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The Small Things

It’s very tempting when we come on safari to focus entirely on the large, charismatic mammals - lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, rhino, giraffe, zebra…the list is dazzling... But a few hours spent wandering with a macro lens can be equally rewarding. This praying mantis with its alien features is every bit as exotic and spectacular as any of the Big Five when you look closely!

Roisin Allen, who manages the three Serian camps in Kenya, has a passion for the insect life of the Mara, and exploring with her has opened up a whole new dimension to safari. For a start it’s a joy to walk. While the vehicles are a spectacular way to view game, you can’t beat connecting with the land itself, feeling the volcanic rock beneath your feet, hearing the subtle sounds of the undergrowth and smelling fresh rain on hot earth.

Roisin in action

I've run a couple of impromptu macro workshops over the past few weeks and found that some of the most vibrant colours, weirdest forms and unusual functions belong to the insect world. As we ve been photographing them we’ve found that they are often really useful as well as beautiful.

They are a vital part of the ecosystem: being low on the food chain they sustain many of the Mara’s iconic and beautiful birds, and also the lovely little split-faced bats who live in my bathroom. Plus they do an incredible job of cleaning up after all those big messy mammals – look no further than ants and dung beetles to see who cleans up the plains!

Learning about the insects here has been quite an eye opener too. I knew that the female mosquito is the carrier of malaria, but had no idea that it’s the female blow fly we also have to watch out for - she feeds on dung, picking up the nasty germs we associate with flies, while her male partner floats fragrantly around flowers.

And all those tiny flowers that bloom here after wet weather are a joy in their own right, appearing overnight to celebrate the coming of the rains.

So it’s always worth taking a morning to walk, feel the earth under you, hear the sounds that the engine muffles, and take time to notice all the small things that are just as important here as the Big Five and friends.

I am Photographer In Residence for September 2017 at Alex Walker’s Serian camps in Kenya, encouraging our guests to focus on the tiny details that bring the Mara to life.

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