To the End of the World Part 3: Antarctica Peninsula


Portal Point, Antarctica

Portal Point – my guests’ and my first landing in Antarctica. Ever.

Our first experience of Antarctica. Ever.

It was so much more than I have ever dreamed, and I know my guests’ feelings reflected those of mine. It shone in their eyes and smiles.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1725″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1724″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1723″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Such spectacular scenery surrounded us. Ice-blue icebergs dotted here and there, the black mountains in the background looked like their tips had been dipped in show; whilst a beautiful yellow sky glowed dreamily. We spent some time here exploring the landscape, where we then walked in single file across an ice-sheet that was covered with many layers of snow. Following one another in single file ensured that we packed the snow and created an easier path to follow, as well as prevented accidents from potentially occurring. With our snow poles in hand, we made sure that all holes were taken account of for the guests still making their way.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1729″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1728″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1727″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]We made it to an ice-amphitheater of sorts. It was so white and bright, so quiet, so desolate and untouched. I felt my heart swell with the incredible knowledge and feeling that there are still some untouched and perfectly wild destinations that humans have not left their mark on. Although there didn’t immediately seem like much to photograph, there were hidden gems waiting for the inquisitive and passionate eye to reap the rewards! From abstract to landscapes, we spent a good amount of time looking at the different options before we all made the trek back to the zodiac with our happiness manifesting in our bright-shining eyes.

Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica

And the beauty just kept on coming! This excursion was not a land-based one, but a zodiac ride around massive icebergs and beautiful sheets across the sea’s surface. It was so good to sit and absorb the spectacular structures around us and, again, reflect on just exactly where we were![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1731″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1730″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]A wonderful surprise was also in store for us. It was a particularly freezing day, one where the cold goes right through to your bones, ignoring all of your many layers of clothing. As we slowly made our way to another zodiac, one we assumed carried other passengers; we saw that that was not the case! The bar crew had come out to offer us hot chocolate with a dash of Baileys to help warm us up. It was much appreciated by us all, and incredibly delicious.

True to the unpredictable nature of Antarctic weather and seas, it started to get wilder than what the zodiac excursion leaders preferred, so we made our way back to the ship, where hot showers and photo processing continued.

Cuverville Island

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1732″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1733″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1734″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1735″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]From a visual aspect, Cuverville Island was probably one of my favorite destinations! The light was beautiful over the ocean; there were so many icebergs of various sizes that after our exploration on land, we continued it on sea. It was great to be able to move around these beautiful obstacles and look out for seals resting on them. Whilst we saw evidence of seals on some of the icebergs, that was all we were privy to. It didn’t matter to us though, as there was so much to train our cameras on![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1739″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1738″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1736″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1737″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Oren Harbor

The ice was coming in thick and moving at quite a speed. So we followed suit and made our way to Oren Island before the weather and sea conditions forbade us! The aim of this excursion was to go and see some Chinstrap Penguins who were further up the mountain by a little outcrop. It would be our first sighting of these little sergeants, so we were full of anticipation to get on land and make the trek to them!

The snow was coming down steadily, which made opening one’s eye wider than a slit quite difficult – unless you were at ease with getting ice bombs in your eye. So, head down and marching forward, my guests and I were some of the first people on the scene where the Chinstraps were, and the ice bombs in our eyes were definitely worth it! These guys are so interesting to look at, and also have lovely characters! As we were the first ship and group of people making this journey for the season, we were the first group of people these penguins had seen in months.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1743″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1742″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1741″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1740″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]What I found so interesting was that the penguins eat the snow in order to rehydrate themselves. One penguin lay on its stomach, making it look like a striped rugby ball with a head, and started to eat the ice. Straight away I pointed this action out to my guest and away we were, capturing shot after shot of this behavior.

One of the ship staff members, who loves hiking, started taking a group further up the hill, where the goal was to reach the top and get a view of both sides of the mountain we were standing on. Leaving the Chinstraps for other guests to me, we made our way with the hiking group to reach the pinnacle.

