Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

Seasons at Tlou Dam in Madikwe

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 1 Comment

I don’t want to go to <insert your reserve of choice here> because I was there in 2005.

This is something that I hear every now and then when chatting to people about safaris.  Now even though I understand the thought behind this kind of thinking, I do feel that this kind of approach to safari destinations and wildlife photography will result in you leaving a lot of great images and experiences on the table.

The seasonal differences in any given reserve in Africa sometimes borderline unbelievable.  The change of environment, mood, feel and wildlife photographic opportunities in the same area between the rainy and dry seasons most definitely warrants another visit as you will literally be visiting a brand new reserve.

Let’s look at this phenomenon on a micro scale.

This is Tlou Dam, one of the largest water sources in the Madikwe Game Reserve. (note the dead Leadwood tree on the left)

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

I have spent many hours, weeks and probably months around this waterhole and I promise you that no two visits have ever been the same – especially not when you compare the wet and dry seasons. During the rainy season Tlou Dam is filled to the brim, like in the image above, and sometimes even overflows where the water runs off into the thickets on the southern side.

It is spectacular to see.

Fast forward 6 months to the dry season and the dam is a large open dust bowl with a few scattered muddy pools here and there.

From a visual point of view it is as different to the rainy season as it is spectacular.

Here are a few images of elephants around Tlou Dam in the wet, rainy season.

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

As the seasons then start changing the amount of animals around the dam increases – as does the energy – as surface water becomes more difficult to find out in the bush.

Elephants gather in huge numbers in and around the dam and when they get to the water they tend to have an absolute blast!

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

 

At the height of the dry season the dam has undergone a complete transformation and bares little resemblance to the visuals you would have seen a few months earlier.  A few small muddy puddles still attracts elephants and other animals to the dam but it is different.

Very different.

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

So you see?  Even on a micro scale the differences of visuals and and photographic opportunities definitely warrants a number of visits during different times of the year.  Now just imagine the difference if you pull back from a single waterhole and look at the reserve that surrounds it.

I understand completely that we all want to visit new and different destinations and I understand why but don’t dismiss visiting the same reserves again and again.

Apart from all the technical knowledge, luck and patience the one thing that you need to always remember.

There is nothing – nothing – that will help you to add great images to your wildlife photography portfolio as spending as much time in the field as possible.

And if you do this  during different seasons – even better!

Oh, and here’s one more image from Tlou Dam.  Just because it’s still one of my favorites.

Gerry van der Walt - Safari - South Africa - Madikwe Game Reserve - Wild Eye

Until next time.

Gerry

About the Author

Gerry van der Walt

I am a private and specialist photographic safari guide, public speaker, co founder of Wild Eye and wildlife photographer. Visit my website at www.gerryvanderwalt.com or follow my journey on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Periscope.  I look forward to changing the way you see the world! Have you checked out The Wildlife Photography Podcast?

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