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Through the Lens: An EPIC Journey to Africa


Imagine waking up with a Kenyan monkey a few yards from your tent.  As it nimbly climbs a tree you quickly take out your camera and – snap! -, you’ve captured its wistful gaze and brown gleaming eyes. EPIC’s general manager, James Owen, traveled more than 20,000 miles in the quest for perfect photographs. James went with his mom, dad, and sister, and brought his Canon EOS 50D camera with three interchangeable lenses.

The Itinerary:

  • Saint Louis to Chicago then on to London,
  • London to Johannesburg.
  • Johannesburg to Zimbabwe (for Victoria Falls) then back to Johannesburg.
  • On to Nairobi and out to The Mara
  • Nairobi to Johannesburg, London then Chicago and finally back to Saint Louis.

Miles Traveled: Round trip just under 20,000 miles

Duration: 18 days


Favorite Meal: “At The Mara, our meal took place under lanterns. It was dark and they had lanterns hanging from trees. It was my favorite because of the setting.”

Favorite Animal to Photograph: “The cheetahs because we got to see them hunt and travel around throughout the day.”

Favorite Moment: “When we arrived at the Mara we landed at the dirt airstrip and came out and we were surrounded by animals everywhere. It was really neat to have that be our first experience.”

Trip Concerns: “Our only real concern was that we were to leave Kenya the day after they had their national elections. In the past they have been known to have riots and violence in the streets following elections. However, our timing worked out because they had not yet announced the winner.”

Trip Recommended for: Someone who wanted to see the wide variety of animals in their native environment. Excellent for photographers interested in capturing animals in their natural habitat.

LionOwen focused on capturing details and safari animal expressions in his photos. He took nearly 4,000 photos  throughout the course of his 18 day trip to South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe. James wanted to find way to capture the motion and expressions of the animals from the safari vehicle.

“In the vehicle it could be difficult to always capture the  action shots I wanted of the animals. But I was pleased in terms of what we were able to see. Our guides were good, they were patient with me taking pictures and they were knowledgeable. They would listen for the clicks of his camera to stop before moving to the next location.”

“On our two safaris we stayed at camps that are inside the safari landscapes,” said James.  In South Africa, they stayed at Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa.  This reserves includes public access section where the main outside area has a fence around it and paved roads so anyone can drive through it. This public space is connected to another part called Sabi Sands, a private game reserve.

“You can only go on the land that you own, so the safari company traveled on the land they owned within that portion, no paved roads. There were a lot fewer people and much less traffic,” James said.

In South Africa the camp was small, with only four-to-six other people. They were served traditional South African meals. “I was worried about the food, but it was fantastic,” said James.

James and his family then ventured to see Victoria Falls, at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is also called Mosi-oa-Tunya – which means “smoke that thunders” – and is claimed to be the largest water fall in the world. It is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

“Zimbabwe was unique, a more rural setting.  The people were friendly and the falls were beautiful. We stayed there for three days at a local hotel,” said James.

After visiting Victoria Falls, they moved on to Kenya.

In Kenya they stayed in The Mara, a large game reserve in Narok County, Kenya.


“Up there you reach your camp by a small airplane and each camp has a small dirt landing strip that you land in,” said James.  “So we stayed in tents, but they were really nice tents. You had netting to zip. I didn’t put on a drop of bug-spray the whole time and never had problems. It was toward the end of the dry season, which helps.”

The Kenyan camp was a larger camp with about 20-24 people.

“Everyone was on their own schedule at these camps. So you’d get there and then someone would be leaving and someone else arriving,” said James. “When we went out on these rides sometimes it would just be my family and other times more people.”

James considers the trip a great success. The only draw back to the whole trip was the flight home, but that’s just because O’Hare was busy.  “The only delay the whole trip was the return flight from Chicago to Saint Louis,” said James.

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