An Unforgettable Photography Masterclass in Magical Kenya

 

The winners of the Wildlife India Photography Awards 2017, and twenty other Masterclass participants, were treated to some spectacular, breathtaking moments in the heart of Kenya’s incredible savannahs, conservancies and reserves, over seven days, mentored by some of the best in the field. Better Photography reports.

 A very large number of species make up the balance in Masai Mara. There is a photograph just waiting to be taken every few meters. Photograph/Nitin Kunjir

A very large number of species make up the balance in Masai Mara. There is a photograph just waiting to be taken every few meters. Photograph/Nitin Kunjir

Nairobi, Kenya. We were greeted at the airport by a fleet of tough Toyota Land Cruisers. At that point, the anticipation within our group was almost palpable. What we experienced in the next seven days was easily beyond our wildest imagination. Here is a glimpse of one single happenstance from each day.

Day 1, June 25, Nairobi & Amboseli National Park
After spending some time watching orphaned elephants play and feed at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, we moved to Amboseli. We were treated to a rather rare sight even as we entered the reserve—Masai giraffes gracefully moving across the plains with the breathtaking, awe-inspiring Mount Kilimanjaro in full view. That evening was our first park drive. Between our contest winners, participants, mentors, a team from Panasonic India, and our camera crews, we collectively shot over a terabyte of photographs and videos! And our trip had only just begun!

44-year-old Sudan (96 in human equivalent age) is the very last living male of the northern white rhinoceros subspecies, and lives within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, under special protection and care.Photograph/Pratik Pradhan

44-year-old Sudan (96 in human equivalent age) is the very last living male of the northern white rhinoceros subspecies, and lives within the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, under special protection and care.Photograph/Pratik Pradhan

In Masai Mara, wildebeest are extremely common. This one seems to be contemplating the rainbow.Photograph/Saurabh Desai

In Masai Mara, wildebeest are extremely common. This one seems to be contemplating the rainbow.Photograph/Saurabh Desai

 

Framed against the massive Kilimanjaro, a giraffe stands almost as tall.Photograph/Nirav Bhatt

Framed against the massive Kilimanjaro, a giraffe stands almost as tall.Photograph/Nirav Bhatt

Day 2, June 26, Amboseli National Park
The day-long safari began with a mighty, gut-wrenching duel between two male elephants, warring for control. Neither one of them would give up. It was also astonishing to notice that they would only attack from the front, face-to-face, never from the rear. Humans have a lot to learn from them.

A family of elephants at Amboseli.Photograph/Pratik Pradhan

A family of elephants at Amboseli.Photograph/Pratik Pradhan

Day 3, June 27, Mount Kenya & Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy
We walked uphill, on a forested trail to spot birds at the base of the beautiful Mount Kenya (the highest mountain in Africa, after which the country, the Republic of Kenya, was so named). A profusion of mosses, lichens, ferns and dense, rich rainforests gave way, almost magically, to sun-dappled conifer forests. And just as magically, we spotted an extremely rare ‘golden zebra’ with its herd.

Sunrise and sunset at the reserves are always magical. The nature of the light is splendorous, and the backlighting usually allows a lot of drama. This photograph of zebras was made at Amboseli.Photograph/Shabeer Thurakkal

Sunrise and sunset at the reserves are always magical. The nature of the light is splendorous, and the backlighting usually allows a lot of drama. This photograph of zebras was made at Amboseli.Photograph/Shabeer Thurakkal

 

 When we asked this young, armed ranger at Mount Kenya if anti-poaching was one of his responsibilities, he proudly replied, “No. It is my only responsibility.” He covers about twenty kilometers of ground everyday on foot, within the forests. Photograph/ Vidyuth Bhandary

When we asked this young, armed ranger at Mount Kenya if anti-poaching was one of his responsibilities, he proudly replied, “No. It is my only responsibility.” He covers about twenty kilometers of ground everyday on foot, within the forests. Photograph/ Vidyuth Bhandary

Day 4, June 28, Ol Pejeta Conservancy
We had no appetite for lunch after a rather emotional experience. We had the singular (and very sad) honour, to meet and touch (yes… touch!) the very last living male northern white rhinoceros on the planet. We are the very last generation to see this truly magnificent sub-species alive. We could not help feeling a sense of shame that humans killed them off with poaching, just as we do with so many other species. By being bystanders, our responsibility in all this does not diminish. A lesson to take back.

 

We flew from Amboseli to Masai Mara and then to Nairobi in Executive Cessna 208 Grand Caravan aircrafts. Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

We flew from Amboseli to Masai Mara and then to Nairobi in Executive Cessna 208 Grand Caravan aircrafts. Photograph/K Madhavan Pillai

Day 5 & 6, June 29 & 30, Masai Mara
The endless grasslands of the Masai Mara National Reserve is a sight to behold. A large part of the ‘Great Migration’ across the Mara river had already occurred, and the Mara was dense with wildlife. Herds of wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, giraffe, antelopes, dik-diks, fox, baboons, warthogs… foraged, frolicked, and played out their parts in the circle of life. We spotted the ‘big five’ on the very first day… lions, elephants, cape buffaloes, black rhinoceros… And a family of five very sleek, beautiful cheetahs.

The BP/Panasonic vests and the Toehold caps, which the entire group took great pride in wearing almost all the time, drew a lot of attention wherever we went.

The BP/Panasonic vests and the Toehold caps, which the entire group took great pride in wearing almost all the time, drew a lot of attention wherever we went.

 

One foot on each of the northern and southern hemisphere at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club! The equator passes through here at 0O latitude.

One foot on each of the northern and southern hemisphere at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club! The equator passes through here at 0O latitude.

After an intense early morning safari in Amboseli, we brunched atop Observation Hill, the only place in the park where you can walk around on foot. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

After an intense early morning safari in Amboseli, we brunched atop Observation Hill, the only place in the park where you can walk around on foot. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

 

The Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club overlooks beautifully landscaped grounds, beyond which densely forested slopes lead to the easily visible peak of Mount Kenya.

The Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club overlooks beautifully landscaped grounds, beyond which densely forested slopes lead to the easily visible peak of Mount Kenya. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

 

A signpost within the driveway of the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge.

A signpost within the driveway of the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

 

The Intercontinental Nairobi... our very first halt in Kenya, was extremely comfortable.

The Intercontinental Nairobi… our very first halt in Kenya, was extremely comfortable. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

 

The cozy, comfortable main lobby at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club leads to a wooden sundeck that almost hangs over a stretch of the twisting Mara river.

The cozy, comfortable main lobby at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club leads to a wooden sundeck that almost hangs over a stretch of the twisting Mara river. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

Day 7, July 1, Masai Mara & Nairobi
On day seven, our flight back from Masai Mara to Nairobi was to depart early. Yet, there was time for one more short safari at dawn, and for our very last glimpses of the magical wildlife of Kenya. And on that very last trip, we came face-to-face with the king of the jungle—a large, powerful, regally-maned lion… enjoying a robust breakfast after an electrifying, successful hunt.

Tags: August 2017, better photography, K Madhavan Pillai, Kenya, Kenya Masterclass, Kenya Masterclass 2017, Nature, special feature, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography