Thursday, June 9, 2016

Greater Kruger at its best

The legendary Kruger National Park is undeniably one of Africa's greatest wildlife destinations. It really offers everything from some of the most informative and exciting wilderness trails to game lodge experiences without rival. Regardless of ones interests, it is sure to deliver. We have hosted a safari to some of the premium lodges in the area namely Londolozi and Singita Lebombo. Although within the same region these two properties are significantly different and offers some of the best wildlife out there.  

Our first stop was Londolozi and upon arrival, we basically encountered all of the big and charismatic animals, the highlight being a pride of seven lionesses feeding on a day old dead buffalo, a great  portent of what was to follow over the next few days. The total tally of lions alone was 44 animals while we encountered no less than 7 individual leopards.
Increasingly under threat of poaching White Rhino in the Mopani scrubland.  
Thanks to the very active and effective anti-poaching activities whithin the conservancies White Rhino populations are still stable and we were lucky to encounter a few of them.  
A large female leopard emerges from the shadows. 
Londolozi is known for its pioneering work on Leopard habituation and now offers a world class experience with the most elusive of the big cats. This female is reputedly related to the original mother leopard that was initially habituated to game viewing activities in the 70's.

Highly skilled and professional trackers and guides ensures safe yet exciting viewing.
Part if a group of 14 lions of the Shishangaan pride, a single lioness splits off briefly for an afternoon drink in the Nwanetsi River.
Next stop was Singita Lebombo. This private concession on the very eastern corner of Kruger National Park and straddles the Lebombo mountain range on the border of Mozambique. What leds additional appeal is the meandering Nwanetsi river.  With current drought South Africa is really affecting wildlife and wildlife areas tremendously. Although disturbing to see, one still has to keep in mind that this is a natural process that also contributes to wildlife population control. Wildlife viewing can actually be very good during these dry conditions. Watercourses such as the scenic Nwanetsi river is an artery of life and attracts large numbers of grazers while predators follow shortly behind. The Lebombo concession is known for its large lion prides. The Shish pride, for instance split up into ten and 17 animals respectively with four large males ranging over both subgroups.

A young male lion of around 3 years strolls towards us at the break of day. 
And within the Shish pride lurks one of the most enigmatic of African mammals currently to be seen on the continent. A white lion. As luchk would have it we didn't find this rare individual until our second last day. But what a great sighting we had once we located the pride. The arresting vision of a lions glare through unusual blue eyes is something to experience. Words fail hopelessly.

With only three known wild white lions in the world, all of them within Greater Kruger, its a sight never to be forgotten.  

A playful moment. 

And finally, just to show that it doesn't have to be rough out there, here are some images of the exquisite Singita Lebombo Lodge. 

The main lodge with long bar area. 

Pool Area. 

Main bedroom viewed from the veranda. 
If you would like to arrange your safari to any of these destinations please contact us here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Laikipia Wilddogs

Something our of a Wilbur Smith novel - the Laikipia landscape at sunrise. 
And again we visited the Laikipia wilddogs. As you know, wilddogs are one of our favorites (just look at our logo!) because of the fact that they are always doings something and offers some of the most action packed photographic safaris. Disaster struck last years litter when the alpha female died at the time the puppies were still in the den. This is indeed very sad as each litter of these endangered animals is a valuable contribution to the dwindling population numbers. But they bounced back this year in a very unusual way. Wilddogs are known for the fact that only the alpha male and female pair breeds. The others on the pack, all being closely related aunts, uncles or siblings from earlier litters, all contribute to raise the genetically close puppies. Ever heard of Blood is thicker than water? Anyway, this year we not only saw puppies but remarkably, two females gave birth 6 weeks apart. this very unusual event produced great behavioral viewing, especially with the pups interacting amongst one another, always leaving the younger ones as bully victims. Below a selection of images from our safari.

On the ground getting eye level images of the inquisitive pups. 

And here is the result. 

One of the younger pup of the group. 

Three playful pups coming towards us. Remarkable to think that images like this is quite standard for Laikipia Wilderness. 
First light and the dogs are scanning the area for prey.

Mount Kenya as silent witness to this timeless scene. A babysitter always remains with the pups. The demanding pups had not even finished their meal when the adults return to the hunt. You can see one dog disappearing into the distance in the top, right corner of the image. 

This was the best kill scene I ever photographed. Close-up views of two age-groups of pups on an impala kill. 

Happy photographers with the beautiful Laikipia landscape in the background. No they were not paid to smile in the photo. 

