runs like the wind to preserve its life from its nemesis, the cheetah, the impala glides across the frame like a symbol of elegance.
Warthogs and hippopotamuses are always around the corner, while so are diverse birds such as the beautiful crowned crane and the magnificent bataleur eagle.
But, without a doubt, the imperious lion is the centerpiece of the wonderland, with the spotlight rightly on the emperor of all he surveys. If there is a better place than the Masai Mara to photograph the iconic African lion, it is yet to be discovered by man.
Here, individuals of various ages and standing in lion society may be observed hunting, grooming, resting and copulating on the picturesque open plains in spectacular light, all in the public gaze.
Clearly, the most important thing that you have to do is be there.
AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
One of the abiding images of Africa is a big bull elephant set against the sensational backdrop of a snow-capped peak, looking like a scene from an idyll. It is actually a scene out of Amboseli.
This park is so synonymous with elephants that it has come to be known as "Africa's elephant park" and it affords the unique opportunity to photograph some of Africa's biggest bulls and other wildlife in spectacular vistas overlooked by the Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. The big cat trinity is there too, just so you don't feel left out.
Clearly, you must prepare to be astonished.
LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
If Jaipur is the Pink City, Lake Nakuru National Park must be called the Pink Park. For, anywhere between thousands and millions of flamingos throng the eponymous lake of this 188km2 reserve, obscuring its surface as an overwhelming carpet of resplendent pink - a sight that is seen to be savoured.
Other attractions of this wetland sanctuary surrounding the soda lake on the floor of the Great Rift Valley include pelicans, Rothschild's giraffe, flourishing populations of baboon, warthog, Burchell's zebra and one of the highest densities of black rhino.
Clearly, extra memory cards are imperative.
Sachin has been documenting many of the less-known and little-noticed aspects of the wild and constantly perseveres to share his experiences with citizens and scientists, especially through his photography website which is an enriching resource for budding wildlife enthusiasts and naturalists. An active supporter of many conservation NGOs, Sachin invests a lot of his time in their outreach activities and has led several expeditions in search of rare species, even rediscovering a 'lost' species of frog 73 years after its first sighting and description. For his stellar work in photography, Sachin has been honoured with prestigious accolades, including the Photographer of the Year award by Sanctuary Asia in 2008 and the first prize at the DJ Memorial Photo Contest in 2013.
Sachin's work may be enjoyed on his website at www.landofthewild.com, and regular updates of his latest work can be found on his Facebook Page.
Read more about Sachin here.
WHY GO ON A TOEHOLD PHOTO TOUR?At Toehold, we are passionate about photography just as you are, which lets us understand your travails and needs perfectly. And we use this insight to specially design our Photography Tours so they give you a toehold to excel at the art and set you up for success.
The Toehold team at your disposal will keep you tuned and geared, so you come in empty-handed but go out with bagful of images and tales of an experience that is better lived than heard.
- A clinically organized tour with utmost attention to your comfort and needs
- An open, informal environment that promotes interactive learning
- A team that will strategize and work to a plan to optimize opportunities and ensure a great tour
- Practical, hands-on assistance in photography from the tour Skippers both in the field and off it
- A wealth of subject matter knowledge
- Individual interaction with the Skippers over general or specific issues
- First-hand learning from the masters in the art and craft of photography
These exclusive, informative and interactive sessions are -
TESTIMONIALS BY OUR PREVIOUS TOUR PARTICIPANTSPhotography enthusiasts who were a part of a similar Tour previously said:
We spent five beautiful days in this great place (Masai Mara), and were able to see all the three big cats. The highlight was the cheetah hunt, when five cheetahs charged and killed a male impala - It was a fantastic experience, and we really can't expect more.
The way the tour was organised and the places we stayed in were simply fantastic. Jayanth was a great Skipper. I was astounded by the way he could virtually read the cheetah's mind and put us in the best possible angle to shoot from. I learned a lot of techniques from him, and after this tour, can can safely say that I'm finally able to take a flawless photograph.
- Dr Senthil Kandeepan, Delhi
Rather than list a string of adjectives, let me share a short story that occurred during a recent Masai Mara tour, which typifies the reason I continue to go on photo safaris with Jayanth.
