Photograph the Big 5 at the Maasai Mara Wildlife Reserve

Added by Tori Marsh

Get your camera ready for the adventure of a lifetime. The Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya offers visitors the chance to see an abundance of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Wondering where many of the national geographic photographers capture those amazing wildlife shots? The Maasai Mara is one of the top destinations for animal enthusiasts, and photographers alike. With premiere lodging and an abundance of wildlife, the Mara is a place you will never want to leave.

In order to get to the Maasai Mara, you must drive or fly from Nairobi, Kenya. For those of you who choose to fly, be prepared for a tiny bush plane, the possibility of landing amongst a heard of zebra and giraffe, and some unparalleled views of Kenya. This is the best way to get to the Mara, and the flight is only about 45 minutes! For those of you who choose to drive, you can expect a 5-6 hour drive on mostly paved roads. When you book your accommodation, they should help you figure out transportation!

When you get to the Maasai Mara Reserve, a game ranger will transport you to the lodge you are staying at. For a list of lodges, feel free to check out the Maasai Mara National Reserve's website.

On a safari in the Mara, you can expect to see the Big 5 animals, which include the African elephant, the African lion, rhinos, cape buffalo, and the African leopard. In addition to those, most people who visit can also see hippopotamus, giraffe, topi gazelle, leopards, hyenas, cheetah, jackal, impala, zebra, and many others. This is also a prime reserve for bird enthusiasts with species like ostrich, herons, and storks calling the Mara home.

Most lodges have their own Safaris running daily. Typically, visitors will spend an average of 8-10 hours in the jeep searching for animals. That may sound like a lot, but at the end of the day you'll be craving more! Make sure you bring your patience on the game drives. There can be hours where you see few animals, but the Mara is always surprising and will very rarely disappoint.

For the photographers: make sure you bring a zoom lens of some sort. Some people end up bringing lenses that can zoom up to 1200mm. However, those lenses are quite bulky, and can be especially difficult and heavy to handle when you are in a jeep all day. I ended up bringing a 80-400mm lens, and it was perfect! The animals all tended to be close enough that I never actually needed a huge zoom lens. 

Finally, as fun as it is to take pictures, make sure you take a step back from the camera and observe the animals with the naked eye. There were times that I was so caught up in getting the perfect shot, that I missed some great animal behaviors. 

Pro Tip: If you are really looking for some action, make sure you go during the famous wildebeest migration that occurs from July-October! 

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Experience of a Lifetime

My group decided to do the driving option and it indeed took about 6-7 hours with traffic from Nairobi. However it was completely worth it! We saw some incredible animals, many “circle of life” occasions, so be prepared for that. Also the Rhino is included in the Big 5 but since it’s endangered and considered a shy animal by the locals, I wouldn’t set expectations to see one. Regardless you will see plenty of other animals to satiate your needs!

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