TOO many vehicles in the Mara, really?

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, travel, Wild life.

I am always curious about a person when I receive an email, or read a comment complaining about too many vehicles in the Mara. I often wonder what their personal motivation is behind discouraging others from coming to one of the most renowned wildlife reserves in the world, a reserve immortalized by countless BBC and National Geographic documentaries and a reserve visited by the top wildlife photographers every year.

The Maasai Mara during the migration is, hands down, the greatest, most exciting, action -packed, wildlife experience in the world. I can’t imagine missing out on experiencing the greatest migration in the world, a mind-blowing event, just because it the busiest time to be in there. It is the ying with yang, the balance of nature, the good with the bad. As I like to say, “if you eat a lot of good food you you put on a few pounds, if you eat less and healthy you loose a few pounds”. There are not many situations in life when you get to have the perfect situation all to yourself. Is that a reason to avoid it all together?

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I try to never forget what made me pick up the camera in the first place; the curiosity and the excitement of a place; more than a photograph, an experience. Don’t get me wrong, I am very serious about my photography, but when I lose the emotion of the experience, it becomes just another job. With that said, “there is a crazy amount of vehicles in the Mara during the Migration and it can be very frustrating, pull your hair out maddening!” This is why I use such an experienced team of drivers who are great at out maneuvering others and getting us into position, as I cannot imagine missing this event. It is called “compromising.”

Like Africa, being in the Mara during the migration is an addiction. This will be my 11th year, witnessing and photographing this unbelievable phenomena! I went down to the Sand River today and saw the first herds crossing over from Tanzania. There were thousands and thousands of wildebeest and zebras. I was so excited you would have thought this was first time I had seen the migration For me, it never gets old. Yes, all of us photographers wish we were the only ones out here, with no other tourists, but that is not the reality. Too many vehicles, bring it on, I will be right in the middle of it all!!

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I agree that dealing with these type situations is not for everyone. If you have no desire to experience and photograph the great migration, in particular the crossing of the Mara River, or you are just completely intolerant of crowds and compromise, then I would say you should definitely stay away from the Mara during the crowed migration season. This does not mean stay away from the Mara completely because the Mara is great during the off-season, which is becoming known as the Big Cat season.

Words are powerful. Don’t give one person’s opinion so much power that it influences you in the wrong direction. Evaluate the information, do your own research, and understand what may be behind their opinion. Ultimately you have to make decisions that fit your goals both photographically and in experience.

Many of you reading this blog have been to the Maasai during the migration, what is your option?

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In 2016, I will be running four safaris to the Maasai Mara; two during the migration season and two during the off season.

Great Migration Safari 2016-

This is for all us passionate, adrenaline rushing, crazy photographers that just want to be in the thick of the action! We will stay in three different location in the Mara during the height of the Migration season. Details-

Kenya Wildlife Safari 2016 –

This is for us photographers that want to experience and photograph the migration, but wish to visit a few other top reserves in Kenya. The Ultimate Classic African Safari is timed during the migration, including 5 nights in the Mara. Details-

Kenya and Tanzania 2016

The best of the best! This is for photographers who wish to experience the migration, but not the madness of the Mara. This safari takes you to the famous Serengeti for the birthing season. Each year around this time, approximately 750,000 wildebeest give birth during a three-week period. This natural phenomenon draws the attention of predators. Then we fly from the Serengeti into the Maasai Mara during the Big Cat season with very few vehicles in the reserve. Details-

Ultimate Big Cat Safari 2016 –

This is for photographers who wish to focus on creating dramatic, award winning images, which is hard to do in the high season. One of the best-kept secrets in Africa, this is the time of year when the crowds are down south in Tanzania with the migration, but the hungry predators remain behind. This allows us to spend quality time with these big cats, virtually undisturbed. Details –

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Living with Lions

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, inspiration, travel, Wild life.


A gentle wind blows across the plains as prides of lions lie in the shade of the acacias, waiting patiently in anticipation. At any moment now, a dust cloud will gather over the horizon, as thousands of wildebeest thunder through the tall grasses of the Maasai Mara; marking the arrival of the Great Migration. During migration season, the Maasai Mara is arguably the greatest wildlife photography experience in the world.