Early one morning Jay spotted a female leopard near the Mara River. Our Land Rover tracked her for the entire morning as she made two unsuccessful yet exciting hunting attempts. She was hungry, had cubs to feed and we knew she would make another hunt attempt. At 12:15 pm, Jay made a key decision: rather than break off from tracking Siri and driving 45 minutes back to the camp for lunch (which would have almost certainly resulted in our not being able to locate her in the afternoon), he radioed our camp asking them to send box lunches to us so that we could maintain visual contact with the gorgeous cat and not miss any photo opportunities. Jay did not want us to miss the rare opportunity of witnessing a leopard hunt.
This is the kind of client-focused decision that is the highlight of all of the trips I have been on. I hope to be fortunate enough to join Jay on future photo safaris.
- Tom Ori, Colorado Springs, USA
It was a 50th birthday wish for my wife to visit Kenya and she had decided on a photography tour with Toehold, led by Sachin Rai. I truly was not expecting the red carpet treatment considering their reasonable rates, and had prepared for the worst, but to my surprise the tour was well planned, executed with no issues at all (truly), because at every turn, our Skipper Sachin seemed to always be one step ahead of everything that was needed. The added bonus was the care and consideration this man took with his two rookies who knew little to nothing of photography. Here is a man that in less than three days had us shooting like pros, and even encouraged specific focusing on magazine-worthy photos while we were out in the field. I am pleased to say I have at least a few that I could not be more proud of due to his guidance.
No matter what stage in life as a photographer you are, this tour is well thought out, and plenty of room is provided, and you will not find yourself crammed in a vehicle with no room to spare. There was never more than three or four in a vehicle that seated nine. From sunrise to sunset, Sachin had amazing energy, and we could not have imagined a more incredible experience. Without doubt we will be seeing him again. He and his company gave us a journey of a lifetime.
- Raymond Solorzano Reno, Nevada
A small note to thank you for the great time I had on the two photo tours to Masai Mara and Rwanda. Your organisation was meticulous, something that many professional tour agencies lack in their approach. I eagerly look forward to more such tours.
- Ajith Pai, Mysore
After seeing five different prides of lions, two cheetah hunts, following a leopardess and six days of bliss in the Mara, I can safely say this is one of the best weeks of my life. All I have to say is: just go with Toehold; don't think about it!
- Siddharth Reddy, Bangalore
Highly recommend traveling to Africa with Toehold! Great learning for my kids and a very enjoyable experience.
- Manjunath H, Bangalore
I never imagined to see such professionalism and personal touch in a young company. My worries were laid to rest the moment I landed in Nairobi. Salute Toehold and thank you for this experience.
- Sanjay Sridhar, Chennai
First I want to thank you for making this trip a memorable one for me, I was really very happy with the kind of audience we had in this group and it was a pleasure interacting with most of them. It was a very good learning experience for me in the filed of photography and I being a novice I got immensely benefited with this tour
- Satish K, Hyderabad
I am constantly impressed by the efficiency, knowledge and quality of the Professional services offered by Toehold team. I was extremely satisfied with the arrangements done for our Kenya Tour which was conducted during May 2012. The Location of accommodation were very well thought over to save the time of travel inside the game reserve. Being a Vegetarian, I didn't face any problems in finding suitable food option in the buffet. No need to mention about the Skippers who were very cooperative and were guiding the participants with their rich experience. It was a totally Successful trip, where in I could take images of all BIG 5. Not to forget that this trip has helped me a lot in securing my ARPS distinction as well.
- Prasanna Venkatesh, Bangalore
Please click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.
- DAY 1 20 May 2017, Saturday: Arrival in Amboseli National Park and Evening Safari; Overnight in Amboseli
Our fleet of safari vehicles carrying Skipper Sachin Rai and the park guides will pick participants who have landed in the morning from the Nairobi Airport, and participants who have arrived a day earlier from their hotels, at around 8:00 a.m. Once everybody is on board, we undertake a four-hour drive to Amboseli National Park. A mutual introduction session and a brief by Sachin to set basic expectations for the Tour will be followed by lunch.
After lunch will ensue our first safari of the Tour - recipe for a memorable moment for any first-time Africa visitor and something that, even after all these visits, gets Sachins's adrenaline pumping. Driving through the park will acquaint you with the African landscape and give you but a glimpse of the exciting time ahead.
