Shiny Gold: Safari Zone

Is it safe for Americans to travel to Nairobi, Kenya for holiday?

Annabell asked:

I live in London with my husband and 9 month old son. We have a holiday planned for next month in Kenya. We are planning on visiting Lake Nakuru and the Maasai Mara. However, we are Americans and the travel warnings have been intense lately. Not sure what to do?

African Safari – Kenya Highlights

The spectacular Masai Mara National Park which lies in the Great Rift Valley covers 1510 square kilometres/575 square miles and offers plains full of Thomson’s gazelle, impala, giraffe, topi, zebra, wildebeest, bat-eared foxes, jackal, cheetah, lions, leopards and hyaena throughout the year. During the Annual Great Migration, thousands of wildebeest can be seen moving in search of greener pastures between July and October. They travel from Tanzania’s Serengeti plains towards the Masai Mara, home to the Mara River which holds hippo and large Nile crocodiles that lie in wait for wildebeest crossing the river on their migration route. In October or November the migration turns around and moves back to the Serengeti plains. In this park the black-maned lion can be found and it is possible to see the Big Five during one game drive.

Meru National Park – Made famous by Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free, the story of “Elsa” the orphaned lioness, and George Adamson’s life and research amongst lion and cheetah, this park has 13 rivers and is especially beautiful and wild with diverse scenery from wide open plains, to riverbanks with palms to woodlands and includes excellent views of Mount Kenya. Meru National Park is 1810 square kilometres/700 square miles. The wildlife population includes over 300 bird species as well as lion, elephant, leopard, cheetah, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, various antelope and more.

Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves are small adjoining scenic reserves that are home to the Ewaso Nyiro River where large herds of elephant bathe in it’s waters. Unique wildlife species such as the blue necked Somali Ostrich, Beisa Oryx, Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe and long necked Gerenuk can be found here along with elephant, lion, cheetah, buffalo, hyaena, hippo and crocodile. Birdlife is plentiful here including kingfishers, eagles, vultures and guinea fowl. The Samburu is home to leopard who live in the rocky hillsides of the plain. Buffalos Springs has rolling plains with dry riverbeds dotted with palms. Shaba has dramatic deep gorges and waterfalls. The stark landscape is dominated by Shaba hill and the soils here are volcanic in origin.

Amboseli National Park at the foot of Africa’s highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, is a small 392 square kilometres/151 square miles in size and has 5 diverse habitats consisting of open plains, acacia woodland, rocky thorn bush, swamps and marshland. This park is famous for its big game and diversified scenic beauty.

Tsavo National Park – made up of the East and West Tsavo National Park comprising of 20 819 square kilometres /80 382 square miles, this is one of the world’s largest game sanctuaries and has plentiful wildlife. Tsavo East is dominated by the Yatta plateau, one of the world’s longest lava flows at 290km long, the rapids of the Galana River, a long rock outcrop about 1.6km long where visitors can view wildlife drinking at the dam below, as well at the Aruba dam where many animals come to drink in this area of large dry thorn bush. The popular legend “The Man-eaters of Tsavo” originates here as depicted in the dramatized movie “The Lion and the Darkness”. During 1898 during the construction of the bridge of the Tsavo River, the Man-eaters of Tsavo terrorized workers and killed over 130 people before being shot by Colonel Patterson. Tsavo West is much more scenic with vast expanses of savanna, desert scrub, acacia woodlands, riverine vegetation, palm thickets and a mountainous landscape with magnificent views. Mzima Springs gushes water from below a lava ridge that has filtered underground into a series of crystal clear pools.  An observation tank sunk into the river, gives an underwater view of the wildlife drinking their fill, and of a variety of of fish specie. 

Lake Nakuru is a soda lake in Africa’s Rift Valley and the lake’s abundance of algae attracts almost 2 million resident pink flamingos, along with a variety of other birds. Warthog, baboon, and black and white rhino can be found here as well as lion, leopard, giraffe, waterbuck and large pythons.

Lake Naivasha  is known as a world class birding destination with over 400 species of birds recorded. This lake is freshwater, almost 13kms wide with shallow waters an average of 5m deep. The banks are lined with papyrus and forests of yellow fever trees surround the lake. Hippo, giraffe, and buffalo can be found here, along with Colubus monkeys.

