It does not get any better than this! Explore and photograph the best African wildlife reserves, at the best time of year, from our own private safari vehicles, boat charters, light plane flights over the Rift Valley, elephants and lakes filled with flamingos, and - for the brave - even short walks on foot! Australian Geographic photographer and Canon Ambassador Chris Bray, along with partner Jess Taunton will help everyone in this select group of 8 lucky people to capture unforgettable images of lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, ostriches, hippos, zebras, monkeys, giraffes, antelope, birds and more. Highly experienced driver guides will get us close to the game each day, and in the evenings we'll relax in stunning private accommodations including luxury 'tent houses' overlooking the Amboseli National Park to Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the 'Elephant Bedrooms' where elephants literally walk right past! All delicious meals, park entry fees etc are included. Book your place soon as this once in a lifetime opportunity sells out FAST! Read the full daily program below!
"Kenya is the most breathtaking backdrop against which to learn the magic of photography. Chris and Jess have a unique way of making learning photography a natural extension of a wonderful holiday. The wildlife was mind-blowing, the accommodation unbelievable, and the guides were amazing. Especially loved the flight with the flamingos! As promised, it was the trip of a lifetime. An unforgettable 2 weeks and I have over 10,500 photos to prove it!" ~ Maxine Rice (2011 Safari)
Featured in Australian Geographic Outdoor - Click to read!
FULL DAILY PROGRAM:
We'll all meet each other after breaky at the luxurious Windsor Golf and Country Club in Nairobi at 7 AM. After a quick photography refresher course we'll hand out bean bags and wildlife guide books (yours to keep and tick off each animal) and other goodies, then jump into our two awesome 'Extended Landcruiser' safari vehicles and head first to a Giraffe sanctuary (where you can hand-feed them if you want!) and then on to the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where you can watch, photograph and learn about all the orphaned baby elephants they are looking after, and we then get to know each other on the 4hr drive to Kibo Safari Camp - a luxury tented camp in the world-famous Amboseli National Park gazing out over Mt. Kilimanjaro. If you keep an eye out on the way, you'll start to see herds of Zebra and Giraffe etc freely roaming around the countryside even before we enter the park. We'll grab some lunch at a small restaurant, and we'll reach Kibo Safari camp just on dusk at about 18:30, ready to unpack and have a hot shower in your 'tent' (if you can call something with a four-poster bed, thatched roof, power, furniture and an ensuite with a shower a 'tent'!), download your shots and put your batteries on charge before then relaxing at the open terraced bar overlooking Kilimanjaro and the African savannah, drinking perhaps a 'Tusker' (the local beer) followed by a buffet dinner next door. We'll also give you a briefing about the program for tomorrow ent houses' under the starts. Maybe we can even try for a star-trail photo if anyone's still awake? To ensure the best shots, we'll always split into two groups of four, and explore the parks in separate vehicles with our own highly experienced driver guides. Either Jess or I will also be in your car to help you out along with one epic 600mm lenses to share around, and we'll swap between vehicles daily. Travelling independently in two cars like this, you'll never feel stuck behind the other car, and we can also cover twice the area - if any vehicle spots something spectacular, they'll phone the other to let them know.
Today is a full day of game drives in Amboseli National Park - we'll start very early (but not before a tea/coffee!) to catch the golden lighting, popping the roof up on our vehicles as we enter the park to give you all great views around to help spot and photograph the wildlife. It won't take long before you're surrounded, literally, by elephants closer than you could ever imagine. If we're lucky and the cloud clears, we can all try for that dream shot of elephants in the foreground with the giant snowy plateau of Mt. Kilimanjaro rising in the background! As with every game drive, one lucky person will always be loaned our epic Canon 600mm f/4 camera lenses (worth $16,000) for either the morning or afternoon drive to get some unbelievable shots. We'll enjoy our picnic breakfast at an amazing lookout over an elephant-filled swamp, and then return to Kibo Safari Camp where you can spend the harsh sunlight hours during the middle of the day eating a buffet lunch and relaxing in the swimming pool, or going through your photos. Later we'll head out for our afternoon game drive, and when the beautiful evening lighting finally dies, we'll head back again to Kibo, have a shower and chill-out again under the shade of the acacia trees for a debrief at the bar before dinner.