- DAY 2 21 May, Sunday: Full Day and Overnight in Amboseli National Park
An entire memorable day will be spent out in the picturesque expanses of Amboseli, where views of elephants with the magnificent Kilimanjaro in the backdrop have been specially designed by nature to enthrall. Apart from the pachyderms, we are likely to photograph ostriches, hyaenas, lions, cheetahs and a whole lot of attractive wildlife including the kudu.
In the evening, Sachin will deliver a ChaayaaChitraChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Trickssession before a satiating supper and shuteye call a closure to the eventful day.
- DAY 3 22 May, Monday: Arrival, Evening Safari and Overnight in Nakuru
After breakfast, we depart for Nakuru. Arriving just before lunch, we embrace our home for the next two days overlooking the beautiful Lake Nakuru. Following a scrumptious lunch, we embark on the afternoon safari, seeking the chief spectacle of the flamingo congregation and over 400 other species of birds found here.
In the evening we enjoy a tribal dance and celebration before an appetizing supper, and retire for the day.
- DAY 4 23 May, Tuesday: Full Day and Overnight in Nakuru
Setting off after breakfast, we spend as much time in the park as we can in order to sight the plentiful wildlife of Nakuru. The early morning drive will be followed by lunch and an evening safari.
This being an excellent location to see the elusive leopard, we take our chances to spot the spotted beauty of Nakuru. Efforts will also be made to photograph white rhinos and black rhinos.
Between the rides, we meet at the picturesque Baboon Hill overlooking the lake and its flamingo formations, and discuss various topics of nature photography and the natural history of Africa. Meanwhile, here, ultra wide-angle perspectives of baboons, a fixture atop the hill, are a distinct prospect.
For participants who want to relax and take the afternoon easy, the beautiful lodge with plenty of trees and a great restaurant is a fabulous place to rest.
A rivetting session of ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critiqueby Sachin before dinner will be a fitting, erudite way of ending the enriching day.
- DAY 5 24 May, Wednesday: Arrival, Evening Safari and Overnight in Masai Mara
After breakfast, a pleasant drive across the dramatic Great Rift Valley brings you through the Narok Township, a major Maasai administrative centre, to Kenya's most precious wildlife sanctuary, Masai Mara Game Reserve.
Masai Mara is home to the colorful Maasai tribe, who may be seen around the borders of the park, with Morans ('warriors') loping across the plains, young boys herding goats, or elders grouped under a tree discussing the matters of the day.
Wildlife viewing is never dull in the Mara, and patience is often rewarded with unique sightings. By now hopefully the group will have been acquainted with the African bush, so we seek to make the most of the bounty on offer.
- DAYS 6 and 7 25 and 26 May, Thursday and Friday: Morning and Evening Safaris, and Overnight in Masai Mara
Staying inside the park will ensure a great experience and early access to photography hotspots, so we may catch a lion pride gearing up for a hunt or a solitary leopard retrieving its kill from the high branches of an Acacia tree merely a few hundred metres from the camp.
Every morning while at Masai Mara, we start our day after an early breakfast at 6:30 and venture into the bush. For participants who are agreeable to spending the entire day in the field, packed lunch boxes will be provided to keep us going the whole day, thereby maximizing wildlife viewing and photography opportunities.
An occasional afternoon shower may be encountered but this will in no way mean a dampener, for the animals continue to be seen and what's more, it will open up the prospect of making evocative images of wildlife in the rain. And when the clouds have passed, the light that illuminates the scene can serve to illustrate the meaning of the word 'ethereal' better than any lexicon in the world.
Meeting at specific points in the savannah, we learn and discuss various topics on photography and natural history of Africa and the Mara in general. These two days are tipped to be the highlight of the Tour with plenty of wildlife on show.
In the evenings a session of CharchaalokaCharchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussionsor simply a question-answer interaction will afford a wealth of learning on a diverse array of photography and natural history topics.
Maasai Village Optional Tour
While at Masai Mara, based on the group's inclination, the Skipper will plan a visit to a local Maasai Village for a few hours in the day to learn and understand the Maasai culture, their way of life and their interesting community living. This optional Tour costs an additional USD 30 per person.
Balloon Safari Optional Tour
A ride in a hot-air balloon over the endless expanses of the savannah is an ultimate safari experience. We leave the lodge before dawn, when the sky is clear, the air brisk and the conditions perfect. As the sun rises over the Mara plains, our balloon lifts off - a bright splash of colour rising gracefully into the infinite blue. A stunning panorama unfolds below us and the balloon basket becomes our lookout post for a bird's-eye view of the Mara's magnificence. We float silently just a few hundred feet above large herds of wild animals. Upon landing, we celebrate the flight with a glass of champagne, after which the retrieval safari cruisers take us back to our driver. This optional ride costs an additional USD 450 per person.
