INDIA'S No.1 ' TRAVEL AND PHOTOGRAPHY' COMPANY

Big Cat Week
Masai Mara, Kenya Masai Mara, Kenya Masai Mara, Kenya Masai Mara, Kenya

Masai Mara, Kenya
27 Dec 2017 - 1 Jan 2018
Bookings Closed: Please note that bookings for this Tour have been closed. Please get in touch with us if you have questions.


TOUR HIGHLIGHTS



  • Five fascinating nights in the midst of one of the best locations in the Mara
  • Safaris in specially designed both-sides open Land Rover vehicles with only three participants sharing each vehicle
  • No road journeys; only charter flights for transits
  • Unlimited drives for the duration of the Tour
  • Extensive photography assistance and natural-history learning both on and off the field



This is a Toehold Special Tour

If you're a wildlife devotee, not many of them are better than photographing big cats undergoing alchemy from the ethereal light several hours each day, taking your dream scenes from the television in your living room to the endless plains of the real world, where it all unfolds before your eyes.

Not many of them are better than Big Cat Week.

How is the place?

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, free and photogenically. And Masai Mara is its best showpiece; a miniature paradise with a flourishing population of lions and the rest of the Big Five.

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 the greatest show of mammals on Earth.

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. And with local air transfers included so you land in the middle of the Mara and commence viewing wildlife from the moment you set foot on its soil, life can seem a nice, double-smooth ride.

Toehold's Sachin Rai speaks about what makes Kenya special.

How is the weather?

December marks the middle of the second annual rainy season in Kenya. Nourished by the short rains, the short-grass meadows make an enticing carpet of verdant green under endless skies in which clouds of dreams form dime-a-dozen.

This is also the time when the weather god is known to let His hair down. As the day advances, a dark grey curtain of clouds may hoist itself down the distant horizon ahead while 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; and the essence of the Mara has just thrown open an opportunity to make light work of evocative images throbbing with drama and atmosphere.

Magic is an everyday occurrence in this season.

What you will see and photograph:

Chief exhibitor at the extravaganza is the apex predator and the very emblem of African Wildlife — the lion. Without a doubt, the imperious cat is the centrepiece of the wonderland, with the spotlight rightly on the emperor of all he surveys. And having thrived through the bounty of the migration, many females are rearing small cubs at the time of the Tour. But the relatively easy pickings of the Migration having now gone by, these custodians of the land must be mobile to earn their dinner, which keeps them on their toes.

This prevailing climate of profuse felinity thus spawns a great chance to photograph big cats to your heart's content. The many unknown facets of natural behaviour unfurl themselves on the plains each day as individuals of various ages and standing in lion society may be observed hunting, playing, grooming and resting on the picturesque open plains in spectacular light, all in the public gaze.

Watch this video to see what you can experience on this Tour.

Here will also lie a great opportunity 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.

The Mara is also 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 floors of its 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 warthogs and hippopotamuses are always around the corner, and so are diverse birds such as the beautiful crowned crane and the magnificent bataleur eagle.

Clearly, there's only one thing that you have to do — be there.

Blog
A photo-essay on the Big Cat Week experience.

Where you will stay:

If the Mara is a theatre of dreams, the camp we'll be staying in during the Tour is its hospitality box, providing quick and easy access to all the celebrated big-cat headquarters you've seen on the BBC's Big Cat Diary, including the Musiara Marsh, Leopard Gorge, Rhino Ridge and Bila Shaka Lugga.

Located strategically, the camp is the best possible base from which to launch your Mara dreams every night under the canvas of your tent, and set out in pursuit of their fruition the next day under the endless Mara skies.

The tents provide uninterrupted views of either the Talek River or the rolling plains of the Maasai lands as you relax in the verandah, and are stylishly decorated with a shower room that offers 24-hour hot water. Early morning tea and ginger biscuits are brought to our tents, meals are scrumptious and serving times are flexible so we won't miss lunch if we spent too long watching lions in the open 4WD vehicles that lend themselves beautifully to photography and ensure there's nothing between us and the infinity of the Mara.

Where else you can go:

This Tour will also include an optional pre-Tour extension to Samburu National Reserve, a 165km2 gem of a park located some 350 kilometres from Nairobi.

