masai mara

Photo Safari Destination Week: Masai Mara, Kenya


No doubt, the Masai Mara in Kenya is the worlds most famous and best safari destination.

All year round great wildlife sightings
Big 5 and Big Cat sightings, sometimes all cats within one game drive
The Great Migration of the big herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle
The dramatic Mara River crossings of the big herds
Fantastic landscapes
Great hot air ballooning for aerial photography
Great variety of camps for all budgets (image above: Kichwa Tembo)
Accessible by air and road, self-drive possible, but recommended to have a guide (navigation in the Mara is not easy)
Can easily be combined with safari in Serengeti

The Masai Mara should be on top of the list for
wildlife photographers. It is the best places for photography courses and team building safaris and fabulous for enjoying nature in a relaxed way.

Happy snapping travel!

Ute Sonnenberg for

How the Great Migration works


The Great Migration of the wildebeest, and also zebra and gazelle, is well known as happening in the Masai Mara in Kenya. The spectacle of huge herds crossing the Mara River with crocodiles waiting for them is a wildlife photographer’s dream.

It is often thought that only this is the migration, but it is only one part, yet the most famous one, because of the river crossing. Keep a broader mind when planning a
safari in Kenya and Tanzania. The big herds are trekking around in the Masai Mara and Serengeti the whole year. The calving season is from January to March in the Southern Serengeti. About 500,000 wildebeest are born within 2-3 weeks time. When the rains end in May they move on northwest to the Grumeti River where they remain until late June. In July they start heading north and arrive towards the end of July in the Masai Mara. By November they are all on the move again down south into the Serengeti.

Every part of the migration is very impressive and an unforgettable experience being among millions of wildebeest, zebra and other plains game. Keep in mind the two probably most moving events, the calving and the Mara River crossing; yet enjoy also just being with the big herds on the Great Plains. For
team building incentives make a carful choice depending on what you want to achieve with the safari. It will definitely be adventure, amazing wildlife and most likely deep impressions to take home as wonderful memories.

Enjoy nature and keep snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for
Image: andbeyond

Photo Safari Destination Masai Mara


The Masai Mara in Kenya is probably the most famous photographic safari, wildlife photography course and team building photographic safari destination in Africa. The Great Migration of the big herds of zebra, wildebeest and gazelle takes place from the end of July until the beginning of September (depending on the rain) and attracts visitors from around the world. There is hardly something more spectacular than the Mara River crossing of the big herds with many crocodiles waiting for them and a strong current that makes the crossing even more dangerous. Watching this is a breathtaking experience and a heaven for wildlife photographers.

But the Masai Mara is also without Great Migration a fantastic
photographic safari destination. Throughout the year the wildlife sightings are amazing and there is always an abundance of wildlife. Besides that, the landscape is also stunning, the marsh with its characteristic beauty, the mountain range offering great views and the open plains, allowing wide views like looking over an ocean, dotted with animals .

The Masai Mara offers always beauty and great wildlife sightings, spectacular light and colors. It is a magnificent place to visit.

Here a practical tip. Outside the Great Migration period the accommodation rates drop and specials are available. That doesn’t mean it is not good to go there. The Masai Mara is always great, at any time of the year.

Got the taste? Try to go.

Ute Sonnenberg for

Photographing Native Kenyans

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There are beautiful photographs of Native Americans and various tribes from remote areas of the world that amaze us and inspire us to photograph them ourselves. But how does one do that without getting in trouble?

Let’s take the example of the Masai in Kenya. When you are on a
photographic safari in the Masai Mara you will very likely have encounters with the local people and in this case with the Masai people. They live there and their cattle herds are roaming in the Mara, guarded by children. Now imagine a game drive vehicle with a wildlife photography course on it with all lenses pointing on the child. How must that feel? Most likely this feels very unpleasant for the child.

If the distance is big enough a photograph can be taken without disturbing and that is also in general a good solution for e.g. street photography. It worked in the past quite well until the Masai understood the people’s passion for photography and the money involved. Nowadays even when they see you from far pointing a camera on them they approach immediately, making clear that you have to pay to take a photo and you better do it or don’t take the photo.

