Photo Safari in Kenya
May 05-14, 2022
Samburu National Reserve / Lake Nakuru National Park / Lake Naivasha
7 full-days and 2 half-days of photography
All-inclusive price: USD $5700 (single accommodation)
(available for US $5300 on a shared basis - subject to having two compatible people being willing to share)
Maximum: 8 photographers
Join me, Murray Rudd, for a diverse photographic introduction to Kenya's amazing Rift Valley and Samburu National Reserve!
This tour provides an excellent and economical introduction to the photographic diversity Kenya has to offer.
Samburu National Reserve (Park) and Buffalo Springs National Reserve are split by the Ewaso Ng'iro river in the arid plains north of Mt. Kenya. The parks offer a wide range of wildlife and landscape photo opportunities. Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya's oldest National Park and also part of the Rift Valley's Ramsar network, has a wide variety of wildlife, including rhino herds. Lake Naivasha is part of the Rift Valley's corridor of Ramsar wetlands (wetlands of international significance) and has fabulous birdlife, including one of the world’s premier eagle action photography locations.
Over 8 full-days and 2 half-days of photography, we will be able to shoot a wide range of different types of environments and wildlife.
Throughout the safari we stay at a mix of mid-range and luxury camps located near the heart of the photo action.
This photo safari is best-suited for amateur and semi-pro photographers looking for a relatively economical safari with diverse shooting opportunities. For photographers visiting Africa for the first time, this is an ideal introduction.
The safari is also well-suited for photographers wanting to learn infrared (IR) photography shooting and processing techniques or expand your IR portfolio. As part of this safari, I will be offering optional IR learning sessions for anyone interested. We will cover all the basics you need to process IR images in Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as some more advanced techniques like color look-up tables and gradient maps for IR. All three of our shoot locations have incredible IR potential.
This is a photography-oriented safari. My scheduling and logistic decisions all revolve around maximizing possibilities for tour participants to capture the best possible shots during a relatively quick visit to a place where some photographers spend months or years.
My goal is to give everyone on the tour the chance to take home images that can be hung with pride on your own home or office wall, or on the walls of your fine art buyers.
We will, without doubt, capture stunning African wildlife and landscape shots during this safari!
Anyone wanting a Kenyan double shot is welcome to also join the Masai Mara tour that follows immediately after this one (you will receive a USD $500 discount on the second tour - the combined 18-day safari will cost USD $11,600 for a photographer, and an attractive partner price is also available).
Physically, this is an easy trip with easy walking.
Above: white rhino herd going into formation at dawn along the shore of Lake Nakuru
Below: African fish eagle at Lake Naivasha
Day 1 (Thursday 05 May 2022)
Arrive Nairobi, overnight at the Airport Hilton
Day 2 (Friday 06 May 2022)
Meet at breakfast for introductions; drive 4-5 hrs to Samburu; afternoon game drive; overnight at Ashnil Samburu Camp
Day 3 (Saturday 07 May 2022)
Morning and afternoon Samburu game drives; optional IR learning session; evening photo review session; overnight at Ashnil Samburu Camp
Day 4 (Sunday 08 May 2022)
Morning and afternoon Samburu game drives; optional IR learning session; evening photo review session; overnight at Ashnil Samburu Camp
Day 5 (Monday 09 May 2022)
Morning Samburu game drive; drive to Lake Nakuru; afternoon Nakuru game drive; overnight at Lake Nakuru Lodge
Day 6 (Tuesday 10 May 2022)
Morning and afternoon Nakuru game drives; optional IR learning session; evening photo review session; overnight at Lake Nakuru Lodge
Day 7 (Wednesday 11 May 2022)
Morning Nakuru game drive; drive to Lake Naivasha; afternoon boat trip for fish eagle/hippo/shore photography; evening photo review session; overnight at Naivasha Crescent Camp
Day 8 (Thursday 12 May 2022)
Morning and afternoon fish eagle/hippo/shore bird boat trips; optional IR learning session; early afternoon photo drive around nearby Hell's Gate National Park; evening photo review session; overnight at Naivasha Crescent Camp
Day 9 (Friday 13 May 2022)
Morning and afternoon fish eagle/hippo/shore bird boat trips; afternoon hike on Crescent Island and late-afternoon fish eagle shoot; evening photo review session; overnight at the economy Naivasha Crescent Camp
Day 10 (Saturday 14 May 2022)
Morning fish eagle/hippo/shore bird boat trip; depart for Nairobi around noon; farewell dinner near the airport; early evening drop-off at airport for late-evening departures from Nairobi (or at the Airport Hilton for anyone staying on for the Masai Mara tour).