I am currently in the Maasai Mara, at Little Mara Bush Camp, which is my home for the next three weeks. This is a fascinating time to be in the Mara. The grasses are the highest of the year, providing tremendous opportunities to capture artistic and unique photographs. I am slow to click the shutter, as my focus is on creating interesting and powerful images through the use of dramatic lighting, slower shutter speeds, creative exposures and different white balance choices. Each morning starts before sunrise, quickly fading into the heat of the day without seeing another vehicle. It has a feel of a private reserve; the calm before the storm.

I have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours photographing in this reserve over the past decade. What’s so different about these three weeks is that I am driving my own Land Rover. I must admit, it takes the experience to entirely new heights. I feel even more connected to the wildlife and this extraordinary place; no longer a visitor, but a feeling of belonging. Over these three weeks, I will be maneuvering over rough roads, crossing through rivers with rocky boulder bottoms, and sliding through the wet swampy black cotton soil, covering as much of the Mara as possible. Some of the most important skills for a wildlife photographer to have are to intimately know a location, understand the animal territories and behavior, and to build strong personal relationships in the area.

I wish to not only improve my own skills as an African wildlife photographer, but to specialize my guiding skills for those joining me on safaris.

Africa truly awakens your soul, as it did mine, on my first safari eleven years ago. I will savor these three weeks and immerse myself fully into every moment. As always, it will be hard to leave, even if only for a short time. I will return in August and September to lead my annual safaris –  Kenya Wildlife Safari and Great Migration Safari, during the height of the migration season. No matter how much time I spend in the Maasai Mara, it is never enough; it never gets old. Most all who have been here would also agree.

You know you are truly alive

when you are living among lions.

Karen Blixen – Out of Africa


Experience the Extraordinary

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, inspiration, passion, travel, Wild life.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

 Africa-Photo-Safari-Piper-Mackay-DSC_1664 - Version 2 copy

It is the adventures and experiences that create the excitement that feeds one’s soul. When life starts to feel mundane, it is time to take an adventure; grab your friends, book a flight, head into nature, climb a mountain, dream about the future, feel the freedom, and experience something that makes your heart race. Take more than an epic journey; experience an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word. A single decision can be the defining moment, which changes the direction of one’s path in life. This is what happened to me a decade ago. Making that sudden decision to go to Africa taught me to jump out there, live boldly, and experience the extraordinary.

Although my camera is the drive behind seeking adventure and capturing compelling stories, it is the incredible experiences that stay with me long after the click of shutter. Last year was no exception. I had the opportunity to spend up close and personal time with the young orphaned elephants that were being reintroduced to the wild. We were invited for an exclusive stay at two of the David Sheldrick properties near and in West Tsavo.

Each morning we awoke at sunrise to go down to the stockade for the elephants’ morning feeding, before they headed out into the wild accompanied by their keepers. Midmorning we would join them again for their noon feeding. They would then head to a small water hole where they would interact with the wild elephants that had also come in for a drink. It was fascinating to watch. Both the orphans and the wild elephants would then wander down to a larger water hole for a mud bath. We could lay right beside their water hole, photograph them, play with them, or even get a personal dusting from them! We were able to interact with them, one on one, for several hours.

In the evening we were able to greet them again as they came in from the wild to spend the night in the safety of the stockade. The orphans will decide for themselves when it is time to stay in the wild, as one evening they just don’t come home, so to speak. It has now been placed in the top 10 experiences I have had in Africa.

More amazing than the experience itself was witnessing the incredible dedication of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the keepers who dedicate their lives to help save these amazing animals. I have supported this organization for many years, including donating proceeds of my exhibit “Wild on Earth” that was held at the G2 Gallery in 2013, to the organization. They continue to show the world that we can make a difference. Because someone cared enough to take action, these orphans now have a chance to live a full life in the wild. You can learn more about this amazing organization and the work they do by visiting their website.

