Trip Report: Madikwe Photo Safari (Aug 2014)

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Having heard a lot about the reserve in the past I was excited that I would finally get to experience Madikwe for myself.

Going into this trip I had high expectations and to say it didn’t disappoint would be quite the understatement…

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After meeting up with my guests we were soon all settled in at the stunning Tuningi Safari Lodge which we would call home for the next four nights. With all our equipment clean, charged and ready for action, off we went on our first of many games drives. Accompanied by our very knowledgeable and accommodating guide, Cornelius, a wildlife photographer in his own right, we knew we were in good hands.

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No less than 15 minutes after we set foot into our safari vehicle, did a call come in over the radio with the location of four cheetah brothers, who were on the hunt on an open grassland near the Botswana border. Needless to say the vote was unanimous and Cornelius got us there just in time to intercept them as they moved swiftly across the plain. The low hanging sun provided the kind of soft golden light that photographers dream of, which made for some amazing images.

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Each evening we would stop for a sundowner (or two) deep in the African bush, enjoying the discussion about all the days events, only to head back to the lodge as soon as the sun disappeared below the horizon for another delicious homemade dinner.

One of my personal highlights each day was being greeted with a warm lemongrass soaked towel by a friendly staff member after each evening outing- they were a real treat.

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Waking up early each day proved difficult at first (especially during a prolonged and bitter cold front), but after being rewarded with spectacular sighting after spectacular sighting it soon became a lot easier to bare.

After spending some time photographing the vibrant sunrise only a few kilometers from camp one morning, the radio came alive with chatter as the Tuningi staff informed us that the pride of lions we had heard throughout the night had just arrived at the lodge’s waterhole. With a swift three point turn we made a beeline for the lodge.

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Having spent time with many lions over the years, I thought I had seen it all, but these youngsters were by far the most entertaining.

They spent the morning climbing trees, stalking one another and every now and then would repeatedly hiss at the water (presumably very weary of crocodiles), only to spook themselves to such a degree that they would disappear in a cloud of dust. This really made for some amazing photography and a good amount of laughs.

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Thanks to Chris Lee for sending me this image of our group in action

We were lucky enough to catch up to two packs of Wild Dogs on opposite ends of the park, each providing us with a different kind of experience. The first pack we encountered were fourteen individuals who lead us on an exhilarating chase through some of the toughest terrain known to man, making shots hard to come by, but we all agreed it was a fantastic experience to be a part of.

The second pack proved to be a lot more subdued, posing perfectly every now and then for short periods before moving on.

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This older male had been in a fight with a younger male and obviously lost. Here he is being very submissive while the other dogs smell his wounds.

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One of the major trip highlights was being able to sit on the ‘boma’ deck while watching the local bird and mammal comings and goings during the warmer parts of the day. This alone provided some of our best photo opportunities and also served as a peaceful area to relax and unwind.

Many different herds of elephants would come down to the lodge’s waterhole to drink throughout the day, with the larger males putting on a great show as they would challenge each other and clash heads and tusks for hours on end.

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When it came to lion photography opportunities, Marc said it best, stating that we had definitely had the ‘lion’s share’ by anybody’s standards.

If our first big cat sighting (mentioned above) wasn’t good enough, we were very lucky to spend a large amount of time with three good looking young males over a two day period, once with a wildebeest kill and next with a zebra kill. To say that they were fat and uncomfortable after the zebra feeding would just not do it justice.

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Full credit must go to our guide Cornelius, who managed to track those three males for over an hour in the vehicle before almost standing on them as they slept in the long grass. Here he is cracking a nervous smile as he returned from his close encounter.

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To break routine one evening I ran a little astro photography workshop out in the field and after being chased away from our original spot by a protective mother elephant with a young calf, we had to settle for this dead tree as a foreground subject a short distance away.

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© Sandi Allen

I had an absolute blast hosting this year’s Wild Eye Madikwe Photo Safari and will certainly host one again next year at Tuninigi Safari Lodge. This reserve is a wildlife and nature photographer’s paradise with more than enough to keep your memory cards filled with superb memories and experiences.

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From left to right: Chad, Erich, Sandi, Marc and Cornelius

Image gallery: Erich

Image gallery: Sandi

Image gallery: Marc

Image gallery: Chad

Enjoy my short 3 minute film showcasing some of our highlights from the trip – http://youtu.be/hU7ktGCb0z8

Until next time!

Chad Wright

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