Photographers in action. The great open vehicles of Laikipia Wilderness offers a wide selection of photographic angles. 


We will be hosting more trips in 2017 and if you wish to join one of these, please contact us here.

Botswana - Makgadigadi and Central Kalahari

The sight that greeted us from the air, Clouds reflecting of the ancient lake's surface.
It was with great excitement that I received the request to go to the Makgadigadi Pans in Botswana during the wet season. This is one of the most dramatic, isolated and in my opinion, exciting places in Africa. On the edge of this ancient inland lake is Jacks Camp, one of the most surprising camps in Africa. This destination is certainly for the safari connoisseur. At first glance, it's not an obviously wildlife filled destination and for someone who is purely after the big stuff my leave empty handed. However once you start scratching the salty surface of this remarkable place, an array of interesting wildlife starts showing itself.    

Jacks Camp is one of the best places to see habituated Meerkats in the world.  
If there are a few animals that everyone should try and see at least once in their life, Meerkats will be among them. At a parr with the Gorilla trekking in East Africa, The great Migration or the big cats of the Sabie Sands, spending a morning with these endearing animals will remain etched in ones mind forever. As one of the guests put it so eloquently "Now I know exactly how Gulliver must have felt."
The Meerkat family getting ready for the days foraging
Undoubtedly one of Africa’s most endearing animals, I can honestly not think of anyone who is not totally in love with them. They are the stars of classic Disney animations movies, the face of international add campaigns and the mascot of cellphone companies and even has their own reality show that makes the Kardashians look pale. People just love them! But unlike many stars of the silver screen, their real life personas are exactly as they are when the camera’s start rolling.  Some destinations have habituated groups of Meerkats to the presence of people which allows for unparalleled insights into their daily lives. Jack's Camp offers the best.

The unusual green surrounding of the Makgadigadi pans.
Although we were not expecting to see lions at this destination, when a group of females and large cubs were seen at daybreak one morning we took our chances to catch up. What a magnificent experience seeing these big cats out on the open terrain next to the pans, especially when the pride erupted in a bout of play in early morning light.  

Lions at play in the early morning light

Truly remarkable to view lion on the edge of the pans, something we didn't expect.
Early intrepid explorers such as John Chapman who braved the harsh waterless terrain en route to Victoria Falls camped on the edge of Nxai pan. He was accompanied by Thomas Baines who painted these trees on the edge of Nxai Pan. Today they have changed little in appearance since the original painting in 1862.  The cloudy conditions of the day actually made for great landscape images, especially when converted to black and white.  

Legendary Baines Baobabs where a host of historic explorers camped out.
Below are a few images of the really cool Jack's Camp.

A definite first for me to take a photo of a loo. But yes, you read correct. The coolest loo in Africa!
Jack's Camps Lounge. 

A tented pool!! Imagine stepping off the teak floors onto the salty crust of the ancient salt pan!!
Stopping for an early morning photo session on the pans. 

The laziest lions in the world. Three days of this!!!
We tend to share all the great wildlife moments. In reality, as anyone who spends time with wildlife knows, this is not always the case. Wildlife, and especially the big cats, can spend hours inactive each day. But these two lions beat all records. For three days we visited them and in all that time had hardly moved 200 meters, and that at time no one saw the "action". So I think its only fair that we also share this with you all. 

Piper pan in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Mark and Delia Owens put the Central Kalahari on the map and ever since reading their evocative Cry of the Kalahari wanted to visit this place. Piper Pan on the western edge of Deception Valley encapsulated the supreme beauty of the area. This images was taken as we departed the area one afternoon. I'll definitely be back and if you want to join me just click here

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wildlife Photography - Mala Mala

This is now my second trip to Mala Mala in a week. The southern African spring has settled in over the lowveld and temperatures were in the early 30's upon arrival. Birds are in full breeding swing and many of the migrants have arrived already, the most noticeable being the cuckoos which can easily be identified by call. Klaas's, Diedericks, African Black, Red-chested, African and even a Thick-billed cuckoo have been recorded. It is just the Woodland Kingfishers which haven't yet arrived but will probably announce their presence in around three weeks from now. Although conditions were overcast for much of our time we did manage to see wildlife of all shapes and forms, something Mala Mala prides itself in. Again, several individual leopards were seen, (sometimes more than one individual in a single sighting), Lions, Elephants, Buffalo and White Rhino as well as African Wilddogs making this the second trip in a row where all the big five as well as Wilddogs were seen!
Due to the overcast conditions, lowlight nocturnal photography was at the order of the day. Below follows a few images of a great interaction we were privileged to observe.  

