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AMBOSELI & MASAI MARA - KENYA

October 18 - 27, 2023

OCTOBER 18-27, 2023

After rapidly selling out the first edition of this Kenya Expedition in October 2022, I am coming back with a second edition in October 2023. Once again, I will take a small group of like-minded people to 2 of my favourite places in all of Africa: Kitirua Conservancy in Amboseli and Mara North Conservancy in the Masai Mara. A once-in-a-lifetime expedition focused on creating meaningful stories about the wild… 

Scroll down to read the full itinerary. All images you see below are taken on previous visits to the same 2 conservancies.  

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Important information

  • Dates: Oct 18 - 27, 2023
  • Tour starts/ends in: Nairobi, Kenya
  • Price: $ 10650 per person (based on twin sharing / double sharing accommodation)
  • Deposit: $ 2500 per person (paid upon booking in order to hold your seat)
  • Single supplement: $ 3500 per person
  • Group size: min 5, max 8
  • Experience level: Anyone is welcome, from beginners to professionals
  • Above price is incl VAT
  • Make sure to read the Terms & Conditions before booking by clicking here

For this expedition, I am collaborating with my dear partner Elewana Collection, who run sixteen boutique lodges in locations across Kenya and Tanzania. On this particular trip, we will visit 2 of their most iconic camps, Elephant Pepper Camp in Mara North and Tortilis Camp in Amboseli.

In the past few years, I have visited both conservancies countless times, which results in a very elaborate understanding of the area as well the wildlife, the guides, the seasonality and the light. We will work with the guides I have been working with for almost 5 years straight now and who became close friends. This friendship is the driving force behind some of my best wildlife work photographed in both places. For a period of 9 nights / 10 days, we will emerge ourselves in both conservancies and experience some of Africa’s wildest flora and fauna.

Day-to-day itinerary

Day 1

With everybody traveling towards Kenya from different directions, the first day is all about landing and acclimatizing. We are spending the first night at Tamarind Tree Hotel in Nairobi, right on the edge of Nairobi National Park. The next morning our adventure starts!

Day 2 – 6

Early in the morning we travel to Wilson Airport where we will board our flight to our first destination: Masai Mara! We have booked an additional freight chair on all domestic flights which means every participant can carry an additional 10kg of luggage in addition to the 15kg that’s allowed. After a short 45 minutes flight we arrive on Mara North Airstrip and a short transfer will take us to our first camp, Elephant Pepper Camp. This camp is situated right in the middle of all the action, in the heart of Mara North Conservancy.

The next 4 nights / 5 days our focus is all on Big Cats, because you just arrived in Big Cats Heaven. Mara North, my favorite conservancy in the entire Masai Mara ecosystem, is a safari-insider favorite. It’s one of the most densely populated wildlife conservancies in all of Kenya and therefore literally dotted with wildlife, everywhere you look. Another big added benefit of this area is the feeling of exclusivity and intimacy due to the limited number of visitors allowed. On top of that and in stark contrast to the Mara Reserve, this Conservancy only allows 5 vehicles per sighting. With everybody respecting this rule, this offers a unique and intimate safari experience which means it will be mostly us and the animals.

We will spend 4 nights in Elephant Pepper Camp, located in the best possible location, right in the middle of the Conservancy. Lions, leopards, elephants and hippo’s will literally be walking through camp, since the entire camp is unfenced and ground-level. A wonderful fully-immersive and thrilling bush-camp experience. We will spend full mornings and afternoons in the field and only get back to camp for lunch and a short rest. I will show you some of my most favorite secret spots and we will spend time with some of the most impressive leopards, cheetahs and lions of the Masai Mara.

Even though our focus of the first leg of the trip is mainly on Big Cats, you can be 100% sure to bump into plenty of elephants, zebra’s, giraffes, hyena’s, hippo’s and lots of incredible birdlife. If we are lucky, we might even see a rhino! Mara North Conservancy is a true photographers paradise!