Today will be unforgettable. After a tasty buffet breakfast, we'll head out on one final mornings game drive in Amboseli, and then the real excitement begins: We've chartered two light planes to fly us from the Amboseli airstrip, direct to a little-known treasure - Lake Baringo - where we'll check into our lake-side accommodation 'Soi Lodge' that'll be our home for the next 4 days. The flight will take about 2hrs (saving us 2 days of bumpy driving!) and on the way keep an eye out for the breath-taking Rift Valley as it drops away beneath us, dotted with Maasai villages, amazing craters, wildlife and more! When the adrenaline wears off and the last three early-mornings catch up with you, what could be nicer than flopping down in your airconditioned room, or having a dip in their expansive swimming pool, with a cold drink in one hand, followed by a buffet lunch. From the bar, and your rooms, you can see the lake and it's amazing birdlife (sea eagles, kingfishers, sunbirds, hornbills are more!) and try and spot a Nile crocodile or even a hippopotamus. But wait - there's more! Have you seen the movie 'Out of Africa' where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep fly over a lake carpeted with millions of pink flamingoes? Well that's going to be us thisarvo! It's back to the light planes again, and now we'll take the doors off so you can feel the wind in your hair as the plane banks around again and again down over the enormous flocks of both Greater and Lesser flamingoes smothering the nearby Lake Bogoria - who knows, you might even take a photo or two (thousand)! Unforgettable. After our tasty dinner and a Tusker beer, when you're all asleep, hippos will then literally stroll right out of the water and graze on the lawn around our accommodation, so watch your step! Don't worry though, the night watchman will keep en eye out for you (or, if you wish, will wake you up and show you when he sees them!).
Time for yet another amazing experience! After downing a pre-dawn tea/coffee (they taste the best!) we'll climb aboard our two waiting boats for a fantastic three hour boat trip out onto Lake Baringo! By the time the brilliant orange orb of the rising sun splashes it's warmth across the lake, we'll already be nosing in and out of the reed-beds, framing up stunning photos of all-manner of birdlife skilfully identified by our local guides. Majestic Goliath Herons, diving kingfishers, stalking egrets, colourful darting Bee-eaters, Egyptian Geese, Hammerkops, weaverbirds and more. In fact, Lake Baringo holds the world record for the most species of birds seen in one day - over 300! The best is yet to come though - and after bartering some fish from locals out fishing on their astoundingly simple (and picturesque) balsa-wood rafts, our guides will then whistle loudly and chuck the fish into the water beside our boats. Switch your camera to rapid-fire, focus on the bobbing fish, and I'll count you in: Three... two... one... NOW! An enormous african fish eagle will swoop down right beside us, talons extended, and snatch the fish from the water! You can imagine the photos. It's hard to get that exact moment though, so in between dodging yawning hippos, and fields of lillypads and dragon flies as we explore the lake and it's islands, we'll be sure to coax down several more fish eagles for you to nail that perfect shot. Back on shore, you'll be more than ready to enjoy a hearty breakfast including omelettes, fresh fruit, cereal etc. After Lunch we'll drive to Lake Bogoria (the one with the flamingos we flew over yesterday), and there you're in for a treat! You can opt to either drive along the salt-encrusted shoreline right beside impossible numbers of flamingos as they wade the shallows, heads down, sieving the water with their pink bills, or you can join me on foot walking freely around, sneaking closer and closer until a tide of heads lift from the pink carpet and stare curiously at you. It's a game - step too close and the nearest hundred or so will bolt - scampering across the lake's surface on their dainty legs until they finally lumber into the air. That's the shot to get! Keep your eyes peeled for scavenging jackals, worthogs, ostriches, boiling water geysers and swooping eagles that will cause the whole lake to erupt into a swirling mass of fleeing flamingos. You're sure to have run out of battery and memory card space by the time the sun goes down, and be more than ready to relax back on the lakeside home before dinner, excitedly showing off your best photos to each other as you download them and charge your batteries.
Yet another day in paradise! Because I know you'll all be secretly jealous of each others fish eagle shots, we'll wake up pre-dawn again and head back on the boats again for a couple of hours more birding so you can attempt to better their shot! After another wonderful breaky, the rest of the morning and indeed the whole afternoon is yours to relax at last - you'll love it! You can either chill out, use the 600mm lens on my tripod so you can snap some birds or maybe even some crocs, or wander along the shore (it's quite safe), go birding, hippo-ing, go for a swim, or just cull some of your photos, enjoy a cold drink, ask me any questions - whatever. In the arvo sometime I know where I can rustle up a scorpion or two so we can all get some killer macro shots! Remind me at night and I'll show you a cool trick with a UV light too, and we can also do some cool light-painting photos reflected beside the pool?
