Tag Archives: photo safari stories

Safari Stories: From my September Photography Safaris

To Go on Safari is to Return with  Hundreds of Stories: Predator vs Prey,  Survival, and Cooperation among Wildlife

Learning to be a Leopard

The Sabi Sands Reserve is famous for its resident leopars.  Our guests were  treated to a 4 leopard afternoon game drive.

An older female leopard called – Ingrid Dam – was watching her cub (unnamed) eating an Impala kill up in a tree, it was having a difficult time eating in the tree because of the position of the kill. The Impala kill and the young cub fell out of the tree.  We knew and the leopards knew there were hyenas nearby wanting to steal this meal should the opportunity arise.  Was the mother going to come down and take the kill back  up the tree for her cub?  We watched and waited.  Though the cub seemed to be asking for help, mother decided on tough love and stayed in the tree watching  as the cub learned to drag the impala kill back up the tree.   It was a hard and physically challenging lesson to learn, but the cub had succeeded for the first time to save his meal from those who would steal it away.  The effort involved with dragging a kill up a tree is the leopard’s way of out maneuvering scavengers.

mother and cub leopard
Mother leopard is watching her cub learn to eat and manipulate a carcass up a tree
leopard in a tree with kill
The cub looses control of the dead impala and they both tumble from the tree.


leopard cub
After the cub and the carcass fell out of the tree, he looks to his mother to see if she will help take the kill back up the tree


leopard in a tree
Mother leopard watches her cub struggle to take the kill back up the tree

As New as it Gets – A Newborn Elephant

infant elephant

We were on a game drive on a private reserve near Kruger enjoying some great lions, a buffalo herd, and a leopard up a tree when we had a radio call from another safari vehicle about a great sighting.  We hurried over to find it was a newborn elephant calf.  At first we could not see the little one since the calf was hidden among the large legs of the mother, her sisters, and the herds older children.  They were all vocalizing and moving in small, strange movements as if dancing or chanting.  The mother was throwing dust on herself and the calf.  Soon the crowd parted and we could see the newborn.  Cute, wrinkly, and very unsteady on the feet, it was obvious the calf had only been standing for mere minutes.  We were very close and felt very privileged that the herd let us be this close and share their joy at the new arrival.  The calf tottered and fell a few times and we worried until the little one struggled to stand again.

Infant elephant
The infant has alot of growing to do

The next week, we had wonderful continuity when we spotted the herd again.  It was wonderful to see the infant prospering, healthy, and nursing.

infant elephant

The Unicorn of Safari Experiences: Lions Hunting Buffalo

It was our last game drive on the last day of safari and getting to be the time to turn around and head back to the lodge.  It was a great drive, but about to get even better.  We spotted several female lions concentrating on a medium sized herd of buffalo.

Lions hunting buffalo
Planning the attack – the lionesses take position at angles to the herd

It appeared the plan was to slowly move into positions around the herd to separate certain buffalo.  The lions separately made their way around the buffalo herd. Suddenly something goes wrong  – one of the lions must have blundered – and the buffalo started to run.   Wait a minute; they are not running away, they are charging the lions!  One of them was running for their life straight toward us.

Lions Hunting Buffalo
The buffalo turn on the lions and attack. The lions flee for their lives
Lions attack buffalo
The buffalo start to stampede

It is hard for lions to give up when things do not go to plan.  Some of the pride continued to run with the stampeding buffalo to see if there could still be a chance to salvage the hunt.  It was not to be.

Still, it took a long time before the lionesses could let this one go – they continued to watch the buffalo herd move out of reach.

Lions hunting buffalo
One of the Lionesses can not give up on the hunt and keeps watching the buffalo hoping for an opening

As I look through my images, my memory goes back to watching the events  unfold in front of me.  They are much more than the  best image: it is the dozen images before and after that one great image that make up the safari stories that I will tell my friends and family.  While images help to make the story real; nothing compares to having been there and witnessing it live.

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Best Moments from my Recent Safaris

My two group safaris in Limpopo started just as the season initiated its change from late summer to autumn.  The days were still warm but the nights were cooling slightly and the ample rains and vegetation were finished not to appear again until October.   Conditions were right for some really exceptional game viewing and it was indeed very memorable.  Here are some moments on safari that stood out for me.

Family Moments with a Lion Pride

We had the chance to spend time observing and photographing .  It was a great chance to watch how members interact: greeting each other, lying down together resting, the shared responsibly of leadership of the two brothers.  These were peaceful family moments where they were well fed and cubs were safe.  Contrast may present itself if we find the pride on a kill in the next few days.

photographing lions in South Africa
Female lions greet each other
two male lions in a private big 5 reserve
Lion brothers relax with their female pride members


Subjects a Bit More Rare

Despite many trips to Africa, there are still subjects that elude me.  These species are not the famous and charismatic ones, but they are  key players in the ecosystem and very photogenic.  I was lucky to catch a curious bush baby in a natural pose  – normally they are way up in the trees and lightning fast.

bush baby
A bush baby looks down at us
African hoopoe
Among the drama of the mammals, it is easy to miss the beauty of the bird life

I always see the African Hoopoe when I don’t have the camera with me. This seemed to be their season and was happy to meet up with them 3 times while armed with the camera.

The Beauty  and Grandeur are Still Humbling

I can still be moved by the beauty of landscapes I see daily.

Blyde River Canyon, South Africa
A view of the Blyde River Canyon from the observation platform. The water is home to crocodiles and hippos
Giraffes in Kruger
Sometimes you need a reminder how huge the animals are. I would not have driven so close to them – it is a good way to get kicked.

A dose of perspective and contrast: Our smallness against the huge scale of the African fauna and the clash of the natural world and our manufactured one.   Each animal has a role and is perfectly adapted to that role. I am never bored watching animals living in their perfect niche.

Too Cute

In contrast to the struggle to survive and graphic violence, the babies make you laugh and melt your heart.  No wonder photographers like myself keep coming back.

baby elephant in Sabi Sands
A baby elephant plays in the dust thrilled at his ability to make a cloud
leopard cubs on photo safari in Sabi Sands
A very cute leopard cute out with his mother and sister.

We  Briefly Get to Share Their Lives

The male leopard was just walking down the road at sunset, but he let us follow him.  He had recently had a meal so this was a survey of his territory. We watched him observe the herds moving,  smelled for females and competitors,  and looked for anything new.  Thank you Mr. Leopard for letting us go on rounds with you.

Leopard photographed on safari in Sabi Sands
A large male leopard out for a walk in the evening. It looks like he had a big meal recently.