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Klaserie River Sands

Written by: Michael Finn

On Friday, 14 November 2014, I suffered a major heart attack which left me with a 1% chance of survival. For the next five weeks I lay in a coma while my family and friends wondered if I’d survive or die, and even if I did pull through, whether or not I would have any brain power. After all, it had taken 40 minutes of CPR to revive me, so there was a strong possibility that I would be unable to function as a normal human being. But survive I did, and on Christmas Day I was released from hospital. The long road to recovery had begun.

In January I started a ‘Bucket List’ and at the top of my list was a wildlife photographic safari to Kenya’s Maasai Mara – a dream that seemed impossible to many at this early stage of the long road back to health and fitness. But I was determined to succeed in my quest, regardless of any obstacle – real or imagined – that was placed in my way.

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After months of rehab, and against the advice of many who said it would take at least two years to be in any kind of fit state to undertake such an adventure, I set off (alone) to Kenya on 28th October 2015. The dream was about to become a reality.

I flew to Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi where I got a taxi (through awful traffic with the worst driving I’ve ever seen) to Wilson airport and finally, after a 25-minute flight in a 12 seater airplane, I arrived at Ol Kiombo Airstrip in the Maasai Mara. Could this really be true? Or was I still dreaming? I had to pinch myself to check. Yes, it was true. I had arrived at the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.

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For the next nine days I photographed many species of animals that I had only ever dreamt of seeing in the wild, and I learned quite a lot about their behaviour in the process. I had a wonderful driver/guide, named Petro Naurori, whose knowledge and skill were major factors in helping me to get the shots I wanted.

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Having completed the first item on my bucket list, I now need to focus on items two and three – a book and exhibition based on my experience. But before I do, I need to return to the Mara as there are one or two gaps I still need to fill in if my story is to be complete. This trip was not only a childhood ambition fulfilled, or a bucket list item ticked off, but it was a truly life changing experience in a year of life changing experiences.

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