The plan had originally been for me to accompany the winning guides from The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year to London back in 2020. But thanks to Covid it was back to the drawing board. With the UK borders remaining firmly shut, we chose Victoria Falls as an alternative travel prize that would really get the winning guides excited.
On a bright, sunny morning in May, we made our way JKIA to catch our flight to Livingstone, Zambia. Our group included the winning guides, Antony Kiplunghurt, Leshan Sayialel, Daudi Lolotuno and Joseph Njapit, and Sammy Komu from Angama Mara. Needless to say the guides arrived well before the 2 hours required – it was their first international flight after all. And, of course, they were dressed in full Maasai regalia, attracting much attention outside the terminal.
Making our way through security and Covid checks, we headed to Duty Free for shopping, a cup of tea and a quick hello with my dad, Kipchoge Keino, a world-famous Kenyan marathon runner, who posed for a few photographs with the group.
Aboard our Kenya Airways flight, we discovered we had been upgraded to First Class – an eye-opening experience for sure – with the excitement mounting even further as the flight attendants announced our group to a round of applause from our fellow passengers. Enjoying an in-flight movie and views of Kilimanjaro, we landed in Zambia where our guides, Amanda and Everisto from Bush Boys Africa Safaris welcomed us. Then came more Covid checks and many more photographs – with the immigration officials seeing the Maasai in traditional attire.
Off we travelled to the amazing Royal Chundu River Lodge, right on the banks of the Zambezi River overlooking Zimbabwe. A warm welcome awaited us with drinks and a shoulder massage – what a way to relax after our travels. After settling into our beautiful suites, we took a sunset cruise followed by a dinner.
Early in the morning, the Zambezi was calling us back for a birding and fishing expedition. Rods were at the ready to try our luck at landing a tiger fish. Two hours later, we gave up on the fishing, but with the guides being birding enthusiasts, the time wasn’t wasted at all – even the Zambian guides were impressed with the Kenyan guides’ bird knowledge.
The next few days were filled with great comradery and laughter, with highlights including white water rafting, as well as a visit to a local village, with the guides once again dressing in their traditional Maasai regalia. The group were surprised to discover that the community’s way of life wasn’t all that difference from the Maasai and Samburu – and the ladies seemed quite mesmerised by the guides!
Of course, no trip to Livingstone is complete without a tour of the famous Victoria Falls. A scenic hike took us to the top, where we had the option of raincoats to avoid getting wet from the spray from the mighty waterfall. I was the only one who took that option; all the guides wanted to feel the full power of the water from the Falls. And indeed, they got completely drenched.
Then it was time to head over the border to Botswana where our guides from Chobe Game Lodge, where we would be spending the next few nights, were waiting for us. We were surprised to discover that most of their guides and staff were female – including the guide who took us on our first safari in the Chobe National Park.
It was wonderful to see the guides sharing their vast knowledge, comparing their experiences in the different ecosystems of Chobe and the Mara. More safaris, a sunrise cruise, wonderful food and great conversation filled the days. Truly a memorable experience to top off an amazing stay complemented by impeccable service throughout.
Our final stop was back to Livingstone, for a day filled with adrenaline activities. First a helicopter flip over the Victoria Falls. Everyone was looking forward to this and rightly so, as none of us had ever been onboard a chopper before. The flight was incredible. Sweeping views of the Falls, the river, gorges and the countryside of both Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was truly a magical experience.
If that wasn’t enough adrenalin for the day, the guides had a choice between a bungee jump, gorge swing or gorge slide – Leshan was the lone brave soul to choose the bungee jump, and while he said it was incredible, he swore never to try such madness ever again, much to the laughter of everyone in the group. Antony and I opted for the gorge swing and Lolotuno and Njapit settled for the gorge slide.
With that, our amazing trip had come to an end and it was time to head back to Nairobi. Over one last Mosi beer at the airport, we reminisced about all the wonderful moments we had shared over the past week. As we flew home, I kept thinking about how the memories and experiences from this first trip outside of Kenya would never be forgotten, with so many stories to tell friends and family back in the Mara.
The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer aims not only to celebrate the Maasai Mara and its photographers, but also the guides who are the most important, yet often overlooked factor in the creation of exceptional wildlife photography. Each year, the guide that drove the winning photographer is awarded a prize, with this year’s guide set to win a trip to the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Our grateful thanks to Royal Chundu, Chobe Game Lodge and Bush Boys Africa Safaris for hosting the group.
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