Kenya’s Coastline is lined with sandy white palm fringed beaches and a vibrant coral reef full of exotic marine life. The coastline runs for almost 480kms and also encompasses dramatic overhanging cliffs, lagoons and mangrove forest.  The influence of the Spice trade, and the mix of Indian, Arabic and African traders created a Swahili culture that still lives on today in Kenya.

Lamu Island is one of the few old Swahili towns that has retained all its character and charm with a distinctive tradition over a thousand years old. Explore the winding streets of its medieval stone town, the endless beaches, rolling dunes, tiny villages and dhows sailing the waters. There is no motorized transport on the island and life moves at a relaxed pace.

Weather: Gentle, warm climate. Daytime temperatures are mild and nights can be fairly cool. Summer extends from October to April, with December to March being the warmest months. All year, minimum temperatures are 11ºC/52ºF and maximum temperatures are 30ºC/86ºF. The cool season is from May to September. Depending on when the rains come, the Great Migration normally reaches Kenya in July. Hundreds of thousands of herbivores then disperse onto the plains of the Masai Mara for the next couple of months.

An African Kenya Safari is a magical experience which can encompass game viewing as well as an exotic island break.

By: Marcelle Trethewey

About the Author:

Visit African Lion safaris for a stunning wildlife photo gallery, wild news and safaris. Marcelle Trethewey was born and raised in South Africa. She lives on a game farm and has a deep love of the african bushveld and its wildlife. Marcelle has successfully raised and release orphaned white faced owls, gemsbok and impala.

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Composition in Wildlife Photography – Simple Tips for Beginners

photography offers particular challenges in composition, especially for beginners. You not only have to create a compelling composition (which is tough enough in itself), you also face a subject which may or may not want to cooperate.

I can’t help you much with an uncooperative subject. Rest assured that with practice and experience, you will find that you become much quicker at composing and exposing a photo so that you get the shot before the critical moment passes. There are a couple of simple tips that can make things a little easier.

First, practice your photography in places where the animals are used to having people around and are less likely to become jittery at your presence. This does not have to be a zoo or other enclosure. Most national parks have campgrounds and picnic grounds where the wildlife is used to being around people, and may even come closer looking for food. You have a much better chance of a shot if you can get close without frightening the subject away.

Second, try to organise your exposure before you set up the shot. If the light is fairly constant, it is possible to point your camera in the right general direction and work out the best aperture and shutter speed settings for the photo. Then when you approach the subject, you can concentrate on composition without having to waste time working out your exposure.

These simple tips may help to take some of the frustration out of wildlife photography, but what about the composition itself? Many people simply don’t know where to start. If that sounds like you, don’t be discouraged. Like I said at the beginning, composition can be tough; even for a photographer with years of experience.

Let’s start by breaking it down into two categories; close-up and non close-up photos.

In a close-up photo, the subject fills most of the frame. A lot of people get in a tangle over whether to position their subject in the middle or to one side of the composition. In my experience it is quite acceptable to have the subject right in the centre, as long as you allow some head-room so it doesn’t appear too cramped within the confines of the composition. A central position is especially suitable when the subject is looking straight at the camera, but often works just as well if the subject is facing a little to one side or the other.

The more space you have around the subject, the more you should consider putting it to one side or the other. In this you should be guided by the way the animal is facing. If it is looking to one side, position it a little towards the other side so it is looking toward the centre of the frame. So, if your wildlife subject is looking right, position it a little to the left. Not too far; you don’t want half of your photo to feature nothing but empty space.

In a non close-up, where the photo shows a lot more space around the animal, it becomes more critical that you use that space effectively. In situations where the animal is featured with a lot of background, it may be better to think of the picture as a landscape photograph, and compose it accordingly. Some of the tried-and-true techniques like the Rule Of Thirds (google it if you are not familiar with it) are a good way to help you position your subject within the overall frame of the picture.

For a landscape style photo, it may look quite unbalanced to position your subject in the centre of the picture. It is usually better to position it to one side or the other, and it is now even more important to have the animal facing toward the centre of the picture. The eyes of the subject have the power to guide the viewer to look in the direction the subject is looking. So if the animal is on the left and looking left, the visual flow of the composition will lead out of the picture, instead of into it. If the subject is on the left and looking right, the viewer will follow the gaze of the subject into the centre of the picture.

