A few years ago I landed a position working for an NGO with field offices around the globe. Part of this job involved spending 2-3 months with my team in a different field location before moving on to the next. During one such transition, from the Dominican Republic to Malawi, we seized on a chance to stop over in Nairobi. We wanted to see the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara.
To conserve our budget, we’d arranged our flights in advance, assuming we’d need about a week in Kenya in order to see some wildlife. A few days before departure, however, we still hadn’t found anyone to take us to the Masai Mara. Since we were in the height of the big migration, all of the trips and tours you could arrange via the Internet were completely booked.
This turned out to be a great thing.
When we arrived at our hotel, we asked at the front desk and made contact with someone locally. She met with us, explained the options, collected a deposit and arranged for us to be picked up the next morning.
The four of us had a minivan all to ourselves. Everyone else we saw during the next three days were packed into their vehicles – easily 8-10 per van. We paid one-fourth the costs quoted online.
I love places where spontaneous travel thrives.
Whenever someone found something exciting, like a pride of lions, word would get out and soon all the vehicles would converge. While the animals seemed generally unmolested, I wish we’d all given them a bit more space.
The only camera I had on hand was a Nikon CoolPix 990, a digital point & shoot with a 38-115mm (equivalent) zoom lens. This wasn’t much of an impediment, however. There was plenty of light so a tripod wasn’t essential. The animals would often close enough that medium lenses were sufficient. While this is not the gear I’d have chosen for a wildlife safari, it would do just fine.
Towards the end of the trip, my Coolpix took a hard fall onto a rock. From that point on, I couldn’t focus to infinity and I had shallow depth of field. I think the lens is tilted in the camera. All my images from that point on took on a curious diarama effect.
I mention this as further evidence that you don’t need sophisticated equipment to take great photos. Even a broken 3 megapixel digital camera can take intriguing images in practiced hands.