Above: the arid plains of Samburu National Reserve
Below: infrared image of Crescent Island in Lake Naivasha
Ashnil Samburu Camp is a luxury tented camp on the shores of the Ewaso Nyiro River. The camp is in the Buffalo Springs Game Reserve, with the Samburu National Reserve right across the river. This arid region supports diverse wildlife and some species not likely seen in other parts of Kenya.
The classic Lake Nakuru Lodge is situated on a rolling hill above Lake Nakuru; wildlife often wander as close as 10-m from your room's patio deck. From the lodge, it is just a short drive at dawn to the area where the rhino herd is most frequently seen. Lake Nakuru is home to a variety of wildlife and a great variety of birds, including, at times, extremely large flocks - tens of thousands or more - of pink flamingos.
On this tour, our final stay is at the more modest Naivasha Crescent Camp, a comfortable tented facility on the shore of Lake Naivasha. This is not a luxurious camp but is the best location for quick access to birds (our boat trips launch only a 2-minute walk away from our tents). It also has great IR photo opportunities within and adjacent to the camp. Lake Naivasha has many pairs of African fish eagles that nest around its shore; by early-November very young juveniles are growing quickly and the parents can be extremely aggressive when after food.
While I have worked to keep this safari as economical as possible, I decided to price it based on single accommodations (should you be willing to share a twin, I can arrange for a $400 discount).
Vegetarian and vegan food options are available at all camps.
This safari is limited to eight photographers (plus myself). We will be travelling in 8-passenger Toyota Land Cruisers that have pop-off tops specifically designed for safaris. We will have a maximum of three photographers per truck (and boat) to ensure we all have good shooting angles.
This trip requires a minimum of three photographers to run.
Above: African buffalo herd at Lake Nakuru
Below: a waterbuck near the shore of Crescent Island in Lake Naivasha
Transfer from Nairobi airport to Airport Hilton (if arriving on the evening of May 5th)
Hotel accommodation on Day 1 (Airport Hilton)
All meals starting with breakfast on Day 2 and ending with farewell dinner on Day 10
Six motor boat charters for photography on the water at Lake Naivasha (maximum of 3 photographers per boat)
Return ground transportation from Nairobi to Samburu / Nakuru / Naivasha – overland Land Cruisers each with max 3 photographers
National park entry fees
Kenyan tourist visa
International airfare to get to Nairobi
Tips for boat and Land Cruiser drivers, hotel staff (allow USD $300+ in total)
Personal gifts and spending
Beans or rice to fill your tripod head support (our driver can do the shopping, allow about $10-15)
Above: A hippo gives a big yowl while bathing in the Ewaso Nyiro River, Samburu
Below: kingfishers are abundant in the Rift Valley (and are another of my favorite photography subjects)
You will receive a recommended kit list from me prior to departure. In brief, you should bring:
– one or two camera bodies –
– if you shoot infrared, an IR converted camera (not just IR filters) –
– a bean bag and tripod head for the Land Cruiser (for landscapes in low light or big telephotos) –
– wide-angle, mid-range, and telephoto lenses –
– if you want to process photos in the field, bring a laptop computer –
– charging and storage devices –
– casual clothing (including a sweater and rain jacket) –
Below: a local Samburu villager in traditional dress
Click on the link below to let me know you want to reserve your place on this safari (or even if you have general questions you would like to submit, or to arrange a personal Zoom call to discuss the safari)
To reserve a spot will require a USD $500 deposit. The full payment of USD $5200 is due 4-months before departure, by 05 January 2022.
