Dispatch, Kenya: Big Five? Who's counting?

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Dispatch, Kenya: Big Five? Who's counting?
© TW photo by Eric Moya

At the invitation of the Kenya Tourism Board, destinations editor Eric Moya is visiting game reserves throughout the East African nation.

It's about the halfway point of my trip to Kenya, and each day has brought its share of breathtaking sights.

I bought a new camera lens for this trip; I wanted to be ready for any and all photo opportunities, whether of the wide-angle persuasion or something calling for an up-close approach.

The range of my new "glass," as photography enthusiasts put it, is of the extensive, all-in-one variety; changing lenses seemed like an unnecessary encumbrance, and besides, I wasn't expecting my subjects to be particularly cooperative while I fumbled with my SLR. But when you're this photogenic, that can be forgiven.

Being out in safari country, far away from city lights, has afforded ample opportunities for landscape photography. At Ol Donyo Lodge, located on privately owned land next to Chyulu Hills National Park, I snapped some shots of Kilimanjaro and the night sky from the comfort of my rooftop star bed. Here at the Elephant Bedroom Camp at Samburu National Reserve, closer to the equator, the reddish-brown terrain proved a natural subject for sunset shots during our sundowner safari.

As far as wildlife photography, the goal when in Africa is spotting each of the Big Five: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. As I write this from Elephant Bedroom Camp, we've spotted three: a lion on the grounds of Ol Donyo, a leopard on a Samburu game drive this morning and, as one might expect at a place called Elephant Bedroom Camp, plenty of pachyderms.

"We're safe," said our rep from the Kenya Tourism Board after we encountered the leopard, meaning that from here on in, with Masai Mara the next stop on the itinerary, spotting buffalo and rhino should be relatively easy.

Photo Credit: TW photo by Eric Moya

There are no guarantees, of course. While giraffes and zebras are seemingly a sure thing on any game drive, as are elephants, we've encountered only one lion and one leopard over four days. (For the checklist-inclined, however, Samburu also has what it calls its Special Five, animals such as the distinctively patterned reticulated giraffe that are indigenous to this region.)

And if my Big Five checklist ends up incomplete? If I come up a little short with wildlife encounters, there's always the human encounters I've had along the way. There's the camaraderie of our media trip group and our safari guides. At Ol Donyo there was the jet-setting couple from Mexico City on their honeymoon and the family from Puerto Rico whose teenage son was trying out some sweet photo gear (including a drone and an SLR considerably more advanced than my own). At Elephant Bedroom Camp, there's the teachers from Athens, Ga., who are visiting friends in Nairobi during their summer break, and a handful of other families I have yet to chat with, with everyone busy venturing off on their own safari adventures.

And, of course, they might not all be of Big Five specimens, but I've taken more wildlife photos over the past four days than I have in my entire life.

Five? Please. The once-in-a-lifetime experiences here in Kenya are countless.

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