Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography


Vanishing Ethiopia
Mountain Wildlife/Exotic Tribes

February 22-March 7, 2009

Limited to 5 Participants
Led by Joe and Mary Ann McDonald
Steve Turner, Owner of Origins Safari
and veteran leader of Origin's Ethiopian Adventures

The Wildlife

While Ethiopia is diverse, and hosts many of the animals found throughout East Africa, albeit in limited numbers and in remote areas, it is the incredible highlands that harbor species unique to the region. In this rugged landscape of towering cliffs and grassy plateaus live four endemic and charismatic species. The Simien wolf, a buff-orange colored hunter of the open grasslands; the Walia Ibex, Ethiopia's national symbol, a goat-like animal with towering horns used in sparing, the Gelada Baboon, a grazing primate, and the Lammergeyer Vulture.

Simien wolves are endangered endemics, and are now suffering from spreading rabies and canine distemper. They are rodent hunters, but are capeable of taking small baboons and ibex, and are rightly feared by both.

The Ibex is a cliff and grassland denizen, and the males, in rut, engage in smashing battles as they charge and clash horns.

The Lammergeyer or Bearded Vulture is, perhaps, the most fascinating of all of Africa's vulture species, if not of all vultures. An alpine species, Lammergeyers feed upon the marrow of bones which they crack open by carrying aloft and dropping the bones upon rocks far below. When the bones shatter, the vulture feeds upon the now exposed marrow, in addition to any flesh they find on the bones or on the carcass itself. We will be baiting the vultures with bones, insuring plenty of opportunities for close-up flight shots of these incredible vultures.

The Gelada Baboon is equally fascinating, as this highly gregarious species is the primate equivalent of the Serengeti's wildebeest, traveling in huge groups as they feed upon the grasses. At night, in threatened areas, the baboon scales impossibly steep cliffs and grassy slopes to find safe haven, returning after sunrise to feed again upon the flats.

The People

The Omo Delta of SW Ethiopia is home to some of the most unique tribal peoples left on earth. In an age of modernization, these tribes are truly relics of the past, of a time and a tradition that in today's world is rapidly disappearing. We'll be photographing and interacting with several different tribes, including the Hammar, Karo, and Mursi. The Karo is famous for the intricate body painting and plaited hair sported by the men, the Hamar by women who decorage themselves with intricate necklaces and strings of cowrie shells, and backs disfigured by ritual scarification, and the most unique of all, the Mursi, whose women insert circular lip plates as a unique form of marking adulthood and fertility.

Photographing people can be challenging, and intimidating for a variety of reasons. Steve Turner is a veteran photographer here, and Joe and Mary Ann are sensitive and forthcoming with indigenous people. Our joint goal here is to work with and to interact with the native people in a benign, mutually enjoyable experience, in a landscape and world rapidly changing by pressures from the outside world. It will be fun.

The Landscapes

If you've seen the BBC documentary, Planet Earth, you're probably familiar with both gelado baboons and the incredible mountain landscape of upland Ethiopia. Unusual, endemic vegetation, steep cliffs, angular light, the area promises to be a treasure-trove of shooting opportunities.

Our Lodging and Our Vehicles

We'll be flying and driving to our various destinations, using private chargers to fly to some remote locations. We'll be staying at the best Ethiopia has to offer - which can be eye-opening in some locations, and we'll be camping, with everything required included.


Our Itinerary

February 22. Overnight, Nairobi Serena Hotel, Bed/Breakfast included.
Februay 23.. Depart Nairobi, Kenya for flight to Addis Ababa. Transfer domestic airlines for flight to Gonder, and drive to the Simien Mountains for the Simien wolf and other wildlife.
February 24-25. Simien Lodge, Simien Mountains..
February 26. Drive to Gondar, and flight to Goba/Bale Mountains for lammergeyer vultures, ibex.
February 27-28. Webe Shabele, Simien Mountains..
March 1. Fly to Murulle in the Omo River Delta..
March 2-5. Camping in private camp, photography of Hammar, Karo, and Mursi Tribes..
March 6. Fly to Addis Ababa, and overnight at the Addis Ababa Hilton. Bed/Breakfast included.
March 7. Fly to Nairobi. Dayroom, Nairobi Serena Hotel. End of Tour. Most people will fly out that evening for return to home.


