Meet the photographer who's stuck on a reserve in Kenya, and loving it

‘I’m stranded… and it’s a dream come true’: Meet the wildlife photographer who’s stuck on a game reserve in red-list Kenya and loving having the run of the place to shoot stunning photos

  • Felix Rome, from Salisbury, has been stuck at Governors’ Camp in the Masai Mara since March this year 
  • The 24-year-old, from Salisbury, had travelled to Kenya to be the camp’s resident photographer
  • He said that while he misses his friends and family, ‘I’ve got pictures I’ve been dreaming of since a young boy’

For most travellers, being stranded miles away from home during a global pandemic is the stuff of nightmares – but not for this wildlife photographer.

Felix Rome, from Salisbury, has been stuck at Governors’ Camp in the Masai Mara in Kenya since March this year shortly before the country was added to the UK’s red list. He can’t afford to go home and quarantine and can’t get a vaccine, as Kenya has a shortage. Yet the situation for him is a ‘dream come true’. 

He has the run of the reserve and is spending his days getting up close and personal with wonderful wildlife – lions, leopards, hippos, elephants and crocodiles – and taking pictures he’s been hoping to capture since a young boy.

The 24-year-old told MailOnline Travel, from his tent while watching a herd of elephants: ‘I’ve spoken to my family and said I might be here until 2022. I am torn because I miss my family and friends, but it’s a dream come true out here. I’m the only photographer driving around taking photos. I go out and I’m the only one with a pride of lions.

‘I can see a lion every day if I want to and it’s just me. They are so unafraid of the car because they haven’t seen many for a long time, so everything gets much closer than normal as well. As a photographer, it’s a dream come true and I’ve got pictures I’ve been dreaming of since a young boy.’ 

He added: ‘I have missed some sad events [at home], which was quite hard, but you have to roll with it and I don’t know if this is ever going to happen again. I want to make the most of every single minute. I’m slightly torn because I want these camps to have business and money coming through, but at the same time I’m loving the fact it’s so quiet.’ Scroll down to see some of the incredible shots he’s captured in ‘captivity’… 

‘The jackal is one of my favourite animals in the Mara,’ said Felix. ‘I hadn’t spent much time around them before this trip, but they have shown me there is more to the Mara than just lions and elephants. When I watch them, I can’t help but think of the common fox back in England. The fox often eluded me in the English countryside, but the jackal is much keener to have its photo taken. This little guy was very inquisitive and to my delight took a path through the long grass towards me. The Mara right now has very long grass which makes it difficult to photograph the smaller mammals. But this jackal knew of my struggle and decided to walk in a perfect path with no grass in the way’

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‘Ever since I arrived in the Mara I’ve had a fascination with hippos,’ said Felix. ‘The way they break out in fights, seemingly over nothing or yawn as a sign of intimidation – they have always intrigued me. You never know what you’re going to get when you watch hippos. They could be completely quiet, no noise, no mess, no fuss, but other times there could be a huge squabble that goes on for seemingly no reason’

‘Nature isn’t always pretty,’ said Felix, commenting on this image. ‘It’s ruthless sometimes and can be upsetting.’ He explained that before he shot this image he received a text saying ‘come outside tent 3, something crazy is happening’. He continued: ‘I was awake for less than five minutes before witnessing a sad sight. A baby hippo had been caught by an enormous male crocodile. The mother got out of the water to inspect her child. She wanted to see if it was still alive and worth saving. She did this a few times before moaning in distress and anguish for her lost child. Many hours passed before another, smaller crocodile arrived on the scene and the meal commenced’

‘Elephants make you feel small, no matter how tall you are,’ said Felix. ‘When you have a large bull elephant staring you down (as seen in this image), you feel insignificant. They could squash you with ease. There is something about them that makes you want to watch them for hours. They move with such grace that you wouldn’t think they could be harmful at all. But if push comes to shove, they are the most powerful land animal on the planet’

‘It was apparent from the first sunrise I saw in the Mara this year, that this was the time I was going to get the photographs I have been dreaming of,’ said Felix. ‘There is something magical about watching the sunrise over vast grasslands with elephants, lions, buffalo and hippo all wandering amongst the plains. The thing that keeps me hooked on wildlife photography is the unknown. When taking this pic, I had one of those mornings where everything worked. The sunrise was stunning. A herd of elephants was in the open and a couple of lions were wandering the plains in search of food. It’s not often you get mornings like these as a photographer and you’re full by 8:30am’

