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The Northern Circuit

Photo Safari
Dates: TBA

A special safari featuring several Private Conservancies

Over 30 Years leading Kenya Safaris
Read an Interesting Interview with Joe

In January of 2018, we are planning a safari that is different from our normal safaris when we offer the best that Kenya has to offer as we concentrate in just the north-central part of the country. We are calling this the Northern Circuit Safari as we concentrate our adventure in Samburu/Buffalo Springs Game Reserves, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy.

dAlthough the following brochure will cover all the details, this special safari will offer several features that are unique. We'll start in Samburu, where we'll have several Kenya endemics, like Grevy's Zebra and Beisa Oryx, and great Elephants and Leopards. From there we'll head to the Private Conservancies where we'll have the opportunity for night game drives - a truly unique experience, and wonderful shooting opportunities for White and Black Rhinos. African Wild Dogs have denned in these Conservancies, and we've also had great luck in Samburu. At one of our destinations, Cheetahs have learned to hunt ostriches, a very unique behavior featured in BBC's Planet Earth films! In all, there's plenty of unqiue shooting available!

The brochure that follows has ALL the details. But here's a quick summation of important points to consider.

Why we are unique

We’ve been doing photo safaris for over thirty years, and we not only know what we’re doing photographically to deliver the best possible images you can make, but we also offer something few others can. We also provide the story, the natural history, the reasons why something happened, or why it may happen as we wait. We are photographers, of course, but we are also naturalists, biologists by training, and we take enormous pleasure in interpreting and making sense
of the behaviors you will see.

b30 years leading safaris.
We know the wildlife and how best to utilize your time.
You can go on a safari with a photo leader and take pictures, but there is no other photo safari that will provide you with the information that explains what you are seeing, that gives meaning to your photographs and to your experience. As our participants say, it is what truly sets us apart from all the rest.

Who is this safari for
Serious photographers and naturalists.
Folks willing to spend time waiting if it is required.
Patient photographers and naturalists.
This safari is not for 'see it and go' tourists!

Our Unique Rotation System
We rotate participants through vehicles, guides, and us.
We avoid cliques.
Participants get maximum time with us as your guides.
Our rotation system insures you will have the best experience possible.
You are getting two very experienced leaders for the price most tours have for only one leader, experienced or not.

eWhat you can expect from us
The most productive safari possible.
Accurate, informative natural history information.
Professional help in your photography - compositions, positioning, exposure.


Featuring some great New Locations

In January of 2018, we are planning a safari that is different from our normal safaris when we offer the best that Kenya has to offer as we concentrate in just the north-central part of the country. We are calling this the Northern Circuit Safari as we concentrate our adventure in Samburu/Buffalo Springs Game Reserves, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy.
lWhy aren’t we adding the Masai Mara to this itinerary? It’s simple. Joe and I have two back-to-back safaris scheduled for Tanzania for the month of February right after this planned safari. Those trips will concentrate on the Great Migration and the birthing time of the wildebeest. We felt that it would be redundant for us to visit the Mara and then head to the Serengeti where the action will be non-stop. Some of the people who choose to travel with us like to maximize their time in one place so by offering two different trips, focused on the best that Kenya and Tanzania have to offer without duplicating things, would be a great idea. Plus we will be able to photograph most of the animals found in the Masai Mara on the different conservancies. Let me talk about our exciting itinerary.

lWe start out the trip by visiting one of our favorite areas: the Samburu and Buffalo Springs Game Reserves. The Samburu country is dry and semi-arid yet it hosts many endemic species of animals that can’t be found anywhere else in Kenya. The reticulated giraffe, the Beisa oryx, the endangered Grevy’s zebra, the DeFassa waterbuck and the desert warthog can all be found here. It is a bird photographer’s dream location and in January, many birds should be feeding young while migratory birds are still in residence. The landscape is dominated by burnt sienna multi-towered termite mounds, doum palms and the majestic Ol Lolokwe Mountain to the north (the sacred mountain of the Samburu people). All of the predators can be found in the park with leopard being one of our trophy subjects. And nobody is disappointed when we spend time with the ‘red’ elephants of Samburu as they play in the mud holes and Ewaso Nyiro River. In fact we stay at our favorite luxury tented camp in Kenya, Elephant Bedroom Camp, along the banks of the river while visiting this area. It’s a great way to start a safari with the comfortable tents, great food and wonderful and friendly staff.

