Monday, November 28, 2016

Southern Kalahari Wildlife Photography - part 1

One of the Kalahari's best exports - A Black-maned male lion.
I believe that there are few parks, if any that have produced more award-winning images that the Kalahari Transfrontier Park in South Africa. This, the first cross border, transfrontier park together with Botswana’s Kalahari National Park encompass more than 3.8 million hectares! That is twice the size of Kruger National Park, or the Serengeti! Camps are situated far from one another and it has a wonderful wilderness feel far away from any civilization. 

Our dedicated photographic safari focused solely on this region and split into two venues. The first being the Transfrontier park itself where we stayed at the wild and unfenced Kalahari Tented Camp after which we moved on to the exquisite 100 000 hectare Tswalu Kalahari Reserve.

The unfenced and wild Kalahari tented Camp
November marks the start of spring in Southern Africa and , provided one can handle a bit if heat is arguably the best time of year to travel to the Kalahari. The Auob fossil river bed is a norrow but beautifully scenic river bed. Riverbed is a misnomer so do not expect a lush riparian forest surrounding its banks. The river only flows every hundred years or so, but the ancient Camelthorns and hight dunes make this a photographers paradise. 

Giraffe in the scenic Auob riverbed. 
In addition to photographing numerous Spotted Eagle-owl chicks, (now half-grown) we also found a tiny Pearl-spotted Owlet nesting in a hole in a Camelthorn Tree.

While our aim was not necessary to focus all our energy on the big cats, close-up sightings were frequent and delivered many a photographic opportunity.

A large KalaharI Lion intently goes for a Black-backed Jackal. 
Babies are of course super little subjects and we found no less than three active Cape Fox dens, all of which having boisterous little ones present and providing endless hours of observation and photography. The best surprise was left for the last night when we located an African Wildcat den with mom and two kittens is attendance. 

Spring, being the time of new life holds the exact same promise for predators and prey alike. Although it saddens one to see a newborn youngster die at the jaws of a carnivore it’s a stern reminder of the reality of making a living in this harsh paradise. 

Making our way back to camp late one afternoon, thinking all photo opportunities have been depleted, an unusual form made a crepuscular appearance. At the edge of our vision where the approaching night meets the last remnant of daylight a Black-backed Jackal was running with a lifeless Ostrich chick dangling from its faintly blooded jaws. Sad as it seems, in all likeliness the jackal has its own pups to feed and the unlucky Ostrich chick will be readily accepted by hungry young jackals waiting at the den.

Kalahari Game Viewing. Positioning and wildlife behavioral knowledge is key to getting great shots. 

A Tawny Eagle scavenging on a Cheetah kill, in this case a Springbok.

Nothing beats a Kalahari sunset dinner. All catering was handled by Africa Unlocked
The five days here flew past way too soon but thankfully there was still Tswalu!!!

Enquire about your own dedicated photographic safari here.

Giraffe Herd in the Auob Riverbed. Image: Jackie Strong
In total we saw 18 different species of birds of prey. This Pearl-spotted Owlet was nesting in a very photogenic spot. Image: Jackie Strong.

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!!