Turkana Festival and Wildlife Safari 2017

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April 30-May 10, 2017

Turkana Tribe on the shores of Lake Turkana, Kenya

Africa is a tapestry of ancient cultures, exotic wildlife, and dramatic ecosystems, which are mesmerizing for the eyes, mind, and soul. This first-class photographic safari is built around one of the most breathtaking tribal festivals in the world, while visiting top wildlife reserves in Kenya, a perfect mix of exotic tribes and wildlife in Africa. You will have a mind-blowing experience and come home with an amazing, diverse portfolio of exceptional images of Africa from just one safari.

 The Turkana basin hosts a diverse group of tribal/ethnic people, whose cultures have been preserved over the decades, if not centuries. The Omo River feeds Lake Turkana, and the beautiful tribes along the Omo river continue down through this entire region. When you drop into the Turkana Basin, you know you are in a place where the road has been less traveled.

The Turkana festival was started as a way to unite the tribes as a community and promote peace between them. As many as 14 tribes/ethnic groups, such as the Randille, Samburu, Turkana, Dassanach Gabra, Borana, El Molo, Konso, Sakure, Garee, and Waata, will gather in a kaleidoscope of color, dressed in their most elaborate traditional clothing, beading, head ornaments, and paint made from the red ochre. Each group will build their traditional huts along the festival grounds. It is fascinating to see the uniqueness of each hut, when sitting side by side. Simultaneously, during the festival, everyone will gather in their individual groups, playing traditional instruments, singing, and dancing for hours at a time.

Rendille Tribe, Northern Kenya

Kenya is also home to some of the most exotic wildlife in the world—a wildlife photographer’s paradise. En route to and from the festival, we will visit two exciting photographic wildlife destinations: Samburu Game reserve and Amboseli National Park. Samburu’s arid, golden savannahs, lined with acacia woodlands, reflect the ambiance of what people envision when they dream of Africa. It is home to the rare Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, oryx, common waterbuck, kudu, the unique mane-less lions, and the “red” elephants. Amboseli National Park is an incredible reserve, where you can capture vast herds of elephants storming across dry, open plains. Imagine photographing expansive views, filled with giraffes, zebras, and other exotic African wildlife, with Mount Kilimanjaro as a backdrop.

Throughout this life-enriching journey, you will visit several tribal villages at sunrise and sunset, enjoy an evening in the hills with the warriors, experience the beautiful singing and dancing of the Turkana tribe, with Lake Turkana as your back drop, witness the ancient fishing ways of the El Molo, and photograph the tribal body painting of the Samburu. Your host, Piper Mackay, is passionate and serious about high-quality images and will push hard to spend quality time in the field, but she also believes in providing an amazing African experience. She has spent over a decade photographing both wildlife and tribes throughout Kenya and Africa, a place that stirs her soul. She will give informal instruction throughout the safari, especially on dramatic lighting situations, to help you capture stunning images that go beyond traditional photographs.

This safari is limited to 8 guests. This allows for greater freedom, more flexibility, better group dynamics, and the feeling of a more personal, private safari. This photographic adventure is an extraordinary opportunity to photograph and experience Kenya’s most exotic tribes and wildlife.


  • Turkana Festival
  • Village visits to the Samburu, Maasai, Randille, Turkana, and El Molo
  • Samburu Game Reserve, Amboseli National
  • Two private charter flights, with extra weight limits for your photographic equipment
  • Luxury accommodations in the wildlife reserves
  • Small group size: limited to 8 participants
  • We have private, 9-passenger, open sided, 4X4 Land Cruisers, with only 3 participants in each vehicle. During our game drives, each person will have their own row, with 2 window seats available for the best viewing and photographic opportunities.

Turkana Festival Itinerary

Day 1, April 30

Arrive at the international airport in Nairobi, Kenya. You are met by a member of our ground team and transferred to your hotel by private vehicle. The Palacina Boutique Hotel is the perfect atmospheres to relax after your long journey, decompress from modern life, and get into the rhythm of Africa.

Accommodations: Palacina Boutique Hotel

Day 2, May 1

Today, you will awaken in a magical new world with the aroma of Kenyan coffee brewing. We will meet at breakfast for a briefing, before hopping in our private Land Cruisers and heading to Samburu Game Reserve. We will stop for lunch at the famous Trout Tree Restaurant, an experience in itself, where troops of White Colobus Monkeys will probably swing right over our heads. We will arrive at our luxury-tented camp along the Ewaso Nyiro River, with plenty of time to settle in before our first afternoon game drive.