During our stay in Elephant Pepper Camp, we will also experience the thrill of a walking safari under the guidance of my good friend and walking guide Alfred. By using all of our senses, we will expose ourselves on foot to elephants, giraffes, cheetahs and if we are lucky, even some lions! A once-in-a-lifetime experience, that’s for sure.

Day 6 – 10

On day 6 after our morning game drive we will transfer to the Mara North airstrip and board our flight to Wilson Airport. We switch planes on the runway in Nairobi and connect straight through to our second destination, Amboseli National Park. The flight in will be spectacular, landing in the middle of the National Park, in between thousands of flamingos and other wildlife. If we are lucky, we will even see Mount Kilimanjaro from the air, Africa’s tallest mountain.

After spending 4 full days with Big Cats in Masai Mara, we will now shift our focus almost exclusively to Elephants. After arriving on Amboseli Airstrip, we will transfer to Tortilis Camp, my Kenyan home away from home. We will stay at this amazing camp for 4 nights and will spend full days in the field. This particular camp is the only camp in Amboseli that has access to the Kitirua Conservancy side of the dried Amboseli lake-bed. If you have followed some of my previous trips to this area, you know the photographic potential of this place.

At this particular time of the year, the lake-bed has dried up, creating one of the most impressive photography backdrops in the world. Flat as a coin, with mount Kilimanjaro in the background. In that cinematic decor, big breeding herds of elephants, often up to 20-30 individuals, and sometimes even up to 60-80, cross the lake-bed twice a day on their way from the forest to the swamps and back, in search of food and water. After almost a decade of traveling through Africa, I have to admit there’s little places in the continent that make such a powerful impression as this Amboseli lake-bed in the end of the dry season.

The end of October usually also marks the arrival of the first rains, which will give us beautiful cloud build-up in the afternoon, which is incredible for dramatic and moody photography of these gentle giants.

Due to the camp’s exclusive access to the Kitirua Conservancy, there won’t be any other vehicles around. It will be just us and the elephants for 5 days! We can freely move around everywhere we want without being disturbed by other camps, a truly unique experience and the main reason why I decided I wanted to share this incredible experience with other people after coming here for years alone.

On the morning of the 10th day, we will check out to make our way back to Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Most likely we will arrive around noon in Nairobi and upon return everybody will proceed his/her own travels. We will of course organise transfers to take you from Wilson Airport to Nairobi International Airport (JKIA).

Testimonials of previous participants

Above you see an image of the October 2022 Expedition group! We had such a blast on the Amboseli lake-bed as well as in Mara North. After the expedition, I asked each participant to write a short testimonial about this trip and what it did to them. You can read their comments below.

Sasha (USA) - I just got back from a life changing expedition with Pie in Kenya, and literally had the time of my life. The thoughtful care and effort Pie puts into planning these trips was evident every day, and it was clear he has spent years building meaningful relationships with everyone involved in Africa. The Kenyan people were kind and genuine beyond words and truly added to the overall experience. I felt safe and taken care of the entire trip. I made tons of new friends with fellow photographers, witnessed endless sightings of incredible wildlife and landscapes, ate some of the best food of my life, and walked away feeling inspired, full of emotion, and ready to take my business to the next chapter. Throughout the trip, Pie shared his knowledge and expertise whenever he could - during workshops, meals, even during jeep drives! The connections made during our time together became apparent during our goodbye’s, especially when the tears started flowing… haha. Overall, it was unbelievable how much education, life experiences, and joy were packed into 10 long days. It’s an investment for sure, but also the trip of a lifetime, and one that everyone should experience!

Michelle (USA) - Where to begin, Pie’s expedition was a trip of a lifetime! One that will have me buzzing for a long, long time. Amboseli and the Masai Mara are two very unique and magical places that stole my heart from the beginning but what was extra special was the amount of knowledge I took home from hours upon hours of being in the bush and learning from Pie. To add to that, the lodges were absolutely incredible as was the heaps of delicious food we had at every meal. I had tears in my eyes on the final day knowing I was leaving such a special country and even more special group of people that came together from all over the world to learn about photography and be immersed in the African bush for 10 days.

