Friday, December 14, 2018

Mala Mala Private photographic safari.

We several encounters with this Female and two of her cubs. 
The brief was to photograph leopards. While there are many places that offers superb leopard sighting if one has to choose a single destination it must be Mala Mala. We saw 12 individual leopards in total, once 4 in one sighting, a mother two cubs and a large male, presumably dad!

Privileged tender moments with a leopard family. 

The image from the sighting above. 

Mala Mala have pioneered private ecotourism during the 50’s and over more than 6 decades in business have only grown from strength to strength. The reserve is superbly located, stretching for more than 20 kms along both sides of the wildlife-rich Sand River. The guides are all well trained and experienced and offer a great quality wildlife experience. Hence the consistently great sightings.

One of the cubs looking intently at a large male (possible dad) in the distance. 

On a personal note I thought that the lodge’s off-road protocol is unmatched. When heading into the bush off the main road, the vehicle is put in low range. This not only allows for a comfortable ride but also reduces the vehicles speed, which eliminates any rush, and should the car hit an aardvark hole it will enter “graciously”, again eliminating any bumps and bruises or cameras and other gear banging to the ground.   
An 8 week old lion cub being playfully harassed by its three month old cousin.

Premium quality sightings at Mala Mala. Here a pack of rare and endangered African Wilddogs strolls past. 
Rare and endangered African Wilddogs. 

While we were of course aiming our lenses at the big cats other wildlife are prolific. We found a pack of endangered African Wilddogs on our first morning and White Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo were also encountered on numerous occasions. Given the time of year (November) birdlife was also abundant with numerous migrants already retuned for the southern African summer.

Juvenile Bateluer. 

Below are a few more images to give one an idea of the quality as well as frequency of sightings.

This young female reputably became independent at a very age when her mother died. Here, spotlit up a tree in the early evening she makes for a great monochrome image.  

Portrait of a cub in very low-light conditions. 

Mom snarling at a prowling Spotted Hyena underneath.

A spotlight from a nearby vehicle positioned at an angle creates great mood. 
Leopard nr 12. A large male during early afternoon. 

A lioness moving a cub. 
Camp has recently gone through a refurbishment and the rooms now boast a modern look while still maintaining the camps authentic and historic feel. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Webster Safari - South African Lowveld

The Websters with Albie Venter
My wife, 23 year old daughter and I have just enjoyed a seamless eight night visit to the greater Kruger organised through Africa Unlocked.

Our brief was for six nights Safari where the quality of the guides and trackers was important and with a couple of nights at the end to relax whilst getting in some birding.  The ability to participate in Bush Walks and to go off road in vehicles was also important as was “small and select camps” as opposed to bigger, perhaps more commercial ones.

One of four leopard separate Leopard sightings, this one whilst at Senalala.
After a warm greeting on arrival at Hoedspruit Airport by the principles of Africa Unlocked, Albie and Freda Venter we had a smooth 60 minute transfer to our first lodge, Senalala.  Very comfortably appointed, HJ our guide and tracker in one took us in hand and gave us a marvellous four outings including a Bush Walk tracking lion.  On the first drive we had a beautifully lit female Leopard with her Impala supper, on our second we got in and amongst a playfully minded pack of Hunting Dogs now designated Painted Wolves.

African Wilddogs or Painted Wolves
On our third day in country we had a 40 minute transfer to Umlani Bush camp, also in the Timbivuti private concessions of the greater Kruger.  Umlani was certainly more rustic and could accommodate 16 guests so slightly larger than Senalala but very comfortable and extremely friendly staff.  We loved the atmosphere and the odd wild animal walking through the camp added to the “Bush” feeling though the Honey Badger visiting the dining area (after dinner) was much talked about the next day.  

Jordan and Islief at Umlani - in expert safe hands. 
A must was a night in the tree house overlooking a watering hole.  A fabulous experience intensified by six lions parked up beneath us territorially calling all night.  Not much sleep with the noisy neighbours but a great dinner party story for months to come. 

Male and female lion asleep in front of the treehouse where we spent a night.
The rains were late this year (November ’18) so we were dealing with very hot weather which made it difficult to rest up properly during the day between game drives or sleep that well at night.  So at the end of the six day safari experience we were ready for a little R&R to recharge the batteries before returning back to grizzly Brexit never alone the UK weather.  Umvangit near Hoedspruit provided the most amazing environment.  Home of the Geldenhuis family the hospitality, wine and food they provided was five star and so personable.  The quality of the build and attention to detail was faultless and the setting breath taking. 
Umvangati House
Our thirty six hours at Umvangati besides true relaxation included a boat trip on the Blyde Dam and walks along trails in the Blyde River Canyon doing a little “birding”. A perfect way to conclude a fabulous all too short trip.  Our sincere thanks to Africa Unlocked for interpreting the brief and delivering a perfect mix and blend of experience.  Five star recommendation and we will be back !