Tyler Davis was lucky enough to join the safariLIVE crew on their last day of filming in the Maasai Mara and tells us about a particularly adrenaline filled Saturday Night of live filming
Brought to you directly from the Maasai Mara
It almost felt like an SNL sketch, but instead of “3 2 1 ACTION!” the director was yelling “1 2 3 PUSH!” And rather than the cameras just starting to roll, our live feed had just been cut.
Right . . . they’re some loose parallels, but it was Saturday night, and we were live from the Maasai Mara.
Our camera would have kept rolling but, as it turns out, even on the internet, it’s not great when the host lets slip an “ah, $#*%!” But that’s what happens when you’re excitedly broadcasting a lion hunt live from the middle of nowhere in the pitch black, guided only by infrared cameras while following four lionesses as they actively pursue a herd of wildebeest, and suddenly the black cotton soil reaches up and grabs your diff, rendering you immobile.
The team behind safariLIVE, National Geographic’s highest-trafficked web show, graciously allowed me to join them on the final of five days filming in the Mara – their first live safari beyond South Africa’s Sabi Sands. Sitting shotgun, I shared the cramped Defender with host James Hendry behind the wheel, cameraman Jeandre Gerding behind the camera, and producer and founder Graham Wallington behind all of it. (Oh – and a Conservancy Ranger, as well as a bunch of equipment including infrared and thermal imaging cameras and monitors . . . it was tight).
Once the feed cut from us back to Djuma in the Sabi Sands, mercifully buying us some time, Graham, the ranger, and I hopped out to give the vehicle a push. Jeandre kept a GoPro rolling in case we generated any good “behind-the-scenes” outtakes (the lionesses were only about 100 meters past us, after all) while James put the pedal to the metal and reversed back onto solid ground.
We hurried to catch up with the vehicle, silently wondering how long it would take a lion to cover 100 meters at top speed (less than 5 seconds, by the way). All aboard with adrenaline pumping, we again took off in pursuit of capturing the hunt on live broadcast, sans headlights and using only the infrared and thermal imaging camera monitors on the dashboard to navigate off-road (yes, at first this is every bit as unnerving as it sounds, and takes some getting used to).
By the end of the night, while we witnessed another chase, the lionesses ultimately came up empty-handed (pawed?). But no matter – safariLIVE’s first foray to the Maasai Mara was a huge success, filled with other successful lion hunts and otherwise, dramatic footage of the Great Migration, and of course the stunning scenery of the distinctive Mara landscape.
There is talk of this crazy crew returning to the Mara one day – the sooner the better we say. And if you would like a behind-the-scenes insight into what we had unknowingly let ourselves in for please watch this clip below and spot Tyler pushing the vehicle with a lion hot on his heels.
Note from the Editor: We received heaps of lovely feedback from the safariLIVE team after their whirlwind stay with us but this was my favourite: ‘Angama Mara is quite simply the best safari lodge I have ever seen by a country mile and while the view, tents and food play a big role it is [always] the people that count the most.’