This year, I am excited to be able to take 4-5 photographers with me, for an exclusive visit and up-close personal encounter with these gentle giants. Proceeds from our visit will go back to the DWST. Here are the details. Below are a few of the images from our visit.

Vuria, who I adopted, coming from the water hole with the wild elephants

Vuria, who I adopted, coming from the water hole with the wild elephants



Ex-orphan at the mud hole



Elephants playing at the mud hole


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Orphans coming to their favorite dust bath spot.


moments before I was dusted with the rich red soil

moments before I was dusted with the rich red soil






Let it fly.


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Done and Dusted


A keeper walking the elephants home in the evening.

A keeper walking the elephants home in the evening.


Playing with Vuria

Playing with Vuria

Join us this year for an extraordinary experience!

Amazing Amboseli

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, travel, Wild life.

I recently return from another magical safari in Kenya. There are  so few experiences in life that go beyond ones expectations, but Africa seems to deliver on this,  over and over again. Amboseli, known for its mass herds of elephants, is one of my favorite National Parks in Kenya.This years trip  was simply amazing.  My main reason for going to Amboseli is to experience the mass herds of elephants and zebras crossing the open dusty plains. Capturing some of the iconic images in this location is simply a bonus.

Canon 5D Mark II, 200mm, f/14, 1/500 -0.67

Canon 5D Mark II, 200mm, f/14, 1/500 -0.67

I like to inform those traveling with me that this should be our focus; it is what is special to this area.  The big cats are hard to find and even if you do, it is rare to have a good sighting. I let them know there  will be plenty of opportunities to experience and photograph the big cats in the Mara. Well this trip, Amboseli proved me to be quite wrong.  Right on Q, only a few minutes into the park, we were welcomed by one of the many groups of elephants that would cross our paths , over the next three days.

Canon 1DX, 500mm, 1/2000, f8, ISO 500

Canon 1DX, 500mm, 1/2000, f8, ISO 500

We arrived at our lodge, settled in, and had lunch, while being surrounded by the picturesque beauty of Africa and its wildlife. Early afternoon we hopped in the Land-cruisers  to head out on our first official game drive, with a plan of action. That soon change the minute our vehicles got out of the gate. There was a sighting of two cheetahs hunting. When we arrived, they were very close to the road and passed right along beside us. It was an amazing sighting, a great way to start our safari.

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f/20, 1/800, ISO 1000

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f/20, 1/800, ISO 1000


Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f/7.1, 1/800, ISO 1000

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f/7.1, 1/800, ISO 1000

Lucky for the Zebra, they are too big for the cheetah to bother with.  However, it did cause a large group of them to run off, creating a lot of dust and a perfect photographic opportunity.

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, F 7.1, 1/1000, ISO 200

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, F 7.1, 1/1000, ISO 200


Canon 5D Mark II, 130mm, F 10, 1/640, -0.33, ISO 200

Canon 5D Mark II, 130mm, F 10, 1/640, -0.33, ISO 200


The next morning within minutes of going out on our first game drive, we had two studly male lions cross our path for a brief moment. Just enough time to raise our cameras and grab a few shots.

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f/13, 1/ 500, ISO 1000

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f/13, 1/ 500, ISO 1000


Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f/13, 1/ 500, ISO 1000

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f/13, 1/ 500, ISO 1000


Then later that same afternoon we had another rare sighting of a Serval Cat, out in the open. The gazelle was larger than he wanted to bother with, so after a quick glance, he just kept going.

Canon 1D-X, f6.3, 500mm + 1.4 extender (700mm), + 0.67, 1/320, ISO 250

Canon 1D-X, f6.3, 500mm + 1.4 extender (700mm), + 0.67, 1/320, ISO 250


The action seemed to be non-stop and I had to remind myself we were in Amboseli and not the Mara. Even the Ostrich could not resist a dust bath.

