Many people associate Kenya with mass tourism in the famous reserves of the Masai Mara and Amboseli. Yet Kenya is a large country filled with a wealth of abundant wildlife and culture beyond these areas that many people dont know about. In these places, some people, like Greg du Toit, have spent a great deal of time unlocking the secrets of the wildlife and meeting the culture and in doing so, producing images that are unparalleled in their depth of the region.
This is a special safari that delves into the cuture and wildlife of a region with a person who has spent an inordinate amount of time understanding and photographing it. Our group is confined to only 6 people travelling to the southern Masai Mara and the Southern Rift valley. In both places you will encounter very few tourists; which is exactly what we want to do on this safari. We want to show you a Kenyan safari that is like no other- never before has this type of safari been done. This is the opportunity to immerse yourself on a safari that takes you back in time but yet also gives you a rich, authentic cultural and wildlife experience with one of Africas pre-eminient photographers. If you are interested, please read further.
After being met at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi you will enjoy your first safari drive as we do not head into or near town but we rather take a scenic drive to our out-of-town hotel through Nairobi National Park. This is the only national park in the world that borders a capital city and what better way to start a safari than by taking your first photographs before even getting to your hotel? Its a big five park so anything is possible! Our first night is spent at the delightful Emakoko where there is WiFi to let your loved ones know you have arrived safe and sound.
Our chartered flight offers unlimited luggage restrictions and takes you to your first destination, which is also arguably the greatest wildlife destination on the planet, the famed Masai Mara Game Reserve. We have chosen a very special location for this leg of the safari as your camp is hidden inside a secret forest on the banks of the Talek River. You will be situated in the very heart of the reserve where you can enjoy the most spectacular wildlife show on earth. Very strategically, your camp has been chosen to allow access to both sides of the Talek River and for photographers this is especially important as it means that you stand a much better chance of seeing a crossing as we are close to crossings in the south and north of the reserve.
Once you are settled into camp, the afternoon safari drive will continue in safari trucks with plenty of space. Our group size is only 4 but we will have two safari trucks to ourselves as we explore seldom visited parts of the reserve. You will experience the Masai Mara like few people do and exceptional wildlife viewing is the order of the day. We return to the campfire and Rekero Camp offers the finest traditional Kenyan safari experience, with each dinner being a celebration of the day’s sightings. Turning in, you will be lulled asleep to the sounds of Africa and to the promise of some of the best wildlife viewing on offer anywhere in the world, to follow over the next few days.
Your day will begin just as the first birds stir but the sun is not yet up. Tea or coffee will be delivered to your tent and as you wake up, so does the beautiful riverine bush adjacent to your tent. Leaving camp still in the dark you will head onto the great plains of East Africa too see the sunrise. Rekero Camp has been specially selected to offer you an absolute smorgasbord of wildlife sightings. The Masai Mara is famous for its cheetah and the central plains just to the north of camp offer some of the finest cheetah viewing in Africa. The cheetah hunt daily on these plains.
With breakfast packed, you will explore to your heart’s content. The annual wildebeest migration has been dubbed ‘the greatest wildlife show on earth’ and the time of year for your safari has been carefully selected to coincide with the time that the wildebeest are arriving at the Mara River and when the crocodiles are hungry. Being able to access all the crossing points increases the chances of seeing wildebeest crossings and it also means that you will get to see and experience the best of the Masai Mara. From the large central plains all the way to the south and north, you will see it all. You will journey to the far south where the Masai Mara meets the Serengeti and you will see not just the incredible migration and associated predator action, but you will enjoy all of Africa’s wonderful and bizarre creatures. Zebra, giraffe, gazelles, warthog, elephants, mongooses, hippotamus and many more are simply the order of the day.
After a full morning drive, once the light has burnt off and the heat is building, you will return to camp for a yummy light lunch on the banks of the river. Of course, if the wildebeest are crossing then we forget about lunch. Rekero Camp is situated in a beautiful cool forest and the birdlife in camp is wonderful. After your safari siesta, the afternoon safari drive commences. Rekero is one of the original safari camps and being one of the first in the Masai Mara, it commands the best location for wildlife photography. The afternoon safari drived are a good time to look for leopard, serval and caracal.
Meandering back to camp just as it gets dark, the campfire will beckon you in. A sundowner and candlelit dinner will be the perfect end to your incredible safari day. After dinner you can retire to the fire and enjoy the starry night or your Maasai watchman can escort you back to your tent, where the sounds of Africa send you to dreamland with the promise of another safari day to follow. The bush surrounding Rekero us very wild and it is not uncommon to have a hippo or buffalo grazing outside your tent all night long.
