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Eco-Resorts: Changing the World - One Journey at a Time.
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The Eco-resorts Mara Migration Professional Wildlife Photographer Safari

An introductory safari in Kenya.

Hornbill Safaris with Eco-resorts.Hornbill Level

Number of days: 9 nights/10 days

Regions: Loita Hills, Masai Mara

Activities: Photography, Adventure Camping, Bird Watching

Accommodation: Mara Simba Lodge, Governors Camp

Departure date: On request

Join Gustav W. Verderber, a professional nature photographer and environmental interpreter, and Eco-resorts, an East African eco-adventure tour operator, on the photographic wildlife safari of a lifetime. Learn the field techniques of professional wildlife photography and produce gallery-quality photographs of African wildlife as you travel to one of the most remarkable places on Earth.

This photo safari is designed for the serious photographer interested in producing top quality images of African wildlife. Minimally, you must be familiar with basic 35mm photography. If you are a professional photographer but have little or no experience photographing wildlife, you will want to use this opportunity to put yourself in the right place at the right time to capture those African images you've seen in leading magazines.

Focusing on the abundant wildlife in Kenya's Masai Mara, this ten-day safari will take you through the undulating plains of the Mara savanna, up to the hilltops of the Loita Hills and into the riverbank forest depths. In each location, you'll seek out the hidden leopard or feeding elephant as you practice your wildlife photography techniques with Gustav. The safari is also schedule to coincide with the Masai Mara's magnificent spectacle of the annual Wildebeest Migration.

Gustav is a professional free-lance nature photojournalist with credits that include the cover of Natural History, The Audubon Society Calendar, scientific journals, and whose exhibits have won him international recognition. He is also a zoologist who teaches photography, biology, and environmental science at various New England colleges. He brings with him a wealth of information about the animals you'll find in the Masai Mara. Aided by your local, expert guides, you will receive a true introduction into the wonders of the African wilderness while honing your photography techniques for the future.

Your African photo safari actually begins well before you board your plane to Africa. Gustav will outline a course of instruction that starts with photo projects you will be asked to complete before your departure. This will enable Gustav to gauge your expertise and to focus his instruction on your personal strengths and abilities without wasting time on skills you already posses so that you receive the best possible instruction while on the safari itself.

With photography game drives and game walks in the cooler mornings and evenings, your afternoons will be spent with photography technique lectures and training, as well as catching up on the odd bit of sleep! Don't forget to spend time with your camp crew, learning about Kenya's tribal cultures as well as the animals, birds and plants!

Hornbill Safaris with Eco-resorts.

Day 1 Arrive at the Nairobi International Airport where you are met and transferred to your Nairobi Hotel. Meet Gustav, your instructor and the other participants before enjoying dinner and overnight in Nairobi.

Day 2 Your camping crew collects you this morning and you start your drive towards the Masai Mara, heading down into the Great Rift Valley, past volcanoes and alkaline lakes as you go. Ascend the Mau escarpment and arrive at the Loita Hills on the outskirts of the Mara in time for lunch. As your camp staff set up your tents, you'll get started with your first lecture and preparations for the evening's game drive. All meals and overnight at the campsite.

Mara means "contrast" in the Maa tongue, referring to the contrast of fair, savannah land and dark trees in the area. Located to the south of Nairobi, and bordering Tanzania, the Maasai Mara forms part of the huge Serengeti eco-system. The Mara spreads over 1510 square kilometres of rolling plains, sudden rocky outcrops, and green winding rivers.

Not only is the Mara blessed with this stunning landscape, but its animal diversity is one of the greatest in Africa. Surrounded by the grazing lands of the Maasai people, the Mara is a sanctuary for all of the "Big Five" animals: lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard. The sweet grasses and abundant water ensure a full compliment of plains game such as the Impala and Thompsons gazelle, which are of course, closely followed by lion, leopard and cheetah. The deep river pools provide homes for hippo and crocodiles.

Each year, generally in July/August/September, the Mara is host to the spectacular Wildebeest Migration, one of the natural wonders of the world! Literally millions of these awkwardly shaped ungulates move across the open plains in an endless stream stretching from horizon to horizon. The movement of this vast herd is fascinating in itself, but it is seldom that a day goes by without the added bonus of watching the predators that follow the herd. Lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dogs rely on the herd for food. Spotting one of these magnificent predators is more or less guaranteed at this time.

Day 3 An early morning coffee or tea before heading off for the morning game drive in search of the wildebeest. The Wildebeest Migration is one of the few remaining mass migrations in the world. With a population estimated at around 1.5 million animals, the Migration is one of the wonders of the animal world.

The long rains of Tanzania and Kenya start in late March and early April. At this time the wildebeest are to be found in the eastern part of the Serengeti in Tanzania, with some still in the Masai Mara, Kenya. Lush, abundant grasses caused by the rains provide plenty of fodder and this is the wildebeest calving season.

Virtually all the calves are born within a two-week period. Whilst this helps the herd in the future, with the majority of the young at the same stage of development during the long walk, it also provides safety to the calves during birth. The numerous predators simply cannot keep up with the 'easy' pickings and for every birthing mother and calf eaten, another survives.

The rains peter out by the end of May, and the sheer number of animals causes the pasture to rapidly disappear. By June the wildebeest are on the move. Concentrating on the remaining green patches of savannah, huge herds are formed.

The mating season commences now, with males defending territory and attempting to attract females into their area for mating. The noise of bellowing wildebeest is quite deafening!

Once mating is more or less completed, the herds merge together again and the push to the northwest begins. Some animals head west first, often going well outside of Serengeti park boundaries before the swinging northeast. The other half go directly north. The two groups will meet again in the Masai Mara in late July and August.

When crossing the Serengeti, into the Mara, the wildebeest must cross many large rivers; the spectacular river crossings are a highlight of many safaris. It's not a sight for the squeamish though!

Many of the weaker animals are unable to cope with the strong river currents and the buffeting from the other wildebeest as they swim. Hundreds of animals die while making the crossings and the rivers are inundated with corpses. Crocodiles, hyena, lion and other predators feed on the bodies. For days to come, no predator needs to hunt for dinner.

With the advent of the short rains in November and December, the wildebeest swing southeast and slowly head back to the Serengeti's eastern plains. By February the migration is back to its starting point and the entire cycle will start again.

Lunch back at the campsite, lectures in the afternoon and then a game walk in the evening to search out photo opportunities on the ground. Dinner and overnight at the campsite.

Day 4 A full day in the Loita Hills practicing your techniques. All meals and overnight at the campsite.

Day 5 Your camp crew will pack up camp today as you game drive enroute to the Mara Simba Lodge inside the Masai Mara Reserve itself. Check in to the lodge and enjoy a hot shower and lunch before continuing on with your studies. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.

The Mara Simba Lodge is a large, comfortable lodge with lovely views of the river, friendly, helpful staff, good food and comfortable rooms. With access to power and telephones, this is your chance to recharge batteries, contact the outside world and hopefully get some night photography in as the animals come to the river in the evening.

Day 6 It's back out to the camping crew today at your new campsite inside the Mara Reserve. All meals and overnight at the campsite.

Day 7 Exploring the rivers of the Mara and the wildebeest crossings if possible. All meals and overnight at the campsite.

Day 8 Game driving through the Mara, you head up to the black cotton soil area of the northern triangle and your final night here at Governor's Camp. This superb permanent tented camp is one of the original camps in the Mara and its professional staff, large, comfortable tents and excellent food will provide a highlight to this trip. Dinner and overnight at Governor's Camp.

Day 9 Spend the morning on your final game drive before heading back to Nairobi in the afternoon. Arriving at your Nairobi hotel, you'll spend the evening going over all that you have learned during your safari. Dinner and overnight at your Nairobi Hotel.

Day 10 Depending upon your flight departure time, spend the day exploring Nairobi or head straight out to the International Airport for your departure.

Hornbill Safaris with Eco-resorts.

Includes: Photography instruction, all meals, water, park and camping fees. Self-camping style safaris provide clients with their own vehicle, a driver/guide, a camp cook and helper and igloo style, two man tents with 3-inch mattresses for sleeping. Public campsites are used, which provide long drop style safari toilets. The camp staff will heat water for traditional bucket style safari showers. Chairs, tables and all camping equipment are provided.

Excludes: Sleeping bags, towels, personal purchases, tips, alcoholic drinks when camping and all drinks at the lodges, visas, international flights and your personal photography equipment and film.

Contact Melinda Rees for more information on this safari.

Hornbill Safaris with Eco-resorts.

Why travel with us? Because Eco-resorts is changing the world-one journey at a time.

Animals and people both need land. Ecotourism provides an alternative income for the people, leaving space for the migratory animals. Eco-resorts actively supports the villages and projects that are protecting East Africa's environment and culture.

We develop self-help eco-projects, which promote wildlife conservation. We also educate both our consumers and our partner camps with two free ezines. We use renewable energy products, reduce paper and plastic consumption in our office and have left the natural vegetation unscathed, resulting in duiker and monitor lizards visiting the office!

We donate 10% of all post-tax profits to fund community and/or conservation projects. Community projects are operated with the local villagers as the operators and managers; Eco-resorts provides advice and guidance when requested, but abides by local beliefs and traditions.

Our current projects include:

- The Children of the Rising Sun Orphanage, which provides accommodation, meals, medicine and schooling for 28 street-children. Our goal is to have a vocational job-training center operational at the home, for the kids and local villagers.

- The Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, the last remaining tract of coastal lowland forest in Kenya, which provides the only refuge for several endemic birds and mammals, such as the golden-rumped elephant shrew and the Sokoke Pippet. Designated as one of Conservation International's 26 global bio-diversity hotspots (www.conservation.org) and surrounded on all sides by an ever increasing human population, the Forest is in danger of disappearing as trees are cut for carvings, land cleared for subsistence farming and animals trapped for food.

Eco-resorts hopes to ensure that the local villagers become the greatest supporters of the Forest. One of the many projects in the Forest trains the local villagers to breed forest butterfly species for export to the live butterfly market.

With two local butterfly farms already in operation, over 400 people in the area bordering the Forest now have an income that relies upon the continued health of the Forest. Our goal is to employ another 100 people.

Please contact melinda@eco-resorts.com for more detailed information on our ezines and the Eco-resorts community and wildlife conservation projects that your eco-adventure safari will support. Help us make a difference!

Click here to enquire about a safari holiday to Kenya.

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