And then the leader’s radio sounded a call – we had to quickly make our way back down the hill to the zodiacs as the ice sheets were coming in fast and blocking our exit from where we had landed. We were about 10 meters away from the top of the mountain, so I told my guest to quickly make it up there and take a photo whilst the leader was making her way down from the top. He did, and it was worth the sprint up.

Getting to the landing point, it hit home how urgent it actually was for us to get on the zodiacs and leave as soon as possible. So much ice had come in that our drivers had to work really hard to push these heavy sheets and ice-caps out of their way. And were we impressed! Our zodiac driver and the other team members all worked together to get us out (we were the last passenger boat to depart) and it made quite an adventure for us. It was thrilling! A short drive around the harbor followed suit, until the weather pretty much blanked out everything around us and we headed to the ship with thick snow pouring down.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1744″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]We all loved every moment, as it just added to the unpredictable nature of this wild destination we traveled so far and wide to experience.

Half Moon Island

Our last excursion, and it was one that provided so many photo opportunities, new experiences and unforgettable moments.

The landscape was beautiful, but I truly feel that every landscape we had seen and walked upon in the Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands were just that… Beautiful… How could they not be? The whole area is untouched and desolate. It is quiet and even foreboding at times. It is romantic and soul-inspiring. It is a place that calls to your heart and fuels the deepest part of your being. It is a place that calls you to go back to its raw and wild scenes.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1748″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1747″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1746″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1745″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]How do you begin to describe a destination and the multitude of experiences had, that has had a profound impact on who you are?

I know I arrived back home a different person to the one who started this incredible Antarctica Photo tour. How could I have not?

It was spellbinding. It was mesmerizing. It was humbling. It was filled with incredible photo opportunities, laughter, happiness and amazing people.

Stay Passionate!

– Penny Robartes

Click here to read To the End of the World Part 1: Ushuaia and the Falkland Islands
Click here to read To the End of the World Part 2: South Georgia[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Antarctica safari

To the End of the World Part 2: South Georgia


Grytviken, South Georgia

This was an excursion that made me feel very reflective, and cradled a somber atmosphere close to it. Many, many years ago, this area was teeming with whales. There have been accounts recorded from people who worked there of seeing hundreds of whales within this natural harbor’s walls.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1694″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Now? There are none, as Grytviken is a settlement that held a whaling station that was prosperous and in continuous use for 58 years. It was established in November 1904, at a time when whale oil was in extremely high demand.

Our first visit to this settlement was to the cemetery, which had a big impact on us. We walked around the tombs, paying respect to the fallen. Many of the tombstones were for young men, all dying in the same year – possibly a typhoid epidemic or another disease that decimated the not-so-large population in this settlement.

One tombstone stood tall and imposing above the others.

It belonged to one of the world’s most revered and debated about adventurers and explorers: Sir Ernest Shackleton. Frank Wild’s, Shackleton’s right-hand man, tombstone was also found in this secluded and simple cemetery. It was surreal to see, and it affected each one of us to be able to have this experience as a part of our journey.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1695″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1696″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1697″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Abandoned and rusty, Grytviken is a cemetery of another time and another world. Rusted machinery litters the shoreline, along with long-left whaling ships and an assortment of decaying buildings. It is hauntingly beautiful in the most devastating way, due to the effects of its raison d’etre.

Its statement is poignant and true: that even in the most distant corners of the world, man’s impact is felt, seen, and abundant. The history behind this forgotten whaling station is profuse and absolutely interesting.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1700″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1699″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1698″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

Jason Harbor, South Georgia

The land of giants, I felt it should be named. We landed on the pebbly coast on a beautifully overcast day. The colors were intensely green and blue, and so saturated.

There were also Elephant Seals everywhere along the pebbly shoreline.