This morning you can enjoy a luxurious sleep in, and after breaky, we hit the road and drive to Rhino Watch Safari Lodge. On the way we'll stop off at a few photogenic locations, a tea and coffee planation (where you can buy some packets of genuine good stuff to bring home!) and later at a place where we can find some chameleons for you in the plants near by! These little guys are amazingly fun to photograph! Then it's on to Rhino Watch Safari Lodge. The trend with our food and accommodation so far has been getting better and better, and at Rhino Watch you'll not be disappointed! Surrounded by world-class game reserves to explore over the coming days, you can unpack your gear and officially 'move in' to your luxurious 'tent' where we'll stay for the next 6 days (Again, a 'tent' with huge beds, rugs, furniture, ensuite stone bathroom with hot showers, electricity, and even chocolates on your pillows!). Let's meet in the evening at their wonderfully african bar for a briefing and drinks before their amazing chef serves a mouth-watering three-course extravaganza and true african hospitality. After the heat of the Baringo Lakes area, you'll enjoy cooling down here at night up on the plateau under the stars.
This morning you'll fall in love with the breezy open vistas from the veranda of your 'tent' - gazing right out over the dramatic silhouette of Mount Kenya on the skyline as you gather your gear together and head down to the restaurant for an early breakfast. When you've finished your omelettes/cereal/toast/pancakes/eggs/whatever, we'll head off to the legendary Solio Game Reserve, just five minutes drive down the road. This park is well regarded as the best place in the world to see both white and black rhinos, and is one of the few parks that have been successful with breeding the critically endangered black rhino (the ones with the pointy lip and two 'humps'). But Africa being Africa, there is of course every chance of bumping into almost any animal around every corner, so stay alert! There's a good chance of bumping into any of the big cats including lions, leopards and even cheetahs (my favourite), and various antelope, giraffes, vultures, zebras etc will of course spatter the landscape too! By the end of the day you'll be longing to chill-out back at your Rhino Watch tent house, enjoying a crisp cool 'Tusker' and marvelling at all the things you've seen. Don't forget to backup your pics!
After another early breaky and a nice hot shower in your 'tent' house, today we'll head up into the Aberdare National Park - one of the last primary rainforest environments in Africa, and at a chilly 3500 m altitude! Huge forest elephants might cross our way as well as the giant forest hog. Leopards could also saunter by, as well as bongos, cape buffalo and bushbuck, and we can also expect colobus and sykes monkeys. We'll stop at stunning waterfall and enjoy a picnic lunch above the tree-line and bamboo forests, and then slowly unwind the day back down and out - hopefully via a leopard! By now your good ol' Rhino Watch private tent houses will feel like home as you plug your camera in to charge, start your photos downloading and flop yourself onto a deck chair and sip a cool drink and as you try and cull some photos after dinner.
Ok, we hear you - it's time for a bit of a rest-day! Enjoy a sleep-in and a day of slothful luxury, culling your photos, indulging at the restaurant and wandering the beautiful gardens at Rhino Watch, perhaps trying to photograph the myriad of bird species that flit from flower to flower. If we can, we'll also visit a local school too, to hand out some much needed gifts like pens, exercise books etc. In the arvo we'll get together and go through some of your best photos together, and maybe do a bit of a Lightroom tutorial too. As you wander back to your 'tent' keep an eye out for some glow-bugs too - they are great to photograph!
Today we're off early again to explore the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. It's slap bang on the equator and was once a private cattle ranch, but today boasts the largest sanctuary for black rhinos in East Africa including one tame, blind one you can feed! Ol Pejeta is also home to a chimpanzee orphanage that we visit, and is host to the 'big five' (rhinoceros, leopard, cape buffalo, elephant and lion) among a large selection of other African animals. After a full day's shooting here, we'll return for the last time to our home away from home - our tent houses at Rhino Watch, for a very special african dinner! Bring your camera!
