South Africa might seem a long way to go for less than a week, but I got my ‘fix’ of being out in the bush whilst on a dedicated photography trip.
We stayed at a very small camp with only 4 guest tents. There was no electricity (apart from what was generated by solar panels on sunny days) and no internet, and it was really nice to switch off from the outside world for a few days. Hot water for the shower was provided by lighting a fire under a boiler at the back of each tent, the water itself was from a borehole, and lighting was provided by paraffin lamps. A huge blackened kettle sat gently boiling on the camp fire all day, dinner was eaten outside, and as the camp was unfenced we had to be escorted to our tent at night and not leave until we’d had the ‘all clear’ the next morning. I absolutely loved it!
We arrived at lunchtime and our first drive was later that afternoon. It wasn’t long before we came across a couple of rhinos. We sat with them for a while and watched as they ambled towards a waterhole, had a drink and a wallow.
Another larger expanse of water was home to some hippos.
An African sunset is usually stunning and as we were driving away from it I kept turning round and looking for a good composition. We stopped to photograph it and a hyena wandered onto the track, making it truly memorable.
Kudu sightings were plentiful, and on this trip I tried to remember to shoot wider scenes, not just my usual closeups.
We were also lucky enough to see a pack of wild dogs almost every day.
Our guide named Isaac who is based at our camp has years of experience, and knew exactly where to position our vehicle in anticipation of the pack coming down a track towards us.
I always enjoy watching hornbills and am very envious of their thick dark eyelashes 🙂
Despite their size, elephants have an amazing ability to disappear into the bush. It was only after I took this photo that I noticed the little bird watching it.
We were mock charged by an elephant too – it’s extremely exhilarating to listen to an elephant trumpet when nearby! If the elephant’s ears are pinned back flat, it is likely that the charge is real !!
A giraffe’s tongue can measure 18″-20″ long! Little oxpecker birds often hitch a ride on animals to feast on ticks and other insects on their skin.
On one drive a huge herd of cape buffalo were blocking the road. They had chased a lioness away into long grass, and we found her softly calling for backup.
After spending some time waiting to see if she would try to take down a young buffalo, we drove back to the herd and observed them. This one was obviously giving me her best smile 🙂
Another roadblock. Password please?
Impalas are called the McDonalds of Africa, because they are everywhere and have an M shape on their bottom. Guides often don’t bother stopping for them but I always like photographing them and managed to capture them running across the track in front of us. They run when spooked and jump to show potential predators that they are fit and healthy, rather than weak and old. By doing this they are less likely to be targeted as a meal.
Whilst out on a morning drive our guide heard that there was a leopard kill in a tree about an hour away. We wouldn’t have time to get there and back so we set out for our afternoon drive earlier than normal, and were rewarded with a great sighting.
A hyena was prowling around underneath the tree hoping for a meal to drop out of it. The bush was too dense for us to get a good glimpse of it, but there were a few other good sightings.
Cheetahs topped off the big cat sightings and we followed them for a while. At one point our guide realised that they were hunting so he stopped our pursuit to ensure we didn’t spoil their chances of a meal.
Suddenly we saw the mother cheetah take off after a steenbok, which is a small antelope. We then drove to look for them and sure enough, she’d caught it. It’s not visible in the long grass below but they sat for a while letting their breathing get back to normal before tucking in.
Isaac then moved our vehicle for a better view.
Unfortunately for cheetahs, their meal is often stolen by other predators, and sure enough, it wasn’t too long before a hyena either smelled the kill or heard them eating it. Luckily for the cheetahs they had eaten quite a lot. The mother had a swipe at the hyena but they are no match for it at all, and had to retreat, leaving the hyena to finish off what remained.
Finally, just outside of camp we spent a short time photographing the milky way above a dead leadwood tree. The camp manager accompanied us with his torch (flashlight) and kept shining it around to check that no predators were sneaking up on us.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip and despite the amount of time I’ve spent in the wilds of Africa, I’ll still go back again!
The trip was run by Ernest Porter of https://www.eagleeyesafaris.com/
The camp was https://www.pungwe.co.za/