The huntress of Namiri Plains

By Asilia Africa | 28 July 2021

Earlier this year we partnered with James Lewin an internationally recognised fine art wildlife photographer and avid conservationist. James and his galleries are working together to promote positive change by directly giving back 20 percent of each sale price to benefit the very animals within the frames. Since 2018, James has partnered with like-minded businesses and hopes to extend his programme by continuing to use his photography as a tool to raise vital funds for conservation efforts across Africa.


Photo credit: James Lewin / @james.lewin_photography

James's mission was to find big cats, in their natural habitat, set in the pristine plains of the Serengeti. His aim was to photograph the regal cheetah, showing off the world's fastest land animal and Africa's most endangered big cat. With his interest in cheetahs specifically, we believed that introducing James to our friend and Positive Impact partner, the Serengeti Cheetah Project would be the perfect marriage of striking imagery and years of research and knowledge.

James was taken by the foundation, and with their values and vision aligning with his own, it was only natural we extended the partnership. James felt strongly about raising awareness and funds for this project and the cheetah. He agreed to dedicate 20 percent of the sales from a select cheetah image captured on his trip to the Serengeti Cheetah Project. James markets this select along with his other prints from the trip at his partnering art galleries in the United Kingdom and the United States

Knowing James’s mission it was only natural for us to host him at our camp Namiri Plains a haven for big cats. For 20 years, the grasslands surrounding Namiri Plains were closed off to people and tourism. This was done to encourage and support the growth of declining cheetah populations and conduct vital research for identifying why the most elegant of cats is on a quiet road to extinction. Through extensive research done by the Serengeti Cheetah Project, we have learnt that cheetahs are perhaps the least adaptive to shrinking habitats of the big cats because larger predators put them and their cubs at significant risk.

James spent just over a week at Namiri Plains, guided by our resident guide Sebastian, who James says is one of the best guides he has ever had! Having a private vehicle and dedicated guide allowed James to have a very successful week, encountering 19 different cheetah and a super pride of lion. Sebastian's knowledge of the area and identifying where to go at different times of day to find the big cats were a necessity to capture the essence of the African cheetah. 

James tells us about the exact moment when he found the perfect cheetah to photograph, which resulted in the iconic image, now in both galleries, named "The huntress of Namiri".  

"We found this female cheetah on the hunt, searching for her next target. However, the moments in nature with an element of calmness and silence are what I search for. At the time, it feels as if time has been paused, with nothing else existing but me and the subject. At this very moment, I am totally connected and can make the image. These few and far between moments pass by in a matter of seconds, but to me, they feel like minutes that stay with me forever as memories and in photographs. Termite mounds are dotted across the vast plains of the Eastern Serengeti, providing the perfect vantage point for cheetahs on the hunt, but they also form an idyllic stage for intimate portraiture that assists in an undisturbed connection". 

The huntress of Namiri Plains 

Photo credit: James Lewin / @james.lewin_photography

Asilia's photographic vehicle 

Our photographic safari vehicle was the ideal tool for capturing the cats, allowing James to frame this cheetah perfectly. Our photography vehicles can accommodate three photographers (and their equipment) as well as one additional guest.

The vehicle has drop-down sides for photographers to lie down and get low angle photographs. Three 360º swivel seats, one per “row” — the seats also lean right back if required. Only front and back bars to hold up the roof provides less obstruction of the view for photography. Beanbags and foam camera rest (photographers advised to bring their own tripods) and all the usual Asilia vehicle kit of a fridge, charging points, and roll down sides for bad weather.

 

Friend of Asilia and Positive Impact partner, the Serengeti Cheetah Project

The Serengeti Cheetah Project is an Asilia Positive Impact partner. They have been operating for over 30 years and are a part of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). This dedicated project monitors and studies fluctuations in birth and survival rates of cheetah, which leads to predicting the future of cheetah numbers in other parts of their range, as well as providing valuable insight into the challenges facing cheetah, recognising the best possible solutions to reduce these conflicts, and resulting in the conservation of this elegant species.

James spent an afternoon with Dennis, the Project Coordinator from the Serengeti Cheetah Project who shared their project objectives, data collection and entry methods for the identification process of cheetah. Interestingly the researchers can identify each cheetah just by their unique spot pattern on their flanks and through this are able to share the cats’ stories with the guests.

For cheetah to have a future, we have a lot of work to do in putting them on a stage for the world to see how threatened they have become. James hopes that his portrait will raise awareness for our fastest land mammal and support The Serengeti Cheetah Project. Their dedicated research can lead to a fine-tuned conservation strategy to better protect cheetah across Africa as we advance into a more uncertain future.

Photo credit: James Lewin / @james.lewin_photography

Big cat haven, Namiri Plains

Namiri Plains has been designed to maximise views of the water source in front of the camp. Its 10 elegant and spacious tents — each with its own veranda and private outdoor bath — provide the perfect setting from which to watch the wildlife that congregates here to drink.

The camps is one of the few locations in the eastern Serengeti with a permanent underground water source, resulting in excellent game viewing. The seasonal riverbed is where plains game, such as zebra, Coke’s Hartebeest or reedbuck, come to quench their thirst, making it an ideal spot for viewings. It’s no surprise that predators have cottoned on to this, too. When the Great Migration moves into the area, the plains explode into action, with massive herds heading south to calve, followed by the big cats that prey on them.

We would love to welcome you and have you explore this incredible corner of the Serengeti with us. Namiri Plains flaunts an information centre, pool, spa, and many more enticing inclusions making this the perfect destination for any safari lover.


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