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f 7.1, 1/800, ISO 500

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f 7.1, 1/800, ISO 500


Canon 1D-X, 500mm + 1.4 extender (700mm), f/11. 1/360, ISO500

Canon 1D-X, 500mm + 1.4 extender (700mm), f/11. 1/360, ISO500


Canon 1D-X, 500mm,  f 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 250

Canon 1D-X, 500mm, f 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 250


Canon 1D-X, f/8. 1/2000, ISO 500

Canon 1D-X, f/8. 1/2000, ISO 500


The last afternoon nature blew up one crazy dust storm, so we did not even have to wait for the zebra to stir  up the dust themselves.

Canon 5D Mark II, 500mm, f/7.1, 1/250, +0.67, ISO 640

Canon 5D Mark II, 500mm, f/7.1, 1/250, +0.67, ISO 640


Canon 5D Mark II, 500mm, f/7.1, -0.33, 1/500,  ISO 500

Canon 5D Mark II, 500mm, f/7.1, -0.33, 1/500, ISO 500


Canon 5D Mark II, 500mm, f/7.1, -0.33, 1/200,  ISO 500

Canon 5D Mark II, 500mm, f/7.1, -0.33, 1/200, ISO 500


The final morning we spotted a herd way off in the distance, but coming fast. Our divers estimated they were moving approx 40 MPH. It was a highlight and a great send off.

Canon 1D-X, 200mm + 1/4 extender (280), f/13, 1/250, ISO 1250

Canon 1D-X, 200mm + 1/4 extender (280), f/13, 1/250, ISO 1250


In the end, it was one of the best Amboseli trips  I have experienced. We were off to an excellent start!!

Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200, 100mm, f/14, 1/1000, ISO 1000

Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200, 100mm, f/14, 1/1000, ISO 1000

A Red Letter Day

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, goals, inspiration, travel, Wild life.

Well it has been a crazy couple of months, starting with the opening of my show at G2 gallery on May 21. I was honored to have many of you there on the opening night. I think all the seeds I was busy planting at the beginning of the year all sprouted at the same time. June and July were some of the most exciting but demanding months in this crazy journey so far. I finished my first ebook that is being published by Trey Radcliff and you will be hearing more about the release over the next few weeks. However, yesterday was such a big day for me and I am excited to finally share it with you.

Naturescapes made the official announcement that I will now be leading safari’s for them.  It is such an honor to be part of this team especially since I have such deep admiration for the owner, Greg Downing. For those of you that do not know about Naturescapes, it is a highly respected and successful online magazine and community that is now in its 10th year.

My first safari with them “The best of Kenya” will be in August 2013 This special itinerary offers the best of Kenya; Amboseli National Park, Samburu National reserve, and the famous Masia Mara during the migration season! To maximize our time in each reserve we will be flying between each location. Each of these reserves offers something special and different. I have spent a great deal of time in all three locations because they are my favorite places to photograph African wildlife in Kenya. Amboseli has great herds of elephants and zebra roaming across the dusty plains with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Samburu is home to the rare Gravy’s Zebra’s, Reticulated Giraffes and Oryx. The Masai Mara, the crown jewel of Africa, is host to one of the greatest wildlife shows on earth during the time of the migration. There is just no place on earth that rivals the exotic wildlife during this time. It would be fantastic to have some of you join us as few spots are already spoken for. You can view the full details here.

One thing that I have been constantly reminded of in this journey is that if you work as hard as possible and never give up… and I do believe that is the key to success… is to NEVER give up…keep marching towards that dream and it will happen….it will not be easy….in fact it will be much harder than you can imagine, but when you reach a huge goal in the journey like this one… there is no greater joy!!

The announcement below was in the August 1 newsletter of Naturescapes, which included a wonderful interview written by Kari Post, a very talented photographer and write. Click here to read the entire interview.

E-Newsletter Announcement.

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, Wild life.