Time to pack your bags, have one last breaky prepared by our favourite chefs, and then that's it for Rhino Watch. Today we drive to the Samburu National Reserve. Our accommodation for the next two days couldn't get any better - the so called 'Elephant Bedroom Camp', is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro river and actually inside the Samburu game reserve. Game - including elephants - often wander right into the camp, even rubbing themselves against your tent! Apart from sporting a diverse range of game including all three 'big cats' (lion, leopard and cheetah), Samburu is also famous for being one of the places in which conservationists George and Joy Adamson raised the lioness Elsa in 'Born Free'. After dropping our gear at our 'tent houses' (impossibly even more luxurious and spacious than those at Rhino Watch), we'll head out for an afternoon game drive where you'll be sure to tick off several new species including the bizarrely long-necked 'Geranook', plenty of Dikdik's and other antelope, new birds, and maybe even the Kori Bustard - the heaviest of all flying birds. Dinner tonight is - like the accommodation - better than you could imagine. A full on 4 course restaurant meal that you get to pick and choose from the menu, and enjoy while watching elephants and baboons stroll past.
Today is our last full day of wildlife photography, and we're sure going to make the most of it - we'll be up before sunrise, grab a quick tea =, coffee and a biscuit and head off into the ever fading blackness, trying to find ourselves a picturesque classic african 'flat topped acacia tree' with plenty of weaver bird nests hanging underneath to put between us and the sun as it pops over the horizon to give us some magic silhouettes. Once we've got that in the bag, we'll cruise around the park seeking out yet more photo opportunities, hopefully involving some big cats if we're lucky, and then we'll be back in time for a late, gourmet breaky at Elephant Bedrooms, followed by a relaxing couple of hours off in the middle of the day to relax back at camp and enjoy a sumptuous lunch and perhaps a dip in your private plunge-pool on your verandah! Not bad hey! We'll head back out for an afternoon game drive, and be sure to have your animal photo check-lists handy and snap those last few elusive shots. A Greater Kudu perhaps (a huge and magnificent antelope), or maybe the electric-blue vulturine guinneafoul or ververt monkey? Or maybe you're still seeking that to-die-for shot - a leopard in a tree? Samburu is the best place in Kenya to see this so don't turn your camera off, even for a moment! There'll still be plenty of elephants and probably some lions and cheetahs too, because let's face it, you'll never have enough photos of them either! Go nuts! In the evening we'll head back to our luxurious Elephant Bedrooms and chill out with a hard earned drink with an amazing dinner.
Time for some African culture! We'll squeeze in one last early morning game drive here at Samburu, but after returning for breakfast we'll begin the road-trip back to Nairobi - the capital of Kenya - stopping to be welcomed into a traditional maasai/samburu village on the way where the chief will explain their culture, walk you through their huts, show you how to start a fire by rubbing sticks, put on a cultural performance for us and more - if you have any memory space left to photograph it that is! There'll also be one last spot on the way to buy any last minute carvings, spears or whatever it is you want to decorate your house at home with, and by evening we'll drive back into the wonderfully grand surrounds of the Windsor Golf and Country Club where this all began what seems like a lifetime ago, and together we'll celebrate all that we've seen and experienced over one last amazing dinner, before we retire to the comfort of our pre-paid rooms. What a trip it's been!
That's it folks! After the included breakfast this morning at the Windsor Golf and Country Club, we'll be offering airport transfers to Nairobi airport, from where you can jet back to the reality of your busy lives back home, attend to that flood of emails building up in your inbox and get ready to return to work on Monday. Stick a few of your best photos up on the wall and remember, forever, two of the most exciting weeks of your life!!
The exact itinerary may be shuffled around and tweaked due to weather, park control etc but you can rest assured that we'll be working flat-out to get you to all the best places, at the best times, for the best photos possible.
All meals are provided, however beverages must be purchased at your own expense. Bottled drinking water will be provided for free.
Accommodation arrangements vary for each location, however it is all twin-share. So, if you're booking on your own, then you'll have to share a 'tent house' / room with someone else, and if you're booking as a couple, then we can organise a double bed rather than two singles. For solo travellers we can't guarantee that we'll always be able to have you sharing with someone of the same sex - it depends on the gender split, but we do our best. You can request a single supplement (a room to yourself) for an extra $2000 AU. Keep in mind though that a) you're only usually in your rooms to sleep as we fill your waking hours with plenty to do, and b) the couple of times we have had clients get rooms for themselves, they end up regretting it when they see the amazing friendships that form between other roomies.
There won't be any strenuous hiking, but a reasonable level of mobility will be required, to climb into the light plane, to get in and out of our safari vehicles etc - if you're concerned, you don't need to come on the few short walks we do. Remember, you don't need to be able to out-run a lion - you merely have to be able to out run someone else in our group.
