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.
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 white rhino and black rhino.
Clearly, extra memory cards are imperative.