The Bicycle crossing male staring intently at the approaching Island female's approach, at this stage still unseen by us.
The first drive delivered a Large male leopard, known as the Bicycle crossing male (named after the area he has his territory in) on an Impala kill. Initially the photography wasn't great due to the dense foliage and very bright sky behind the cat but we decided to wait it out. Incredibly though, a report came through of a female, the Island female, only a few hundred meters away on the opposite side of the river.

First glance as the female enters the arena again from the shadows in the hope to regain some of her kill.  
Spending a few minutes with her as she lazed on the riverbank we practiced the shutter fingers until she got up and started out for the night. Hoping that the big male on the kill will be more photogenic we returned to the Bicycle crossing male. In True Mala Mala style we hardly settled in when the female arrived on the scene. Turns out that she was the one who made the kill which the male then appropriated. Now she returned to the kill site hoping to regain access to her hard won dinner.

Upon the female's approach the male positioned himself at a fork in the tree where all access is cut off to the kill - all against the backdrop of a rising moon. 
 The male however would have none of that and upon her arrival moved from his very comfortable perch to a spot where he would prevent any access to the last remaining meat. This all with a beautiful almost full moon rising behind the drama.

All the while a spotted Hyena lurks below.
And the ever present Spotted hyena lurking below hoping for a gift from above.

Photo notes: 

Some of my thoughts regarding photography I shared with the guests on safari which I think photographers may find useful. First and foremost I tried to tell a story with the images. Thus the images that were chosen in the first place had to tell a story. Importantly each image had to fit in with the rest of the images in terms of look and feel but also as a whole contribute to the story. The intent stare of the male leopard for instance tied in with the ghostlike image of the female appearing in the shadows. Secondly I deliberately chose the side lit, darker images as I wanted to communicate the ghostlike atmosphere of sitting in this remarkable sighting as well as the top predators that is so well adapted to life at zero light.

What I would have liked are the following. Getting more than one animal in a composition and hopefully get some sort of interaction. Then of course to be able to spend more time over a few days at the scene either prior to- or afterwards. But we had only arrived on that day and the action was all done the next day.  

The very impressive sight of five large male lions  on a buffalo kill. 
Over the next three days we literally saw everything in abundance and space just will not allow for more images. Another highlight I'd like to share though was the very last morning when we followed up on a buffalo killed by two lionesses the previous day. In stead of two lionesses we encountered five large male lions on the kill. Trespassing into others territory they were somewhat nervous and kept on looking into the west where the roars of the resident pride could be heard. When the local pride came too close, the coalition of five's nerves gave in and they headed for safer territory. But on their way to safer territory they found a lame waterbuck, which they killed!!

Nature is totally unapologetic. Its graphic but its nature.

Images on safari: 

Having fun on drive

Photographing a leopard in great light.

Getting ready for the next round of wildlife. 
A leopard walks past the vehicle close enough to touch. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Guest Images - Jackie Strong

I met Jackie in 2014 on a safari to Nakuru, Maasai Mara and Laikipia. We hit it off immediately and had a great two weeks in the bush. Obviously the combination of her absolute love of Africa and photography made it even easier as we had so much in common. Laying down and mastering the basics of photography on the first trip, we took it further on the second safari to Mashatu, the Timbavati  and Mala Mala.  I get a great kick out of seeing someone's photography develop and am happy (and quite proud) to present a small selection of her images from the last safari. 

Our first safari together in the Maasai Mara. Except for photography the best thing on safari...sundowners!!
Elephant in the Majale River in Mashatu

Textures of a Leopard against a fallen Nyalaberry tree in Mashatu.
Early morning Rhino which three rangers managed to miss and eventually found by Jackie.
Getting Creative with Elephant at night.

Combining artificial and natural light during the "blue hour" just before darkness overtook the scene. 

A young male giving some attitude in great afternoon light
From the guest book, I leave you with Jackie's comments from her trip:

Albie and I met last year through the recommendation of the travel agent who had organised my trips to Africa for several years.  I was a happy snapper of African wild life with. pretensions to be better,  Albie was a professional photographer and wild life guide based in South fAfrica - a match made in heaven and so it proved.  I sometimes don't  recognise my own photographs now.   He has patiently and clearly walked me through an improvement programme and we had fun whilst doing it.  I am now on my second safari with Albie, my  photographic technique has improved and I would recommend his services unreservedly.".