The Price

The price of the trip is $13,100 per person, based upon double occupancy, Nairobi.. The price includes all accommodations, and all meals during the tour, and all internal transportation from Nairobi and flights in-country in Ethiopia. Also incoluded are all government and hotel taxes and service charges, all National Reserve entrance feels, and all porterage and airport assistance.The price does not include items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks (in some locations), tips or photographic fees to the tribal people (minimal), extra bagg

About Your Leaders

Joe and Mary Ann McDonald strive to provide the most comfortable and thorough safari you will ever experience. Joe lead his first photo safari to Kenya in 1985 and has been traveling to Africa at least one time per year since 1987. As of 2009 Mary and Joe have been leading Kenya safaris for 22 years, as well as numerous trips to Tanzania, Rwanda, Namibia, Botswana, and Uganda. They were the first to institute three person per vehicle safaris, rotating participants to insure fairness, and the use of radios for communicating between vehicles. They have produced an excellent informative video, 'A Video Guide to Photographing on Safari with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald,' and Joe has written two books on Africa, 'Photographing on Safari,' Amphoto Publications, which reguarly sells on for over 4 times its original published price, and African Wildlife, Todtri Publications.

As the above may indicate, Joe and Mary Ann have extensive African experience, and they feel this is one of the most important qualifications for leading a successful photographic tour. They understand Africa and how it works, and even more importantly, they have unparalleled African wildlife experience which will make your African safari the most productive possible. In addition to African trips, Joe and Mary Ann also lead photography trips to Alaska, Antarctica, Arizona, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Falkland Islands, India, and Yellowstone. They conduct extremely popular and successful photography instruction courses -- The Digital Complete Nature Photography Course -- at varying locations around the country, including at their home base in Pennsylvania, and they've co-written a PDF book with one of their digital instructors, Digital Nature Photography, From Capture to Output.
Both Mary and Joe are professional photographers, and their credits includ National Geographic, National Wildlife, Ranger Rick, Natural History, Living Bird, Birder's World, and most nature/wildlife calendars. They are represented by several stock photo agencies worldwide, including Corbis, Animals Animals, and the BBC stock library.
In 1994 Mary Ann won two first place awards in the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, in Endangered Species and in Bird Behavior. In 1998 she had three highly commended images published in the BBC competition, ALL THREE from Kenya! She won first place in the Cemex/Nature's Best photo contest in the Humor Division for Professional Photographers. In 2003 she won first place in Mammal Behavior in the Agfa all Africa photo competition with a dust bathing bull elephant from Samburu. Mary has written a number of children's books, including Leopards, Grizzly Bears, Woodpeckers, Flying Squirrels, Sunflowers, Cobras, Jupiter, Boas, Garter Snakes, Pythons, Rattlesnakes, Ducks, Chickens, Horses, and Cows, and a coffee table book, Out of the Past, Amish Tradition and Faith.
Joe has written several how-to wildlife photography books -- A Practical Guide to Photographing American Wildlife, The Wildlife Photographer's Field Manual, The Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography, Designing Wildlife Photographs, Photographing on Safari, A Field Guide to Photographing in East Africa, and the New Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography. Joe has won several times for highly commended images in both the Cemex/Nature's Best and the Agfa all Africa photo competitions. In 2003 Joe won 2nd place in the World in Our Hands category in the BBC competition with an image from the Ndutu area of the Serengeti, and has been third-place winner numerous times in the BBC competitions.

Steve Turner, the owner of Origins Safari, will be our in-country guide. Steve is a veteran of numerous expeditions to Ethiopia and his experience and contacts in the country are invaluable and without peer. Steve is an accomplished photographer as well, represented by several stock agencies, and a veteran master of logistics and organization, two important traits in travel!

Tel/fax: 717.543.6423

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