Worth a thousand words
As we approached a large pride of lions stretched out across the track I was immediately drawn to the cubs playing with the father. I wanted to capture the intimacy of this play so selected the longest lens combination in my camera bag. Taken late morning. Nikon D700, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 lens, 2x tele converter, ISO 200, 400mm focal length, f7.1 at 1/320, program mode. Picture: Stan Davies

Shooting wildlife on safari is now the reserve of photographers rather than great white hunters. But on a photographic safari to Kenya, one of the premier game destinations in Africa, there is still an adrenaline rush as the plane touches down in Nairobi.

Africa has so much to offer the photographer and a conduit to that will be a good local guide - friendly, courteous and an encyclopaedia of knowledge once in the game reserves. The vehicles we use are stretched four-wheel-drives with seats removed to allow ease of movement and limited to four passengers. There is plenty of room to stretch out but the main purpose of the vehicle's design is to allow room to position oneself while photographing the animals.

Samburu National Reserve is the first of three reserves visited, after crossing the equator and viewing Mt Kenya. It is a small sanctuary with beautiful landscapes and some game species not found in the southern sanctuaries, such as Grevy zebra, Beisa oryx and Waller's gazelle. The tented accommodation is luxurious and the food in Kenya is brilliant and plentiful.

Everyone is excited about the first game drive. Expectations are high. The guide's eyes dart in all directions and the vehicle pulls off the track and moves behind a clump of bushes, then comes to a halt and not more than 4m away are two lions resting after the kill from the night before. There's no need even for a large lens - a "point and shoot" camera is all you need when they are this close.

Good guides are well versed in the needs of the photographer and position the vehicles to allow them to get the best photograph. And with a photographic safari there's no rush; everyone is on the same page and patience is a photographer's best asset.

After a full morning searching for animals and seeing lion, elephant, zebra, warthogs and countless other species, things are going to plan.

Once back at camp the photographic escort will download your images and help with composition, cropping, exposure, camera settings and any other questions on photographing the game. The next day's itinerary is planned with the guides.

Game drives vary in length and time of day, though are generally early morning and afternoon into dusk. Often we go for the whole day and have a picnic lunch prepared by the camp. There is nothing quite like sitting in the savannah or overlooking a river eating lunch knowing that all around you are such magnificent wild and dangerous animals.

At Lake Nakuru there is the famous flamingo sanctuary and also a black rhino and white rhino breeding sanctuary. The drive there includes the Great Rift Valley.

Finally we head to the Masai Mara National Reserve, famous for Maasai warriors and their relationship with the king of the jungle, the lion.

We are here during the wildebeest migration and everyone is hoping to see a crossing of the Mara River, where tens of thousands of animals cross with crocodiles snapping at their heels. We stay for four nights in a beautifully appointed tented camp and visit Maasai villages, taking photographs of the willing men, women and children.

Game drives in the Mara always throw up the unexpected and it is not uncommon to witness kills and see lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena and vultures feeding on a carcass.

Probably the animal that creates the most excitement is the elusive leopard. Once the call goes out that leopard has been spotted, vehicles come from everywhere. The last group was privy to such an experience on our first day in the Mara. A moment to be talked about for years to come.

  • fact file *

·Stan Davies' next photo safari in Kenya with Wildlife Safari will be from August 26 to September 9, particularly focusing on Samburu, Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara.

·It is $9975 per person, twin share, including return airfares from Perth, luxury accommodation, most meals, ground transport by custom-designed Wildlife Safari 4WD vehicles throughout Kenya, a senior Wildlife Safari guide, one domestic flight in Kenya, all sightseeing excursions and game viewing.

·Visit wildlifesafari.com.au or call 9388 9900. Or call Stan Davies on 0403 304 361 and see standavies.com.au

The West Australian

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