The Ewaso Ng'iro (meaning 'brown water') river flows through thick acacia and riverine forests, and grasslands, to make a very interesting landscape.

But most importantly, it is the opportunity the park offers to see animals that are hard to find elsewhere that makes this extension exciting. Animals like the gerenuk, which looks like the result of an antelope's ambition to look like a giraffe cut short by the non-cooperation of its lower half; the reticulated giraffe, which appears conceived by an award-winning designer of bathroom tiles; and the Grevy's zebra, an endangered and distinctly Italian-styled, pin-striped cousin of the commoner plains zebra.

Blog
Why should you visit Kenya? Read on to find out!

Important Prerequisite: All participants of the Tour mandatorily need to be vaccinated against yellow fever and polio to be allowed to travel to Africa. Please talk to us for assistance.

PHOTOGRAPHY SKIPPER




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.

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TESTIMONIALS BY OUR PREVIOUS TOUR PARTICIPANTS

Photography enthusiasts who were a part of a similar Tour previously said:

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Please click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.



Please note: This Tour will commence at Nairobi on 27 December 2017 at 8 a.m. and end at Nairobi on 1 January 2018 at 11:45 a.m. You will need to arrive a day earlier (26 December) and stay overnight in Nairobi at additional cost, or take the KQ flight on day one of the Tour (27 December) to be on time for your charter flight out of Wilson Airport.

For the return on 1 January, please book your flight out of Nairobi after 4 p.m.

Onward and return domestic charter flights between the destinations are included, but international flights are not.

    OPTIONAL PRE-TOUR EXTENSION: SAMBURU NATIONAL RESERVE (3 NIGHTS/4 DAYS)


    Participants desirous of making the most of the Tour may consider joining this three-night/four-day extension to Samburu, chiefly in pursuit of gerenuk, Grevy's zebra, reticulated giraffe and elephants. The itinerary for this will be as follows:

  •   DAY I   24 December 2017, Sunday:  Nairobi to Samburu by Charter Flight; Afternoon Safari and Overnight in Samburu

    Domestic Flight: Nairobi Wilson 08:30 - Samburu Kalama 09:20

  •   DAYS II AND III    25 and 26 December, Monday and Tuesday:  Morning and Evening Safaris and Overnight in Samburu
  •   DAY IV    27 December, Wednesday:  Post-Breakfast Checkout and Transfer to Mara by Charter Flight

    Domestic Flight: Samburu Kalama 08:30 - Mara-Olekiombo 11:15
  • MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE


  •   DAY 1   27 December 2017, Wednesday:  Nairobi to Masai Mara by Air; Afternoon Safari and Overnight in Masai Mara

    Participants who have opted to arrive the previous night and stay in Nairobi will be transferred to the Wilson Airport after breakfast, and any participants joining us directly from Jomo Kenyatta Airport will be picked up along the way and everyone will then be transferred to Wilson Airport for a scheduled flight to Masai Mara.

    Domestic Flight: Nairobi Wilson 09:15 - Mara-Olekiombo 11:00

    Taking off at 9:15 a.m., we enjoy some spectacular aerial views of the savannah before touching down in Masai Mara at 10:00 a.m., upon which we are immediately transferred to the camp. After checking in and refreshing ourselves, we'll meet for a scrumptious luncheon around which we get to know one another better.

    Post-lunch, the Skipper will brief the group about the park rules and facilitate a natural-history orientation, following which we venture out for our first safari, during which we acquaint ourselves with the topography of the region and get to know the many animals big and small we'll be getting to know better over the next few days.

    After hopefully a productive ride, we return to camp, unwind and retire for the night.

  •   DAYS 2 TO 5   28 to 31 December, Thursday to Sunday:  Morning and Afternoon Safaris and Overnight in Masai Mara

    Over the next four glorious days, we will enjoy memorable morning and afternoon rides in Masai Mara, photographing the big cats and the various other wildlife that teems in this paradise.

    This is not a sightseeing trip or relaxed holiday. On this Tour the objective will clearly be to show you great wildlife and assist you in every way in getting outstanding images. Suitably, therefore, we will make an early start every morning to catch animals at first light. This is when big cats are at their most active and the light is at its best, so we seek to make some evocative images. We carry packed breakfast so we don't have to return to camp in a hurry and can stay out shooting as long as we want.

