Monday, September 12, 2011

Your daily dose of C4 Masai Mara action.

This year C4 is leading photo tours in the Masai mara for 35 consecutive days.
Being extremely excited about being in this wonderful place, we want to share some of the excitement with you. For that reason we we will be sending you updates direct to this blog from the open plains on a daily basis.
Posts will be via a variety of mediums: short videos, iphone photos and DSLR photos all taken by our C4 guides and our clients.
In them, we hope to share some of Natures spectacle with you and give you an idea of what travelling with C4 Images and Safaris is all about.

Have a look at our Mara teaser video clip here.


In a rare case, this was a day in the Mara I had all to myself, and my partner. Some might have rested and relaxed, but I was very excited to get out and see what I could find on my own. Looking back on it I photographed a mix of animal action, birds and landscapes- the three genres I enjoy the most!

The day started off with lions on a topi kill, hyena pups and a cheetah sighting. This was interrupted by a leopard stalking in a lugga which while we were driving to, we found another cheetah… By the time we had finished with the leopard, the first cheetah had killed a Tommie. And this was all before breakfast…!

The afternoon was spent chasing a massive storm, trying to get subjects to place in front of it. It ended with honeymooning lions and finally a landscape session against a beautiful sky. Another amazing day in the Mara comes to an end. Tomorrow if Nairobi day to meet new clients- so no photos, of wildlife…

30 September
Photographing the dawn over the vast plains, we heard hyenas going wild nearby. This turned into a great photo scene of these backlit beasts as they fought over a very fresh carcass. From there we wound our way to the Sand river for breakfast, not before finding a real highlight along the way: A yellow billed oxpecker building its nest! Some excellent photos were had.

The last afternoon was spent with two different prides of lions and then having a breeding herd of elephant walk right past us with the most amazing thundercloud sky in the background. A fitting way to end this groups last day.

Some images from the field by client David Burstein.

29 September
Lion cubs at dawn and leopard cubs at dusk. What more could one ask for?

The Entim pride was found just outside of camp in the pre dawn light and the three tiny cubs were hungry, very hungry. They chased their mother round and around trying to suckle. Mom was having none of it though and even leapt up a tree to get away form them. In the end, she relented and they suckled for a while before playing in the open grassland. Never before has golden morning light been so more beautiful!

We ventured north through herds of wildebeest and zebra until breakfast and the traditional C4 Group photo under our one special tree.

The afternoon we spent with a leopardess with two cubs. Eventually she left them to head out hunting. Unfortunately for her it started raining heavily and she had to take cover, but we were in perfect position to capture her running through the rain- the droplets making streaks in the background.

This ended the day’s activities and we headed back to camp a very happy group with many wondering just what more the Mara can deliver?

28 September

Birds was the mission of the morning as drove out of camp into another spectacular sunrise. Along one of the drainages with beautiful riverine trees and shrubs we were lucky to find good shots of black-chested snake eagle, white-browed coucal, yellow-throated longclaw, malachite kingfisher and lilac-breasted roller. We slowly made our way to Lookout Hill where about 3,000 wildebeest had been gathering along the Mara river. Breakfast on the hill gave us a panoramic view of the plains with the opportunity to keep an eye on the movements of the wildebeest at the river. Running wildebeest with dust was a great photo opportunity as the wildebeest started a frenzy and ran to the water's edge, only to turn around and run back in our direction to graze again. The afternoon was spent with the Entim pride where the three small cubs entertained us for an hour playing with mom and each other.

27 September

We found the Entim pride lying no the open plains in the predawn light. This instantly prompted us to position for a backlit image, which we photographed just as the sun peeped over the horizon: The perfect way to start the day. From there we headed north to Rhino Ridge, photographing herds of buffalo, zebra, oxpeckers, hippos and eventually the three brothers, who were actively on the hunt. Being so close, breakfast was had on the banks of the Mara River.
 The Afternoon had us heading west along the Ol Ketcho Rongai River- one of my favourite drives in the Mara. Masses of zebra were the main attraction. But not only us… A crocodile caught a zebra in this narrow river and we all watched the battle for life and death for an agonising 90 minutes. The zebras one leg was broken onto which the crocodile hung on, while the zebra made increasingly desperate attempts to leap free. Eventually the crocodile, and the level of the water won. The zebra slipping quietly under: its nostrils spraying out its last evidence of life. It was a massive struggle to see and witness and left our whole group in a very sombre mood on the drive back. Luckily, being the Mara, a massive sunset sky brightened the mood somewhat as we headed back to camp.
These are some cheetah images from client Mark Dumbleton. Enjoy!

