It was strangely warm early morning when we assembled at the tour bus which was quite full for that hour. Loins were overflowing with excitement as all the cues told us that this would be a fun packed, action filled and humbling day. We made way to Nairobi National Park and the first thing that stood out to me was a night lit sign whose message was ‘Wildlife is a world heritage…save it’. This is what we were here for, photographers with a cause, to be active participants in the conservation narrative through pictures.
We waited for security clearance which took some time. Fortunately or unfortunately, the morning was too cloudy to take sunrise pictures but we took that as an opportunity to network and catch up with one another. The diversity of the people that had come was wonderful. We soon began our game drive. At first, our convoy of vehicles was large and intimidating because there were those that had come with their own vehicles and I worried that we would startle the animals, but we soon dispersed and each found their own path.
The first animal I saw was a giraffe and in its horizon was a faint outline of Nairobi CBD. I felt saddened that conservation has to be a battle. The simplicity of grass-plains brought a calming peace and I found myself wishing it could spill over the edges of the horizon, which were dotted with the presence of the rest-of-Nairobi.
Nairobi National park is about 11,721 hectares in size and is home to over 100 mammals specials that include 4 of the big five animals, as well as 400 bird species recorded to date. Photographers clearly had enough fodder for the shutters.
We saw zebras and it was clarified that they are white with black stripes. We were shown how to differentiate between male and female antelopes…female antelopes are significantly larger than their male counterparts. Waterbucks, we were informed, have an uncanny ability to dirtify themselves so bad so that they deter predators with their bad smell. All these while cameras were clicked away in satisfaction.
We continued into the thicket of the bush and it finally felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. I saw a vulture for the first time and there was a talk on how those birds could live so long that they had to kill themselves to die. The world famous picture by Kevin Carter of the vulture and the famine stricken girl also came up and with the help of the assigned Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) guide, we were able to get to the consensus that they were important birds to the ecosystem.
We got wind that a lioness had been spotted somewhere having its breakfast so we hastened there. It was a cluster of vehicles and it felt we had rushed into morning traffic that Nairobians just can’t seem to want to do without. Nonetheless, we were glad to have seen a lioness since they can be difficult to spot. Our guide was wonderful, I learned that the big 5 animals are called so because they are the most difficult to hunt yet they are the most poached animals. There was a discussion on why that is so; they are poached for trophies, medicinal beliefs and for use as charms. We all enjoyed each other’s company, laughing at jokes which were not too funny because we were happy.
It was time for breakfast and we headed to the KWS Club house where we had some scrumptious sandwiches among other things. This event had brought together photographers who were professionals, hobbyists, and learners. Since it was organized by Versatile School of Photography, there was a speed training session on the basics of camera that included the importance of clean lenses, sensors, preventing shake, among other things.
That did not take too long and we soon assembled to the vehicles for the second round of shooting in the wild experience. This time around, we saw a buffalo, there was talk that their horns were bulletproof. Part of its own horn was broken and we wished it could tell us how that had happened. David Macharia was on the bus with us and, as a professional wildlife photographer, he gave us his top tips on how to do it successfully. This is included; having crazy patience, being adequately prepared with your gear and going to the wild often, preferably alone. He taught us how to sell our pictures and told tales of how he captured some of his best pictures. We continued learning more fun facts about ostriches, warthogs, and snakes (even though we did not see a snake).
National Parks in Kenya have picnic and camping sites but were informed that it was important to be adequately prepared and make advanced plans with pack security since there are dangerous insects and hyenas that could frustrate the experience. We got wind that the next Photography in the Wild experience might be a camping experience (so, start prepping).
We drove around some more and experienced the vastness of this plain, occasionally stopping to take pictures. It was during this time that I took some of my best pictures that I would later submit to the awards cocktail event which would crown the day.
When it was time, we drove back to KWS club house to find a hearty lunch waiting for a tired us. The lunch was as delicious as it was filing. We lounged, rested and networked to great entertainment courtesy of Hafla Entertainment.
At around 3.pm, we assembled back to the vans for a team building activity. Some of us took the opportunity to switch vehicles from the tour bus to one of the tour vans also provided by Big Foot Adventures. Oh, the vans were hip, spacious and superb! We drove to one of the picnic sites where we spent the next two and a half hours playing games. There was an exercise we did that I will perhaps never forget that involved us getting fooled into selecting a partner who would later turn into a nemesis. One team for some unbeknown reason (to me) decided to call themselves Blue Balls while the other team was called Tembo, Swahili for elephant. The completion was as fierce as it was ridiculously fun, we played games, sung songs and let loose. Team Tembo won but Team Blue Balls had all the cool folks. (Does that say something about life…no?) A father and son duo especially stole the show as they reminded us that there are still outdoor bonding activities that we can do with our children.
We got back into the vehicles for the final sunset photography expedition for the day. The clouds in the horizon had just left a small opening for the sun, we captured the dusk as it begun to set in the park. We saw eagles, wild ducks, hippos, a crocodile and other animals whose names I do not know. We stopped at the ivory burning site and saw the heap of ashes that told a story of needless loss to our wildlife and cemented the purpose of why we were here, for conservation. At around 6:30 pm, we headed back to KWS Club house for final photo submission and a cocktail session, which had a few speeches involved.
The awardees were announced and they each received their prizes. We got a word from the various partners who included; the host Versatile Adventures, KWS, BigFoot Adventures, Negesa Trails, Kenyanstory.com, TurnUp Travel and Hafla Entertainment. The winners of the day were announced and they included; Ann Thumbi, Collins Kiruhi and Davis Opil.
Over 15 hours later from when we first came, the bus was now driving out of the park’s gate. Jokes were still flying through the bus and we still had some energy to spare. It had been a fun and blessed day indeed. We have a lot of reasons to take care of our wildlife, great pictures are just one of them.
Photography in the Wild is a series of events that bring fun, travel, and adventure together for the sake of conservation. If you would like to make inquiries, kindly call +254722424136 or +254722220978 or email firstname.lastname@example.org