    Each of our four-side open 4WD vehicles, custom-made for wildlife viewing and photography, will be shared by only four Tour-participants (only three if the Skipper is in the vehicle), to ensure ample space for everybody to stow their equipment and shoot from a comfortable angle.

    Participants will take turns to share the vehicle with Skipper to take maximum advantage of his experience. Jayanth, who has visited Africa more than twenty times, loves its wildlife dearly and knows it intimately, will be at hand at all times to ensure that the vehicle is positioned ideally in relation to the wildlife to get the best images possible without unduly disturbing the animals.

    All vehicles will be in constant radio contact with one another so nobody misses out on great opportunities. Meanwhile the Skipper will constantly monitor the situation and strategize with the drivers, who have been chosen carefully on the strength of their merit and experience, to make our time worthwhile.

    Jayanth and the drivers know many of the lion prides, leopards and cheetahs individually, and are in a great position to share some fascinating anecdotes of their encounters with them - all of which will help you relate to the animals and appreciate their individuality when you actually get to see them yourself, making for a highly personal experience and helping you connect with the wildlife to a profound degree.

    There will be no fixed agenda as every day in the bush is different. We will go by the reported sightings of the day and decide either to stay put in one place waiting for the anticipated action to unfold, or roam around finding something on the go.

    If there is an opportunity for exceptional images or a unique experience, we may spend several hours in the same place or travel miles to get to the right place. The Skipper will make these decisions as required, of course in consultation with you, with the goal of optimizing photo opportunities and helping you witness memorable wildlife moments.

    In the evening we will stay right until sunset and pick a spot and an animal to try different images, including silhouettes, backlit and side-lit ones. This is when participants can pick Jayanth's brain on all the technical and subtle artistic aspects of such photographs and make giant strides towards making images that stand out.

    Back at camp, we'll be treated to the highly insightful and interactive ChaayaaChitra
    ChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Tricks
    , ChitraTantra
    ChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critique
    and Charchaaloka
    Charchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussions
    sessions every day in the evenings, and depending on our schedule, afternoons too if possible.

    These sessions impart a wealth of knowledge on all matters photography and natural history, and you can immediately put the knowledge thus gleaned into practice on the very next ride, making the experience truly progressive and enriching. And based on the group's consensus, these flexible sessions can also be customised to suit the preferences of the participants.

    Amongst others, we will have a post-production session where Jayanth will illustrate some important processing techniques, image presentations that will showcase some exemplary images and discuss various shooting techniques, from which you can learn and take inspiration, and an image-review session where Jayanth will critique your chosen images so you know precisely how you can get better.

  •   DAY 6   1 January, Monday:  Checkout and Return to Nairobi

    After a leisurely breakfast, we are transferred to the airstrip within the Mara on time for the departure of our scheduled flight at 10:15 a.m., and arrive at Nairobi at 11:45 a.m. The Tour ends after we're transferred to Jomo Kenyatta Airport for our homebound flight (usually at 5:35 p.m.), but your love affair with Africa has just begun.

    Domestic Flight: Mara-Olekiombo 11:15 - Nairobi Wilson 12:45
Individuals
USD 3,000
5% GST Extra
Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
Couples
USD 5,800
5% GST Extra
Per Couple on Twin Share Accommodation
Toehold Patrons
USD 2,850
5% GST Extra
Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
Samburu Extension
USD 1,900
5% GST Extra
Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
Inclusions
  • Air transfers between Nairobi and Masai Mara in scheduled charter flights
  • Twin-sharing accommodation in tents unless single occupancy purchased at extra cost
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and hot beverages (coffee and tea)
  • All safaris in 4WD safari vehicles
  • All entry fees
  • Services of a safari guide and Photography Skipper
Exclusions
  • International airfare
  • Visa fee (USD 50 per person)
  • Optional hot air balloon ride and visit to Maasai village
  • Lunch on the day of departure in Nairobi
  • Any kind of personal expenses or optional tours, extra meals and beverages ordered
  • Insurance, laundry and phone calls
  • Bottled water and soft drinks
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • All applicable taxes
  • Anything that is not included in the inclusions list
Payment Terms
  • USD 500 booking amount (per person; non-refundable)
  • At least USD 2000 (per person) before 15 August 2017
  • Remainder (100%) before 10 October 2017
Cancellation Fees
  • USD 1000 (per person) on or before 1 September 2017
  • USD 2000 (per person) between 2 September and 1 November 2017
  • 100% on or after 2 November 2017

Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.