This is Africa we're going to - there may be occasional power outages, some of the roads are bumpy and pot-holed, and toilets that we pass along the way are not always going to be classy! It's all part of the experience though, and I'm sure you'll survive. (The bathrooms - as with everything else - at all our accommodation venues, are wonderful!)
After you book, we will email you an extensive information document telling you everything you need to know from what camera gear to bring, to mozzie protection, currency information, mobile reception etc. We can even pre organise you a local USB modem so you can stay connected to the Internet.
Price does not include flights from your home town to Nairobi, (Kenya's capital), nor your return flight back home. However, as of now (Feb 2011) flights from Sydney to Nairobi cost around $2,200 return. We have our own travel agent who is more than happy to help answer all your questions and help you find and book the best flights, travel insurance etc.
Apart from the epic 600mm lens, we do not loan out our own camera equipment for this trip. We will bring a spare camera or two just in case but... be prepared to be self sufficient regarding your camera gear.
All park entry fees and game drives are included in the price. We also provide the transfer to the airport on the last day of the safari from the Windsor Golf and Country Club. We can organise transfer for you from the airport to your hotel before the safari starts, but it is not included. Please let us know.
You MUST obtain your own travel insurance, but again, our travel agent can help you with this. You MUST provide us with a copy of / proof of your travel insurance along with your final safari payment.
You'll require a Tourist Visa to enter Kenya. These are easy to obtain, can be bought at the airport (but it's best to organise them ahead of time at your local Embassy or Consult to save time), and are valid for 3 months. You will also need a valid passport, with at least 6 months left on it before it expires, and at least two empty pages within.
The payments are split into three convenient instalments: A non-refundable $1,000 deposit is required at time of booking to confirm your place, the next payment (also non refundable) of approx 50% of what's owing will be requested around mid-year, and the final payment a couple of months before departure. This final payment IS refundable if you pull-out, unless you cancel within 45 days prior to departure in which case the money will not be returned to you, irrespective of if we manage to fill the spot later. This is why you must have travel insurance because unexpected things can happen and you don't want to be left out of pocket!
If we do not reach minimum numbers, then we reserve the right to cancel the trip, and refund all the payments you make to us.
Most of the above photos are taken by Chris Bray during our several years running these Safaris, with a few extra photos courtesy of F. Wirth, taken at each location for that day.
Why come on safari with us? Concerned About Travelling?
Travelling alone? Partner not into photography? Am I too amateur? Why come with us?
Over the years of running our safaris, we've listened to your initial concerns and have done our best to put you at ease. If you'd been on a photo safari with us before, you'd already know why you'd want to come back with us on another one, and our ridiculous repeat guest rate speaks for itself - we've had some people book on every single safari we offer, and we've had entire safaris sell-out solely with repeat customers. But if you're a newcomer, then lets be objective: We might not be the cheapest operator, but we pride ourselves on providing not only the best value, but the best experience. For example, for several of our safari destinations, while other photo tour operators will book you a spot on a busy scenic boat cruise for say an afternoon's activity, we'll privately charter the whole boat, relaxing the pace, giving you plenty of space, modifying the route specifically to visit photogenic locations, and only moving on when we've all got the shot - rather than you trying to snap some photos amongst other jostling, impatient tourists before the boat rushes ever on. We're an Aussie owned and run company, we give to Aussie charities, and unlike most other photographers who decide to take people on trips, we actually run our safaris legally and by the books - we're fully licensed as an Australian Travel Agent, fully insured, contribute to the Travel Compensation Fund, are audited to ensure we abide by best-practices including managing your funds properly in a trust account that we can't spend until after in case refunds were needed, and we obtain all the proper permits and commercial operator licences for the national parks we take you to etc. We keep our groups small and personal so there's plenty of time for relaxed one-on-one help, and no queues for the best locations. We have a perfect track record for actually running every safari we open, we have backup options for bad weather, highly trained assistants who not only know their stuff, but are friendly, approachable and always happy to help but not harass. Last but not least - and this is a crucial difference - we are solely there to help YOU take the best photos: Beware trips saying "join/shoot-beside our pro photographer as they travel to..." which is exactly what happens, you're basically funding their photo shoot while they take the best locations and photos. Ours is a very different philosophy, and one that we pride ourselves on. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE & READ REVIEWS >>>