It’s somehow a pity that it has changed to that, but for the Masai has also changed a lot. As tourism took off, especially during high season thousands of people are visiting the Masai Mara and Mara River crossing points can look like a
team building photo safari event when seeing the number of vehicles gathering there. All these people also love to see and photograph the Masai and now imagine yourself what that did to them.

In general ask before you take a photo. You will have to pay them some money and it will not be as spontaneous as we would like it, but it’s nowadays reality. If you have a big zoom lens you might get away with a snap shot and these natural shots are always the prettiest.
Happy photo snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

On Photo Safari: The Challenge of a Black Bird

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We were driving in the Masai Mara when our very bird loving wildlife photography course attendee suddenly shouted stop. There was a crested eagle just in front of us on the top of a tree. All cameras started clicking immediately, also from the not so fanatic bird lovers, because it’s a beautiful bird. But soon moaning was to hear and panic, the bird was only a black silhouette in front of a bright over casted sky. Flash, no option, exposure compensation, probably the best, but the background will be very bright, spot metering, lets try, a combination of exposure compensation, f-stop correction and spot metering? Let’s try. The results were great and the faces turned happy again and the bird continued to be very patient with us, taking his time scanning the area for prey.

This was the start of a wonderful morning and some more people started loving birds and seeing them suddenly everywhere.

Any birds in your garden or just outside your window? They are very beautiful and also challenging photographic subjects, rewarding the patient photographer.

Happy snapping!

Ute Sonnenberg for

Safari Story: Warthogs in the Camp

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They are lovely creatures these warthogs, the wild boars of the bush. They always look funny when they run with their tails up as soon as you stop the vehicle. Do you know why they are always running with their tails up? When warthogs run through the bush or high grass they close their eyes not to get branches and grass in their eyes, but when they close their eyes they don’t have enough skin anymore and their tail goes up. …. Well it’s an African tale, but one wouldn’t be surprised, if it would be true with these funny animals.

They would actually be great pets and in
some bush camps they are living right in the middle of all the guests, but claim their ground, if you come to close. And so they do at Kichwa Tembo in the Masai Mara. A whole family lives in the camp where they feel safe close to humans. But don’t be mistaken, they are wild animals and you cannot touch them neither approach them, they are very particular about their personal space. Yet there is nothing nicer than getting out of the tent in the morning and the first thing you see in front of your tent is a warthog family enjoying the morning sun of a brand new wonderful day in the bush.

So, when you see somewhere excellent warthog photographs, the photographer might have had the opportunity to photograph them just in front of his/her tent. That makes the photographs still great photographs only there is no exciting adventure of spotting them attached.

Happy warthog encounter!

Ute Sonnenberg for

What the Olympic Sports teach Photographers: Cycling

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You might feel sometimes like being on an endless climb, followed by a scary decent into endless roads through boring landscapes. Endurance on physical, emotional and mental level is needed to make it to the finish. Keep your spirit high and listen to your body. Maintain your bicycle, your physical health and have a spare wheel. Find likeminded to make a great team.

Ute Sonnenberg for

The Mourning of a Lioness in the Masai Mara

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It was on a morning game drive in the Masai Mara when we spotted a lioness lying on the grass and holding something between her paws. It looked like a small animal and we thought it might be a hare or other small animal she was feeding on. But she was not feeding. She was holding it and looking around as in despair. As we came closer we saw that she was holding a little cup between her paws and the cub was not moving, it was obviously dead, only a few weeks old. The lioness started licking the cub, moving it with her paws, trying to revive the little body, but it wouldn’t come to life. Between her attempts to revive her cub she was looking up, opening her mouth as if she wanted to scream, but no sound was to be heard, it were silent screams of sadness and pain of the mother of a lion cub.
After a while she stood up, grabbed her cub with her mouth and carried it into higher grass. There she put her cub down and stood there looking at it until she moved away to a nearby tree. The lioness lay down under the tree, closed her eyes and rested. She stayed there for hours. In the late afternoon she got up and walked back to her dead cub. Then started eating her cub, maybe in some attempt to make sure that it goes back to where it was safe. After this final act of mourning the lioness left the site and walked back to the rest of the pride that had been waiting for her on a close by clearing. They had respected her need to mourn and she had taken the time she needed.

Nature will bring her straight away into estrus and she will have new cubs with hopefully a happier ending.

Ute Sonnenberg for