And they know how to use their vocal cords![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1703″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1702″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1701″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]It is always so amazing to see when wildlife does not care about your presence or seem affected by it! We kept a respectful distance from the seals, but we were still able to really explore so many options with them.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1706″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1705″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1704″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]And those beachmasters… they are truly gigantic creatures in their own right; and in comparison to the females… well, they are monstrous. The mating season must be a true test of endurance for the females! The males were absolutely fascinating to watch, and there was never a moment of silence from anyone who had a camera in hand. Shutters were going off everywhere as we all reveled in the awesome diversity of nature. Mature and established males were constantly on the lookout for the younger males who sought to challenge them for their harem, which can be up to a whopping 150 females! And the scars and blood found on these beasts show that they truly fight, and fight hard, to keep their females and chase the weaker males away.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1708″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1709″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1707″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]What I loved about this place, apart from the Elephant Seals, is that once you move inland, past these giant slug-like and very vocal forms, there was nothing but more saturated short green grass/moss, a river inlet with birds flying here and there, and hills rising up high in the gray-blue sky as they reach for the clouds. It was just such an untouched scene, no evidence of humankind apart from what was left by the shoreline. I ached to go wandering and explore what I felt begged to be known. Alas, it will forever remain a beautiful mystery to me.

Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

This was our first close encounter with the beautifully colored and poised King Penguins, and we really worked to get there!

The sea was rough, with waves breaking hard on the pebble shoreline; and the weather was pretty miserable, with unrelenting drizzle to heavier raindrops coming down.

Landing on the beach in our zodiacs was quite a chore, and an activity we had to do fast before the waves tipped us over!

It was all so worth it. There were massive, fluffy, brown baby King Penguins everywhere, mixed within the sleek-looking adults. I decided right then and there to leave my camera gear with the staff on the beach so that I could ensure my guests had 100% of my attention whilst shooting under these pretty grim and difficult weather conditions. It was absolutely marvelous!

King Penguins, much like the Elephant Seals, did not seem too bothered by us being there – as again, we kept an awareness to where we were in position to them, and made sure that we were never in their way, as some would walk together down paths to the crashing waves behind us. The chicks, however, are very curious, and would often come up and look at us, arms splayed open from their sides whilst peering out with one eye.

Once back onboard the ship, we gathered in the lounge area after hot showers and proceeded to spend some quality time with our images, reflecting on our excursions thus far.

For images from Salisbury Plain and more, click here to look at my guest Simon’s blog post.

Gold Harbor, South Georgia

This place was brimming with Elephant Seals and King Penguins, with a stunning black outcrop of mountains as a barrier between the beach and the interior of the land, as well as a gorgeous ice-blue glacier. We were all in such good spirits and so enthusiastic about the splendor before our eyes![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1712″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1711″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1710″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]We had to walk around some sleeping beachmasters – and again I have to comment on how enormous they are – which was quite intimidating! While walking along the beach, stopping here and there to photograph, we would come upon dead baby Elephant Seals that would most likely have died from being squashed by a moving beachmaster as they scare off younger males. For such huge and cumbersome creatures, the move very fast when chasing one another or coming together to fight! They don’t care what is in the path between them and the competing male. They just storm on ahead, and you had better make sure you are not in their path of potential destruction.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1713″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1714″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1715″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1716″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]The sun had just about set as we had to get back onto our zodiacs and to the ship. We were chatting away animatedly when we got off the zodiac, and were so pleasantly surprised to round the corner to find that the bar staff had set up a mini bar on deck with hot toddys of some variety and had some music playing. This further heightened the already ecstatic mood the whole ship was feeling as we danced and sipped our drinks together.

And we were off again, to a magical place, far-far away. To islands of ice and snow. Islands of overwhelming beauty.

After a long 5 days at sea, due to storms forcing the Expedition Leader and Captain to change plans and routing, we finally entered a world unto its own.

