Everything happens in the time it is meant to. Some things just quicker and more immediate than what we anticipated.
On arriving back from Kenya from hosting the Big Cats and Tuskers Photo Safari with me, Gerry not only got stung by a scorpion, but he also got tick bite fever along the way. You know what they say – go big or go home… Clearly Gerry took this quite literally.
So on Saturday 28 February, this was such a day where things came into play for me. As Gerry was meant to be private guiding his guests from the 2nd March to the 5th at Madikwe Game Reserve, I got the great news (for me that is) that I would be taking his place and hosting it as he was unable to.
Although I had just came back from Kenya, I was thoroughly looking forward to this safari, not only because of being able to get to the bush with guests, but also because the landscape is so different from where I had recently been.
We finally arrived at Tuningi Safari Lodge in the late afternoon – due to the joys of waiting for luggage at the airport – where we gathered our camera gear and went straight off on our first game drive of the safari.
As this was Christina’s first time on a safari in South Africa and Lutz’s first time in Madikwe Game Reserve, I gave them the time to just see, smell and experience the area as we started off on our drive. Seeing their enthusiasm and eagerness at sightings of zebra, curious giraffe staring at us with avid focus as we stopped to marvel at their uniqueness and striking beauty was incredibly refreshing to be a part of.
Filled up with coffee the next morning, we were off on the next adventure before the sunrise. Although the morning started off quite quietly, our sightings suddenly exploded around us! There is nothing to get your blood pumping at a faster pace than to be relaxing and absorbing the area you are in, to suddenly be springing to photographic action as a brown hyena carries a gemsbok’s head parallel to you!
Yes, you read it right.
Now you can see it below.
A brown hyena carrying a gemsbok’s head.
And one with a mission in mind.
This was an incredibly special sighting indeed and although it wasn’t the best photographic sighting, I was thrilled that my guests got to see to it and capture something so extraordinary!
It was definitely one of those moments where after the hyena disappeared into the bush, we slowly put our cameras down next to us and looked around at each other with beaming smiles.
And then we were off to go spend time with a coalition of 4 male cheetahs! Could it get any better?
Having hunted that morning (remember the gemsbok? Of course you do), these boys were tired to put it mildly! But as cheetah typically are, they were still alert and would occasionally pose upright for us with their amber eyes alight with intensity.
After a whirlwind of a morning we headed back to the lodge for breakfast, some down-time and a Lightroom session after lunch.
This however did not go as planned.
Let me explain.
Madikwe hasn’t had much rain at all this season and therefore the waterholes are filled with activity pretty much 24hrs a day. The dominant participates being elephants. This was mainly achieved by them running after other game that came anywhere close to the waterhole right in front of the lodge, or to those that showed any desire to come quench their thirst.
So as photographers there was really only one thing we could do…
Yes, you guessed it; lie flat on our stomachs on the deck and look for moments and stories to capture.
With the lack of rain, the waterholes were getting pretty dry and therefore tensions were high between the elephants, especially when other families came into contact with each other. The interactions were wonderful!
Our evening wrapped up at Tlou Dam with a stunning scene that i’m sure neither Christina nor Lutz will forget.
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs…”
Ansel Adams got it spot on.
Our time in Madikwe Game Reserve was filled with intimate interactions between some of the animals, moments that forced one to laugh out loud, and others where we sat in appreciative silence of what was in front of us.
This safari was not only about the photographic opportunities, but the experience the guests had at the Reserve. Having a lion walk right past our vehicle – one of the many animals that they had only seen in Zoo’s – was just one of the highlights of this safari.
This is why we do what we do.
Just witnessing Madikwe as it is now, I am positive that my guests on the Madikwe Wildlife Photography Bootcamp that departs this Friday will have an incredible experience to say the least!