26 September

The boys are back in town.


After two weeks away in the nether regions of the Mara/Serengeti border, the three brothers returned- and what a performance they put on. We spent much of the morning and afternoon with them- the open skies making for excellent backlit images of the cheetah. It was quite a spectacle watching them scatter the wildebeest herds with arrogant abandon- pronouncing they “were back” to the beasts! In addition to them, another cheetah was found that had just killed a Tommie.
In amongst them we had leopards mating, jackal pups at the den and fighting zebra. In the two days this group has been here, they have seen 5 different leopard! So expectations for the week are getting higher…
Enjoy the images- we sure have had great fun today.
25 September

The Entim pride of lions finishing off a wildebeest kill in golden light  and a leopard climbing a tree were the final farewell for our second week in the Mara. Great like-minded people and lots of animals on the plains is a perfect recipe for good times and stunning photography. After we said our goodbyes the next group arrived and were treated to a glimpse of Noah's Ark on our way from the airstrip to camp. Impala, gazelle, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, lions with cubs, two leopards, and vultures at a dead zebra. We followed a young male leopard on our first drive, walking out in the open and climbing a tree. The first day concluded with giraffe silhouettes at sunset and a delicious evening meal.

24 September

A thunderstorm display after dinner was the perfect way to finish off a magic second week of safari in the Masai Mara! A great week of sightings were rounded off with our best day so far, the last full day for this trip. After all our previous attempts to go up to the Northern swamps were interrupted by other sightings, today was our last chance to do it. As we reached the swamps we saw the famous Marsh pride of lions, followed by a cheetah stalking gazelle, and a lioness carrying a warthog piglet meal. After an exciting morning's photography our afternoon did not disappoint with the Entim pride of lions with cubs, a secretary bird nest, lilac-breasted roller with locust meal, and another dramatic sunset. Time has gone by so fast and we'll be very sad to say our goodbyes tomorrow!

23 September

They say "time flies when you're having fun" and this could not be closer to the truth for us this week. It's hard to believe that there are only three game drives left. Today was another phenomenal day in the Mara that included a leopard in golden light, hyenas at a carcass, backlit bat-eared foxes, a black-backed jackal den with pups, a black rhino out on the open plains outside of camp, and a gathering of almost 5,000 wildebeest at Kaburu and then Vumbi Vumbi crossing points. We spent almost three hours waiting for these wildebeest to cross the Mara River without success and eventually entertained ourselves with slow-shutter panno blur shots of the running wildebeest. We were puzzled by the logic of the wildebeest as they rushed to the water's edge, only to turn around and run back to graze on the plains again. We are all holding thumbs for a spectacular crossing tomorrow.

22 September

When you start running out of hard drive space half way through a safari you know things must be going well. Another day of non-stop action was celebrated with a Tusker around a campfire and rounded off with a delicious evening meal. Backlit bat-eared foxes was followed by backlit lion cubs before we had a break for coffee and then 4,000 wildebeest crossing the Mara River. This exciting crossing was close to Lookout Hill where a herd have been gathering for the last few days. Photographing the giraffe on the open plains next to camp is a temptation we could not resist as we left for our afternoon drive in beautiful light. That was followed by lions in a tree and a leopard with a kill to finish our day on a very high note.

21 September

We were treated to a brilliant sunrise before running into a lioness with a cub just as we crossed the Talek river on our way North. Great light had us excited about more good photography. We left that sighting quickly when we got a call that a large herd of wildebeest was about to cross the Mara river close to Lookout Hill. Just as we got there, we ran into two male lions engaging in a territorial dispute which had also interrupted the wildebeest's movement towards the river. After an action-packed morning the lunch at camp with a cold Tusker was just what the doctor ordered. Our afternoon was just as eventful with highlights that included black rhino, cheetah and another unbelievable sighting of a serval walking across an open patch of grassland. A beautiful sunset was the perfect end to another great day in the Mara!