Naturally it helps if there is something of interest in the centre or to the right to catch the viewer’s attention and add interest to the composition. If the subject is looking into the composition, it makes sense that it is looking at something, not just at empty space. Almost anything will do…a tree, a beach, an impressive sky; as long as it adds impact to the composition. If there is nothing of interest to work with, you might consider zooming in closer, so there is less emptiness in the composition.

These simple guidelines are intended to do nothing more than give you some ideas. Nature is not governed by the rules of composition, and a wildlife photographer must be flexible to get the best result out of each situation. Above all, trust your own judgement, your own sense of visual balance, to create a satisfying composition. On the other hand, if you are struggling to get started, think back to these guidelines; if you can position your subject well, the rest of the composition will fall into place.

By: Andrew Goodall

About the Author:

See Andrew Goodall’s wildlife photography collection at , and find Andrew’s top selling ebooks on the skills of good nature photography. While you are there, sign up to the online newsletter for updates, tips and freebies!

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Marlin Lodge Benguerra Island Mozambique

When you make the decision to go to Marlin Lodge Benguerra Island, Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique, be careful who you tell, because most people still think it is unsafe, and those folk who know anything at all about Mozambique will probably never speak to you again.

You fly into Vilanculos, which is about two hours from Johannesburg with Pelican Air, and it is possible to coincide flight times coming in from Europe on an international flight.

The boat to Marlin Lodge arrives off the beach so it’s a wade to get on board, but the journey is a delight as you are taken to Benguerra Island that could truly be described as being in the middle of nowhere.

The short journey is at speed, but not so quick you couldn’t take in the colors, turquoise, aquamarine, sapphire, contrasting with the stunning white sandbanks.

The first thing that struck me on arrival was how warm the water was as I waded ashore, and arrival we had become used to in Zanzibar on a previous trip – no jetty here either!!

We had a luxury chalet which was gorgeous, and it had its own private walkway to the beach.

To see photographs go to

All toiletries are provided in big bottles and so you don’t need to take your own

The staff were terrific, and in an unobtrusive way, giving us excellent service.

In so far as activities are concerned, some people went scuba diving, others went fishing, some like us did virtually nothing but unwind with a bit of snorkelling thrown in, and exploring too.

Whilst it is more a place for honeymooners than families, there is water skiing, and banana boat rides too

All in all it was everything we had hoped for, and I’d certainly recommend it.

It was quite superb – the food, especially if you like seafood, although if you wanted something else that didn’t seem to be a problem, the location, the service and people were all terrific

I can’t recommend it enough!

It was a perfect place to relax and unwind.

I would highly recommend Marlin Lodge.

By: Ian SG Smith

About the Author:

Ian Smith contributes to quite frequently

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Kenya Budget Safaris

When going to Africa you can go on the budget camping safari at Amboseli National Park, or at Masai Mara. The regular departure date is Sunday except for the month of May. During this camping safari you are set up to stay in a small camp which is a great way for you to experience all the natural attractions that Kenya has to offer.

This safari has been designed for your convenience and that you will be able to see the greatest diversity in wildlife that Kenya has to offer. The camps are also set up in a way that gives you the opportunity to take nightly walks or drives if that is what you want to do and give you access to the Amboseli and Nakuru National Parks and the Mara.

You will be driving around in a Toyota Landcruiser with roof hatches. Your guide will also be your driver who has lots of experience and will tell you anything and everything to make you knowledgeable. On this safari you will be going to the Selenkay Conservation Area and Amboseli National Park.

The local Massai people have made that conservation as an animal reserve to protect their wild life. There is a greater diversity there than there is at the Amboseli National Park. Some of the many animals you will get to see are elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles, gerenuk, impala, eland, oryx, lesser kudu, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, warthog, spotted hyena, striped hyena, jackal, bat-eared fox, caracal, African wild cat, serval cat, genet cat, honey badger, aardvark, porcupine, zorilla, mongoose, bushbaby and dik-dik.

Birdlife is prolific, especially birds of prey. The feeling that you get when you see these animals in their natural environment and not behind bars in a zoo is something that you must experience and something that you will always remember.

By: Munya Chinongoza

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If you need more information on Kenya Budget Safaris please visit our website:

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