Terms and Conditions

  1. Participants who have a medical history of blood pressure, heart-related problems or asthma are advised to seek medical advice before enrolling for this Tour.
  2. Fitness to complete the Tour is the only criterion for participation.
  3. Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt Ltd. shall not be responsible for injuries, damages, or losses caused to any traveller in connection with terrorist activities, social or labour unrest, mechanical or construction failures or difficulties, diseases, local laws, climatic conditions, abnormal conditions or developments, or any other actions, omissions, or conditions outside the travel partner's control.
  4. All clients travelling with Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt Ltd. must complete and sign a reservation form and the "Release of Liability, Assumption of Risk & Arbitration Agreement" form.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who should participate in this Tour?

    Anybody with an interest in wildlife, photography or both, and is over the age of 18 (unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian), is welcome to join this Tour.
  • I am not into photography. Is this Tour suitable for me?

    You don't have to be a photographer to enjoy this Tour! Although it's optimized for photography, non-photographers will enjoy the Tour all the same because there's plenty of wildlife to see and learn about and the Masai Mara experience is sure to leave you in thrall regardless of your disposition towards photography.
  • I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?

    Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away!
  • What are the requisites for this Tour?

    Other than good health and an interest for African wildlife and/or photography, the only other requisites are:
  • A valid passport and other documents required for a Kenyan visa (issue of visa will be on arrival at Nairobi. The visa costs USD 50 per adult and USD 25 for children below 12 years.)
  • Valid yellow-fever and polio inoculations, which is mandatory by law (taken at least 10 days prior to arrival in Kenya and within the last ten years) - speak with us to find out more about this.
  • How many people can I expect in each vehicle on this Tour?

    The Tour is designed to provide you a balance between unimpeded photography and your budgetary needs. Safaris will be in open 4WD safari vehicles perfect for photography, with each vehicle shared by a maximum of three participants (or three if the Skipper is in the vehicle). This gives you guaranteed window seat, more than one row of seats to work in, and plenty of room to stow your equipment.
  • How sure are you about photographing 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 and photography were unsatisfactory. The destination on this Tour has been chosen so as to yield maximum wildlife viewing and photography opportunities. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings are guaranteed.
  • What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?

    Masai Mara is a land of diverse opportunities, so a versatile quiver of equipment is recommended to capture it in all its glory. A wide-angle or normal zoom to capture landscapes or creative perspectives of wildlife, and a digital SLR capable of shooting at a high continuous burst rate (at least 5 frames per second) are suggested. For telephoto applications, a lens with a focal length of at least 400mm on a cropped-sensor body or 600mm on a 'full-frame' sensor body is usually essential, especially for birds. For mammals a zoom lens in the range of 100 to 400mm works well enough but longer focal lengths will yield intimate portraits.
  • I do not have the requisite equipment. What do I do?

    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.

© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.



LOCALE

Masai Mara, Kenya

QUICK INFO

  • Date: 27 Dec 2017 - 1 Jan 2018

  • Tour Cost:
    Individuals
    USD 3,000 + 5% GST
    Per person

    Couples
    USD 6,000 5,800 + 5% GST
    Per couple

    Toehold Patrons
    USD 2,850 + 5% GST
    Per person

    Toehold Patrons
    Optional Extension: Samburu
    USD 1,900 + 5% GST
    Per person

    All fares exclusive of international flights but inclusive of domestic charter flights.



    Single Occupancy: Masai Mara
    USD 750 + 5% GST
    Extra per person

    Single Occupancy: Samburu
    USD 450 + 5% GST
    Extra per person

  • Skipper: Jayanth Sharma

PAYMENT OPTIONS

We accept all major credit and debit cards.

UPCOMING EVENTS

ART AND SCIENCE OF PHOTOGRAPHY
DIGITAL POST PROCESSING
PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS
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