A lion cub peeking from behind a cactus
Behind the Cacti A lion at Loisaba Conservancy, resting behind an invasive Engelmann prickly pear bush. © Hanain Ayub

Stories in Africa

Loisaba Through a Lens

Africa Regional Photo Contest’s “People’s Choice” winner Hanain Ayub takes us on a photographic journey of Loisaba Conservancy.

“When I got the news that I had won, I was completely stunned. I immediately rushed to share the good news with my family. Their reactions were priceless, and the pride and happiness in their eyes made the moment even more special.”

That was 19-year-old student and amateur wildlife photographer Hanain Ayub’s reaction to having the winning “People’s Choice” image in Africa’s regional photo contest. Hanain won a three-day trip to Loisaba Conservancy, courtesy of Elewana Collection.

Hanain’s dad taught him photography as a way for them to spend time together, and it was his dad that Hanain chose to accompany him on this special trip. “He was the one who got me into photography, and I owe so much to him,” Hanain said. "He had never been to those parts of Kenya, and it had always been a dream of ours to visit Loisaba Conservancy to photograph leopards and other big game.”

Hanain and his dad were impressed and inspired by Loisaba's "passion and care" for the area demonstrated by the anti-poaching units, the community engagement program, sustainable land management, advanced monitoring systems, and more. 

Here, Hanain takes us behind the scenes on his journey to Loisaba in his own words:

A lion cub playing with an adult lion
Playing with Mom A playful lion cub and its mother, Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub

In the soft glow of a late evening at Loisaba, I stumbled upon a playful lion cub and his mother. The cub was clearly up to no good, while his mother, with a stern expression and sharp canines on display, seemed less than amused by his antics.

As I raised my camera to capture the moment, the cub met my gaze with a mischievous glint in his eye. It was as if he knew he was pushing his luck with his mother and was secretly proud of it. The contrast between his playful innocence and his mother's protective stance was striking.

Grevy's zebra at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya.
Peek-A-Boo Grevy's zebra at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub

Stumbling upon a group of rare Grevy’s zebras was a stroke of luck during my time at Loisaba. Among them, one zebra was playfully popping its head behind its buddy. The sight was both captivating and heartwarming.

Loisaba's expansive landscapes provided the perfect backdrop for capturing the beauty of these elusive creatures. With their striking grey coats standing out against the savanna, each zebra seemed like a masterpiece of nature's design.

An elephant at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya.
Dust Bath An elephant at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub

While exploring Loisaba, we came across a magnificent bull elephant making his way down a hill. The bull moved with a calm and relaxed demeanor, allowing us to stay relatively close without disturbing him.

As we trailed behind, he suddenly threw up a cloud of dust, which had a distinctive, almost orange, hue. The scene was mesmerizing—the dust catching the light and creating a dramatic effect around the elephant.

At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the shot—the dust obscured some of the details I had hoped to highlight. But as I reviewed it later, the image grew on me. The close-up captured the texture of his wrinkled skin, with the swirling dust adding a sense of motion and wild beauty.

A dwarf mongoose at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya.
Little Mongoose A dwarf mongoose at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub

I was relaxing on the sunbeds outside my room and soaking in the epic scenery when a flicker of movement caught my eye. Suddenly a crew of dwarf mongooses popped out. Thank the stars my camera was within arm's reach!

These little rascals were a sight to behold, scampering around like they owned the place. I managed to snap a few shots that captured their playful shenanigans.

As I lounged there, drink in hand, I couldn't help but chuckle at the unexpected joy these tiny creatures brought me. It was one of those moments that made me appreciate the simple pleasures of life—kicking back, enjoying the view, and sharing a moment of pure delight with nature's quirky side.

two giraffes looking different ways
Crossed Necks Reticulated giraffe at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub

On our way back from the airstrip in Loisaba, we came across two reticulated giraffes, their long necks reaching gracefully towards the sky. However, the sun was directly overhead, casting harsh light that isn’t ideal for photography. Determined to make the best of the situation, we decided to give it a shot anyway.

Back home, I decided to transform the image with a high key edit. By brightening the background to an almost white, I was able to eliminate the distractions and focus solely on the giraffes. The high key style added an ethereal quality to the photo, making the giraffes stand out starkly against the bright backdrop.

A small owl on a branch
In the Darkness A pearl-spotted owlet at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub

As we made our way back from dinner toward our room, the day was winding down, but the wilderness was still very much alive. Suddenly, we spotted an owl perched on a nearby branch, its eyes gleaming in the dim light.

The sight of the owl reminded me of the magic that awaits around every corner in this captivating corner of the world.

An antelope looking at the camera
Looking Back An antelope at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub
A close-up of a lion
In His Eyes A lion holds a strong gaze at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub
Looking Back An antelope at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub
In His Eyes A lion holds a strong gaze at Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya. © Hanain Ayub

Do you see what I see?

In both of these images, I was able to capture reflections in the eyes of these incredible animals. In these photograhs, the eyes mirror more than just their surroundings—they reflect a deep connection and a shared moment between human and animal.

Both of this pictures required being at the right place at the right time. One late afternoon, I heard some commotion in the bushes. As I made my way toward the noise, a head popped up to say hello. It was a female antelope. I had to fight the urge to pick up my camera and shoot knowing the shutter would spook her. I spent the better part of an hour slowly getting closer and getting them habituated to my presence. But I began to suffer from success as they got too close for my long lens. I thought I didn't come out of the encounter with much, but upon review I found some very special pictures.