Lake Amboseli: Our Picnic With An Elephant

Susan Portnoy The Insatiable Traveler on Lake Amboseli, Kenya

Yours truly photographing the elephant. Don’t see him? Check out the teeny weeny dot to the right on the horizon

One of my favorite memories of my time in Kenya this past June was a simple picnic lunch at Lake Amboseli. Don’t let the name fool you, the water that once made up this lake dried up thousands of years ago. Today its surface is heavily veined with cracks in the sun-baked mud and sprinkled with the skeletons of animals that met their end while traversing its length.

As far as the eye could see the lake was perfectly flat and the skies overhead, utterly enormous. I felt incredibly small and insignificant in the wake of such a view and yet wonderfully at peace.

It felt like a perfect Sunday though I am pretty sure it was a Tuesday.

Elephant on Lake Amboseli, Kenya


When we arrived we hoped to find a herd of elephants or some animal but we were out of luck, save for one big bull in the distance. He was a tiny dot on the horizon but with binoculars we could see that he was moving in our direction.

We couldn’t drive to him as jeeps were not allowed in that area. Instead, we laid down some blankets for a picnic, set up our cameras and waited, hoping he’d find his way to us sooner than later.

Skeletons on Lake Amboseli in Kenya

Though he was farther away than we’d normally like to photograph anything, we were sitting there so why not? We shot without urgency and I took the opportunity to try different compositions to frame the elephant, the landscape, and the odd zebra that would come into view.

The sun against the dry lake bed radiated convection currents making it difficult to get a sharp image of the bull, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

Elephant and two zebral on lake Amboseli


Unfortunately, the bull never came as close as we would have liked, the dirt and the grass seemed to satisfy him where he grazed. He probably never knew we were there shooting his every twitch and footstep.

I, however, will remember him for a long time to come.


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