Tag Archives: Small group photo safari

Favorite Moments from my September 2019 Safaris

Guided safaris to South Africa
Hyenas can hunt and catch their own food, but they also steal as a means to an easy meal

My favorite part about leading safaris in South Africa is the pleasure, awe, and delight in the eyes and faces of my guests when they they have wildlife encounters the exceed all expectations. Some guests are not expecting how close we can get to the animals and the behaviors we get to experience first hand.

My favorite moments while on safari are not the perfect photos, but the times when we get to be special observers into the lives of wildlife or see something completely unexpected.

Leopards Being Awesome & Humorous

photographing leopards in Sabi Sands
A male leopard on patrol after dark in Sabi Sands

We spend 3 nights in the wildlife rich Sabi Sands Reserve. The rivers and trees make this a favorite habitat for leopards. The rangers and guides have some to know many of the resident and itinerate leopards in the area and can recognize and tell histories of many of the cats.

Photograph leopards on safari in Sabi Sands
Leopards are very comfortable climbing and sleeping in trees , as this female demonstrates
Leopards in Sabi Sands
A leopard naps in the comfort and safety of it favorite tree

While on an evening game drive we see leopards traveling within their territory on patrol to mark or defend it or moving into good hunting areas. Watching the big males walk with strength in the steps and alert eyes is very exciting: will they run across an other male trespassing or stalk vulnerable prey animals in the dark?

Leopard safari in Sabi Sands
A leopard naps but stays alert to any unusual sounds

Leopards have favorite trees they use to eat in peace from those who would steal their kill or to secret it away for later when they have eaten their fill. As with all cats, they are experts at getting comfortable for long naps. Looking directly into the eyes of these top predators is something you do not forget and it challenges us to capture this feeling in our photographs.

A Busy Watering Hole at Kruger National Park

elephants in Kruger Park
Juvenile elephants play while the adults drink and bathe

Kruger is a huge park and has a high degree of biodiversity . September is still dry season so watering holes are popular spots for all wildlife. Mid morning we stopped at a spot overlooking a large watering hole. Zebra, waterbuck, and impala were at the shores or drinking as we scanned the water for hippos. We spotted saddle billed storks, vultures drinking, and watched a large kudu male and his harem visit for a drink. Then at the far left a family of elephants approached with the matriarch marching in the lead with ears flared in a display of determination and domination. Behind her were juveniles, other females, and a few very young ones. They lined up at the water’s edge to drink and we could observe that the littlest ones were so young they could not yet drink using their trunk but rather had to kneel down to drink by mouth. The adults soon ventured into the water to bathe and apply mud while the young ones broke out into wrestling and tumbling in the water. As they were leaving, just to show who is in charge, the elephants mock charged some zebra to scare them away.

photography safari workshop in Kruger
elephants chase zebras away from the watering hole

This was a prime example of the magic of Kruger Park where sometimes you just sit at a nice spot and see the wildlife come to you and play out their daily dramas.

photo safari in Kruger
A female waterbuck comes down to the water to drink

Lions, Hyenas, and Cheetahs

Photo safari in South Africa
Young hyenas at the den

Seeing predators in action or at rest is always exciting and shows us how predators and prey both play their role in the environment. We can learn so much by watching them in action and at rest. Everything we note about them informs our photographs and makes the memories of these encounters more vivid.

photograph cheetahs on safari
Two cheetah brothers survey their hunting grounds in the morning light
Big cat photo safari
Our vehicles can get really close to lions without disturbing them
photograph lions on safari
Lions approach a watering hole following the dominant female
Big cats on South Africa safari
As with any cat, lions know how to get comfortable for their frequent naps; this time on an old termite mound

Being Surprised by what we didn’t expect to see

Kori Bustard and bird photography in Africa
Kori Bustard: one of the largest birds in the savanna

With nature, anything is possible and you never know what you will see. This seems to have become more a rule since many of the fences between Kruger Park and the private reserves have been taking away.