“‘Cats Sleep Anywhere’ was a poem my sister learnt when she was 10,’ said Felix. ‘It rings true. Cats really do sleep anywhere. This may not be an unusual place for a leopard to sleep, but I have never seen a leopard actually posed in the “classic shot” situation before. I wanted this shot to be face to face rather than side-on. I love how the two trees provide a frame’

‘The alarm goes off,’ said Felix, ‘you get up and hop into the jeep as the pre-dawn light glows in pink and orange. Five minutes later you’re watching a herd of Elephants at sunrise. This is safari. It’s not often I see elephants in the open at sunrise. They tend to come out of the forest in the early morning so I never get them with beautiful light like this. This day was different. As the sun rose, a female posed in front of the rising sun, creating a halo effect around her head’

‘If you think you have nerves of steel, trying going face to face with a lion on the hunt,’ said Felix. ‘This image is a snapshot of a magical encounter I had with two female lions, just a few metres from me. I was lying on the floor of the jeep hanging out the side slightly to get a lower perspective. As the lions walked past, one of them shot me a glance I’ll never forget. Once they had past, my heart was pounding. You get a real appreciation of their size, power and beauty when you are on the same level and only a foot away from them’

Felix said: ‘I’ve spoken to my family and said I might be here until 2022. I am torn because I miss my family and friends, but it’s a dream come true out here’

There are seven camps in the Governors’ Camp collection, spread over five locations approximately five miles apart

Felix said: ‘The beauty of where I am is that the animals are so close, they are right around the camps’

‘I go out on a game drive every day and then edit the pictures,’ explained Felix. ‘I also sometimes do hot air balloon rides so I can get aerial shots’

‘I can move between the various camps along the river,’ revealed Felix. ‘They are all fairly close together. Each one has different animals that have taken over’

‘I always loved animals,’ said Felix. ‘I remember from when I was tiny and said I want to be a wildlife cameraman because of the David Attenborough BBC programmes. I’d go out in the woodland and wander around looking at insects and birds. I was very much a nature kid.’ Pictured is Governors’ Il Moran Camp

Felix is no stranger to wild times. He revealed: ‘I spent two months camping in the wilderness in Canada with no power, no internet and no cell phone reception. I had to wash in a river and catch salmon for dinner. I am very used to being away and out alone in the wilderness, so coming out here has been lovely as I have the luxury of a nice tent and warm water to have a nice shower, rather than washing in a freezing cold glacial river’

A lioness with three adorable cubs. Felix said: ‘I had the pleasure of following this family one morning. As the sun rose over the Mara planes the cubs skipped through the long grass. It was a magical sight’

‘I took this image in one of my YouTube videos,’ explained Felix. ‘If you’ve been watching them, you will know I love clean images, and it doesn’t get cleaner than this. This female lion was chilling on top of a termite mound in the mid-morning sun. She had a great vantage point to find her next meal. I was with her for an hour before she decided to get up and head towards the river for a drink, where she met up with friend’

‘I have been following a family of African marsh owls for the past week,’ said Felix. ‘Always a pleasure to observe an animal that’s often not seen in the Mara. It took a few days for them to get used to the jeep, but afterwards they became perfectly comfortable with my presence. I’m hoping to continue following them in the next few weeks as I would love to make a video about these beautiful owls. In England, I’m only used to seeing tawny owls and the occasional barn owl, which often are seen late at night. But with these marsh owls I was able to watch them fly around, hunt and interact with one another at sunrise and in the early morning. It has been one of my most enjoyable wildlife encounters to date’

‘Some morning safaris are better than others,’ said Felix. ‘This was a good morning. I managed to see and photograph a marsh owl at sunrise, then I found a pride of lions enjoying playtime’

‘The more time I spend on safari, the more I appreciate birds,’ said Felix. ‘I was a lover of birds when I was younger but I haven’t had that spark for a while. Until now. [Here] two long-crested eagles battle it out. I’m not sure what it was about but one swooped in and attacked the other. Long-crested eagles have risen high on my favourites list this trip. I hope to see more of them’