After leaving Samburu we drive about an hour back south to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, also known as Lewa Downs, for three nights. Lewa is a family-owned ranch run by the Craig/Douglas family since 1922. In the early 1980’s with Kenya’s black rhino population at only a few hundred (down from 20,000 in the mid-1970s), part of the ranch was fenced off and guarded as a rhino sanctuary. As black rhinos settled down rand bred, and white rhinos were added, the decision was made to fence the entire property and make it a sanctuary for other endangered and endemic animals, such as Grevy’s zebra, sitatungas and elephants. Gaps in the fence allow the elephants and other animals to migrate out of the property at certain times of the year. The rhinos are constantly guarded (so poaching is non-existent) and spectacular habitat shots can be made with Mt. Kenya in the background. At Lewa we do have the opportunity to photograph all of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) as well as cheetah. We will be staying at Lewa Safari Camp during our stay.

Our final destination on this special tour is Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy located on the Laikipia Plateau outside of Nanyuki. The conservancy boasts the largest population of black rhinos and has the remaining members of the northern white rhino in residence. The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary is also situated here and once again, you can see the Big Five on the property. In addition, a pack of African wild dogs have denned on the property the last few years but whether we see them at this time of the year cannot be guaranteed. Since this is a private conservancy, and is fenced, we will be able to do a night game drive, something that we can’t do in the national parks and reserves. We will be staying at the Sweetwaters Tented Camp while visiting this conservancy.

Here are the details for the trip:

Dates: TBA

Price: USD $TBA
Single Supplement: USD $TBA


Day 1: Arrive in Nairobi, overnight - Nairobi Serena Hotel
Day 2: Drive to Samburu Game Reserve, lunch at Tree Trout Restaurant -
overnight, Elephant Bedroom Camp
Day 3-5: Game drives in Samburu and/or Buffalo Springs Game Reserve -
overnight, Elephant Bedroom Camp
Day 6: After breakfast, morning game drive
Drive to Lewa Conservancy for lunch and afternoon game drive
overnight, Lewa Safari Camp
Day 7-8: Game drives Lewa Conservancy,
overnights, Lewa Safari Camp
Day 9: After breakfast, drive to Ol Pejeta for lunch
afternoon and night game drive
overnight, Sweetwaters Tented Camp
Day 10: Game drives in Sweetwaters
overnight, Sweetwaters Tented Camp
Day 11: AM flight from Nanyuki to Nairobi
Dayroom at Nairobi Serena Hotel
Dinner and transfer to JKIA for departing international flights
join us for our Serengeti, Tanzania trip!
Scroll below for more info

The cost of the trip includes:

  • Lodging, double occupancy, from Jan. 23 through Feb. 1
  • All meals beginning with breakfast on the first full day of the tour (Jan. 24) through breakfast on the last day of the tour (Feb. 2)
  • A farewell dinner on the last night of the tour (Feb. 2)
  • Airport transfer to/from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the Nairobi Serena Hotel
  • 3 photographers/vehicle for the photo safari
  • All in-country transportation including a return flight to Nairobi from Nanyuki
  • Tip for driver/guides
  • Some tips for different camp/lodge staffs
  • Water at all meals and during the game drives
  • Soda during the game drives
  • Beans for your beanbags

The cost of the trip does not include:

  • International airfare to/from Nairobi, Kenya
  • Visa for Kenya
  • Additional lodging prior to/after the scheduled tour
  • Lunch on the return day to Nairobi from the field (Feb. 2)
  • Any meals before/after the scheduled tour
  • Additional excursions scheduled with the tour operator, including a balloon safari
  • Additional tipping of lodge/camp staffs, room stewards, luggage porters
  • Optional additional tip for driver/guides
  • Alcoholic and/or non-alcoholic beverages consumed at meals or at any other time
  • Laundry, personal items or additional expenses during the tour

The cancellation policy is listed on the Responsibility and Cancellation Agreement forwarded to registrants.
We have also included with this e-mail the registration form for this trip. In order to secure a spot on our safari, the required deposit plus a completed registration form and a signed and dated cancellation agreement will be due at this time.

