Kenya – The Savannah Pilgrimage
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.
- A prime-time five-night/six-day tour to Kenya’s two amazing national parks
- An exclusive experience with the budget friendly africa safari visitor in mind
- A stunning professionally guided Tour to Kenya’s best-known wildlife reserves
- A wealth of natural history learning
- A fun and highly interactive environment without any barriers
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.
May marks the end of the first of the two annual wet seasons in Kenya. Nourished by the long rains, the grasslands and the woods alike spring spectacularly back to life and shine resplendently in verdant green.
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.
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 October, 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 bateleur 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, man has yet to discover it.
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 you have to do is being there.
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 white rhino and black rhino.
Clearly, extra memory cards are imperative.
Please note: This Tour will commence at Nairobi on 25 May, 2020 at 07:00 a.m. and end at Nairobi on 30 May, 2020 at 12:00 p.m.
You will need to arrive a day earlier (24 May) and stay overnight in Nairobi at additional cost.
For the return on 30 May, please book your flight out of Nairobi after 04:00 p.m.
Lake Nakuru National Park
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.
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.
Masai Mara National Park
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.
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 with packed breakfast at 06:30 a.m. 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.
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 (paid directly at the lodge).
We check out from the lodge at Masai Mara and travel back to Nairobi. The group will be dropped off at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to board their respective flights back home.
- Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
Teens & Children (12-18) Price
- Per Teen/Child on Shared Accommodation
- Per Couple on Twin Share Accommodation
- Road transfer from Nairobi to Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara and back as per the Tour itinerary
- All safaris and reserve entrance fees
- Accommodation on twin-sharing basis in comfortable tents or rooms as per the Tour itinerary
- All scheduled meals while on the Tour
- Services of a driver-cum-naturalist
- Services of the Toehold Skipper
- One-litre bottled water per person, per day, while in transit and on safari
What’s Not Included?
- All travel expenses between your home and Nairobi Airport
- Stay and Meals in Nairobi prior to the start
- Any kind of personal expenses, optional tours or extra meals ordered
- Insurance, laundry and phone calls
- Any kind of drinks (including bottled water)
- Visa expenses
- Yellow fever and polio vaccination charges
- Optional tour to a Masai village and balloon ride
- Anything that is not included in the inclusions list
- USD 1000 as booking amount
- Remainder to be paid 90 or more days before the departure date
All figures per person.
- USD 1000 90 days before the Tour
- 50% of the Tour fee between 89 days to 45 days before the Tour
- 100% of the Tour fee between 44 days to 1 day of the Tour
Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.
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, valid yellow fever vaccination card and proof of polio vaccination, there are no other requirements. However, in order to make the most of the Tour photographically, we recommend you be familiar with at least the basics of photography. If you’re not, we suggest you join an Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.
Are yellow fever and polio vaccination mandatory?
Yes; vaccination against polio and yellow fever is mandatory in many countries including India. Please talk to us for advice on how to get one.
Are earlier yellow fever and polio inoculations valid?
Yellow fever vaccination is valid for a period of 10 years from the date of administration, and polio vaccination is valid for 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 different are our Group Tours from ordinary Tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven’t experienced themselves, our Group Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of an experienced naturalist. The common ingredients in all our Group Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are nature lovers, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.
How sure are you about sighting wildlife on this Tour?
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 were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings – especially of leopards – are guaranteed.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour if I want to make photographs?
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. Visit our Rental Store to see what we offer.
What do I do if I do not have the requisite equipment?
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. Click here to see what we offer. What’s better, you enjoy a 20% discount on all equipment hired on our Toehold Outdoors Group Tours!