Ready or not, we depart Saturday, July 25th, on our first safari to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, Africa. This is not your grandparent’s Sunday outing at an animal kingdom near your current locale.  This is a real safari deep in the heart of Kenya where they have un-fenced animals, poised and ready to go for the jugular.  They have mosquitos potent with malaria. And Tsetse flies which are attracted to the color blue of all things. Most of my clothes are blue.

Prepping for this safari has been an adventure in itself.  The CDC recommends some shots, so off to the travel clinic we go.  Turns out I needed shots for Hepatitis A, Diphtheria with a Tetanus and Pertussis chaser, Polio, and Typhoid. The nurse came out with four large needles. I asked why they couldn’t combine them all into one needle?  If looks could kill (nurses don’t always have a sense of humor). Of course, the four needles could kill too. Stab, stab, jab, and one more poke later, and I was done.  That wasn’t as bad as I expected until later that night, when I began three days on the couch with aches and pains that nearly did kill!

We combed blogs researching what we should bring with us. We are limited to 33 pounds of soft sided luggage. Who comes up with a number like 33? Regardless, we were told that our clothing bag would be left behind unless it is 33 pounds or less.  I guess 33 pounds it will be. I guess I’ll have to leave my wingtips behind. OK, now to figure out what clothing to pack.  We read that the bugs can be quite fierce. So we researched and purchased special pants and shirts that have built-in protection against bugs.  This apparel is called “Bugsaway.” Clever. Expensive. We now have a new wardrobe.

With clothing purchased and us properly vaccinated, it is time for the details.  First detail is to get entry visas. We had to fill out a multi-page form, get a cashier’s check for $50 (they don’t take credit cards), have passport sized photos taken of us, then with our passports, send all this to the Kenyan consulate in New Your City via Fedex (not UPS – don’t ask me why). We did this early because we were warned that it could take up to six weeks to process. Four days later our passports arrived back with proper entry visas. Boy, those Kenyans are fast. Now I know why they win all those marathons.

Almost everything ready to go accept for cash for tips.  They don’t take credit cards at the Maasai Mara. Only cold hard cash. So, off to the bank for lots of ten and twenty dollar bills. That was easy – except – it turns out that each bill must be crisp and dated after 2009. I can’t imagine the guide will turn down a tip if the $20 bill predates 2009. But, alas, when in Rome…  So, back to the bank. Crisp, new bills please.

Now we are ready to go! It’s time to plan the photography part of the trip. We’ll be doing nine days of safari, sometimes two in a day (early morning and late afternoon). The animals like to sleep during the hottest part of the day (I hope we can too!). So as usual, we’ll be up and out early in the morning and late afternoon as these are when the animals are most active. They are also the best times for action shots such as a lioness munching on a wildebeest – yum. Some of the days will be all-day safaris in search of migrating herds of Wildebeest and Zebras. Our goal is to shoot as many types of animals as possible, here’s our checklist:

  1. Giraffe
  2. Zebra
  3. Elephant
  4. Crocodile
  5. Rhino
  6. Wildebeast
  7. Lion
  8. Leopard
  9. Cheetah
  10. Gazelle
  11. Hippo

We also hope to capture  all sorts of smaller animals along with many species of birds.  We’ll go for them all (extra memory chips have been purchased).

Joining Moose Peterson and Gavin Slabbert of Images in Africa on their photo safari, we’ll stay at the Sentinel Mara Camp.  They say, “Sentinel Camp is set up each season in a forest along the banks of the Mara River in one of the prime areas of the renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve. The experience of being in the wild coupled with luxury and attention to detail is the finest way to enjoy the magic and mystery of the African wilderness with its amazing wildlife.” This all sounds great. Just keep the hungry animals away please.

Please keep an eye out for our blog posts from Kenya as we might have a “little” internet access at the camp.  If not, we’ll post as soon as we’re back in the US.

And remember, its all about the light.