Starry Nights And Balanites

5 November 2019 | The Mara |

Reading Time: 5 minutes

From soggy safaris to midnight airfield photo shoots, this is what happened when Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year 2019 finalist, Gurcharan Roopa, came to stay

Several months ago, we arranged our trip to Angama Mara, and ever since we have been eagerly anticipating our visit. We decided to drive rather than fly, setting off at 6:30am, we were treated to dramatic skies along the escarpment. Mt. Longonot was completely surrounded by clouds with only the crater exposed – a rare and special view to enjoy during our journey.

Rain on the escarpment

As it had rained all night, the roads were very wet, especially as we approached Narok, with muddy roads into the Mara Triangle. We were completely undeterred though – I love driving around in the mud, slipping and sliding all the way to the lodge.

Arriving, we received the warmest of welcomes with happy faces leading the way to North Camp and towards “the end of the Earth”. Having been to Angama Mara before, I knew what to expect, but I enjoyed the awestruck expressions from the first-timers as they were blown away by the structure of red brick, stone, wood, metal and glass, and of course, those killer views from the camp. All we could do was sit and absorb our surroundings.

After lunch, we headed out on safari, but before we reached the boom to enter the Mara Triangle, the “heavenly tap” opened and our guide got totally drenched as he put down the rainflaps on the open safari vehicle. We decided to turn back so he could change into dry clothes, despite him being determined to continue on.

Upon entering the Mara, the rain was still falling and we drove towards a mating pair of lion that were most unhappy about the wet weather. Shaking off the raindrops, the female would growl at the male every time he approached, leaving him to wait for her signal.

Mating lions

LionsThe next morning, we headed back to the mating pair and instead found two male lion. Walking in formation, their body language wasn’t casual. As we approached, we saw that neither was the male we had seen yesterday, and we spotted a third male in the distance. The two newcomers targeted him and as they got closer, the lone male made a dash for it.

Once the situation had settled, we moved on to a zebra kill, where some lionesses were feeding with their tiny cubs. The grass was tall, impeding our view, so we just took in the scene through our binoculars, enjoying the intimacy between the cubs and their mother. Nature can be so harsh and so heart-warming at the same time.

Next, we decided to head out in search of leopard, making our way towards the Mara River, close to the Serengeti border. During the drive, we saw a gorgeous giraffe walking along the horizon against the backdrop of beautiful skies and ox-peckers working their magic. We spent a few minutes with the giraffe as it walked out of sight. The search for the elusive leopard continued.


When the sun became too harsh, we parked under a nice shady tree where our guide set out a beautiful breakfast which we enjoyed while gazing at the soft landscapes of the Mara – an eco-system unrivalled by any other I have seen. All one can do is absorb the amazing beauty of it.

Breakfast done, we started making our way back to Angama Mara. As we got closer, we decided to drive past the Hippo Pools to see if there was anything happening at the river. To our surprise, we found a mating pair of hippo who had apparently been at it for quite some time. I snapped off as many photographs as I could until the male dosed off, falling to his side.


Hippo pools

After lunch, I spent a few hours in the Photographic Studio reviewing my images from the last two days and watching Jeff support guests who were looking for help editing their photographs. His patience and advice was excellent.

At 4pm, we left for a late afternoon safari, constantly looking at the sky to gauge whether another storm was on the way, but the weather had completely changed. We came across a herd of elephant as we descended from the lodge. They were so close that I was able to experiment with their detail.


Elephant details

We spent the afternoon looking for a significantly sized subject between the balanites and acacias – the reason why the Triangle looks so different from the rest of the Mara. As the day came to a close, the dramatic clouds covered the sky and the light dropped quickly as the sun set behind the escarpment.

Elephant at dusk

After dinner, as I walked back to my tented suite, the stars were incredible. I pulled out my phone and called Jeff to come quickly so that we could go and try and capture some astro-photography. He soon appeared and we went to the airstrip where a plane was parked for the night – these are the results.

Starry airplane

The next morning we were off to a very early start to travel to Governors Camp for a hot air balloon safari. What an amazing experience it was to watch the balloons being filled, followed by the calm, quiet ride over the Mara landscape, watching the sun rise while following the meandering Mara River, followed by a tasty bush breakfast to end a beautiful trip that I didn’t want to end.

Aerial shot

AUTHOR: Gurcharan Roopra

Born and raised in Nairobi, Gurcharan Roopra was attracted to the joys of nature from an early age. After some time abroad, “Guch” returned to his roots with a heightened passion for wildlife and nature photography, and has devoted his time and energy to it ever since – pledging his images in support of conservation causes in Kenya and earning widespread recognition in the process. Ed’s note: Guch has been an avid supporter of the Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year competition since it’s inception, and as the finalist from February, we wish him the best of luck for the grand title being announced later this month.

Francis C Bagbey
November 5, 2019

Such wonderful photographic moments. Just wish Mr. Roopra had added the camera settings. Thanks!

Gurcharan Roopra
November 7, 2019

Hi Francis ,
Thanks for your message and comments, sorry the settings aren’t visible on the blog. Please feel free to let me know which one/ones you require and I shall be more than happy to share them here.
Thank you 🙂

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