Click here to read To the End of the World Part 1: Ushuaia and the Falkland Islands
Click here to read To the End of the World Part 3: Antarctica Peninsula[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

To the End of the World Part 1: Ushuaia and the Falkland Islands

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]How do you begin to describe a destination and the multitude of experiences had, and one that has had a profound impact on who you are?

I know I arrived back home a different person to the one who started the photography expedition. How could I have not?

It was spellbinding. It was mesmerizing. It was humbling. It was filled with incredible photo opportunities, scenes and sightings, laughter, happiness and amazing people.

It feels appropriate to write about a wild sea and its equally wild landscapes and wildlife whilst sitting at a table that looks out to another sea, a calm sea, one that is different yet the same.

ORYX’s Antarctica Photo tour to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands has been one where I find the memories still materializing in my thoughts at the end of a day, when my mind wanders off from my day-to-day activities.

I hope to share a taste of my guests’ and my experience – one that was truly impactful on every level. I know, as I write this, that I can only hope to share a fragment of the bigger picture, as this is one journey that needs to be undertaken and experienced personally to be fully understood. It is one commitment you will never regret…

The morning of our departure was much like the weather I am looking at outside my window: it had turned overcast and grey, and there was a bite to the air. This did not dampen my guests’ and my spirit at all as we wandered through Ushuaia taking photos, and just getting to know each other. We would be spending three weeks together, and as with every photo tour I host, it was important for me to get an understanding of who my clients are and what they were looking for on this journey – from a photographic stance and, as always, from a personal experience too.

I had met one of my guests the day before, over the casual action of dishing up scrambled eggs, which the buffet had so lavishly laid out, onto my plate. Later that day, with the sun high in a beautiful blue sky, we explored Ushuaia and watched the Akademik Ioffe come into the harbor and dock. It was such a stunning sight, as it brought with it the promise of all the treasures we would witness, photograph and experience over the next few weeks.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1672″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1673″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]The time for our departure finally came, and we jumped onboard a bus filled with equally excited guests, who we would get to know so well.

Having been shown to our rooms and allowing us some time to get unpacked and settled in, we padded up in our warm clothing and headed to the deck to watch the dock and the mountain range that surrounded this inlet fade further into the distance. We were heading for the open sea!

For the next 2 days of our Antarctica Photo tour, we gathered on the decks, photographing the pelagic birdlife that flew around the ship. Whilst the images taken were nothing truly spectacular and were more for the beauty of identifying the sea birds, it did present a wonderful opportunity for my guests to practice panning, getting their focus on point and identifying which camera settings to dial in. Other times, it was just a pleasure to stand on deck and gaze at the surreal vastness of the ocean, seemingly infinite.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1676″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1675″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1674″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Days at sea were broken up by lectures held by a team of biologists, historians, ornithologists and more. Always fascinating, always something to learn. We lapped these lectures up and learnt so much about the world we were going to be a part of during this cruise.

West Point Island, Falklands

It was our first excursion, and we were chomping at the bit to get off of the boat and onto the island as soon as we possibly could![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1677″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]West Point Island greeted us with a very civilized jetty (not to be had again during the Photography Expedition) and an emerald green landscape with bright, yellow-flowered shrubs. Once off the jetty, and with our gear in hand, we walked up the hill to or desired location: to cliffs where long clumps of grass grow, and what thousands of nesting Black-browed Albatrosses call home.

The scenery is pretty spectacular: short green grass and shrubs, where the only trees we saw were molded by the wind. It felt like we were on a farm where the wind and nature dictate the course of action.

And then we saw them. Thousands in the air, thousands on nests. It was relatively noisy, there was a certain smell to the air, and it surpassed my expectations. Black-browed Albatross look like porcelain objects to me. I think they are exquisite in appearance, as well as being pretty large birds![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1680″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1679″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1678″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Alongside these undeniably majestic creatures were the more caricature-looking Rockhopper Penguins, which also proved to be wonderful photographic subjects.

We spent a long time observing and photographing these beauties, exploring the different ways to capture their story: themselves in their environment, and also as individuals.

