Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 08/07/2012

Sticking My Neck Out.




Common Hippo, originally uploaded by http://andrewskelton.net.

It’s back to camp for breakfast, and as usual there’s a feast on offer. We may be out in the middle of nowhere (if you can call the Masai Mara nowhere!) and all our meals have been of the highest order, with a wide variety on offer to suit all palettes. So far I’ve refrained from having too much to eat first thing in the morning, but I device that as it is my last chance I’ll have a bit more than the customary toast and coffee and load my plate up with a freshly cooked omelette, french toast, waffles, sausage and beans… delicious.

Having cleared my plate, we now have enough time to pack our suitcases before we head out for our last drive on the Mara. This takes me longer than it should, I’ve been carrying a large amount of camera gear in my day bag when out and about, but leaving things like my Android Tablet back at base, however when it comes to flying, I want to pack more of my camera gear in the protection of my suitcase and retain my tablet in my day bag so if inspiration should hit, I can sit and write. I finally reach a compromise, pack my second camera (did I mention I’ve using the 5D II and 1D4 in conjunction with the 600mm and 150-500mm throughout my time on the Mara? No, well I have) in the case along with the flashgun, filters etc leaving only the 600mm, 150-500mm and 1D4 in the day bag (I’ll retrieve the tablet when we finally transfer to the plane).

With my (heavy) day bag slung over my shoulder, I wheel my suitcase up to reception and with a heavy heart (and day bag, don’t forget) I make my way to the Land Cruiser for one final drive. There are now five of us in the vehicle (not including Patrick and Sammy) and whilst it’s not as spacious as it was, it’s still not cramped. We make our way out along the same route as we did in the morning, but then turn to the right, heading to the North of the park. We’re hoping to locate a couple of Lion that have been seen that morning in amongst a thicket of bushes that follow the line of the river. These wouldn’t have been spotted if it hadn’t been for the two male cheetahs we’d photographed who had strayed into their territory, the lions having woken from their daytime slumber enough to chase their smaller relatives across the river and off their patch.

Trying to find anything in amongst the scrubland is difficult, harder than grassland, but anything that just wants to sleep below a bush is even harder to spot but after fifteen minutes we happen upon one of the lions, recumbent beneath a particularly large bush out of the heat of the Kenyan sun. He’s particularly uncooperative when it comes to photographic opportunities. We spend another fifteen minutes hunting for his partner in crime but the bush telegraph must have provided ample warning and we eventually give up on our search and return to the open fields of the Mara.

Our next wildlife encounter is with another herd of elephant, though the lighting isn’t perfect, and I spend more time watching than photographing however we then happen upon a herd of eleven giraffe that, unlike the other herds we’ve seen so far which have been fairly sedentary, these creatures are on the move. To see eleven large creatures moving in unison is beyond my limited descriptive powers, they’re so elegant, so balletic you have to see them for yourselves to truely appreciate their gracefulness. You might find this a bit of an odd thing for me to say, but for the first time on the trip I’m photographing the animals and feel totally in my element, working at one with the camera, the sunlight, the position of the vehicle and the animals themselves (our other encounters have had one of these elements at odds) and I’m happy with the photos I’ve taken of them. Happy enough that when we return to camp it’s not such a wrench to be leaving… well, maybe just a bit!

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