Hippo with mouth open
A male hippo making a territorial display
vulture at carcas
A white backed vulture joins storks and other vultures at a carass
white rhino with ox pecker
An oxpecker sits on the head of a white rhino picking off parasites

We are always excited to see white and black rhinos still in the wild and not confined to small, guarded properties as in so many places.

see rhinos on south africa safari
White Rhinos in an alert stance

There are also common species that present to us in such a way as to make us see them differently and make a nice image.

photo safari in South Africa
Usually calm zebra suddenly break into a gallop and bring a sense of excitement to a wide angle image.

After so many years I am still amazed, thrilled, and humbled by the wildlife we encounter in our area of South Africa. It is so exciting to see my guests be surprised by their first safari adventure.

Join one of my small group guided safaris make your own wildlife memories and images.

See a list of my next safaris

A Collection of my Best Safari Photo Stories

A Collection of some of my favorite Safari Story Posts

A safari is an adventure and like all adventures it is full of stories and special moments.

With or without a camera, it is those stories and having been there in that moment that make the vivid memories.  The great photographs enhance and help tell the story.

Over the years of leading safaris, my guests and I have been present for many moments which culminate great stories.  I have told many of these stories here in my blog.  Here is a collection of my best African safari stories.



Stories from our 2017 September Safaris – One safari is One hundred stories

Learning to be a Leopard:  A young cub must quickly learn to drag a kill up a tree and eat it up there.

A newborn elephant:  We were present to celebrate a birth with the family herd. Just an hour old it was a very special encounter

Lions Hunting Buffalo: From the planning to the (failed) execution of the plan: we were there to see and photograph the exciting event

Safari Stories: From my September Photography Safaris

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While staying on the Sabi Sands Reserve we take the time to see life through the eyes of a leopard: patrolling territory, resting on a good vantage point, planning the hunt, guarding a meal up a tree.

Safari Story: The Life of a Leopard

 

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When a predator makes a kill and settles down for a meal, it is an invitation for many different players to come to the party:  the hyenas who hope to steal it, vultures who want their share, jackals who just want to sneak a small meal without being noticed, and others.

A Dinner Party in the Bushveld

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Giraffes seem gentle and passive but violent fights break out between the males. We were close enough to get some great photos of a serious battle over rank.

A Photo Safari Story: Giraffe Battles

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Many vultures will show up to a kill sight. Of the many species, each has a specialized function and morphology at the carcass. Some vulture species can not eat without another species to first do their part.

Safari Story: Which Vulture Eats Last?

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A game drive with spent with elephants will result in many stories. We get to see and photograph so many behaviors and elements of their daily life.  We gain insight into their gestures and habits.

Elephant Images and Stories

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Hyenas have a a social structure that is easy to observe when we visited an active den.  As we sat and watched we were treated to cubs at play and a juvenile left in charge.

Morning at the Hyena Den : A Safari Story

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The  wonderful Sabi Sands Reserve treated us to leopard and lion cubs as well as other young wildlife.

Being Young in the Bushveld: Photographing cubs in Sabi Sands Reserve

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Safari highlights this time include big herbivores, big cats who seemed to be posing for portraits, some rare species, and humorous moments.

Favorite Moments from our 2nd Group Safari

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Leopard cubs at play, male rhinos fighting, baby hyena cubs, and some very impressive male lions with their kill, funny elephants, and more.

Favorite Moments from My May 2016 Safaris

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This season we had some usual sightings, following a leopard on his rounds, hyena family life, local conservation efforts, special encounters without leaving the lodge.

Favorite Moments from our September 2016 Safaris

 

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Safari Story: An Afternoon at the Elephant Mud Bath

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Safari Diary: Our First Game Drives with Rhinos, Lions, and More

 

Favorite Moments from our September 2016 Safaris

Though there is no hiding the stress of the long drought on the animals and plant life of the bushveld, we had excellent wildlife sightings.  The predators thrive during these conditions with so many herbivores loosing condition to lack of food.  There was hope in the first good early rains. We enjoyed the cooler than average temperatures and watched the drama of nature unfold.  These are some of ours guests and my own favorite moments from our recent 3 safari groups.

