Macro Photography at the Pullen Nature Reserve

Shivan Parusnath All Authors, Macro, Shivan 1 Comment

Ever heard Wits University’s slogan “Wits gives you the edge”? Well, which other South African university’s biology department owns it own 250 ha nature reserve? The Pullen Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga belongs to Wits’ School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences (i.e. Biology), and is used as a research and teaching facility. But being fairly wild and isolated, it is also a fantastic macro photography destination.

Pullen is located about 35 km east of Nelspruit, and is a short drive from Kruger National Park’s Malelane gate.

The reserve was at some point a functioning farm, owned by an alumnus of Wits’ Biology department, Dr. Pullen. When he passed away, he left the farm to the department. The “farmhouse” was a rustic, stone construction with minimal creature comforts, but became a valuable teaching resource, and several undergraduate and honours courses have been taught there over the past decades.

The farmhouse was given a massive renovation around 2008, with several sections added onto the main house, and the existing parts modernised. A set of “flats” up the hill from the house was built as well, as a more permanent accommodation for researchers to stay on for longer periods of time – opening up the opportunity to make use of the reserve’s undisturbed biodiversity. In its current state, the farmhouse and flats can accommodate 48 people, with a large kitchen and braai area that can also accommodate catering for all those people.

2016’s Biology Honours Class

I’ve had the fortune of teaching several second and third year ecology courses, mentored Honours writing workshops, assisting with post-doc research, and visiting Pullen with my lab (Alexander Herp Lab) for writing and recreational trips. On each of these trips, I’ve always made the most of the photographic opportunities available. The reserve boasts 33 reptile and 15 amphibian species, as well as a wide plethora of arthropods (as well as mammals and birds, if they tickle your fancy). Even fairly casual exploring tends to yield interesting finds.

Here are some of my favourite herpetofauna and arthropod macro images from Pullen:


Red Toad

Common River Frog

Mozambique Forest Tree Frog.

Transvaal Thick-Toed Gecko

Transvaal Thick-Toed Gecko

A Flat Lizard carcass has become a feast for ants.

Flap-necked Chameleon.

Flap-necked Chameleon.

My labmate Bevan holding a Velvet Gecko.

Brown House Snake

Brown House Snake


The Pullen Nature Reserve would be the ideal location for leading a hands-on, in the field macro photography workshop. And that’s the plan.

Join Us For Macro Photography Workshop

This summer, we're planning a macro photography workshop at Pullen, with the aim of teaching new macro photographers how to use their kit to capture unique perspectives on some of South Africa's most beautiful and interesting macrofauna!

Tell Me More!

Check out my Instagram and 500px for more macro images!

About the Author

Shivan Parusnath


I am currently doing my PhD research on the conservation of the Sungazer (Smaug giganteus), a threatened South African lizard species, at Wits University in JHB. Working with reptiles over the past 6 years has fueled my obsession with macro photography. My aim with photography is always to portray a subject on its own level, whether a lion, a lizard or an ant. I am also excited by in-habitat shots, where the subject is shown in the context of its natural habitat. This is great specifically for rare or threatened species, so people who might not readily get an opportunity to see these animals can gain a greater appreciation for where the species fits into the bigger picture.

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