It’s hard to believe that I will be back in the US in three weeks. I left the US with the unrealistic expectations that I would be able to post and share some stories along the way, but it has been non-stop since I touched down in Ethiopia on Feb 2. I did not have the internet access I had hoped for in the Omo (not a bad thing) and when I arrived back into Addis there was a city wide power outage that effect the internet! I then went on to Arusha, Tanzania to meet my group for our Safari in Tanzania and Rwanda. I am excited to share that it was wildly successful and we were all just too busy having too much fun for me to get a chance to post anything!! I said good –bye to my wonderful group in the Nairobi airport on the evening of March 4th and I am now staying with a friend in the Karen area of Nairobi for a few days before continuing on to Mali in West Africa. I am trying to catch up, fit in my meetings about my next three safari’s and spend sometime with old friends. I leave for Mali day after tomorrow and I have not yet started doing an initial edit of the images I created in the past month!! I will start to share the images and stories through this blog when I arrive in the US.

I am excited to announce I am working on my first e-newsletter. Separate from my blog that contains stories, idea’s, and photography, the newsletter will contain information such as new tours, workshops, events, gallery shows, classes I am teaching and the likes. If you would like to receive a copy of my newsletter by email you can subscribe in the sidebar to the right of this post. At this time I will only be sending e-newsletters when there is news or updates to events already listed.

I have randomly selected just a few images from the past month in Eastern Africa as a preview of what is to come. I also look forward to catching up with my friends and family in the states when I return.

There we lots of babies


Lots of rare sightings

Striped Hyena with pup

Lions in trees

Lots of action

Lots of Big Cats

Lots of Gorilla’s


And more tribes






National Geographic, Maybe….

by Piper & filed under Wild life.

About a week ago I was on the National Geographic website doing some research and on a fluke clicked on the best shots photo gallery. They were requesting to upload your best animal shot, so I grab an image, uploaded it and forgot about it. Then last week I received and email, which I thought was from National Geographic, stating that my image was photo of the day. Well that was not exactly right, nor was it from NGO but I was  in the daily dozen and the email had been sent by a friend.  Soon I discovered that your image is voted on and rated, and if it wins they print it in the next edition of National Geographic. With  less than a week to go, I have decided it would be a hoot to win and  am asking for your help to vote and keep my rating.

You have to click on week 3 at the top right corner and then rate all the images. Helpful is to just rate all the other images as a 1 (as it lowers thier rating) but only if you feel right about it, and then rate mine as a 10:) which raises my rate….. LOL. My image is #39 Thanks for your time and VOTE and sharing this link with your friends.


Please click on the link and vote

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.​com/your-shot/voting- machine


Miracle in the Mara

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, Wild life.

6 cheetah cubs, 4 weeks old

I am asked often, “Why do you keep going back the Massai Mara in Kenya?”

The pictures below could answer that question without any words, but I love the Mara because of the Big Cats.

Although the changes of the western world are affecting this amazing wild place at an alarming rate, being there during the migration time is like no other wild life area anywhere in the world.

This year’s miracle was a cheetah, named Shingo, with 6 cubs! Why is that a miracle? On the average, a cheetah usually has between 3-5 cubs, and only 5% of the cubs will survive. That is only 1 out of every 20. Most fall prey to predictors when the mother is out hunting.  At the time I photographed these cubs they were about 4 weeks old. They were spotted, and it was reported that all 6 were still alive.

Cheetahs  are on the endangered species list and their numbers are under 10,000.

The cheetah’s main defense is their speed and being able to blend into their environment.

or NOT

Mother was hunting, but was not sucessfull during this attempt.

She was successful the next evening.

One advantage of returning to the same place is developing relationships with your guides and drivers and staying in contact with them. Several weeks prior to arriving I am usually in contact with them every few days to find out what is happening so I can plan my time and focus on capturing special moments.

This is also why I venture solo to the Mara, much of the time. When I know I am seeing something very special, I want to spend as much time as possible observing, experiencing, documenting and capturing it. I spent the majority of my time over 10 days, following this cheetah and her cubs. Not only did I capture some great moments but I experienced something very rare.  The magic of the Mara and Africa is that every time I go back I see something different and more amazing than the prior trip.

Photographer or not, Africa is a place everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

Rescuing an Elephant

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, Wild life.

I actually wrote this about a week ago, but I am just able to get proper internet to upload it.