A short half an hour charter flight with unlimited luggage allowance, will see you landing on the floor of Africa’s greatest geographical feature; the Great Rift Valley. Kenya’s southern portion of the valley, known affectionately as the ‘south rift’, is where this leg of the safari plays out. It boasts spectacular scenery, with the western wall in this part being particularly high and clearly defined. Meandering its way along the dusty floor is the Ewaso Ngiro river which gives rise to the largest Sycamore Fig forest in East Africa. Our exclusive tented safari camp is situated on the banks of this river where cool shade and the gurgling river, offers a refreshing oasis in the wilderness. With only four tents, our mobile camp is intimate and booked exclusively for this tour and is also positioned perfectly for our list of bespoke and exciting activities.
Once you are settled into your new home, a tent under the fig trees on the banks of the river, you will receive a master class on light from Greg before heading out for an introductory exploration of one of Kenya’s last true wildernesses. On this safari drive you will, possibly for the very first time in your life, see an abundance of wildlife existing in Africa as it always once did. In other words, this is not an official park or reserve but rather, it is community land, where wild animals live alongside the Maasai tribesman. This is the ‘real Africa’, the way it once was with no fences, restrictions or park rules. You will practice working with back-lighting and with the wall of the Great Rift Valley as a backdrop, the herds of plains game are dwarfed by the spectacular ‘Out of Africa’ rift valley scenery. A scrumptious dinner and campfire is accompanied by an introductory talk by Greg on the area, its people and its wildlife. Both Greg and Claire lived in this part of Africa many moons back and you will hear more about how their lives alongside the Maasai and lions played out. Turning in for the night, you might here lions roar while sleeping in your tent and if you do, it will be the first time that you have heard ‘Livingstone Lions’ roar. This last sentence will make more sense once you have heard Greg’s talk.
We head out to meet a traditional Maasai boma (village). We will spend the morning with the Maasai and you will be introduced to a real Maasai family or boma. In other words, this is not a village for tourists but a real living and working traditional Maasai family homestead. The most exciting and important time of day for the Maasai is early morning when the calves are fed and the cows are milked, before the warriors take the cattle to pasture. This will be an authentic cultural experience and the Maasai we visit will not put on a show or a ‘sing and dance’ for us or sell any curios. What they will do, is allow us into their world, to experience their everyday life. Samantha du Toit from SORALO has been working with this community for the last 10 years and she will be at hand to help interpret and explain the culture. It is through the trust that she has earned from the local Maasai, and her caring work, that we have been extended this special invite. We have limited the number of participants on this tour to only 4 and only 1 tour per year allows us this discrete and special access to an ancient and authentic cultural experience. These bomas are some of the most traditional left in Kenya and in this part of Africa the Maasai are still semi-nomadic. You will not only glimpse this ancient and wonderful culture but you will gain in-depth knowledge, firsthand experience and incredible mood-filled cultural portraits. Yes, photography is allowed, with special permission having been granted just for this tour.
Guy Western is currently busy with his PHD through Oxford University and he heads a fascinating and exciting project called ‘Rebuilding the Pride’. This unique project is studying both the Maasai and the free-ranging lion population of the south rift valley. As mentioned, the south rift of Kenya is one of the only places in Africa where the lion population is on the increase. This is especially remarkable when considering that Kenya only has 2000 lion left and even inside its national parks, lions are decreasing in number. The ‘Rebuilding the Pride’ project is trying to identify all the factors that come in to play in the south rift, which are making it such a conservation success story. Once these factors have been identified, ‘Rebuilding the Pride’ want to design a model that can hopefully be replicated elsewhere to help conserve both wildlife and people. This exciting lecture will open your eyes to the incredible conservation ethics of the Maasai. It will enlighten you regarding lion behaviour and you will gain unique insight into the dynamics of one of Africa’s most diverse, dynamic and unique ecosystems. This exciting talk will broaden your horizons and it will challenge your thoughts on the concepts of both wilderness and conservation. ‘Rebuilding the Pride’ is a one-of-a-kind project that will give you in-depth insight into world leading community-based conservation.
