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Kenya's Mara Plains Camp in the off-season and high season


safariguy
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A trip report from me has been a long time in coming, so I have decided to write up something from a recent 2013 safari to Mara Plains Camp, Kenya. So here goes!

 

I lead photographic safaris all across the African continent, and I am tasked with providing the best photographic opportunities along with excellent safari experiences. This usually means off-road driving capabilities in game-rich areas and fewer vehicles present at sightings. This is a tough bill to deliver, and in Kenya’s Masai Mara ecosystem it’s even tougher to deliver. Enter Mara Plains Camp. I have been visiting Mara Plains for a few years now, and what I have loved about Mara Plains keeps getting better: the staff, the guides, the accommodations, the atmosphere and above all else the wildlife. Mara Plains went through a complete rebuild earlier in 2013, and I have guided three safaris at Mara Plains since it reopened. Technically the camp wasn’t open yet in late May, so we also used the services of nearby Mara Toto camp to augment.

 

Our May/June safaris had me at camp for 16 straight nights, and I had the best run of cheetah sightings! I believe we counted 11 individual cheetahs, and on some drives we had great hunts and chases of prey. Lions were also plentiful, however good leopard sightings were tough to come by. We had the sightings, but didn't have the best light or clear viewings. It's just the nature of how the safari world works, and I am honored to be the presence of leopards no matter how good the photographic opportunity is.

 

My wildebeest migration safari in August was less fruitful for cheetah, however we had a more balanced trip with tons of ungulates to watch as the grazers moved in to fill up the plains. It was a great trip, and we rarely needed to go into the reserve for our sightings.

 

Here is a visual trip report from my time at Mara Plains from May, June and August. I have spent 22 nights there since May and have come away with some of amazing experiences as well as photographs since I started by safari business in 2002.

 

Enjoy!

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Lovely: which were taken on the medium format kit? And how do you find using it in the field compared with SLRs? How did you have to adjust your approach to photographing wildlife with the shorter focal length lenses?

 

Matt

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Matt, I think around 25% of those images were taken with medium format equipment. It definitely doesn't work very well for fast-moving subjects, and I need to make sure I have a decent amount of light as I can't shoot above ISO 200. I can, but it isn't very good.

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Good Great staff AB! The winking cheetah shot is pretty cool. I admit that shot of the lionesses in front of my beloved escarpment is my favorite as it makes me quite homesick for the Mara. The Mara certainly isn't perfect but if you are there in quieter times or locations it is my version of heaven. Thanks for posting.

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Lovely: which were taken on the medium format kit? And how do you find using it in the field compared with SLRs? How did you have to adjust your approach to photographing wildlife with the shorter focal length lenses?

 

Matt

 

I don't know what any of this means - is it Chinese? <_< Can anyone translate?

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For example, images 5 & 9 (and others) were taken with medium format equipment. I use a Phase One camera and a 60 megapixel digital back that captures a TON of detail, but the caveats are that autofocus is horrible, frames per second is '1', I am limited to an ISO range of 50 to 200 and don't have a lens longer than 240mm, which is like shooting a 155mm on a full frame 35mm camera. In other words, the camera system doesn't work for very many situations. That's ok, because I spend enough time out there each year and I don't mind missing some shots, as long as my customers get the shots they need.

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Now you've uploaded some pics, you just have to sort out an avatar image :)

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Andy, thanks for this...... Lovely! ..... Would you have any images of the new camp? Thanks.....

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Andy, thanks for this...... Lovely! ..... Would you have any images of the new camp? Thanks.....

 

I don't, actually. I was so busy with my groups I just didn't get a chance to take any images in and around camp. :-(

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fabulous pix of the lovely cats. and what a mighty huge lens that is! my fav pix are that of the 2 cheetahs jumping into the air in play, and that of the male lion sniffing the air. beautiful. thank you for sharing.

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Thanks, everybody, for the very kind comments. On the May/June trip I use a Nikon D800 with a 400mm f/2.8 and last month I used a D800E with a 70-200mm as my longest lens. I drive my own vehicle, which means I usually don't get an opportunity to place a large lens next to me as the seat is usually taken. So I miss many many shooting opportunities do to not having a clear shot, I don't have the correct gear or my lens isn't long enough. I will only bring a 200-400mm or 400mm f/2.8 into the vehicle when there isn't somebody sitting next to me.

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Drooling over here Andy!! Superb shots!

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Julie, I didn't know you had joined over here! Glad to see you!

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:) I'm here alright! Have to feed my African addiction on a very regular basis!
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...just remember your first safari, the first game drive and how you felt when you were there. It certainly carries you through the day.

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Indeed! Having some awesome canvases and prints on the walls around my house, because of a superbly crafted and organised safari helps too!

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Indeed! Having some awesome canvases and prints on the walls around my house, because of a superbly crafted and organised safari helps too!

...and I wonder who setup and guided the trip for you! :unsure:

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Hmmmm - I think that may have been you Mr Biggs!

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Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos. Brilliant pictures of cheetah in particular.

You make me want to explore that camp.

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