Tobias (United Kingdom) - This is the third time I have been on a trip with Pie and every trip seems to get better and better. It’s more than just a photography trip, you almost seem part of a family. The relationships Pie builds with the people in his groups is what really makes these trips so special. The wildlife is mind blowing and Pie works with the best guides that do everything they can to get you in to the best positions for photography. This specific trip opened my eyes more than ever to the challenges that wildlife and humans face in Africa during climate change and droughts, and witnessing this first hand has had a huge impact on me personally. I can’t thank Pie enough for making a trip like this possible and I also can’t thank everyone who was there enough for making it so unforgettable.

Noortje (South Africa) - This Kenya expedition was about so much more than just taking photos. It gave us an insight into Pie’s adventurous spirit and way of living, his view on the planet, our place on it and how we coexist with the natural world. Understanding that is what ultimately results in taking great images and we certainly achieved that! It was a beautiful and wild adventure, and Pie’s enthusiasm, commitment and honesty made the trip unforgettable! Thank you for your knowledge, the laughs, the chases, the fantastic food (!) and all the in-between moments!

Yash (India) - I mean it when I say that this trip to Africa has had a huge effect on who I am, and I mean it in the most positive way possible. I came thinking only about photography, but left with an African experience so raw and so moving. My eyes opened to incredible stories of the people and wildlife, which I attempted to capture with my camera under the guidance and teachings from Pie. And last but not least, and which was totally unexpected, but I left with a new found group of incredible people that I consider as one of my closest friends.

Nathalie (Netherlands) - This was definitely a once in a lifetime trip! It was an incredible experience to hitch a ride on Pie’s passion and energy. It was a wonderful group, with a great variety in personalities and background, which made the expedition even more special. Every little detail was right! I dare to say it was a dream which unfortunately I have to wake up from now, but I’ll carry it with me the rest of my life.

Capucine (France) - A trip of lifetime, this is what was promised and the dream became a reality! I had an amazing time in the bush with the best group of people. Amboseli and Masai Mara blew my mind with the abundance of wildlife. Going from shooting unbelievable scenes to having the most delicious food in the camp has been a real happiness bubble for 10 days! Very inspiring workshops as well with Pie who definitely made this trip very special. Also, lots of surprises along the trip, which I won’t share here, which made it unforgettable!

Mara North Conservancy

Welcome to the lush green rolling hills of Masai Mara. This vast and fertile landscape boasts a plethora of wildlife; with over 450 bird species and both resident and transient populations of lion, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, cheetah and elephant. On top, Elephant Pepper Camp is perfect for those wanting to observe the spectacle of the great migration, classified amongst the “Seven Wonders of the World”, when, from July to November, over 1.3 million wildebeest and zebra cross from the Serengeti in search of greener pastures. Especially in the last few years, the timings of the Migration are changing due to climate change, which makes it very likely we will witness it in any shape or form during our October expedition.

The camps remote location allows for all animals to walk through camp day and night, which means it is perfectly common to have lion, leopards and hyena foraging around your tent. Temperatures are a bit lower than in Amboseli, which means mornings can be very chilly, all depending on the emergence of the short rains, that usually come in November. This means we are there right before the short rains, which will give us great cloud build-up in the afternoon, incredible for photography.

All tents are set underneath Fig and Elephant Pepper trees and are spaced out to ensure privacy. From your personal verandah or hammock, you can watch wildlife roam the Mara North plains. Tents are spacious and luxurious and offer big ensuite bathroom areas. As previously explained - when booking as a single traveler - you will share a tent with a roommate, but the spacious nature of these bush tent allows for optimal space, even on a twin sharing basis.