I use a Canon 5D MKIII  and most of my images are shot using a 70 - 200mm lenses, sometimes with a 1.4 teleconverter. I also use a 300mm lens for the long shots in Kruger - this also with a teleconverter.   I use a monopod as stabilization as this method works in all vehicles, is light, and versatile. 

I have now upgraded to the Canon 5D 4 and look forward to its first trip to Africa in April 2017

Unusual Sightings

Martial Eagle Makes a Large Kill

Martial eagle has made a kill

Martial eagle has made a kill

Most of our large raptor sightings are of the bird of prey scouting from the top of a tree or involved in a crowd of birds on a scavenged carcass.  The eagle was able to take down a steenbok.  The bird plummeted with enough force to knock the weakened antelope to the ground then held it in a choke hold.

A small steenbok can fall victim to a skilled raptor
A small steenbok can fall victim to a skilled raptor

Following a Leopard on His Rounds

In the early evening we tracked a leopard as he surveyed his territory and looked for hunting opportunities…and took a nap

Our trackers knew where to look for this male and we found him early in our game drive.  He is a very robust male who has obviously had success hunting lately.  We had a wonderful time seeing the daily life of this predator.

A male leopard starts out in the late afternoon on a hunt
A male leopard starts out in the late afternoon on a hunt

A leopard stops for a drink
He pauses to get a good drink.

Leopards love warthogs and this one spent some time checking likely dens while listening and watching for some to return for the night.

checking for warthogs in a hole
checking for warthogs in a hole

he pauses in a comfortable spot to take a short nap
he pauses in a comfortable spot to take a short nap

It is possible this leopard has a recent kill stashed up a tree (his stomach does look a bit big) and thus he is only surveying territory tonight and hunting only what is easy to get.

See more of my Safari Reports from 2016
May 2016

September 2017

Seeing Spotted Hyena’s Family Life

Most times we see hyenas at the kills made by lions, or harassing a cheetah.  We had a chance to see a more sympathetic side of hyenas at a den sight with multiple pups.

hyena eating
Hyena scavenge at a giraffe carcass after the lions have abandoned it

hyena with puppy
The dominant hyena takes care of one her pups at the den

The den had several cute puppies and the dominant female (mother) was very attentive and affectionate to them. The usual subadult den assistants were also there keeping the bold puppies close.

Photographing Lions

Seeing and photographing lions is always a thrill. We have seen many different  lion kills and pride groupings this year.  Observing the social dynamics of the group at feeding times is very revealing. The physical demands of eating a carcass is surprising as is the effort put into guarding the meal from vultures and scavengers even after all the lions are so full they can hardly move.  We can get very close and see every detail for different positions.

female lion with cubs
A female lion has brought her cubs to the kill for a meal

photographing lions
We are able to get really close to predators

Learning about Conservation Efforts

We are lucky to have many wildlife conservation and rehabilitation centres near our lodge.

It is always an educational experience for first time guests and repeat visitors like myself.  We visited an orphaned baby rhino, the raptors recovering from poisoning, and other permanent and temporary species.

baby rhino
Our rehab centres take in rhinos orphaned through poaching. They have caretakers with them constantly who attempt to teach them about being a rhino and to make them feel safe.

vulture
Vultures who have fallen victim to poison carcasses are rehabilitated at local centre

Great Wildlife Moments at the Lodges

Often we don’t have to leave the lodge to have great wildlife encounters: it is all around us.  The night skies are magnificent in the near total darkness and the sounds are exotic.

One hot afternoon our guests were relaxing in the pool when giraffes came to eat buds off their favorite trees.

tree house lodge
Giraffes continue to feed on budding trees while guests enjoy the pool

wildlife at the lodge
One fine afternoon at the tree house lodge enjoying a drink and a cool dip with the giraffes so close

weaver building nest
A male builds the round hanging nest in a day

weaver bird
The female inspects the completed nest

Our safaris are full of wildlife which will thrill photographers and those without fancy cameras. We also believe that all the wildlife needs to be presented within a context of current conservation  efforts, successes, and challenges.  We celebrate and appreciate each species of bird, insect, plant, and animal for its role in the whole ecosystem of our corner of South Africa.

Our safaris are educational, fun, exciting, surprising, and fulfilling – and some say life-changing.