The friendly, traditional Samburu tribe staff will greet us and give us a full briefing about the camp and area. As the name implies, elephants stroll through the camp and between the luxury tents. During midday, relax in the private plunge pool, on the deck of your tent with a cold drink, and let the wildlife come to you. In the early afternoon, we will head out on our first game drive to explore this spectacular reserve.

Accommodations: luxury tents, Elephant Bedroom Camp

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grevy zebras , samburu, kenya

Day 3 & 4, May 2 & 3

We will spend the next two days on safari, driving through this stunning African landscape, seeking leopards, Gravy’s zebras, reticulated giraffes, gerenuk, Oryx, common waterbuck, kudu, the unique mane-less lions, and the “red” elephants. The elephants exhibit a special red color from rolling in the mud of the river and dusting themselves with the rich, red soil, making for extraordinary images in golden light.

We will also spend an incredible evening on the top of the hills, with the warriors of the Samburu Tribe. Originally part of the Maasai tribe when they first came down the Nile River, the Samburu split off when the Maasai continued their journey south to Tanzania. The name Samburu means the butterfly people. They not only flew off from their original tribe, but they became more colorful in their traditional dress. This will be a very special evening, where you will not only create extraordinary images, but have a unique experience that few others will have.

Accommodations: luxury tents, Elephant Bedroom Camp

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Day 5, May 4

We will visit one of my favorite Samburu villages at sunrise, creating a great opportunity to silhouette the warriors against the dramatic African landscape.

This will allow us a more intimate experience with the tribe to photograph their daily life in the village and to have time to create some beautiful portraits.

We will return to our luxury camp for a late breakfast before we are driven to the private airstrip to board our private charter aircraft to Lake Turkana. We will land in a whole new world and one of the richest tribal regions in Africa. You will feel as though you have been transported back to an authentic Africa of bygone days. In the remote lakeside town of Loiyangalani, four tribes live side-by-side: Randille, Turkana, Samburu, and El Molo. Up to eight other tribes will have gathered for the festival.

We will have time to check into our lodge, have lunch, and relax by the pool before heading out to the shores of Lake Turkana to visit the El Molo. Members of the El Molo Tribe, the smallest tribe in Africa, are keen fisherman and crocodile hunters. The women are decorated in beautiful beadwork and are masters of weaving.

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Day 6&7, May 5 & 6

Over the next two days, we will immerse ourselves in the cultures at the festival along the shores of Lake Turkana and in their villages. The festival will be a kaleidoscope of color, song, dance, rhythm, community, interaction, and photographic opportunities. Besides the unbelievable photograph opportunities, it will also be an unbelievable, authentic tribal experience.

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 Day 8, May 7

We will have one last sunrise shoot with the tribes. After breakfast, we will drive to the private airstrip to board our private charter aircraft to Amboseli National Park.

Take a moment to catch your breath in this magical environment, as we drive across the open plains to our beautiful Lodge. During lunch, we will relax and share stories of our amazing adventure, as the wildlife roams freely in the background. After lunch, continue to relax around the pool with a cold drink or browse through the stunning images you captured during the festival.

We will head out on our first game drive in early afternoon.

Accommodations –Amboseli Serena Lodge

Day 9 &10, May 8 & 9

We will spend the next two days out on safari in this incredible ecosystem that lies at the foothills of Kilimanjaro. In the morning, the herds of Elephant, Zebra, and Wildebeest slowly come down from the mountains and cross the plains of Amboseli on their way to the marshes, centrally located in the national park. The bird life along the marshes and wetlands is superb.

We will also spend an incredible evening at a traditional Maasia manyatta. The Maasia are the iconic tribe of Kenya, but are not part of the Turkana festival, because their territory does not venture far enough to the north. The big African rains should have just passed, bringing long plentiful grasslands, which mean the warriors, with their long braided ocher hair and decorated bodies, will be in the village and not in far away lands with the livestock. The Maasia in the Amboseli area are unique, because the men mark their high cheeks with a circular tattoo scarring. They will also spend time giving us insights to their struggles in living in harmony with and protecting the wildlife.