The Great Migration: From the Plains of the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater:

Dates: TBA

For a complete, and rewarding, safari experience, join us in northern Tanzania for our Great Migration Photo Safari. This tour starts in the central part of the Serengeti concentrating on the Seronera and Sametu Kopjes areas. The riverine habitat of the Seronera River offers photo ops of leopards, hippos, tree-climbing lions, elephants, giraffes, birds and so much more. We will visit the Maasai, Boma and Sametu Kopjes as we search for the inhabitants of these unique ecosystems. We then transfer our home base to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Ndutu Forest area of the southern Serengeti. We will stay in two tented camps, the beautiful Lake Masek Tented Lodge and the Woodlands Tented Camp. We have two permits to visit the Gol Kopjes and will venture not only around Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek, but also we’ll explore the Ndutu Marsh, the forests and more importantly, the birthing plains that surround this area. Finally we end up for two nights in the Ngorongoro Crater staying at the Lion’s Paw Tented Camp located on the northern rim of the Crater. Once again this trip features 3 photographers per vehicle, incredible photo driver/guides and the ultimate in a safari experience as you relax in your luxury tent under the African night sky. For those joining us on both trips, we will arrange a more convenient, and less-hassle, road transfer between Nairobi and Arusha and we will split the cost.

For more information on this photo safari, please contact Berni in our office at

We hope that you choose to join us on this tour of northern Kenya. There is no place on earth where you can experience and photograph nature than in Africa. Many people have saved up for their one dream trip to Kenya, only to realize that Africa truly gets into your blood and that they have to continue to go back.

No American Photographers have more field experience
leading photo safaris to East Africa.

What You Can Expect from Us

me and cheetahSummary:
The most productive safari possible.
Accurate, informative natural history information.
Professional help in your photography - compositions, positioning, exposure.

From Kenya you can expect the best, most exciting wildlife photography possible on this planet. We will prepare you photographically.
I've written a shooting guide to Kenya that you can use as a handbook
or reference when considering composition and exposure for most of
your shooting subjects. Prior to the trip we'll provide you with our own recommendations on the gear to bring and, on safari, we'll provide
thorough briefings on the subjects we expect to film and how to do so.
In the field you'll be with either Mary or myself on an average of two
out of every three game drives. That means you'll be under the guidance
of two experts here, as opposed to a tour with only one leader,
who may be a photographer and not a naturalist as well.
As I mentioned earlier, we'll do our best to get you the best shots possible, and we'll be able to provide you with our suggestions on composition and exposure and, perhaps most importantly, on what we expect to happen and where we should be. Knowing animal behavior is a real plus, if not a key to successful wildlife shooting, and our experience, and that of our fantastic Kenyandriver/guides, will insure we have the best chance at obtaining great images.

lion cub playrhino babyrhino blk

My Objective

You should return with the best photographs of wildlife you've ever taken. This doesn't come easily; it requires
early starts, patience, and a degree of luck. I believe any photographer traveling to Kenya wants this, and that
they're more interested in filming game than they are in lounging at a pool or in having a leisurely cooked breakfast
during the best shooting time of the day!

fowlOur field days start before dawn so that we can greet the sunrise with our lenses.
We'll have modest boxed picnic breakfasts on most field days, since this saves time
and allows us to travel anywhere without having to worry about returning for a
breakfast. Lunches and dinners are at camp, and, with the quantity of food available,
I doubt if you'll miss the cooked breakfast. We may, however, occasionally miss lunch
if a subject is so good that to leave it would be silly. That doesn't happen often, and
if we decide to do so, we do it by group consensus. I'll tell you, when the vote comes
up, when such a situation arises, people always look at me as if I'm crazy for even asking
them if they wish to leave! Nonetheless, if at least three people wish to leave at any
time, they are welcome to do so. We will not do so for only two, however.
Our rule is three photographers per van, so three is the magic number.

