Monday, October 10, 2016

Lowveld Wildlife Photography

Africa's holy grail - Pangolin

In June we hosted the first of our dedicated wildlife photography safaris in South Africa. Over the last few years, with the dramatic increase in popularity in wildlife photography there has been a proliferation of photography hides shooting up, many of which have enabled photographers the opportunity of creating dramatic new images. The hides at Indlovu River Lodge being some of the latest editions. Superbly situated within easy reach of other wildlife destinations, Indlovu offers an easily accessible location to some of the countries best designed hides situated within a 9000 hectare big-five reserve. In short Africa Unlocked offers 5 to 10 day itineraries starting at Indlovu. Here we focus on hide photography and should the group require it a wildlife photography workshop in the superbly equipped media room.
A Giraffe makes the first tentative steps towards the waterhole.

The hides (one of which is specifically designed for bird photography) in itself is something to behold. The design includes a solidly constructed concrete structure, spacious and carpeted interiors which dampens any sound and provides photographers with enough space to pack their notoriously bulky gear, comfortable reclining chairs, complimentary Gimpro camera brackets, coffee and tea station, complimentary snacks, sufficient height to stretch ones legs and, very importantly, a wide variety of abundant wildlife. I am sure you get the picture that it doesn’t get more comfortable than this when having to sit and wait for wildlife action. Our safari started out under the verdant riverine vegetation in which the lodge is situated where afternoon coffee and tea was served and then a short drive to the nearby hide. Soon a troop of baboons made an appearance as well as Impala, Nyala, Kudu and a lone giraffe male who obligingly took a drink as a dramatic sky announced the end of the day. We decided to spend the majority of our time in the mammal hide as this proved the more productive of the two. Twice Giraffe came to drink and in addition to the constant flow of antelope, birds such as Oxpecker, Mousebirds and Waxbills also put in an appearance.
And then proceeds to take a drink only meters form photographers at water level.

A female Nyala takes a drink while a baboon investigates in the background
Indlovu's accommodation options consist of a private villas, each with private pool and deck overlooking the bushveld.  
Inside one the suites

The next stop was Umlani in the Timbavati, a large private reserve open to the Kruger National Park and part of an open ecosystem of more than 2 million hectares!! The private reserves adjacent to Kruger offers photographers some of the best opportunities, notable of the big cats. Leopard, which can be notoriously difficult elsewhere are often encountered in the Timbavati and top our wish list. Who would have thought that an animal even more exciting than leopard would make an appearance. Ask any guide or serious safari enthusiast what their most sought after animal is and the name Pangolin starts flying around. Now for those of you who do not know, it superficially resembles a armadillo, just a thousand times more elusive. For me it was only the second one I ever encountered.

The Pangolin came in for a close inspection. 

This is certainly an action-packed safari and at the time of writing, trips scheduled for 2017 are already 60 % booked out. Should you wish to join us for one of the scheduled safaris or arrange a private trip please get in touch here. We only do high quality, low volume safaris. We also have agents in the UK and Europe.  

Incredible sighting as two Spotted Hyena's tackle a young Kudu

This battle-scarred old male glares straight down the camera barrels as he sets off on his nightly rounds. 
The local Spotted Hyena clan at daybreak. 
After lying up and not doing anything for the majority of the day, this young male leopard finished off his Impala kill once the sun had set. 
Out Guests saying goodbye to the lowveld after 7 days magical photography

The active lodge waterhole with the dining deck in the background.
Umlani Bushcamp offers a wonderful, close to nature experience!! 

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.