‘Storm clouds and a subject is a photographer’s dream,’ said Felix. ‘Having a dramatic, moody sky lifts a photo in an unusual way. Pamoja is an iconic lion here in the Mara, and she has three adorable cubs. One morning I saw her walking along the road, she was looking for her cubs. She found a termite mound and began scanning the grassland in search of the cubs. The clouds then rolled in, making for a stunning scene’

‘The Mara is famous for elephants and lions roaming vast expanses of grassland,’ said Felix. ‘The sky is enormous. Uninterrupted storm clouds roll in as shards of light pierce through the dark sky, painting the landscape. It is a magical place. One morning the clouds rolled in as a line of elephants crossed the plains. A shard of light lit the grass behind them enhancing their outline from the landscape’

‘Giraffes have always been one of my favourite animals to watch,’ said Felix. ‘They stroll gracefully across the plains, acting as moving perches for small birds. I took this image while spending a week in isolation after I arrived at camp. This group (a journey) passed by in front of my tent. I couldn’t resist getting the camera out and taking an image of these beautiful, towering animals’

‘In the early hours of the morning here in the Mara, you might be lucky enough to find a hippo roaming the grassland,’ revealed Felix. ‘They do this because it’s cooler. During the day, it’s too hot for them and their skin will dry out and burn. This male was casually feeding on a tasty tuft of grass. When they are out of the water you get new-found respect for their size, often missed when they are just poking their heads out of the water’

‘Romi the leopard is one of the most gorgeous cats I have ever seen,’ said Felix. ‘I had the privilege of spending some time with her late one evening. Leopards are a prized animal on safari. Everyone wants to see them but often don’t get the chance as they will avoid large groups of people and cars. It takes a while and a lot of searching to find a leopard, but even longer to get a good photo. Fortunately, this time, it was just us and we had the time to watch her quietly. This was one of the most memorable wildlife encounters in my life. One that will stay with me for a long time. Thank you, Romi!’

LEFT: This picture was taken during a hot air balloon trip. Felix said: ‘As we glided over the marsh, the pilot spotted what he thought was a rock, but as we got closer it was no rock. A ginormous rock python was devouring a waterbuck. I had never seen anything like it. We floated over the scene only a few metres above, providing a fantastic view. I had heard stories and seen the odd video of the behaviour, but never something as big as a waterbuck being eaten, maybe an impala. I managed to grab a photo before we floated past. That python would have taken a week to digest its grand meal.’ RIGHT: ‘Serval are undoubtedly my favourite cat in the Masai Mara,’ said Felix. ‘They remind me of mini leopards as they walk stealthily through the long grass. Some are very inquisitive and come up to the jeep, where others disappear into the long grass, never to be seen again. I’ve seen quite a lot of servals in my time, but now, with fewer people around, I have managed to get the images I’ve been wanting so much. Servals hunt by listening out for any movement in the grass. Once they’ve locked onto a target, they spring up into the air and pounce down. I am desperate to get a photo of this particular occurrence – I’ll get it one day!’

Felix said: ‘The beauty of a hot air balloon flight in the Mara is it grants you a unique perspective of the landscape. Animals that once seemed big, hide in the landscape. Flying over a pod of hippos shows you a new and interesting angle. I love hippo pods from above, you see more of them and the way they interact with their environment’

Describing this image, Felix said: ‘This image was taken on my first evening game drive after spending a week in isolation. This female lion gave us a huge yawn as she began preparing for the evening hunt’

Felix, left and right, was originally offered a three-month stint at Governors’ Camp. He said: ‘I came out here in March this year but two weeks into arriving the country went into lockdown so no one was coming in and out. I’ve been stuck in the Mara since then. It was going to be just under three months but I’m approaching nearly six’

Governors’ Camp Collection was started over 40 years ago by Aris and Romi Grammaticas. Governors’ Camp was Africa’s ‘first luxury permanent tented camp and has been a pioneer in classic safaris’. This image is of Sandra, one of the waitresses

  • To see more of Felix’s photography visit his Instagram page and website. For more on Governors’ Camp, visit

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