This is an exciting day because we will join the ‘Rebuilding the Pride’ researchers in the field. Researchers get up even earlier than photographers so our day will begin long before sunrise. Leaving in the dark we will search the floor of the rift valley for the elusive free ranging lion and in the process we will, using a spotlight, also seek out its nocturnal denizens. The south rift has an incredible array of nocturnal creatures including aardwolf; civets; genets; hyena; whitetailed mongoose; owls; african wild cats, zorilas and servals, amongst others. Peering out the roof of the safari truck with nothing but wild Africa all around you and the starry heavens above, you will once again be touched by the awesomeness of true wilderness. Of the approximated 50 lion in the area, only 4 have been collared with a GPS satellite tracking collar. In an area that is over 100 000ha (1000 sq-km or 386 sq-miles), we will track down the lions of the south rift valley. These are no ordinary lions though, they are free-ranging lion, carrying out a free existence on Maasai community land. This is a part of Africa where man and beast still coexist, and on this morning, you will get to experience this firsthand. I am sure many of you have seen lots of lions before but if you think about it, everywhere you have seen a lion, it is because man has been excluded out of the area, as is the case in national parks and game reserves. This experience is very different in that the Maasai and the lions live side-by-side! Once we have located the lion, we will pass by Maasai villages and/or herders and share our findings with them. You will not only see and photograph free-ranging lion but you will get to experience what it is like to be a field researcher in wild Africa. You will assist the ‘Rebuilding the Pride’ project and you will play a part in conserving this splendid and unique corner of Africa.
This safari affords you the special opportunity of getting to terms with one of the most fluid and dynamic ecosystems left in Africa. The rainfall, river and swamps affect grazing for the cows and wildlife of the area. Why do the lions not eat the cattle and in turn why do the Maasai not kill the lions? What makes this ecosystem tick and what challenges lie ahead? What better way to answer these questions than by getting out and into the ecosystem, by spending time with both the Maasai and the lion. On this morning, you are not on a normal safari drive; you are on an exploration back in time to study an ancient relationship between two apex predators, both of which are at the top of the food chain and sharing the same resources. How do the Maasai, with their cattle and goats, coexist in the same area as Africa’s top big cat? These questions and many more will be answered.
After years of trying, we have finally found the best way to unlock the photographic potential of the spectacular south rift valley scenery. The place is so vast and wild, that the only way to do it justice with a camera, is to photograph it is from a helicopter. That is why for this safari we have chartered a helicopter to take two photographers at a time for a photo shoot over Lake Magadi and Lake Natron respectively. In the afternoon, you will fly for an hour over Lake Magadi which often has zebra and other wildlife on its fringes. The following morning you will fly over Lake Natron, which has been heralded by NASA as one of the most dynamic land forms on the planet. It is the most alkaline lake in the world and also the largest breeding ground for Lesser Flamingo in the world. From the air, Lake Natron’s many shapes and forms take on an otherworldly dimension and your images will be truly inspiring. These helicopter sessions are included in the cost of this safari and you will receive a lesson from Greg on composition as well as on aerial photography, before flying, to help you maximize the experience. To entice you, see google’s collection of Natron Images here.
SORALO is the “South Rift Association of Land Owners”. This trust was formed to take care of all the land between the Masai Mara (to the west) and Amboseli (to the east). It is an incredibly diverse area and SORALO is a community driven initiative that aims at directly improving the livelihoods of the communities, creating linkages and assisting in resource mobilization for the development of the south rift valley region, all the while taking into consideration the key threats and challenges in the area. On our last afternoon we will be hosted by the founding member of SORALO, Samantha du Toit. Sam, a Kenyan by birth, moved into the area in 2007 and her gentle, patient and caring relationship with the Maasai is what makes this such an incredibly successful conservation initiative. We will hear a bit more from Sam about the SORALO projects being initiated over an informal cup of tea where questions and discussions are welcomed.
The south rift valley is a truly wild piece of Africa. It is hot, dry and dusty, dotted with Acacias and the wall of the rift valley is an ever-present backdrop. The Maasai not only live in this wild rugged countryside but they subsist here without growing crops and living among Africa’s wild beasts. The Maasai herdsman are therefore shepherds of biblical proportions. Each day they have the huge responsibility of taking their family’s cattle out grazing and to be watered. Armed physically with only spears, they are responsible for their family’s wealth. Lions are on the prowl and the herdsman are on the watch. This afternoon, we join the Maasai herdsman and we help them ferry their cattle back to their bomas at dusk. Walking behind a herd of Maasai cows, listening to their bells and watching the dust that they kick up, you will experience Africa the way the Maasai do. Our herdsman will have their spears close at hand but this afternoon, you will come to realize that their true weapon is the knowledge of not only their land but the wisdom that has been passed down to them by their forefathers. You will gain firsthand experience as to just what incredible pastoralists the Maasai really are. Walking on the dusty floor of this ancient land, you will feel truly alive and photographing back-lit scenes of Maasai herdsman and their cattle in clouds of dust will invigorate you photographically.