I am so glad to finally be in the Mara, sitting in front of my beautiful Safari tent, taking a mid day break, just relaxing and listening to the beautiful sounds of Africa. This is an experience everyone should have, at least once in life. I have been fortunate to experience this many times in the past 6 years and it is still just as fantastic as the first.

It has been hard to post from the field, but hope to have more ready soon, so when I get back into Nairobi, I can just upload them.

After about 2 weeks, I was finally able to get out of Nairobi. The team headed to East Tsavo to meet with the senior warden. From there we headed to Salt Lick, a private reserve, for some fieldwork, mainly desnaring. When we arrived, we were notified of a buffalo with a snare around its leg and waited for the vet to arrive. However, when the vet arrived from the David Sheldrick Wildlife trust (the organization that runs the elephant orphanage) we discovered it was actually an Elephant with a wounded leg.

I was put into the vehicle with the rangers and raced out for a briefing, before they proceeded with darting the elephant.  It was one of the most thrilling experiences; one of the many I have had through the lens of my camera. Even with the debriefing, it was a challenge to photograph. It was the perfect time of day, the beautiful golden light was lurking, but the elephant went down in the wrong direction, and I thought it best not to ask if we had time to shift him.

I have included a few graphic images, but thought it was important to the story and the dedication of the team in helping this amazing free roaming animal.

Darting an Elephant

The dart is on the left side.

Getting ready to pull the elephant to it’s side







Falling to it’s side


Keeping him cool


Cleaning the wound




Spraying antiseptic


Preparing to revive him














Since my arrival in Africa I have witnessed  the great work David Sheldrick Wildlife trust organization.  The work they do is amazing and I can stand behind telling you that the funds they receive are used for the purpose in which they are donated. To learn more, visit their website,

The challenges of Africa

by Piper & filed under Africa, Blog, Wild life.

First I wanted to say, it has been too long since my last post. I thought I would be sharing a post with all of you at least twice a week, but the realities of working in a developing country have greatly come into play.  I think it took me about 5 days to sort out the unlocked black berry that I brought with me. I will share details in a separate post. It was another week before I discovered that you could buy a modem, that looks like a flash drive,  put a sim card in it, load it with air time and instantly be on line anywhere there is cell phone service. This actually covers the vast majority of Kenya, even the remote area’s. This is a huge development since my last visit to Kenya two years ago. However,  it  can become expensive quite quickly, so I am using my black berry for  Face Book, Twitter, and one of my email accounts (but not my main email as I can’t yet figure out how to get mac. Mail on the Black Berry). I have been on Twitter,  and Facebook almost everyday, and I  encourage you to follow me on both for news on events as they are happening.

.Now add in multiple miscommunications, and extreme disorganization. You never quite know what the plan is, even though you  may have had a conversation about it 10 mins ago,  and where you think you are going and where you actually arrive can be quite different. This is the real Africa, off the beaten path.

I have been in a different place about every 3 days, and just returned from 5 days in the bush, and have a little time to post this and work on the next. Nimechoka ( I am tired in swahili)

While in Nairobi, 2 weeks ago,  I was invited to the Elephant orphanage and to see the feeding which starts at 11:00. I know many photographers that would have turned down the opportunity because by 11:00 the light is getting very harsh in Africa, but don’t miss and experience because the light is bad. It is though my lens that I have had some of the greatest moments in my life. So go, shoot, be in the moment and if you don’t get a great images from it, it is only pixels, but the experience maybe priceless. Watching these baby elephants play in the mud was great.  Knowing the light was not going to be the best, I actually decided to take my 500, which I had to hand hold, and I was planning to shoot tight and then possibly create a sepia series using Nik Silver effect and Color Effects to create the look that you see in my Wild on earth gallery. However, the sun really brought out the color of the beautiful red  earth of Africa.

Eyes to the soul

Mudd Play

African Earth

Also, don’t forget to be so caught up in the moment that you missing seeing other interesting things going on around you. When I looked up from the elephants I noticed this beautiful woman in the crown and a ranger on his Iphone! Talk about contrast.