The highlight of Africa Safari: Sunset at Masai Mara!
“Masai Mara sunsets are the most beautiful one in the world. It is red, all red.” Said our Africa Safari guide and minivan driver, Ibrahim. Being a Masai, he knows the rules of the land. He promised he will find us the best spot outside the park from where we can take a lingering view of the stunning show!
To be honest, I knew about Masai Mara sunsets from the first day of the trip. After a fateful day, when the safari organizers failed to act on their promised service delivery and a lot of bickering followed, we reached the famous African national park at the neck of closing time. We entered the park at ten minues to six (the park gate closes at six, officialy) and stayed for half an hour or so. And it took Mara just five minutes to play her charm on us!
- Masai Mara gate remains open for visitors: 6 am in the morning to 6 pm in the evening!
- Entry fee for foreigners: USD 80 per person as of August 2018
- Night safari at Masai Mara is possible with prior approval from the government official at Narok county.
“It is Holi apparent, on the Mara Sky!”
(Holi: the Indian festival of colours, what else can an Indian born feel with this splash of colours raging in the sky?)
Even though an African savannah (and endless) grassland, Mara is very different than Amboseli National Park, arguably the second most popular in Kenya, or the forests in Zambia! It is not an arid land, the first look at it and you know. Instead Mara has this blue vignette of a dome, an all emcompassing sky from all around. The sky becomes ethereal as sunset takes place!
At first it was blue and purple for a while. It felt beautiful. Soon after the sky started to change colour. Bright red hues came up from nowhere and it left nothing untouched.
“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.”
By William Burchell, an English explorer
For the next three days, we did not leave a single chance to witness the Masai Mara sunset. Sure, you can view them from your hotel. The sky will turn pink and purple and you know it is the time!
But to be on a moving vehicle on the East African savannah, as the grand show takes place, is an experience of its own! In many ways, it reminds you of the hunter-gatherer ancestors of Homo Sapiens, who thrived on this vast landmass at the dawn of civilization! The DNA remembers!
The wildebeest migration is often cited to be one of the most spectacular natural events. Millions of wildebeest, zebra and antelope migrate in search of water. Their path revolves around the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem. The neighbouring countries of Kenya and Tanzania experience this mass groove, where birthing, courting and mating take place while the animals are foraging.
Migration at Masai Mara takes place from July to October end, with animals shifting on a daily basis. While we spotted a few herds on the first day at a particular spot, the next day, we learnt the animals had moved towards interiors.
Spotted near the Mara river. A pride of lioness were moving along the group too! You can wait and watch for a kill but we moved since it was the sunset time, the park gate closes at 6 pm.
But not all big cat family leads a happy life! The one down below lost her cubs. Nature exhilarates and breaks your heart at the same time!
A few Topis graze on the land! Masais argue, even after migration, the lions at Masai Mara never have to starve, thanks to the Topis!
Practical tips for clicking the coveted Sunset photo at Masai Mara!
- Move fast and capture the animals in action from various angles. I do not mean you should move the vehicle. Just manoeuvre with the camera for a better angle.
- The sky is often more beautiful after the sun has set, so wait till the darkness beckons.
- A storm must not deter you from being on the ground. Often, the most dramatic frame comes as clouds play with the orange rays of the setting sun. A rainy season will not necessarily hamper your chances of clicking the famed Mara sunset! rather you may just find a spot all on your own and not the typical tourist crowd.
- You can always check the sunrise and sunset time, online and plan accordingly.
- If you want to capture an emotion, an animal on the motion, at the action, trust the prime time at Sunrise or Sunset. During the morning, the animals are mostly resting.
“Africa has her mysteries and even a wise man cannot understand them. But a wise man respects them.”
by Miriam Makeba (South African singer and civil rights activist)
Here is a list of Camera and equipment we used.
- Camera: Nikon 5300 and Nikon 5600
- Lens: 18/55 and 70/300 (we did not have a better zoom lens but this one managed few good captures, nonetheless)
- iPhone 6s and iPhone 7+
- Lightroom (the free version used on Android) and Photoshop CS5
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