It’s surprising how time flies. I remember making plans for my Samburu trip like it was last week and it’s already been a month since I returned from Kenya.
Traveling single has it merits, especially when it has to with wildlife photography. But on the down side I keep getting asked if I am a sociopath in need of help. I love good company, but I find myself wrestling for shoulder space and finding the right angle when the vehicle is occupied by 3 other people. So I decided that this trip is going to be all about me.
Once you get started the momentum will see you through. I’ve always been the curious type and I am big fan of anything that is “Do it yourself”. Its simple and the only complications are the ones in your head and it’s easy to get rid of them.
I started with a list of preferred vacation destination and Voila!!!! No surprises here. Kenya was always on the cards.
I had been to Masai Mara multiple times so I wanted a different experience this time on. So I deployed the proved and trusted choice by elimination methodology. The factors I considered while doing this was the weather, the tourist season and most important the cost. Remember this works only if you have decided your vacation dates. Many of us don’t have the freedom or flexibility in changing our holiday plans.
I was helped in great proportion by numerous articles on the web from tourists and seasoned professional photographers. From what I saw, my vacation timing was a perfect fit for Samburu, a semi arid national park on the bank of the Ewaso Ng’iro River.
I contacted my trusted travel guide and friend in Kenya and got my Safaris and stay confirmed within a span of one week. (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know how)
Considering that I wanted the vacation to be “ME” time, I also chose traveling in comfort a priority. No, I did not fly first class. My shoe string budget did not allow such luxuries. Rather I chose to travel mid week to avoid the long queues, and crowded airports. Not only did the flights take off and land on time, I got sufficient time to relax between my flights. As a result I did not suffer from serious jetlag when I landed at Nairobi.
I got my visa on arrival, picked my bags, got a SIM card, and completed my necessary forex transactions within a span of 20 mins. I was also comfortable on my ride from Nairobi to Samburu and was awake the whole journey. The roads are smooth as butter as you can choose to take a nap provided you can contain your excitement and not stop every 500 mts like I did. Once I was at Samburu it was 5 days of pure joy. I did morning and post lunch safaris to maximize my chances of seeing the big cats.
For those of you who are new to this, I recommend you don’t take your own sweet time in getting out of the hotel and staying in the park. Don’t drive around blindly either. Have a plan and pick your spots on a daily basis. Remember, Cats are nocturnal and you have a greater chance of spotting them early morning and towards evening. You may still be able to see the cats when the sun is at its highest, but they are most likely to be sleeping in the bush. You may be lucky in spotting them but you will not make great images for sure. Leave early and the chances you have seeing the big cat in action increase. Don’t get stuck with the big cats alone. Samburu offers a variety of rare animals and birds to keep you occupied and opportunities to make some spectacular images.
We stuck to a routine for all 5 days. It was the dry season and the availability of water was limited. So we drove along the river bank of the Ewaso Ng’iro River. Planning is half the battle won. There was always something happening at the river and for most days I ran out of memory on the SD cards.
Trust your guide and driver and make sure you spend time with them even when you are not on safari because it worked wonders for me. Apart from wildlife you can also photograph people and their day to day life. Needless to say take permission before you photograph them. You may sometimes need to make a small payment, but it will be worth it.
On the list of other things for you to remember is to carry a good sun screen. I didn’t realize until my last day that I was completely sun burnt and my skin was sore. Start well and end well.
I was very reluctant to leave Samburu but was also thrilled that I had crossed off another destination from my list. There were so few vehicles in the park that I had the freedom to choose how I wanted to position my vehicle without getting in anyone’s way and also photographing my subject from different angles.
A little research goes a long way. There are other parks in Kenya that I would love to explore. I would be thrilled if you could tag along on my next trip.
A wise man once said “Invest on life experiences, not things”. I am happy that I am on the same boat as he is.
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