Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bucket List

Ask any wildlife photographer their dream destination and you are sure to hear a laundry list. In that list, you will definitely get to hear about how amazing it would be if they could witness the Great Wildebeest Migration.

It doesn't matter if someone has witnessed the migration before. Its like loving to scratch an itch. You may not like my analogy but its true. Medical research confirms that scratching an itch increases blood flow to the brain giving a sense of comfort which is similar to falling in love.

And fall in love you will. You have so much to see and when you are done you still crave for more. For the entire duration that I stayed, there was not a single dull moment I can recollect.

Exciting as this may sound you still need to do quite a bit a homework  before you embark on this awesome journey. To start with make sure you have sufficient dough. I sincerely recommend that you dont squeeze in something like this on a shoe string budget. Dig deep into your wallet and who knows you may be doing this every year religiously like a pilgrimage.

You may choose to travel to the Serengeti in Tanzania in the month of Feb or to Masai Mara in Kenya in the month of August. Either ways there is very little probability that you are coming back disappointed.  If the migration does not particularly interest you, save your money. You can always visit Masai Mara or Serengeti any time of the year. I chose to visit Masai Mara mainly because of when I could take off from work and having been to the Mara before I was comfortable in familiar territory.

Here are a list of things you will need to remember before you start.

  • If you are traveling from India make sure that you have your Yellow fever and polio vaccination done at least a month in advance. Carry the certificates with you because they as important as you passport. Miss either one of these and you can kiss your dream holiday goodbye. (The Yellow fever vaccine is valid for 10 years and the Polio vaccine is valid for a year.)  
  •  You can get your visa on arrival for 50 USD. Once your are out, get to the forex to convert some of the USD to Kenyan shillings. That way you dont need to shell out USD for tipping hotel staff.  
  •  Opt for Safaricom or Airtel network for your mobile as both are equally good.   
  •  You can stay at any lodge at the Mara. There are no bad lodges just better ones. Be it Mara Serena or Mara Fig tree you can still witness the wildebeest crossing.  With so much prey around there are always Cheetahs, Leopards, and Lions around giving you opportunities to make spectacular images. 
  •  Dont limit yourself to just the wildlife. Experience the rich Masai culture by visiting their settlements within the park and yes, shop till you drop!!!! You can buy some awesome stuff at great prices provided you know how to bargain.
  • Check your gear before you travel and clean them daily because there is no shortage of dust at the Mara.
  • Carry medicines, mostly tummy related. You never know what new food is going to do to you. What will also help you are bug sprays and loads of  ointments for allergies. Keep your self covered at all times because I made the mistake of wearing sandals for dinner. The bugs had a field day at the exposed skin and by the next morning the allergy was spreading all over the body.
  • A lot of things around you will get your heart pumping. But that's still no reason to misbehave. Keep your voice down and your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times. You dont want to be a pain to your guide and to others in the park.
  • If you have the budget, try and get a balloon safari. They are expensive but it will give a you an awesome experience.
  •  Last but most important is to tip your guide generously. At least 10 USD per day per person. Trust me you will not regret it and its worth every cent.
Needless to say, carry a variety of lenses, telephoto and wide angle. You will enjoy the privilege of getting real close to the subjects and also view action from some distance.

This pretty much covers what you should be doing. There is stuff you can do outside the park if you have time, but I would cover that in some other writeup of mine.

Drop me a note if you want to know how I got my trips done and the images I made. Till the next time.