20 September

A sunrise shot is usually the first stop as we leave camp in the mornings. A couple of Acacias on the crest of the rolling grassland hills makes for a perfect anchor point against the rising sun. This morning we were called to a lion sighting while we were still doing landscape shots during sunrise. The Entim pride made another wildebeest kill and the lioness with the cubs were on her way to bring the cubs to the kill. After almost two hours of photography at the kill we saw a leopard and vultures at a carcass before running into a big herd of migrating wildebeest close to the Sand River. Our afternoon drive started with photographing a herd of 18 giraffe just out of camp, followed by a serval and another leopard. On average it was the most shots we have taken on any day in the Mara so far and we celebrated that with a Tusker!

19 September
The first of C4 Images' Masai Mara safaris for 2011 finished on a high note. We were treated to a great lion sighting this morning followed by the classic Masai Mara scene of a cheetah on an anthill. On the way to the airstrip we saw a Rosy-throated Longclaw while the topi on a mound was the final goodbye to a wonderful first week in the Mara. Our next group were welcomed by a journey of giraffe on the open plains with classic Masai Mara big skies. We are all looking forward to another great week of photography. Tomorrow we are heading South, to the Sand River, to find some beasts!

18 September
Two leopards in a trees, chased up by a pride of lions made us head South to the Sand River again. It's a beautiful part of the reserve with rolling grasslands wedged between patches of woodland in a drainage basin. Highlights of the morning drive included a vulture eating frenzy at a wildebeest kill and good bird sightings on our way back to camp. In the afternoon we spent some time with lions, hyenas and a yellow-billed stork before we were entertained by Masai dances around our campfire before a champagne dinner.

Saturday 17 September

None of us can believe that the first week of safari in the Masai Mara is already drawing to a close. The wildlife action today have again been superb which meant lots of downloading and cleaning of cards after the game drives. This morning we drove back to the Entim pride of lions who had made a wildebeest kill the previous day. We found the whole pride basking in the early morning sun out on the open plains. Nothing but bone was left of the carcass, and even the vultures tried to find an alternative meal. A running herd of wildebeest caught our attention and we followed them to the Mara river where they hopefully will make a crossing tomorrow. After a long morning drive we spent our afternoon with mating lions close to camp and on our way back we found a classic giraffe image against the sunset and beautiful big skies of the Masai Mara.

Friday 16 September

Just when you think it can't get any better, IT DOES! We drove up to some of the most famous and popular crossing points on the Mara river. Vumbi Vumbi, Mawi Mawi and Kaburu. A couple of topi's and zebra have gathered to cross the river and to our surprise two of the topi's jumped into the river first. It was incredible to witness how a large crocodile got triggered immediately as the topi splashed into the river. The inevitable happened and only one topi made it to the other side. Our afternoon was spent on the plains close to our camp where we were treated to some action as a lioness killed a wildebeest. The whole family of lions joined the meal which included three very small cubs.

Thursday 15 September

Another exciting day in the Masai Mara has drawn to a close. We headed up North this morning in search of the Marsh Pride of lions, made famous by BBC's Big Cat Diary series. We found the pride just as a small herd of elephants were chasing them off their morning siesta spot. It's an impressive pride of lions of all sizes including a five day old cub. Back to camp we passed through the spectacular stretch of grassland called Paradise Plains. Our afternoon was spent at a black-backed jackal den. Five pups entertained us for the whole afternoon before we were treated to another spectacular sunset.

Wednesday 14 September

Today was predator day! Lions, cheetah, leopard and lots of wildebeest were some of our highlights. We traveled South-East to find the big herds and stumbled upon several lions and cheetah on the way. After a long morning drive with a packed breakfast we returned to camp to "recharge our batteries" and a few tuskers (of course). The afternoon drive was very productive with numerous predator sightings just outside of our camp. A good leopard sighting was the highlight for most until we saw a cheetah take down a baby thomson's gazelle.

Tuesday 13 September

Our tour started with an action packed afternoon. We were treated to three cheetah hunts. They were all unsuccessful unfortunately. The last one was an attempt by the famous three brother coalition to bring down a wildebeest calf. The wildebeest's mother courageously fended off the attackers. Big skies brought an end to a wonderful first day in the Masai Mara!

Monday 12 September
Bags are packed and we're ready to go! After a good night's rest at the Nairobi Serena hotel we are all very keen to jump on the plane and head West, to the Masai Mara!!

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