I strongly advise you purchase travel insurance at the time of your payment to ensure that you are able to get compensation in the event of health or family emergencies.
What kind of camera(s) should I bring?
Bring a camera that you are comfortable with and that is reliable. It is wise to bring a camera with which you can shoot raw images at relatively high resolution, as this will provide maximum flexibility for your future processing options. In Kenya it is useful to have a camera that can fire quick bursts, to 10 frames per second or faster - this is particularly useful for wildlife hunting action, should we be lucky enough to encounter a hunt in progress, and for our fish eagle sessions at Lake Naivasha.
For the fish eagle action, it is best to shoot at 300-500-mm. However, it is essential that you are able to shoot hand-held from a boat, so for some people that may preclude the use of a heavy telephoto. At Samburu and Nakuru, long telephotos are useful for wildlife. Once you register, I am happy to discuss kit specifics and help you decide on which lenses to bring and whether it may also make sense for you to rent a lens for the tour. Just fyi, for this tour I will likely bring a 300-mm f/2.8 and a 1.4X extender; I occasionally bring a heavy 200-400-mm zoom that extends to 560-mm but I cannot pack that in carry-on and am always nervous about checking a valuable lens.
If you want to shoot in IR, bring a converted IR body with which you can shoot using Live View. Shooting with IR lens filters requires a tripod and is tedious. There's no practical way that filters will work when shooting from a boat or vehicle.
What species will we see?
That's a potentially long list and, like any wildlife photo safari, it is not possible to guarantee sightings of some of the most desirable species. Each of our three stops is very different in character. Samburu has the greatest diversity of wildlife and we have the best odds to see the more uncommon species there: leopards, cheetahs, and African wild dogs are three of the sought-after but difficult-to-find species I hope we may see. Lions are relatively uncommon in Samburu and there are some (uncommon) tree-climbing lions at Lake Nakuru (if big cats is what you are after, you should really consider my Masai Mara tour instead of, or in addition to, this one). Elephants are common in Samburu but not present at Nakuru. Giraffes, African buffalo, zebra, a variety of ungulates, baboons, hyenas, hippos, and a variety of small mammals are common and we will see all of them at some time on the tour. There is a herd of white rhinos at Nakuru (with its own round-the-clock armed guard) and less common black rhinos are also sometimes seen. Possibilities also exist to see some or all of the Samburu 'Special Six' (Grevy's zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, long-necked gerenuk, Guenther's dik-dik and beisa oryx). Nakuru is also home to some highly endangered Rothschild's giraffes.
At Nakuru and Naivasha there is a huge variety of birds. Our main photographic focus will be on the spectacular African fish eagle action at Lake Naivasha but we will have opportunities to photograph many other kinds of birds, including kingfishers, storks, cranes, egrets, herons, flamingos, cormorants, and other shore birds.
Above: a hippo keeps a close eye on the boat at Lake Naivasha
Who is doing the driving?
I have a local tour company that I use for my Kenya trips. The drivers for our Land Cruisers are experienced guides. Safety on the roads and in the bush is their number one concern and ensuring that we get the shots we want is a close second. They have all worked with professional photographers, so have a good understanding of how lighting and backgrounds can help make or break a shot.
Do I need to bring cash?
You should bring some US dollars to cover local needs, including tips for our drivers and boat guides. All main safari expenses are fully paid for in advance through your tour fee, so there are no major local expenses. The resorts accept credit cards for drinks and souvenirs. You are better bringing USD $ than relying on a Kenyan ATM for shilling withdrawals.
