A Salisbury-based wildlife photographer was stranded in Kenya this summer due to the pandemic, but he said: “I can’t complain, it was pretty fun.”. 

Felix Rome, 25, found himself stuck at the Maasai Mara, a large national game reserve in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya, from March until September this year after it was put on the UK’s red list. 

Originally, the plan was to head out for three months for the “first stint” of his new job as resident photographer at Governors’, the luxury safari resorts, but he ended up staying there for six.

Going solo, a wildlife photographer’s dream 

Salisbury Journal:

Felix found himself in a unique position of having the run of the reserve, as tourist numbers were significantly reduced due to the pandemic.

He said: “The Mara is quite a popular place for tourists to go because it’s beautiful, and you do get lots of different people, so the chances of seeing another vehicle are very high normally. 

“But I did a stretch of five weeks where I didn’t see another person out on safari, so it was just me with all those animals. 

“They were much more comfortable around the vehicle so they would come a lot closer and stay for longer and would generally be a lot more relaxed.

"So, you’d see these wonderful behaviours that they would normally be a lot more worried about doing.”

Close encounters of the feline kind

Salisbury Journal: The curious blue-eyed Serval. Taken by Felix RomeThe curious blue-eyed Serval. Taken by Felix Rome

Felix mentions a moment when one of his favourite animals, the Serval, which is a small wild cat, came up so close to him his camera could no longer focus on it to take the photo.

“They’re normally very shy and they won’t come very close to you at all, they might look at you and run off.

“So that’s one of those moments when you put the camera down, and I was kind of staring right into its bright blue eyes.


On whether it was a dangerous job, particularly if a bigger wild cat felt as comfortable approaching him as the Serval, Felix laughed and shrugged. 

He said: “When you’re in a vehicle you feel very safe, because you’re bigger than everybody else.

“Walking at night in the camps, that’s when you’ve got to be a bit more wary.  You can have elephants wondering, but the worst is buffalo and hippo, because they’ll just charge given the chance.

"Lions and everything, if you have a torch, just shine it around and they’ll run.”

Felix explains that lions in the area have been conditioned to be wary of humans, particularly the Maasai who also live on the reserve and Felix has built relationships with over time.

He is currently learning Swahili to be able to better communicate with the guides and his friends, which is one of the official languages in Kenya and spoken by most Maasai. 

He will head back out to the Mara at the end of October if he can get his second jab in time and has enjoyed coming back home briefly to see family. 

Felix’s childhood dream became close to his reality

Salisbury Journal: Felix Rome grew up in Winterslow. Felix Rome grew up in Winterslow.

Felix was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, but moved to Winterslow when he was four-years-old and went to schools in Andover and Dorset. 

Having always been captivated by the natural world, Felix went on to study Marine and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University in Cornwall. 

He said: “I was always one of those kids where I’d wonder the local woodland and just explore. 

“I always loved the David Attenborough shows, I was hooked, and then from a young age I always said I wanted to be a wildlife camera man which I’m not quite doing but its not far off.”

On whether he wants to pursue this early dream of going into film, Felix suggests that if he was suddenly invited to Northern Alaska to film polar bears “It would be hard to say no” but he’s much keener on teaching others to take photos, which is part of his job at Governers’.

“Part of the camp that I work at you have the option to go out with me for either a day or half a day and I can teach people how to take photos or take them for you.

"Some people just want to enjoy it. They want nice pictures to take home with them, and I like doing that for them as well because they then sit and watch and just take it all in. Then you show them the pictures afterwards and they’re amazed.”

“I’ll hopefully go into running tours as well, with groups of six and do a photo workshop for a week or ten days or something like that.”

Lions, and tigers and... grizzly bears, oh my

Salisbury Journal: Grizzly bears in Canada. Felix Rome photographyGrizzly bears in Canada. Felix Rome photography

Felix's first camera was given to him when he was around 13-years-old, a “point-and-shoot” from his dad for their family trip to the West Coast of America. 

Los Angeles and California didn’t interest Felix as much, but their short stay at Sailcone’s Grizzly Bear Lodge in British Columbia, Canada, was game changing for him.

He said: “When we went to Canada and I saw Whales and bears for the first time, I took pictures and I liked them but they weren’t very good, or the quality wasn’t very good. 

“I remember saying to the owner of this lodge, I will be back with a better camera and a better understanding of how to use it. 

“And then sure enough three or four years later I went back there, I spent two months living in the woods with a 70-year-old old man who’s lived there for thirty years and then from there I started working for this company.

"So, that’s where it really sparked.”

Felix has returned several times, working as a guide thanks to his connection to the local environment.

“I didn’t even go to my graduation because I went to Canada and did four months working out there.”

Felix once had a nail-biting encounter with a grizzly bear who charged at him when he suddenly straightened up to his fully height at 6ft7” after taking a photos of it.

“It ran and stopped a few meters in front of me and roared at me,” he said.

Felix followed all the correct steps, slowly and calmly backing away: “When I sat down afterwards, I was trembling with fear, but at the time you’ve got to be calm.” 

Unfazed by this encounter, Felix is excited about where his work will take him, and we can't wait to see what this intrepid photographer gets up to next.

Check out more of Felix Romes work on his youtube channel and website

His instagram handle is: @felixrome_

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