Carcass Island, Falklands

Unfortunately, the initial days heading to the Falklands islands at sea with some big swells left me not as strong as I had hoped. My guests went without me (yes, I was completely overcome by missing out!) and had a wonderful excursion.

Port Stanley, Falklands

It is a piece of British territory, and it holds up to its colonial ties! We wandered around a section of the island’s beautiful coastlines. After a few hours of walking around, we just had to end it off by heading to a pub for a typical English fish & chips combo. My client, Simon, being British himself, was in his element, as we walked past red phone-booths and entered our pub that was very much modeled after a typical British pub! It felt like we had stepped through a portal, and instead of entering Narnia, we crossed continents to arrive in England. It was very interesting![/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1681″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1682″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_empty_space][vc_single_image image=”1683″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Maasai Mara National Reserve vs. the Mara North Conservancy

Maasai Mara National Reserve vs the Mara North Conservancy

Which destination is for you?

“Photographing wildlife is exhilarating to say the least. To be able to encourage people to feel the emotions I do for the subject in my frame, just by looking at my image, is testament to the power of a photograph and the ability of the photographer to build that connection with the viewer to the subject.”
– Penny Robartes

If you have not been on a safari to Kenya before, but the romantic landscapes and world-famous wildlife that have been actively recorded and published to the world for decades has finally convinced you to start creating your ideal safari, then coming onto ORYX’s website is the perfect first step in getting you closer to achieving your dream!

If you have not been on a safari to Kenya before, but the romantic landscapes and world-famous wildlife that have been actively recorded and published to the world for decades has finally convinced you to start creating your ideal safari, then coming onto ORYX’s website is the perfect first step in getting you closer to achieving your dream!

Reading this post is the other.

Kenya is a world unto its own. One can never spend enough time there as you explore, experience, photograph and drink in the many facets that this enticing country offers the intrepid traveller, nature-lover and photographer. It is hard not to want to spend months on end travelling through the different regions as each area offers its own characteristic enchantment that isn’t found elsewhere!

Many first-time travellers to the African continent visit the famed Maasai Mara National Reserve and the surrounding Conservancies, targeting the months of July to November. During these months, Africa’s greatest natural spectacle occurs and it is a sight that truly needs to be seen, and even then, it is hard to believe. What many travel agents and Kenya tour operators may not tell you is that the above destinations are not seasonal, and can be enjoyed all year round! For a better description of what time of year each season offers you from a photographic and experiential sense, take a look at my blog post on the Maasai Mara National Reserve .





I have had the privilege of taking guests on photo safaris to both the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Mara Triangle Conservancy over the past few years. During that time, I experienced the photographic opportunities and wildlife experiences that both areas offered, as well as understand the benefits each presented over the other. In 2016, I spent an additional 60 days in both the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Mara North Conservancy from August to September as Photographer in Residence at Alex Walker’s Serian Camps. These months fall over the peak of the Great Wildebeest Migration; a natural phenomenon that heralds the awesome force of nature as we witness not only seemingly endless numbers of grunting gnus and cheeky Zebra upon the plains of the Mara, but how predators react and respond to this influx of prey.






The Mara North Conservancy and Maasai Mara National Reserve offer very different experiences from one another. Choosing which destination to go to is purely dependant on what you are looking to experience and the photographic opportunities and freedom each present to you. During the Great Wildebeest Migration, vast herds of Wildebeest and Zebra make their way from the Serengeti to the open plains of the Mara to feed on the rich and nutritious grass that has grown after the steady rainfall. Although the herds can arrive early or late, this season is usually seen occurring from July to early November where the herds then make their way back across the Mara river to the Serengeti landscape.






