Wildlife Photographer and Guide James Tyrrell recently visited Angama Mara, perched on the lip of the Oloololo Escarpment overlooking Kenya’s Maasai Mara. He is adamant that walking on to the deck for the first time and taking in the view below him is one of his all-time favourite safari moments.
Read what he had to say in a recent Angama Mara blog post here:
After more than a decade of living and working in the African bush, the truly “Wow” moments are inevitably going to be harder to come by.
Despite retaining the same level of childhood excitement I have always felt when heading out on a game drive or bush walk, it was always going to happen that over the years with a certain amount of repetition (and I hesitate to use that word, since nothing in the bush is ever the same), there would be just the slightest drop off in the impact a sighting would have on me. Actually, I guess it’s more a case of working in the bush for so long means it’s just harder to pick specific sightings out of the literally thousands you will have accumulated over the course of my career, just like Kilimanjaro would be tougher to point out if it was part of a mountain range instead of being free-standing. Maybe not the best metaphor, but it’s the closest I can think of.
The first time I saw a leopard hoist a kill will be indelibly imprinted on my mind for the rest of my days, but my twenty fifth time is a bit harder to zero in on. It’s not that one becomes jaded – not at all – but more that you have an absolute surplus of experiences to choose from, and many of them start to merge into each other over the years.
Having a moment then, in which you know, in the moment itself, that this is going to stay with you forever, becomes a rarity.
Walking on to the Angama Mara deck for the first time was one such moment for me.
I can still go back to it in my head and feel the same sense of wonder and awe. I can still see what the light was doing and how cloud shadows danced on the grassland far below, and I can still hear the air rushing over the white-backed vulture’s wings as it soared past, beneath me.
It’s not often that I am truly at a loss for words, but seeing Africa laid out before me in all its vastness was something that upon consideration would have made anything spoken superfluous.
There’s a surrealism to that view that grips you. It’s almost like a live version of the love-child of Google Earth and the best nature documentary you’ve seen.
When elephants look like ants, the teeming herds of wildebeest resemble a moving carpet and you can make out every little twist and turn in the Mara River in the distance, you know you are somewhere special.
“Moments of Discovery” are one of the first things one learns about when training as a guide. They come in a multitude of forms; from the first time a guest exits their plane to the first time they enter their room, to their first encounter with a lion.
Hundreds of little moments – some more noticeably impactful than others – that aggregate over the course of a safari to create an intangible experiential synergy…
Each one is an opportunity for a guest to reconfirm to themselves – whether consciously or subconsciously – that this, right here, right now, is where they ought to be.
The top guides, lodges and companies in the safari industry – and other industries as well – recognise these moments of discovery as being instrumental in making guests or customers want to return time and time again.
One rare occasions, one single moment of discovery is all it takes for a guest to say to themselves, “I could go home right now, and I’d be happy”. More often than not these are the wildlife sightings normally associated with National Geographic; a leopard hoisting a kill, a wild crossing during the great migration or a pride of lions taking down a buffalo bull in the rain.
Sometimes though, they are something else, and for me, it was walking out onto the Angama Mara deck.
When such a moment occurs before a guest has even gone on safari, you’re onto a pretty good thing.
The view breathes life into your soul and captures your imagination.
A safari lodge that can do that is one that’s always going to occupy a special place in its guests’ hearts.
I know it does in mine.