Accommodations –Amboseli Serena Lodge

Elephant at the bottom of Mount Kilimanjaro

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Day 11, May 10

We will rise early for one last visit with the Maasai tribe at sunrise. We will return to the lodge for breakfast, check out, and game drive out of the park. Back in Nairobi, you will be taken to the Ole Sereni, which sits along Nairobi National Park, where you will have dayrooms. You can enjoy a leisurely afternoon, reflecting on the amazing experience you had on safari; lie by the pool overlooking the park, take a nap, enjoy a delicious meal, and have time to clean up before your flight home, later in the evening.

Day rooms: Ole Sereni


Is this trip for you?

This photographic safari is for anyone who wants to experience and photograph Kenya’s most exotic tribes and wildlife. This itinerary gives you incredible opportunities to produce high-quality images of extraordinary subjects, so we will rise early in the morning for the best light. This safari mixes luxury camps in pristine wildlife reserves with a remote tribal area, where the accommodations are basic. To avoid the long two-day drive to the festival, we fly by charter to and from Lake Turkana. This itinerary was created for photographers of ALL levels.

If you have had little experience photographing tribes or indigenous cultures, this is the perfect introductory trip for you. If you have had experience photographing tribes or indigenous cultures, you should find this experience to be one of the best. Some experience working with basic fill flash is recommended.

During our wildlife safaris, we will see a variety of exotic wildlife; however, some special subjects may require watching their behavior and waiting for those special moments. This is when patience pays off, rewarding you with extraordinary photographs. We will spend a great deal of time and effort in the field, unless it is quiet and the light is too harsh, and we will return to our camp/lodge for the midday break. This means there may be several mornings and some lunches that will involve box meals we take with us, rather than eating at camp or the lodge. We will be back at our camp/lodge for a nice dinner and drinks around the fire every night.

Since this itinerary is built to spend most of our time in the field, this is not a formal workshop. There will be no planned lectures, slide shows, or formal instruction, but Piper is there to assist you throughout the entire trip. She is generous with her time and instruction and available for questions on all photographic topics, including business questions on marketing, branding, and creating a niche. When there is an afternoon break, she will be happy to review your images, portfolios, or give an impromptu slide show or talk. This is largely why the group sizes are kept small: so she can assist you when needed and spend quality time with you in an amazing location.


The Price

The price of this unique cultural and wildlife photographic adventure is $9,695.00. This price is based on double occupancy.

Single supplement is $1,200.00 “if available.” Single accommodations are limited.

Due to the limited number of spaces available, if a solo guest will share, and we can match with another guest of the same gender, we will do so. If a solo guest is unwilling to share, then a single supplement will be charged. If we cannot match a solo guest with another guest of the same gender, then the single supplement will be charged, but at a reduced rate.

***This cost of this safari is based on a minimum of 6 participants. If there are less than 6 participants a small supplement fee of $495.00 will apply.

A USD $1,500.00 Non-refundable deposit is due at the time of registration to secure your spot. You may purchase travel insurance that will refund your deposit if you have to cancel your trip.


Click THIS LINK to access the e-registration form. At the end of the form you will be asked to confirm you email. Once you have confirmed your email, a copy of your registration will be emailed to you and our agent.

Payment Terms

  • USD $1,500.00 non-refundable deposit to confirm your place on this safari
  • 2nd payment of USD $3,000.00 is due December 1, 2016
  • Final payment/Balance is due Feb 15, 2017
  • We highly recommend trip and cancellation insurance

Piper Mackay Photography is dedicated to helping the people and wildlife that have inspired us and enriched our lives. We donate a small supply of food to each village we visit. We are mindful to select items that will have sustainability in the harsh environments where they live and are items the women use daily to feed their families such as cooking oil, ugali, maze, beans, etc We build strong relationships with these local communities to ensure our visit generates meaningful contributions to the local economies, especially those helping to protect wildlife, and to ensure a unique cultural exchange for both host and guest.

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Please Understand

Traveling in remote locations can present challenges that may require slight changes to the itinerary. We will always try to run the tour according to the initial itinerary. In the event of circumstances beyond our control—such as political unrest, natural disasters, overbookings by the lodge where a change is required—we will do our best to keep you close to the original shooting location. It is our intention for you to have the best possible experience. We will try to notify you of any changes as soon as we are made aware of them. If, however these changes cause an increase to the price, the increase will be passed onto the participant.