Here, first-time Porini Safari Camps guest Todd Martin from Canada shares his thoughts on his safari experience (and some wonderful images!) following his recent trip …

My wife and I enjoyed an amazing 12 nights at four Porini Camps, having had a spectacular safari, in every possible way, from start to finish. We spent three nights at each of Porini’s Amboseli, Rhino, Mara, and Lion camps. I’ve already provided feedback to Gamewatchers as to how wonderful the camps and the staff were, the amazing food, the plethora of amazing animal sightings in the conservancies, blissfully free from “vehicle mobs”, and the unforgettable bush breakfasts and sundowners, but I wanted to provide this separate commendation for our Masai guide teams.

Being an avid hobbyist photographer, both wildlife and landscape, my “needs” on a safari go well beyond just great animal sightings. Sky conditions, light conditions, light angles, and juxtaposition of the animals and landscapes to sky and light are what matter in coming home with “keeper” photographs, rather than mere “documentary, I was here” type shots. The open game drive vehicles at the Porini camps, as opposed to the pop-up top “bubble busses” pre-dominant in the National Parks, the ability to off-road in the Conservancies, and the ability to get out of the vehicle and shoot from the ground when safe, were essential ingredients to coming away with the photographs I sought. Most important of all are guides and spotters who can find the animals, understand what photographers are looking for, and position the vehicle in exactly the right spot for keeper photographs considering light and sky conditions.

The Porini guide teams (driver and spotter) at each of the four camps we visited delivered terrifically in every sense.

At Amboseli Camp, Ben and Moses were our guide team. One morning just before sunrise, Ben spotted a giraffe, gauged its pace, and hurriedly positioned the vehicle ahead of the giraffe’s direction of travel, and stopped. A minute or so later, the giraffe arrived in front of us just as the sun broke through the clouds, yielding beautifully colourful backlit conditions, resulting in one of my many keepers.

During our day trip into Amboseli, Ben and Moses sighted a large flock of flamingos, observed that they looked ready to take flight, and hurriedly got us into position. Sure enough, within a few minutes of our stopping, the flamingos took off en masse, enabling a wonderful sequence of photos. There were other great photo opportunities in Amboseli, but the flamingo mass take-off was for me the stand-out.

Ben and Moses informed us it had been several months since any cheetahs had been sighted at Selenkay Conservancy. Early one morning, however, Ben saw something in the distance, stopped the vehicle, grabbed the binoculars, and excitedly exclaimed “cheetah”, over one kilometer distant. In fact, it was two cheetah males, and we enjoyed nearly 15 minutes with them in beautiful golden early morning light. How Ben was able to see them over a kilometer away, even with binoculars, astounds me.

Next up was Rhino Camp, where our guide team comprised Joshua and John. Conditions were cloudy and often rainy, but on our first afternoon our guide team spotted a bit of clearing and raced us into position to photograph a rhinoceros, near the watering hole in front of camp, with sunbeams in the background. It made for one of my favourite animal-scapes of the trip.

Shortly after the rhinoceros shot, we spotted some cape buffalo kicking up some dust just as the sun was setting and the light turned golden. Our guides got us into position to photograph this group with the dust backlit in the warm light, adding wonderful atmosphere to the photo.

While watching a resting lion pride one afternoon, our guides spotted a lion on a kill in the far distance, which happened to be the watering hole right in front of camp. Away we went, and I took great delight photographing two lions, feeding on a fresh warthog kill, about 6 m away from the photographic hide in which I had been ensconced not two hours prior. All four of the Porini camps we visited will get you “up close” to the action, and you don’t even have to leave camp!

Jackson and Dalton were our guide team at Mara Camp. For our first sundowner there, Jackson spotted two wildebeest, and drove us some distance away to position the wildebeest against the sky, and on higher ground relative to our location, as the sun was setting. There, we got out of the vehicle, had our sundowners, and snapped wonderful photos of the wildebeest in front of the fiery sky as the sun vanished into the horizon.

Our day in the Mara National Reserve began with a sunrise balloon trip. Once reconnected with Jackson and Dalton mid-morning following the balloon outing, they took us to the Mara River. We found a large group of Wildebeest on the opposite bank, seemingly wanting to cross, and a mob of at least a hundred other vehicles on our side.

The herd then backed away, and started moving downstream. Jackson immediately pulled out and drove downstream to follow, and re-positioned us, just as the wildebeest (and later, zebra) started to cross.

Unlike most other vehicles, we were perfectly positioned with a side view of the crossing, which lasted upward of 30 minutes, of hundreds if not thousands of wildebeest. The guides had rolled back part of the canvass top and got us to stand on the back seats, which gave us the best vantage point and angle from which to shoot. The most poignant of the hundreds of frames I shot were of several wildebeest successfully crossing while another valiantly fought for, but lost, its life in the jaws of a crocodile.

Jackson and Dalton provided us many opportunities to photograph multiple lion prides, particularly in late afternoon golden light. The presence of playful cubs was a bonus. We came upon one pride all seemingly sleeping and resting – but our Masai guides saw the lead females stirring and anticipated a burst of activity. Sure enough, the pride stirred, the cubs cavorted and suckled, and wonderful photos were the result.

At Lion Camp our guides were Chris and Ezekiel. Late one afternoon, they spotted a male Lion crossing an open field and raced to get ahead of his path, and to position him in front of an increasingly colourful and dramatic sky. This resulted in many wonderful “animal-scapes”, and it only got better when the Lion began roaring, proclaiming his dominion.

One evening just prior to sunset, our guides spotted a group of zebra, and drove to lower ground placing the zebra on the horizon, checked the surrounding area for safety, and allowed us to get out of the vehicle for a better photographic angle. The result was many photos of the zebra against a dramatic, fiery African sky with rain shafts adding to the magic. Our team knew exactly where to position us for these shots, and kept right with us as we moved in case we needed to return to the vehicle in a hurry.

On one of the morning drives, we were photographing a leopard crossing an open field. Several other vehicles were present. As soon as the leopard approached bush and cover, Chris sped us away, to place us in perfect position to photograph two Giraffe just as the sun was rising over a ridge. We had been so engrossed with the Leopard that we were not even thinking of or aware of this opportunity, but Chris was. Ours was the only one of the vehicles on the leopard sighting that got these sunrise shots.

One evening, we watched a resting Lion pride. Despite not much action, Chris suggested we have our sundowner there, in the vehicle. As we did, the sun set, the sky lit up, and the lead lioness began to stir, and the result was perhaps my favourite animal-scape of the entire trip. Our guides knew that we had a great scene, and needed only to await the magical light in which to frame it. Sipping a gin and tonic whilst shooting this scene certainly added to the pleasure.

These anecdotes are but a few of many examples of the knowledge, awareness, and skill of Porini’s Masai guide teams at maximizing great photographic opportunities. Together with the abundance of wildlife in all four of the conservancies we visited (plus Amboseli National Park and the Mara Reserve), the ability to off-road and alight from the vehicle in the conservancies when allowed and safe, and Porini’s open-sided game drive vehicles, I can imagine no better set of circumstances for avid photographers to come away with images they can be proud of and treasure. The lack of vehicle mobs in the conservancies (we were frequently the only vehicle on a sighting at any give time) further enhances quality photographic opportunities.

To Ben, Moses, Joshua, John, Jackson, Dalton, Chris and Ezekiel, thank you so much for an immensely enjoyable safari, your photographic acumen, great conversation, wonderful bush breakfasts, and terrific gin and tonics at sundown! You made this particular hobbyist photographer very happy indeed, and I hope to see you all again!


Review & Images courtesy of Porini Safari Camps guest Todd Martin

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