A safari drive on your last morning will see you ending at the airstrip, where a 30 minute charter flight will take you back to Nairobi for your onward travels home, with transfers already prearranged. Arriving back home and processing your photographs, you will relive the incredible experience. You will cherish that not only did you experience the true wildlife mecca of Africa and the ‘greatest wildlife show on earth’ whilst in the Masai Mara, but you also experienced ‘real Africa’ when in the rift valley, which very few people get to do.
The Emakoko is uniquely positioned on the side of a valley overlooking the Nairobi National Park with the Mbagathi River running directly below. Accessible a mere 45 minutes from either airport, the drive through the park itself, with its’ beautiful scenery and abundance of plains game is a spectacular way to start any East African safari.
The National Park, despite its extraordinary proximity to the capital city of Kenya, boasts a spectacular assortment of birds and wildlife, with over 400 species of bird recorded in one day. With an excellent possibility of spotting four of the Big Five, many Nairobi residents find the park and the lodge a perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of city life.
With only 10 rooms The Emakoko offers an exclusive and personal environment for our guests to enjoy. With five rooms art the main level and five built into the cliff face higher up. The climb to the upper rooms is not an easy one but the views from the top five rooms justify the effort, as they are quite spectacular.
They have been careful with our room designs and interiors to make sure that everything is comfortable from, the huge, luxurious beds to the black-out curtains. Each room has its own private veranda.
The camp is in perfect harmony with the environment and whilst it is heavy on personal comfort it leaves a light footprint. This Gold Eco-Rated camp is dismantled every year and removed for two months to allow the fauna and flora to regenerate.
This traditional East African camp evokes the romance of safaris from a bygone era. The elegant tents form a tranquil oasis perched strategically above the mighty Talek River. The sweeping views from camp take in the surrounding plains, which support some of the greatest concentrations and diversity of wildlife in Africa.
Rekero is an intimate, comfortable and relaxed riverside safari camp where you are enfolded by the surrounding African wilderness. Hippos grunt in the pools below, the smell of wild sage drifts through the air and herds of wildebeest often can be seen crossing the Talek River from the main deck. This blissful location means that fantastic game viewing can continue, even when relaxing in camp. The friendly and highly skilled camp crew have worked together for many years; together with our internationally recognised guiding team, they create a truly insightful safari experience every time.
Rekero’s nine spacious tents are laid out along the river’s edge under a network of shady trees. Designed in classic safari style with a fresh, contemporary edge, each tent has an en-suite bathroom with hot-water safari bucket shower and flushing toilet. To make them even more comfortable, each tent has a large private veranda with an inviting day bed or couch where you can take in a view of the river, attended by a private butler.
With only four tents, the camp is intimate and nestled into the shade of the giant fig trees, overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River. The rooms are all very private with plenty of space between them. The tents all have bucket showers and en-suite flushing toilets. We have recently become aware of the term ‘glamping’, which is a term to describe glamorous camping, and that is indeed what we provide.
Lighting in the tents is all solar and there are no electrical sockets. The tents are located on the bend of the river each with a beautiful view looking up river. As you look across the river there are a lot of birds and animals that come down to drink from the waters edge.
30% deposit confirms your booking. Balance is due 8 weeks before the tour starts.
Maximum of 4 clients and a minimum of 3 clients for this safari.
Arrive in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi in the early afternoon.A short road transfer will take you to the Emakoko Camp in the Nairobi National park.
After breakfast you will be transferred to Wilson Airport for your schedule flight to Ol Kiombo airstrip. A Rekero Camp representative will meet you at the airstrip and transfer you to camp for you 4 nights stay in the famed Masai Mara Game Reserve.
After your game drive you will be taken back to the airstrip for your hour flight transfer with an extra luggage seat booked, will see you landing on the floor of Africa’s greatest geographical feature; the Great Rift Valley. You will enjoy a scenic flight over Magadi on your way to the Rift Valley.
A winding safari drive on your last morning will see you ending at the airstrip where an 1 hour flight will take you back to Wilson Airport. You will then be transferred back to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. This is the end of the safari.
Please note that the below itinerary and the nature of activities themselves might change, depending on the weather and the movements of the wildlife, the Maasai cattle and their villages.
"This safari my first was simply put, both amazing and breathtaking and overwhelming! I was going for only one word so going to stop before I use all the emphatic English words I know - Doing such a voyage with Greg insured that I got the most of the journey, more than once he rescued me from a camera that did not want to cooperate, or was it my clumsiness in an exciting moment - But, more importantly, I believe I have a better grasp of the photographic process as a whole, a better understanding of what is entailed in taking a photograph. Coming home, I feel a renewed excitement for the stills medium! Finally, thank you to Shem and Minette and everybody at C4 for making all the preparation so easy, nothing complicated and you always had all the answers -"Nancy Nadeau