Karibu Sana! My name is Penny Robartes, and I am a professional Wildlife Photographer and Photo Tour Leader. I am currently writing this post from Serian Camp in the Mara North Conservancy, with a view of the magnificent Mara River stretching out before me. The chirping of abundant birds, the breeze caressing the leaves of trees and hippos laughing at a secret joke shared amongst one another makes up the ambient music to my musings.
This specific scene is just one setting that you will find me working at for the next 30 days. Earlier this year I had the privilege of being personally invited by Alex Walker to spend time at his intimate, luxury tented camps in Kenya as the Photographer in Residence for the month of August to mid-September. Venturing out into the diverse habitats of the Mara to master your camera, explore your artistic and photographic vision, and then create those images are examples of what we will delve into whilst on game drives together.
I have had a love affair with the Maasai Mara National Reserve since my initial exploration of the Mara Triangle a few years ago. Since then, I have returned multiple times to share my knowledge and passion for wildlife photography with my guests, as well as for this destination that can be accurately described as a true wildlife Eden.
I welcome you to join me as I take you through my day with the lions of the Offbeat Pride from the Mara North Conservancy.
We were on the road at 06h30 sharp. The thought of all the photographic possibilities that awaited us during this Great Migration season positively whet my appetite. I couldn’t wait to explore the concession with the guest I was sitting next to – who was as eager and passionate about wildlife photography as I was.
The light was just magical. The sun rose and kissed the land and wildlife as they fell under its golden touch.
Spotted Hyenas were the first subjects that we came upon and we couldn’t have asked for better! We spent a while with them as we touched on different compositions and techniques while they dedicatedly made their way towards a hippo carcass, that smelt pretty horrific. The stench was unbearable, so we departed the scene and headed instead in the direction of a lion sighting.
The Mara North Conservancy has 3 main lion prides that are named based on the location where their territory lies; the Cheli&Peacock pride, Offbeat pride and the River pride. We were exploring the territory of the Cheli pride, where a sub-group of 4 females and 8 sub-adults have been seen frequently. We made our way towards 2 sub-adult lions that were staring fixatedly at something in the distance.
Something was very wrong. These particular lions were incredibly uneasy and you could almost feel the tension in the air.
Looking in the direction of their stare, we realized why they were so anxious.
2 sub-adult Offbeat males were making their way steadily towards the Cheli lions.
Making their steady and direct approach into a territory that was not their own.
Making their steady and direct approach to confront the Cheli lions.
It was such an overwhelming and humbling experience to be within touching distance of these powerful apex predators. One of the Offbeat males glanced up at the Serian guest I was with before continuing on his march past our vehicle to the Cheli lions. Then the intense growling started, however it was in thick brush and we couldn’t drive in to see what was going on. Putting his camera down, and with a smile on his face, our guest looked at me in utter awe at the incredible experience he just been privy to! It is an experience that I am sure will forever stay in his heart.
Fortunately for all the lions involved, nothing came from this feud – apart from angry growls emanating from the dense bush, and after a short while, the Offbeat males made their way back to their territory.
It was a magnificent encounter and one that I will cherish. It was incredibly special to see the raw power of lions, and to be able to appreciate it in such an intimate way. There is nothing like the authentic and private safari experiences that Mara Conservancies offer.