March 2011: A week in the legendary Masai Mara, mid-way through the rainy season. The Mara is one of the most impressive game reserves in Africa, boasting a quite incredible density of fauna. It meets Tanzania's Serengeti to the south, forming one giant ecosystem and is most famous for the annual migration when million-strong herds of wildebeest and zebra make the perilous journey north to the Mara and then back to the Serengeti, in search of fresh grazing.

On this trip, the wildebeest - and the corresponding crowds of tourists - were to the south in Tanzania. Despite the absence of herbivores in quite the same numbers, March is a good time to visit the Mara, with fewer tourists - put off by the idea of travelling during the rainy season. In reality the rain usually comes each day in a short, sharp burst - or possibly longer overnight when you're safely tucked up in your tent or lodge - so shouldn't adversely affect a safari.

Even in the low season the Mara isn't the place to visit if it's a true wilderness experience you're after - you will still find vehicles massing around big cat sightings, especially if you're lucky enough to spot a leopard. But if you want to see Africa's plains game close up and in large numbers the Mara and the Serengeti cannot be beaten. And they are both stunning, especially in the soft morning light.
Lion pride awakes, dawn - the Masai Mara.
I was lucky enough to be with this pride for about an hour, first thing in the morning, before any other vehicles found us - a rare privilege in the Mara.
Masai giraffe at speed. These creatures look like they should be rather ungainly, but they somehow manage to pull off a surprisingly graceful gait, whether walking or running.
Female Defassa waterbuck.
Male Defassa waterbuck.
Female ostrich.
Giraffes, surveying the plains of the Masai Mara.
The collective noun is, I believe, a pride of ostriches.
Elephants at dusk.
One of the more expensive safari luxuries available in the Mara is a dawn hot air balloon flight, followed by a champagne breakfast with silver service, wherever you happen to land in the savannah. Sadly not something I've experienced yet.
Safari vehicles crowded around a tree like this can mean only one thing. Look for the outline on the branch extending to the left.
The leopard, one of the more elusive residents of the Masai Mara. It's unusual to find a leopard in such an isolated piece of cover. But he seemed totally unfazed by our presence.
Nile crocodile. These prehistoric predators enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet when the wildebeest migration takes place, with millions of herbivores forced to cross rivers just like this one.
Hippo, wallowing.
Spotted hyena.
Cape buffalo complete with cloud of flies.
Black-backed jackals.
The king of the savannah, looking suitably regal.
Grey crowned cranes.
Landcruiser hatch view, sunset. This is what you need if you're on a vehicle-based safari - without a hatch like this, you won't have enough height above the foliage to get a clear view. It also provides a very useful surface for a support beanbag when using a long lens - much better than the open-sided style of vehicles that you tend to get in southern Africa.
Black-chested snake eagle.
Topi, keeping an eye out for predators.
Lions, dusk. Lions tend to laze around doing bugger all for most of the day - hunting tends to happen at night, so the only time you'll generally photograph lions actually doing something, as opposed to sleeping, is at dawn and dusk.
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