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Losing Yourself in a Mara Moment

What is one of the most important lessons a professional wildlife photographer can learn? UK-based Richard Peters finds out first-hand on a recent visit to Angama Mara
Above: The Egyptian Pride on the cat walk

The view is stunning.
 
That’s the first thing that hit me as I walked into my new home, Angama Mara’s guest tent North Camp 5. In fact, the tent and view are a little too good. You’d almost be forgiven for not wanting to go out on daily game drives. Instead, just sitting back and relaxing as you look out over the Mara seems like just as good a plan. If I’d had more time here, I’d have been sorely tempted to do just that. But with three short days at my disposal, the hunt was on for photographic subjects.
 
The second thing that hits you is the safari experience. Everything here feels a little more relaxed than the main Mara Reserve. Less jostling for position. Less noise from a mass of vehicles. You can savour the experience, sights and sounds and be immersed in what you’re viewing.

There is no smell quite like a day-old carcass that's been left out in the sun
The smell draws in flies (and other creatures) from far and wide

That is, unless you find yourself watching a lion eat a day-old buffalo kill. ‘Savouring the experience’ isn’t quite the right term. Lions were the main photographic subject of my safaris, but I don’t mind saying that even when one of the best angles was down wind of this particular sighting, I asked my guide, Fred, if we could reposition a little and wait for the lion to move the carcass. Fred was as delighted as I was to move, and sure enough, it didn’t take long before the carcass was shifted. The lion got his breakfast and we got to smell some fresh air. Everybody won.
 
The best thing about this sighting though was only one other vehicle turned up. And they moved on quickly. Luckily, this sighting also happened in a window of good light. As with any trip anywhere, you’re always at the mercy of the weather.

Feeling like part of the pride
Photographing animals at eye-level is one of the exciting parts of the Mara
The long green grass provides the perfect foreground

The second memorable encounter was with the Egyptian Pride. We found them walking along the main road that runs through the Triangle. At first, it was only Fred, Robert from Angama’s Photographic Studio and myself in our vehicle. We followed them along the road for a while, feeling almost like part of the pride. We eventually had an opportunity to get past them and we did so, enabling us to get in position and photograph them walking toward us. We spent maybe half an hour with them before two more vehicles turned up. We then followed in convoy until the pride settled on a small mound at the side of the road. Photographically the best of the encounter was now behind us, so we spent some time just enjoying their company before heading off to a tasty bush breakfast.

Up close with a regal grey crowned crane

Again, the thing that made these sightings more memorable was the solitude. It’s a far more pleasurable thing to sit and watch wildlife when there is no other noise than the animals before you and the occasional bird song in the distance. It’s pure bliss.

A simple moment in black and white

Although lions ended up being the main attraction, we did of course spot plenty of other species. And although not always photograph-worthy, they provided for some very memorable moments. Watching a herd of elephants trying to roll around and bathe in a large patch of mud right by the side of the road offered plenty of opportunities to just sit and watch — and smile. We were all alone so watching the interaction between the playful youngest and the elders was wonderful. We must have sat there for a good 20 minutes before they eventually had enough and headed off into the distance.

A member of the Angama Mara team looks out from the guest area

Another unforgettable moment involved not even turning the camera on. As we headed down the Escarpment, a huge storm could be seen heading across the Triangle. The photographer in me suggested to Fred that when we get to the bottom of the hill, turn left and head for it. Lions in the rain would be great. That was my train of thought. What actually happened was a storm so big that we got soaked even with all the flaps down and fastened. It became so severe we decided to pull over and let it pass. Perhaps no photographic appeal, but still plenty of fun.

Spending peaceful time alone with a young male lion

And sometimes that’s what it’s all about. There can be such a disconnect when you’re looking through your camera at wildlife. It’s almost like watching television. That viewfinder or rear LCD screen takes you away from the very thing in front of you. Being in the Triangle, and staying at Angama Mara, offered me the opportunity to sit back and take in the safari experience in a way I haven’t done for a long time, if ever.

Notes from the Editor:

Richard is a UK based photographer, author and speaker. He has photographed some of the world's most beautiful wildlife both near and far and continues to delight us with his use of light and movement.

Filed under: Stories From The Mara

Tagged with:

Lions of the Mara , Mara Triangle , Photographic Safari , Wildlife Photography

About: Richard Peters

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