- DAY 8 27 May, Saturday: Departure for Nairobi
After a scrumptious breakfast, we drive out making sure we arrive by lunchtime at an Indian restaurant in Nairobi. After lunch, we are transferred to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for our home-bound flights.
The Tour ends but your love affair with African wildlife has just begun.
- DAYS 8 and 9 27 and 28 May, Saturday and Sunday: Full Day Safaris and Overnight in Masai Mara
Participants who feel the need to stretch their Tour are welcome to stay back on the nights of 27 and 28 May 2017, checking out on 29 May, to experience two more full days at the Mara at their own pace. The schedule for the two days will remain the same while we venture to deeper areas of the Mara on the full-day game drives, maximizing our chances of bringing back stunning photographs. This extension will be charged additionally based on your itinerary. Please express your interest in the extension while booking the Tour to know more.
- DAY 10 29 May, Monday: Checkout and Transfer to Nairobi
With the extension having come to an end, following an early breakfast, we drive out making sure we arrive by lunchtime at an Indian restaurant in Nairobi. After lunch, we are transferred to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for our home-bound flights.
Since participants of this Tour travel from various destinations in India and abroad, the Tour commences at Nairobi on 20 May 2017 at around 8:00 a.m. You may either take a flight that reaches Nairobi before that time the same morning, or fly in the previous day and stay overnight in Nairobi (in which case, the cost of accommodation will be additional). Please also note that flight costs are not included in the Tour fee.
AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
MASAI MARA GAME RESERVE
OPTIONAL EXTENSION AT MASAI MARA
Exclusive of service tax
Exclusive of service tax
Exclusive of service tax
*Exchange rates listed here as on the date of payment will apply. Additional bank charges may be payable at actuals.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who should participate in this Tour? What are the eligibility criteria?
This Tour is open to everybody of a minimum age of 18 (unless accompanied by a guardian), and anybody enthusiastic about wildlife and/or photography will enjoy it. Apart from interest, fitness, a valid passport and yellow-fever and polio vaccination cards, there are no other requirements.
I am a newbie in wildlife photography. Am I eligible?
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced wildlife photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. If you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour photographically, we recommend that you be familiar with at least the basics of photography. If you're not, we recommend you sign up for a Art and Science of Photography Workshop anytime before the Tour.
- Is vaccination against yellow fever and polio mandatory?
Yes; the vaccination is mandatory in many countries including India. Please talk to us for advice on how to get one.
- What about the visa?
You'll need a Kenyan visa, which is applied for and issued online. More information will be shared, and assistance provided, when you sign up.
- Is an earlier yellow fever vaccination valid?
Yellow fever vaccination is valid for a period of 10 years from the date of administration, but polio vaccination is valid for only a year. Please check your vaccination cards to verify validity. Please note that the vaccination must be valid as on the date of your return to your country after the Tour.
- How many participants are expected in one safari vehicle on this Tour?
Our Photography Tour is designed to offer participants an excellent balance between photography convenience and economy. We'll be using four-wheel-driven safari vehicles which have large windows and a thatched roof that opens up to give a 360-degree panoramic view for convenient wildlife-viewing and photography. Each vehicle will be shared by only four participants, or three participants and the Skipper, to ensure everybody has ample space to move around and shoot comfortably.
How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven't experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge sharing. Besides, most of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps in making your experience focused.
How sure are you about photographing wildlife?
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. Also, the exhaustive itinerary should offer ample opportunities for a productive time. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we stop just short of claiming that sightings are guaranteed.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
A wide-angle or normal zoom is a staple for landscape and general photography. For birds and mammals, a focal length of at least 300mm is usually necessary. An additional 100mm often proves very effective especially for birds. However, if you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. What's more, you enjoy a 10% discount on any equipment you hire for the Tour. Click here to see what we offer.
© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.
- Date: 20 to 27 May 2017
- Tour Cost:
Per person exclusive of service tax
Per couple exclusive of service tax
Per person exclusive of service tax
All fares excluding flights
- Skipper: Sachin Rai