Amboseli National Park & Kitirua Conservancy

Amboseli National Park covers 392 sq kms, only a small portion of the surrounding 3000 sq km of the Amboseli ecosystem. Our camp, Tortilis Camp, is located on the south western edge of the park, facing the mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. It overlooks its own private wildlife conservancy, Kitirua Conservancy which is 30,000 acres in size. Away from the busy eastern side of Amboseli, and with its own private conservancy, you will experience a truly remarkable little corner of Africa.

The area is famous for the dramatic views of Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. But even more so, for its healthy elephant populations, which have been followed and documented by world renowned researcher Cynthia Moss. Amboseli is derived from the local Maa word ‘Empusel’ which means ‘dusty place’, and it is one of the top places in the entire world to see elephants in the wild. Within this ecosystem reside some of the largest elephants in Africa, and the guides we work with at Tortilis Camp know the individual elephants by name and family history. An incredible way to learn more about elephant conservation.

The days are warm, rising to a maximum of 30 degrees centigrade, but very comfortable with minimum humidity. October is very dry, which creates lots of dust, making for incredible imagery. The mornings and evenings are cool so bring some warm clothes.

Included in the expedition price

1 x night at Tamarind Tree Hotel Nairobi based on B&B

4 x nights at Tortilis Camp

4 x nights at Elephant Pepper Camp

All accommodation based on twin / double sharing

All domestic airport transfers

All domestic flight tickets + additional luggage

Full board in both lodges incl all meals, wines & spirits

Conservancy fees Kiritua Conservancy

Conservancy fees Mara North

Daily laundry

Daily sundowners

All game drives & walking safaris

Photographic lectures & image review sessions

1-on-1 tuition in the field

Optional night safaris

Not included in the expedition price

International flight tickets

Travel & cancellation insurance

Tips & gratuities for staff

Visa

Champagne, private cellar wines & private cellar spirits

Optional Hot air balloon

Optional voluntarily contribution to Masai communities

How does an average day look like?

05.00 – 05.30 wake up + coffee/tea

05.30 – 09.00 photography in the field with focus on soft morning light

09.00 – 09.30 camp breakfast or packed breakfast

09.00 – 11.00 continue photography in the field focusing on B&W photography

11.00 – 13.00 lunch in camp + lectures by Pie

13.00 – 15.00 have a swim, rest, edit, back-up

15.00 – 18.00 photography in the field with focus on soft afternoon light

18.00 – 19.30 optional night drive

20.00 – 21.30 campfire drinks & dinner

21.30 off to bed to rest for another day of adventures in the bush

We are very flexible when it comes to planning our days. Usually, we leave each day with a packed breakfast, which allows us to stay out in the field all morning. If the conditions and sightings are good, we can even decide having lunch in the field to maximize our time with wildlife. We also carry our own sundowner drinks each afternoon, which gives us full flexibility.

As you can see in the planning, at lunch time I will host several lectures. Topics can be workflow, post-production, animal behaviour, composition, light, elephant conservation, how to find your voice as an artist, social media, equipment, and so on. In between activities there’s also room for 1-on-1 tuition about any of the above topics or whatever comes to mind.

Which kind of vehicles will we use?

In both lodges we will use Toyota Land Cruisers that are specially modified for photography. On board you will find bean bags, blankets, a fridge with ice-cold drinks and 220 volt electricity sockets for charging. There will be a maximum of 4 people sitting in the back, creating enough space for everyone to move around. I will be sitting in the front, next to the driver and alternate between both vehicles. A rotating scheme will make sure everyone gets to spend an equal amount of time in my direct presence. Working with the right people is everything. Therefore, I have built strong relationships over the years with the guides we will be working with. As a result, we will work with some of the best people in the industry.

Do I need any photography experience?

Nope, not at all. Everybody is welcome. Beginners and professionals. Young and old. In fact, a diverse group always makes up for a lot of fun, because the main idea of these expeditions is all about interaction and learning from each other. I’m more than happy to explain you the basics of how to use your camera, but we can also have a deeper conversation about how to grow your personal brand as a visual artist, or how to find your voice. Or about music. art or sports :) So please don’t hesitate if you have never used a camera before, I’m there to help. But also don’t hesitate if you want to fine-tune your professional skills, I’m sure I can help with that too.

