Since its inception in 2018, The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year has received countless entries from thousands of photographers, from the US to China, and many local talents in Kenya. Every cent raised through entry fees goes to supporting boots-on-the-ground conservation projects in the Mara, including the Angama Foundation.
One of the competition’s most committed supporters over the years has been Thorsten Hanewald from Germany. To thank him, we simply had to invite him to Angama Mara where he took the following photographs.
It has always been a childhood dream to travel to Kenya and experience its breathtaking wildlife. About 15 years ago, I finally managed to travel to Kenya for the first time. Since then, I have come back almost every year and even twice in some. Through all these trips, I have made many friends and acquaintances in Kenya that I always look forward to seeing. It's like ‘coming home’ — so much so, that I now call Kenya my second home.
In mid-October, my partner, Ute, and I started our safari into the Mara Triangle to Angama Mara. We enjoyed the short flight from Nairobi, watching the beautiful landscape and spotting the first animals from above while on the plane. We were warmly welcomed at Kichwa Tembo Airstrip by our guide Elly who drove us up the Oloololo Escarpment, spotting countless animals on the way.
As a photographer, I am of course always enthusiastic about the high density of animals in the Maasai Mara. I don't know of any reserve that I have visited in Africa where you can see so many different animals in such a short time. I especially like the big cats which are plentiful in the Mara. For me, it is always the most exciting to find and observe a leopard. We weren’t disappointed as we were lucky enough to see one playing with its prey on the first evening.
The leopard had stashed a bushbuck kill in a tree and was playing with it in the tall branches. She gave us a wonderful show as, again and again, she tried to gather the remains of her prey towards her but without success, and at some point, the booty fell. What else could the leopard do but climb down from the tree and bring the prey back to the safe place in the treetop? And thereby providing us with a show of her agility and a great photographic moment.
Another big cat that I love to photograph is the lion. One morning, we left early at 06h00, taking a packed breakfast to enjoy while out on safari. It was worth getting up early as we spotted a pride of lions with young ones. The pride was just waking up and a lioness didn't notice that a herd of elephants was coming towards her from behind. She was suddenly surrounded by the elephants and was now desperately looking for a way out. Visibly intimidated by the grey giants, the lioness fled towards the rest of the pride who came very close to our car as Elly had made the right decision and positioned the car perfectly.
The Triangle not only offers amazing wildlife but the landscape is also beautiful — especially the view from the Oloololo Escarpment, which is just a dream. You could sit there for hours and enjoy the view. Which is exactly what we did, sometimes with a ‘dawa’ in hand (a Kenyan cocktail consisting of lime, honey, brown sugar, vodka and crushed ice cubes — for the uninitiated). On one of our evenings, we sipped our dawas around a big open fire as Maasai warriors demonstrated ‘adumu’, their world-famous jumping dance. It might look easy but reaching heights like this takes immense strength and fitness.
On our last morning we started early again and, just as before, our early rising was rewarded. Shortly after the gate, a giraffe and her calf stood at a distance in the rising morning sun. The calf was still very young and was still being suckled by the mother. It is important to remember that it doesn’t always have to be hunting scenes or big cats to take a spectacular, emotional photo. The young giraffe watched us curiously and with that inquisitive glance that is still fresh in our memories.
Filed under: Stories from Angama
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