On the 6th of September at 10am in the morning wilddogs were seen hunting around Tumaren Camp. A walking safari nearby were able to see the dogs briefly as they tore off after some Impala. This is not an uncommon observation on our trips and we see wilddogs often hunting in the area. While some lodges in Kenya use radio telemetry to find their wilddogs, we prefer old school tracking and spotting to the ‘canned hunt’ approach. It was thrilling then to see that our pack had some very new pups with them as well.
Kechine, one of our lead rangers continued to follow the wilddogs as they descended toward one of our dams. In thick bush he was able to catch up with the dogs just as they met with an adult lioness. There was a standoff just before the Lioness lunged and was able to grab one of the new pups. She promptly killed the dog while the rest of the pack circled in obvious concern and stress. A rather sad day for our dogs but a very interesting interaction that Kechine (also pictured below) was able to observe and document on his new Nikon camera.
One of the difficulties of planning your camera gear for safari is there too much to choose from. The fact that the small airplanes you might board will restrict your weight exacerbates the difficulty in choosing just the right gear.
My advice: Keep it simple. This is what I bring on our safaris.
1. A camera body that can easily:
switch to point metering
increase or decrease the ISO quickly (mine goes up to 6400)
switch to shutter or aperture priority fast
switch to manual focus
take an extra memory card (for god’s sake don’t get in a situation of having to delete images to take new ones)
take an extra battery or two – this is key, really key.
2. A Telephoto Zoom lens:
mine is a Nikon 80mm-400mm F4.5-5.6 It is not the fastest lens in the world but I can crank the ISO up on my camera so easily that I rarely have a problem with shake.
avoid bringing a huge telephoto lens unless you have a particular image in mind or you are a professional with plenty of time (most safari goers are only out for several weeks). 9 times out of 10 your better off with a telephoto zoom that can get you into the action quickly but is also easy to wield. I have seen on many occasions, visitors on safari with a 600mm lens fussing and asking the driver to back away from the animal because the vehicle is too close to the subject. This is crazy – the object of wildlife photography is not to just take the animals pupil but to tell a bit more of the story. With a zoom you can compose an image easily and if there is a high speed chase you can start wide and zoom to find the subject. Try following a cheetah making a kill with a 600mm lens – impossible unless you are very practised and you have an excellent tripod.
3. A Wide-angle Zoom
Good for landscapes, people and telling stories. Choose a zoom that has a good close focus.
3. Get a camerabag that is easy to use. I prefer the lowepro Sport 200 for walking or while I’m guiding in the car and there isn’t much extra room for my own equipment. For Car based trips I use one of the larger Lowe bags.
Something else that I like about this bag is that to its easy to take my camera out of it or to return it with out much fuss.
Tumaren is booming and the wildlife are all breeding, frolicking and fighting. THIS is the time to be on safari! I have never been able to fathom why so many people and agents steer guests away from Kenya during the rains. It is by far my own favorite time to be on safari and more international visitors should know about how nice it is.
The rain brings out lots of life that has to hide away during the long dry periods. The tortoises start to roam widely in our area and begin to search out mates. Insects of all color and shape emerge to pollinate or eat the equally diverse collection of flowering plants that erupt. Birds are nesting and the young attract the attention of many kinds of predator. The lush vegetation prompts most of the plains game to go into breeding mode – the stallion zebras fighting off advances from other males while the gazelles too come into season and begin to drop their young in the long grass. Its a predator’s dreamscape.
To give an idea of what people are missing by not travelling during the rains, here are are just a few images from a 2 hour game drive in Samburu. I didn’t stop for the bugs or flowers as there were just too many for the kids in my car.
In early 2006 my wife, Kerry Glen and I purchased a 3000 acre property in Laikipia adjacent to the Ewaso Nyiro River. The ranch, which we named Tumaren (dragonfly in Masai), is now dedicated exclusively to the conservation of wildlife. Since June, with the help of six rangers that we have hired, we have been patrolling the property, removing snares, and counting game.
Tumaren, like the larger Ewaso eco-system is rich in game. Â We have large populations of Gerenuk, Impala, Steinbuck, Common Zebra, Grevy’s Zebra, Elephant, Grant’s Gazelle and Dikdiks and smaller populations of Lesser Kudu, Thompson Gazelle, Eland, Hyena, Bat-eared Fox, Reticulated Giraffe, Hartebeest, Leopard, Cheetah, Lion and Wilddog. The Laikipia Plateau is a spectacular part of Northern Kenya where visitors can experience a great diversity of wild animals and landscapes. With the highest diversity of large mammals in Kenya, the second largest population of elephant in Kenya, most of the worlds Grevy’s Zebra, and 50 percent of all the Rhinos in the country; it is an understatement to say that Laikipia is of a great conservation significance. This ecological value as well as the fact that Laikipia is an unprotected area, predominantly in private ownership was the impetus for me to begin this blog. I intend to focus the musings of this blog on Tumaren and the conservation challenges that the area is confronted with but I would also like to include natural history notes and bits and bobs of ecological interest. We are always looking for knowledgeable people when it comes to the identification of insects and obscure plants and I invite participation when it comes to deciphering the ecology as well as the conservation of our little part of Africa.