Photos: Amboseli at Christmas

A masked weaver bird constructing a nest from long blades of grass above our swimming pool.
© Andrew Brown/2022/Kenya

I’ve written about Amboseli National Park before, including during the dry season. This time, we visited at Christmas on a last minute deal, having cancelled plans to visit Hong Kong. As this was our third visit, I took less photos, but got some amazing shots from our safari camp, Tawi Lodge, which is situated right next to a watering hole. You can be having lunch or a swim and suddenly notice giraffes or an elephant wandering over for a drink or mud bath. We were also there during weaver bird nesting season. These birds like to construct their nests over lakes or swamps, as the water makes it harder for predators to approach – and our swimming pool seemed to work just as well. Fimally, there was an extended family of mongoose living under the wooden decking, who would come out in the early morning and late afternoon to dig for food.

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Photos: Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park is one of the few places in the world that you can see wild giraffes and skyscapers at the same time.
© Andrew Brown/2022/Kenya

Nairobi National park is a unique safari experience just across the road from Nairobi’s Central Business District, and 40 minutes drive from our house. We stayed at Ololo Lodge, a beautiful farmhouse and safari lodge on the opposite side of the park. It was also directly under the flight path for JKIA international airport, so jumbo jets would frequently thunder past overhead. At 120 square kilometres, the park is not very big compared to others in Kenya, and even at Ololo, you can see the tops of the tallest buildings in Nairobi. There is also a raised railway line that bisects the park, although animals move freely beneath it.

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Photos: Amboseli in the dry season

Flamingos eating algae in the reduced Lake Amboseli, with Observation Hill behind.
© Andrew Brown/2022/Kenya

Our second visit to Amboseli National Park came in October, towards the end of the dry season. The contrast with our first visit in April was stark: the green grass had dried, shriveled and turned yellow; it was hot and dry, with regular dust storms twisting their way across the parched landscape; and the lake had shrunk noticeably, although it was still large enough to sustain a small flock of flamingos. Elephants drank swampy water amongst dead trees and hungry baboons tried to grab snacks from passing safari cars. Most disturbingly, the plain was littered with the carcasses and skeletons of dead wildebeest, zebras and other animals. Vultures and hyenas were thriving on this macabre buffet, but there were so many dead animals that the scavengers had mostly had their fill and many carcasses were left untouched. This is why Amboseli literally means ‘dusty and salty’ in the local Maasai language.

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Photos: Amboseli National Park

Pink flamingos wade through a reflection of Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park.
© Andrew Brown/2022/Kenya

Every safari in Kenya has its own distinctive feature. Amboseli National Park is characterized by the dramatic views of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, which lies just over the border in Tanzania. It’s a photographer’s dream – you can capture a wide array of wildlife with the mountain rising out of the clouds in the background. Near the airstrip is the seasonal Amboseli Lake, which in rainy season also provides reflections. The park is just a 40 minute flight from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Flying towards the mountain just after sunrise in a 12-seater plane is an experience in itself.

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Photos: Wildlife of Maasai Mara

Naserian the cheetah, looking for prey from the vantage point of a termite mound
© Andrew Brown/2021/Kenya

I’ve visited the Maasai Mara three times so far during my time in Kenya, and been blown away by the experience each time. It’s the only place where I’ve seen a cheetah kill, watched the great wildebeest migration or had a sunset beer a few metres away from a sleeping crocodile. On two trips, we benefitted from a genuine Maasai guide, Moses, who grew up in the area and knows the landscape and wildlife intimately. And one of the very few up sides of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the animals were thriving and there were very few visitors, aside from a few Nairobi residents like us, so it often felt like we had the whole national park to ourselves.

Here is a selection of my favourite photos from the three visits:

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Photos: On the waterfront at Sunda Kelapa

A dock worker takes a cigarette break on top of a pile of rice sacks
© Andrew Brown/2019/Indonesia

I first visited Indonesia ten years ago, when I was based in UNICEF’s Asia-Pacific regional office in Bangkok. At the time, I was blown away by the country. Even Jakarta, mostly known as a characterless urban sprawl, impressed me with its little known gems such as the old docks at Sunda Kelapa. I was fortunate to make a local friend, Charlie, who took me there one weekend at sunrise to photograph the wooden boats loading up with cargo. I wrote about the experience at the time in my previous blog, Siamese Dream.

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Photos: People of Malawi

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The Headmaster of a school in Kasungu, where UNICEF launched a drone testing corridor
© UNICEF Malawi/2017/Andrew Brown

While most of my photography for UNICEF focuses on children, I’ve also taken portraits of the adults who work with and care for them in schools, health centres and elsewhere. Malawians are generally friendly and welcoming and make good subjects for photos. Older people in particular have faces full of character, although unlike children they take photos very seriously and have to be coaxed into providing a smile. People dress very smartly, like the headmaster above, even if they live in remote rural areas without water or electricity. Continue reading “Photos: People of Malawi”

Photos: Children of Malawi

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Children laugh at a fishing village beside Lake Chilwa, where I was writing a story
© UNICEF Malawi/2017/Andrew Brown

One of the pleasures of working for UNICEF is travelling to remote parts of Malawi to write stories about children and their families. Sometimes I’m accompanied by a professional photographer but other times I go on my own. This gives me some great opportunities to photograph children. Some of these children are the subjects of stories I wrote, while others are just curious kids from the neighbourhood who came to see what was going on. Like most places in the world, children in Malawi love having their photo taken, But here they see cameras much less often, so are that much more excited. Continue reading “Photos: Children of Malawi”

Photos: Lake Malawi

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A fisherman on a wooden canoe, made from a single hollowed-out true trunk © Andrew Brown/2019/Malawi

Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and forms almost the entire western border of Malawi. The country’s colonial-era name was Nyasaland, literally ‘Lake Land’, and much of its tourism is focused around the lake. It has a unique ecosystem, including the world’s only freshwater cichlids. Standing on the shore at the widest point of the lake, you cannot see the other side. Looking at the sandy beaches, palm trees and small islands, it’s hard to believe that it’s not the ocean. One small giveaway is the fresh water snail shells scattered along the waterline. And the smell of salt is absent from the air.

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Photos: African wildlife

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Vultures fight over the remains of a buffalo, caught by lions the previous day
© Andrew Brown/2017/Zambia

This is a selection of my best wildlife photography, mostly taken in South Luangwa national park, Zambia. The park is around four hours’ drive from Lilongwe and has a huge abundance of wildlife. In the dry season, large animals are forced into the open in search of water. In the rainy season, the lush green landscapes challenge stereotypes of Africa, while migratory birds arrive for mating and nest building.  Continue reading “Photos: African wildlife”