We will stay with a subject as long as it's necessary to get great photos, provided
the goal is realistic. Some animals require only a minute of work for a snap-shot like
opportunity that still provides a great image. Others require work, and we've stayed
with some subjects for hours (or for an entire day). Don't be afraid that by doing this
you'll miss other shots. I've done enough of these (this will be my 28th year of
doing Kenya safaris) that I know what's good, what's worth our time, and where
our priorities should lie and also provide full coverage of everything you wanted to film

You will amass a wonderful portfolio of all your Kenyan wildlife, but you won't be producing traditional
boring tourist shots. We'll try to get you great images -- magic material! Although we won't be consciously
amassing a species list, you'll undoubtedly see as many, if not even more, species of wildlife by doing it this
way than you would by being a 'tourist,' since we'll be in the field longer, looking, watching, and photographing.

Our Roles as Leaders and Your Role

Mary and I know Kenya, its wildlife, and how to photograph it. I want everyone to obtain great photographs, and to enjoy himself or herself while doing so. Great photography requires patience, luck, and time, plus a degree of skill that my drivers/guides and Mary and I can provide. You can trust us that everything we do as your trip leaders will have those priorities - your photos and well-being as an individual in our group -- in mind.

While your photography and enjoyment is always uppermost in our minds and in our concerns for you, the welfare of our wildlife subjects still comes first. There are no exceptions to this. We do not purposely flush a bird to get a flight shot and we won't tolerate a guide or a participant doing so. If we feel an animal is stressed, we leave.

Our safaris are true wildlife experiences and are not visits to a zoo, and some photographers will see things, while others may miss things, as we travel about. Still, all of our vehicles have radios to inform everyone when there is a great sighting and most of the time everyone gets great shots of whatever subject we're shooting.

About Your Leaders

jMy wife Mary Ann and I strive to provide the most comfortable and
thorough safari you will experience. Both Mary and I are professional photographers, and I'd hope you've seen our credits. These included
National Geographic, National Wildlife, Ranger Rick, Natural History,
Living Bird, Birder's World, and most nature/wildlife calendars.

As a husband/wife team, Mary Ann and I have won more times in the
prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition than any
one. To date we have had 15 firsts, seconds, or thirds -- and we have
not entered every year. Our trips are not about us, however, they are all
for you, but credentials seem to matter, and we have them.

Mary has written twenty-nine (29) children's books, including Leopards, Grizzly Bears, Woodpeckers,
Flying Squirrels, Sunflowers, Cobras, Jupiter, Boas, Garter Snakes, Pythons, Rattlesnakes, Ducks, Chickens, Horses, and Cows, and a coffee table book, Out of the Past, Amish Tradition and Faith.

I've written several how-to wildlife photography books -- A Practical Guide to Photographing American Wildlife,
The Wildlife Photographer's Field Manual, The Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography, Designing Wildlife
Photographs, Photographing on Safari, A Field Guide to Photographing in East Africa, and the New Complete
Guide to Wildlife Photography, African Wildlife, Creatures of the Night, The World's Deadliest, and several
ebooks. We have produced an instructional video, A Video Guide to Photographing on Safari with
Joe and Mary Ann McDonald.

We are both editors for Nature Photographer magazine.

In addition to leading our trips to Tanzania, Mary and I personally lead photo safaris to Kenya,
Brazil's Pantanal, Chile, Galapagos, Svalbard, India, Alaska, Rwanda, Yellowstone, Ecuador, Costa Rica,
the Falklands, Antarctica, South Texas, Arizona, and some other spots, too!

For some real insight into all aspects of a photo safari,
order our DVD Photographing on Safari
which covers and illustrates various camps,
how to shoot from the vehicles, what to pack,
and most importantly, what you'll photograph
and how you'll do so.
The video does not address digital workflow or digital shooting.

Scroll through a Kenya Portfolio

Contact us by e-mail. at:
Or Call (717) 543-6423 or FAX us at: (717) 543-6423