Maasai Mara National Reserve

This really is a beautiful reserve with a mixed landscape that calls out to every nature enthusiast. It is a huge reserve, 1,510 square km or 583 square miles, which encourages you to spend full days out exploring the beauty of the destination and its intriguing wildlife. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is not a private reserve and is open to those who pays the entry fees to come enjoy, observe and photograph this famed area, even if it is just for a day. During its busier seasons – end of June to November – you will find travellers from all corners of the world come in to view the famous Great Migration. Out of this season there is a noticeable difference in the number of vehicles and tourists, as well as Wildebeest and Zebra as the large herds too, have left the Mara’s plains. It is a destination that isn’t season dependant, and a fantastic place to travel to if you are not focused on the Migration. Think vast open plains that seem endless and lush…on the top of the hill is a lonesome Elephant bull surrounded by iconic Balanities trees. The pure beauty of these wild and pristine landscape and variety of wildlife will romance with your soul and your photographic eye to no bounds!



Off-road driving is not allowed in this Reserve as a means to preserve the habitat as well as protect the wildlife that call this destination home. Although you are restricted to staying on the roads, this doesn’t pose a problem as the many roads generally enable you to get close to the wildlife and if at some point you cannot, well, this is the perfect time to reflect that you are in a truly wild area and witnessing a beautifully natural scene playing out before your eyes. At times, I feel that we are so used to getting what we want; getting up close to wildlife and having freedom of traversing, that we forget that where we are and what we are viewing is something utterly incredible and we are privilege to be able to be a part of it!

I had many blissful days here while on our Masai Mara photo safari, with incredible photographic opportunities and the lack of off-roading has not had an impact on my experience whatsoever. As mentioned above, it has even heightened it as you understand how special the situation is and how nature continues regardless of your presence there.




Mara North Conservancy

Mara North Conservancy
Ranging from secret knots of woodland to wide open plains, to caches of rocks and boulders, to flat expanses of vastness, edged by sharp inclines of escarpment, the Mara North Conservancy leaves nothing to be desired. This variation in landscape provides ample opportunities to capture the diversity that makes this ecosystem so desirable to its wildlife.

Whilst on our Masai Mara photo safari, I have seen all the Big 5; Lions, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant excluding Rhino. Rhino are not commonly seen in either the Conservancy or the Maasai Mara National Reserve, with more sightings of this beautiful animal found in the Mara Triangle Conservancy that borders Tanzania’s mighty Serengeti.

The Mara North Conservancy is exclusive and private, which means that only guests and lodges/camps that are based in this area are able to traverse it. Although there is a conservation fee such as what you pay upon entering the Maasai Mara National Reserve, it is not opened to the public unless you are a guest at one of the Mara North Conservancy lodges/camps. Along with the intimacy and exclusivity as mentioned above, the Mara North Conservancy takes it a step further by offering the sheer freedom of off-road driving as well as night-driving. This powerful combination is the perfect scenario for wildlife photographers as we can drive directly to the sightings that interest you!




During the Great Migration season, you will still be able to pay homage to the massive herds of Wildebeest and Zebra as well as the other incredible Mara wildlife as these herds and predators move between the unfenced Reserve and Conservancies. What you will not find here though is access to the much-anticipated Wildebeest and Zebra river crossings that the Reserve offers it travellers to witness. Although the Mara River winds itself through the Mara North Conservancy, the major crossing points are along the river line between the Mara Triangle and the Reserve.

This, however, is not a problem as the Reserve is not a far game drive away from the Conservancy and makes for one exciting full day excursion!

If your focus is not on the Migration and rather on the classic African wildlife and scenery experience, then both areas still are, in my point of view, utter delights to stay and explore in.




Having spent dedicated photographic time in the Conservancy and the National Reserve in 2016, I can say with confidence that I absolutely loved every moment at the both the Reserve and the Conservancy from a wildlife and landscape photography perspective, and the experience the natural world offers as a whole.

“Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise… an escapist’s Utopia.”