How much does it cost to get to Nairobi?
Tickets from major international centers to Nairobi can be amazingly economical in May. From major US hubs, autumn ticket prices over the last few non-Covid years have typically been around USD $900. From Europe, flight costs are as low as 500 euros (USD $575).
How safe is Kenya?
As you may be aware, there have been two terrorist attacks in Nairobi over the past several years. One occurred at a luxury shopping mall and one at a high-end hotel complex near the city center. I have designed our itinerary to minimize the odds of problems. Our itinerary and choice of lodges minimizes the likelihood that we may be in areas targeted by terrorists.
Wildlife encounters and traffic/boat accidents can be a risk. To minimize the chance of dangerous animal encounters, the lodges and safari companies operate under strict rules within the parks. We are not allowed to get out of vehicles in areas where there are large predators. We use very experienced Land Cruiser and boat operators to minimize risks of accidents. However, accidents can happen so you will be required to sign a waiver prior to the tour and to have travel insurance in place.
You need to make your own judgement about how much risk you are willing to take while traveling: you should check with your home government for specific advice about Kenya.
Above: an African fish eagle cruising the waters of Lake Naivasha in dawn light
Can I bring a non-photographer partner?
Yes. My main concern from a photography perspective is to keep our group of photographers small so that everyone has good shooting angles all the time. Extra adult passengers in the Land Cruisers are not an issue if they are just along for the scenery. The price for a non-photographic partner (sharing room) is USD $3950.
What happens if I need to cancel?
Your full payment is due 4-months prior to departure, by 12 midnight Atlantic time on January 05, 2022. There are no refunds from 06 January, so I strongly advise that you purchase travel insurance at the time of your booking to ensure that you are able to get compensation in the event of last-minute health or family emergencies. Should something happen between payment time and your departure, I will endeavor to try to get some credit from the local suppliers towards a future trip but that may not be feasible after I pay for our local Kenya arrangements.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes. Besides providing you with compensation if you need to cancel your trip prior to departure, good travel insurance will help you if you have problems on your travels to Nairobi or on the safari.
Do we have internet access?
After we leave Nairobi, we usually have wireless connections at hotels but they may be weak at times. You should definitely not count on having Netflix for an evening movie and I would strongly advise that Creative Cloud users download software (Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and any key plug-in's) onto your computer so you are not reliant on Cloud-based processing. Cell connections are available in many places but cell service cannot be guaranteed in remote areas. I always carry a Garmin Inreach satellite communication system and will provide contact information to all trip participants: that can be used as a point of contact in case somebody needs to get a message from home to you when we are out of cell range.
How do I pay?
You can transfer your final payment directly to my bank account or pay by credit card (a 9.5% surcharge will apply for credit card payments).
Does the trip need a minimum number of people to guarantee it runs?
Yes. This trip requires a minimum of 3 photographers to run.
Can I stay on for the Masai Mara safari?
Yes. If you want a Kenyan double shot, you are most welcome to sign up for both safaris. If you register for the pair, you will save USD $500 off the regular price. Note that we will again visit Lake Naivasha for fish eagle action (but on that tour we stay at the luxury Naivasha Sopa Lodge rather than Crescent Camp).
Can I arrange for a private safari and photography tutoring?
Yes, I will be available for private bookings: (1) almost one month prior to this scheduled safari, from mid-April 2022; and (2) up to 2-weeks after the conclusion of the scheduled Masai Mara safari, into early-June 2022. I will take individuals or small groups on a private safari and create a custom itinerary and/or mentorship plan for the tour.
I hope you can join me in Kenya!
Above: while uncommon in Samburu, it is possible that we may see cheetahs (consider joining my Masai Mara tour if you are interested in big cats, as lions and cheetahs are more abundant there - Samburu does, however, have resident leopards that we have a good chance of seeing)
Below: a young baboon rides along on mom's back at Lake Nakuru National Park