Since 2009 Pepe and I have put on 7 photographic safaris. The only year we missed was 2011, which for some reason we couldn’t find any takers for the 4 different trips we had planned that year. Probably had something to do with the hangover from the 2010 Soccer World Cup held in South Africa, but we did make up for it over the past 2 years by doing 2 safaris every year.
So, I decided to pick 7 photos, one from each of the safaris and present them here with a short back story of how each was obtained. So here we go (don’t forget to click for the enlarged version).
2009 – The Nikongear Road Trip
This remains the best (and only) bird in flight shot I have managed to get on safari. This fish eagle was soaring high above us while we were taking a boat ride on the St. Lucia Estuary. As he got closer I started taking photos using the Nikon D700 and 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VR zoom. Those shots were no good, but then the bird suddenly got a lot lower and I quickly lifted the camera to my eye again, snapped a burst of about 5 shots. This was the first of them.
2010 – Ultimate Big 5 Safari #1
This shot is from our first ever visit to the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. We were about 20 minutes into our first game drive on a really hot and dry day (temps were over 40˚C) when we encountered this male cheetah resting in the shade of a bush. After it woke up, it started yawning and walking around. We didn’t think anything was going to happen, but then it spotted a small group of impala a short distance from us and it began stalking them. By this time the light was pretty much gone so trying to get a decent shot of the hunt was a crap shoot, so I opted to watch what was about to unfold instead. The cheetah suddenly burst into a full on attack and began chasing down one of the impala. The next few seconds were chaotic as our 2 vehicles sped off trying to keep up with the fastest animal in the world. He didn’t get his meal, but he came to rest on a burnt out section of the plain where he stood out incredibly, resulting in this shot. The camera here was the Nikon D700 and the lens was the first version of the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8.
2012 – Ultimate Big 5 Safari #2
In 2012 we went back to Sabi Sabi and once again only a short while into our first game drive we came across this lone lioness who had become separated from her pride for some reason. We watched her for a short while and then she got up and began walking onto a nearby rocky mound where we caught her in the very last of the afternoon’s golden light. I shot this with the Nikon D700 and the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS (the second incarnation of this fine lens). What happened next was that the lioness spotted a wildebeest off in the distance and believe it or not she began stalking it. I have some video of that encounter up on our YouTube channel. It was really hard for me to pick just 1 shot from this year because we got so many great lion sightings.
2013 – Ultimate Big 5 Safari #3
We had a slightly smaller group join us for the third UB5 safari, but it ended up being a good thing because with fewer people on the vehicles we were able to shoot out of both sides and rotate this privilege amongst guests who were travelling together and would otherwise be sharing the same row of seats. This shot came from one of our drives where we followed the Southern Pride. They are juveniles who were enjoying playing together in the chilly morning air. The social behaviour of lions is what fascinates me and they have become my favourite subject on safaris. The gear used here was the Nikon D700 and Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS.
2013 – Namaqualand To Namibia Roadtrip Safari
About a month after we did UB5 we found ourselves doing our most ambitious safari ever in 2013. This was a 32 day long road trip that took in a very cold and wet Cape Town (it snowed on Table Mountain!), the wild spring flowers of Namaqualand, a very long drive through the entire length of Namibia as well as a short excursion into the north-west section of Botswana on the Kavango river. Along the way there were an amazing number of outstanding photo opportunities, but the highlight for me was this scene I called “Dawn Of The Dead” taken in the Deadvlei area of Sossussvlei. We stayed at one of the camps inside the reserve which gave us the ability to head out to the Deadvlei before the reserve opened to the public. After trudging across the dunes at the end of the 60km road we got to the area just as the sun was coming up. The initial plan was to try and emulate that famous shot of Deadvlei by a photographer who’s name I have forgotten. I couldn’t get that quite right, so I turned my attention to the sun coming over the dunes. This was the result. I used a LEE Filters Seven5 filter kit on my Olympus E-M5 with the Olympus 9-18mm f/4.-5.6 wide angle lens. It’s one of my favourite shots from that safari.
2014 – Wild Waterways Safari #1
The Wild Waterways safari was probably the most photogenic of all the trips we have done. Apart from the drama I had at the beginning where somebody picked up my bag at the airport, it by far exceeded my expectations. The houseboat and specialised photography boats were amazing and our guides got us into some brilliant positions for awesome photos. This shot was taken on the Chobe at sunset using the very capable Olympus Stylus 1, which accompanied me just about everywhere on that trip. I think I made more shots with that camera than I did with my Olympus E-M1.
2014 – Ultimate Big 5 Safari #4
The 4th trip to Sabi Sabi was without a doubt the most amazing wildlife safari we have ever done. Our sightings were beyond belief and included multiple leopard sightings, including watching them hunting successfully (twice!), watching a mother and her cub losing a kill to a hyena as it fell out of a tree (that video is on YouTube) and many other incredible encounters. However, the highlight for me and the guests was undoubtedly what happened on our last drive when we came across a pack of African Painted Wild Dog. And we got to see them on a kill! This photo is one of many I took from this sighting. The camera is the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the lens is the Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD (one of the best lenses I have used on safari, incidentally).
So, there you have it, 7 shots from 7 different safaris. We’re heading off to both the Wild Waterways and Ultimate Big 5 this September and I am getting really excited to see what kind of amazing things Africa is going to show us this time.