Helicopter Photography over the Maasai Mara!

In stark contrast, against the dramatic stormy African sky, the golden light illuminated the long dry grasses just as the coalition of five cheetahs started heading toward us. The stage was set perfectly when my guide Jonathan turned toward me and quietly said, “the rains in the highlands have swelled the rivers, and we do not think we will be able to cross the Talek in the morning.” For a normal morning game drive, this would not have been an issue, but the next morning, my group was scheduled for one hour of helicopter photography over the Maasai Mara. The problem was we had to cross the river to get to the airstrip. I took a slow deep breath, lowered my head behind my viewfinder, and focused on the amazing site in front of me.

Once the cheetahs passed and I had a minute to process the information, I calmly picked up my phone and dialed. This is when a long-term, loyal relationship with one of the best safari companies in Kenya has its rewards. Talking directly with one of the owners, we discussed the situation, and she said she would call me back with a plan.

Not more than half an hour had passed, when my phone vibrated, just as the brilliant Africa sun was setting and the skies were about to open up and dump on us. All had been cleared by the pilot, owner of the camp, and the warden; the helicopter would land in camp at sunrise, more specifically, about 20 meters from our tents! I think none of us had much sleep that night, including my incredible team of drivers, as we were all too excited!

As the helicopter landed that morning, with the doors off, I greeted the pilot’s familiar face with the biggest smile. I knew Peter and his wife from living in Nairobi. Everyone working in camp was out with their cell phones photographing the event. Word amongst all the guides circuited like wildfire because this was the first time a photographic group had done this.


Seeing the mass migration and their patterns from above was spectacular and mind-blowing, even after 14 years of being in the Mara during the migration. This was one of those amazing life experiences that simply cannot be captured with a photograph or described in words. THIS IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO DO! From the looks on my clients’ faces, I am sure they would all agree. This just took my signature great migration safari to an entirely new level, and I am thrilled to be offering it again in 2018.

As the last flight landed, we hopped in the Land Cruisers and rushed to the river, where we had seen the mass herds gathering all morning. We sat waiting for about an hour when the first wildebeest jumped in. What followed was one of the most epic crossings of the seasons. I have shared many pictures of the crossings over the years, so I chose only a few images that showed the patterns from the air, mass gathering, the multiple lines crossing the river and the shots of them plunging 30+ feet from the banks of the Mara into the river. Truly the most spectacular, suspenseful, dramatic, heart racing wildlife experience on the planet! Join us in 2018!


Ariel photograph of the great migration

4 Responses to “Helicopter Photography over the Maasai Mara!”

  1. Fran Kaufman

    Piper: these are amazing! Only sorry I wasn’t there with you. You go, girl! Hi


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