What type of gear do I need?

As soon as you have confirmed your booking, we will share an extensive list of recommended gear items that you would need for this expedition. However, don’t stress, any camera will work, it all depends on how you use it. We offer a custom advise for every level, from amateurs and beginners to full professional photographers.

How is this photography expedition different from any regular safari?

In the past 3 years I have spent 60+ weeks in Kenya and I know the country and its people inside out. This has generated an in-depth understanding of seasonality, geography, animal behavior, photographic opportunities, community living and cultural aspects, and of course wildlife conservation. This combined with 10+ years of experience in photographic story-telling, makes this trip a unique opportunity to learn. The entire itinerary is crafted around the theme of story-telling, which means I deliberately chose certain areas, camps and guides to work with. We will maximize time in the field and won’t be restricted by gate opening hours. We can off-road in both conservancies so have full flexibility. In between game drives – I will be hosting lectures and there’s room for 1-on-1 tuition as well. It’s a trip that’s centered around teaching you how to tell meaningful stories about the wild and you will go home with an incredible series of images!

Will we also photograph people, or only wildlife?

My work centralises around the intersection of where animals and people meet, and therefore, when there’s a demand, we can integrate human interest photography into this expedition. On previous expeditions we have often split groups in 2 for a day, in which one group went out to shoot wildlife, whereas the other group visited several communities around the parks to learn from them first-hand what it means to live alongside wildlife in these challenging times. Pie will be guiding those half-day or full-day excursions to teach you all he knows about photographing people.

Due to Pie’s strong relationships with guides in both area’s, these local village visit will feel very personal and intimate and are far from a tourist trap. You will meet real people who will tell you real stories about their lives, far away from where mass-tourism goes. In fact, we will visit the villages of the guides Pie works with, genuine encounters with incredible people. As said earlier, every part of this expedition is customisable towards your personal photographic wishes.

Can I cancel my seat when I change my mind?

For more information about Terms & Conditions click here.

Is there an option to book a private room?

Yes, there is. However, the aforementioned price of $ 10650 is based on twin sharing, which means you will share the room with another person in the group. This can be organised as twin beds or as a double bed for couples. As soon as the group is complete, we will make a roomplan taking into account personal preferences. The single supplement of $ 3500 will give you a private room in both lodges, but given the interactive nature of these expeditions, room pairing is preferred.

Will you advise what documents to organize in order to travel?

Of course. We will send you a full briefing before the trip on which steps you need to take in order to travel according to local and international Covid laws. Please be aware that Kenya requires a double vaccination against Covid-19 in order to enter the country. This might change overtime and we will keep you posted accordingly.

Optional: Hot air balloon safaris

During both legs of the trip, it is possible to embark on a once-of-a-lifetime hot air balloon safari. You can decide on flying over Amboseli National Park and look at big herds of elephants from above, or explore the Masai Mara from the air. Both landscapes are very different, the former being very dry and flat, the latter being lush and hilly. This activity comes at an extra cost and is excluded in the rate of this trip. However, I do have very good contacts with hot air balloon operators in both areas.

The host

Pie Aerts is a Dutch documentary and wildlife photographer with a sincere interest in human/wildlife conflict stories. Through his lens, he examines the intricate relationship between animals, humans and nature and, as we become increasingly distant from each other and ourselves, he uses photography to search for the cause of this disconnect. He believes art can be an incredibly powerful tool in restoring that lost connection and therefore founded Prints for Wildlife in march 2020. Since it’s inception 2.1 million dollars have been raised of which 100% has been donated to African Parks Network. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 Pie spend more than 60 weeks in Kenya, visualising his personal relationship with the Kenyan landscape. Pie serves as a Canon EMEA ambassador, Gitzo Ambassador and as Hahnemühle Ambassador.


CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE EXPEDITION