~ Beryl Markham


Predators of the Serengeti Part III – Guardians of the South


Their forms have adorned cave walls in Africa, statues of them have marked the entrances to palaces of mighty kings that have long since fallen and faded in the past of history. Their proud and powerful stance was embroidered onto flags and depicted on emblems. Since the early accounts of man, our fascination with these magnificent beasts has made us continue to admire them, to want to be the strength and fierceness that they radiate. For some people, their need is fulfilled via conquering them.

The passing of time has not lessened the enthralling nature these wild animals have over our imaginations and souls. With their numbers dwindling in the wild, the fight to protect this epic specie from becoming extinct, as well as raising our conservation efforts to help and protect their captive brethren is at an all time high.

Social by nature and deadly by design, let me introduce you to the group of cats in the Serengeti South, Tanzania who I spent a collective 10 days observing and photographing while on a Serengeti photo safari; I welcome you to the Lions of the South.

Our first encounter was an introduction to the brilliant sightings that myself as well as the Alex Walker’s Serian clients were going to be beholders to; a pride of four male lions of varying ages scattered across interestingly patterned bounders.




The lions were pretty substantial in size and strength, and this was easily seen from quite a way away from them! We drove around the mass of boulders to get a better view of the lions as many of the sleeping cats were tucked behind higher rising surfaces.

To be able to get close to these apex predators in a safe manner that doesn’t influence or affect the lions natural interactions/actions is an act that many people do not understand or acknowledge just how lucky we are to be able to do so. What made these moments affect me all the more and evoke an array of emotions (and therefore images) was that we – Alex Walker’s Serian guests and I, and at times, I alone – were the only vehicles to be at these sightings and witnesses to the beauty of the natural world continuing regardless of our presence.

As we had nothing but time on our hands, we sat with these beasts and explored different ways of photographing them, and I was especially drawn to the shapes and textures of these colossal rocks. As always, I focused on how I felt at the sighting, which moments called out to me and let it dictate the type of images I would then create.





Over the years I have travelled to many destinations where I have had the privilege of viewing and photographing lions in a variety of environments. With that in mind, I was not prepared for the true beauty of personally seeing these sublime cats upon an outcrop of towering boulders. This vision truly made them seem untouchable as the reigned over the Southern Serengeti.

This, however, would not be the last time I would photograph these males on this particular outcrop.

A few days later I was on a drive making my way back towards this special area as in the very late hours of night, soul vibrating roars where heard – heralds of bonding and death.

We found one male on the boulders and he had clearly eaten. Dark red marked his face and although his belly was incredibly round and full, he seemed unsettled. This was not just the behaviour of an uncomfortable cat after having gorged himself on his prey. Searching, enquiring cries could be heard coming from him, its softness belying the beast he was.





He was looking towards a patch of open grassland that was separated from the outcrop by a line of young thorny Acacia trees, so to that direction we headed.

And we were in for a wonder of a spectacle!

Spread out on this open area under the sun as well as tucked under the shade of the Acacia’s were the other three brothers. Equally fat-bellied they were still alert, looking at the scene before my eyes confirmed why there was such noise from them the evening before! Surprisingly, and very commendable, each cat had their own wildebeest carcass. Yes; four male lions with four unlucky wildebeest. I have never seen such a sight as this before!




What felt like seconds must have been a good 1.5hours if not more that I spent photographing and/or just sitting with these amazing animals.

Finally they made their way to their brother perched on the rocks, and favored me with more phenomenal photographic opportunities.




From a female lion and her cubs playing and bonding with one another in the rain, to a beautiful sighting of another group of male lions grooming each other after feasting on a wildebeest in the rain, as well as other sightings, I can say with utmost confidence that the 10 days I had on this Serengeti photo safari, in Residence at Alex Walker’s Serengeti South camp, was my top lion experience I have had to date.






The world is filled with endlessly inspiring opportunities and experiences. Photography is a beautiful medium in which to tell your story of it and immortalize it.


Keep passionate and keep exploring.

– Penny Robartes


To read Part I of the Predators of the Serengeti, please click here:

To read Part II of the Predators of the Serengeti, please click here: