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Tag Archives: Kruger Nat’l Park
The following originally appeared with Vagabundo Travel Magazine on May 22, 2012:
“If you’re not comfortable, just let me know,” said Adam Richardson, as he started the engine of our Land Rover.
Adam was our guide with a private game reserve near South Africa’s Kruger National Park and he was talking to our tracker, Pauley. Pauley was firmly seated on the front of our vehicle in an attached chair, and the focus of our attention was a young, male leopard, with a notch in his right ear, who had recently wandered onto the property.
“Because if it is that leopard, we want to try to make sure we leave him happy.”
We first encountered the leopard a few days prior on a game drive shortly after he made a kill, and it was trying to drag the carcass into a tree. The noise of the Land Rovers and cameras clicking away spooked the apprehensive leopard, so our guide chose to pull away and let him get slowly acclimated to human interactions before trying to get close again.
Now, a couple of days later, we were on a game drive through the bush and stumbled upon a large, male rhinoceros patrolling its area. We watched as the rhinoceros approached his dung pile and proceeded to mark its territory. Then our guide, knowing what was developing, zipped ahead to a nearby watering hole, realizing it was probably the next stop for the rhinoceros.
After we parked near some large bushes for cover, the rhinoceros approached the scene, checked out the surroundings and plopped into the mud pit. He rolled around in the mud, freely passing gas, while my wife shot video and I took pictures. After he was finished, the rhinoceros made his way up the small incline towards a clearing.
About 15 feet from the watering hole, the wandering rhinoceros was caught off guard by a leopard laying in wait. The rhinoceros jumped in the air from fright, but continued his course knowing the leopard wouldn’t attack. While Adam was repositioning the Land Rover for a closer view of the leopard, he realized it was the same apprehensive animal from a few days prior.
Very cautiously the leopard watched as the Land Rover slowly crept towards it’s resting place. At a safe distance, Adam turned off the engine and for nearly an hour he, my wife and I chatted about everything from life as a guide to the potential back-story of this leopard.
Our guide’s goal was to give the leopard an opportunity to have a good experience with vehicles and people. Each time the wildlife on South African game reserves has a good experience with vehicles, the more likely it will allow the vehicles to get in closer next time; the sounds of the vehicle’s engine, people’s voices or clicking cameras will no longer bother it as much. In this particular case, Adam had a new animal on the property that could use some “TLC,” plus he had my wife and I in the vehicle and we were more than happy to give the leopard all the time it needed.
It was one of those unplanned moments in life where “going with the flow” was exactly what was needed. As a result, the whole sequence became one of my favorite moments on our safari: the skill of our guide Adam to acknowledge an opportunity ahead with the rhinoceros aiming for the watering hole; the adorable “freak out” from said rhinoceros stumbling upon the new leopard; the new leopard checking out humans, letting out a large yawn and falling back to sleep for its nap; us parking and allowing the leopard to become acclimated to tourists and Land Rovers; knowing that, potentially, my wife and I are helping a family get closer to the leopard when they come for their safari in a few weeks or a few months.
Arriving back at the lodge fairly late from our time with the rhinoceros and then the leopard, the other guests were all gathered near the fireplace swapping stories about their day’s game drives while sipping cocktails. Three women from the United States really, really wanted to see a leopard but hadn’t been fortunate enough yet, but they also knew that we had been very lucky to see a leopard every day (including an incredible kill on our first night). Because it was best for the new leopard to only have one compassionate vehicle near it — versus swarms of vehicles and tourists — other guides respectfully stayed away and mentioned nothing to their guests. As a result of all of this, it was sort of a situation that became “our little secret” with the other guides in the lodge. Showing up late, one of the women looked directly at me and said “Don’t tell me you saw another leopard today!”
I am a terrible liar, so I mumbled some sentence containing a “No” and quickly took a large gulp of my drink.
It’s been awhile — a long while — since I’ve posted an image to this space.
Somewhere towards the beginning of 2010, I decided to regularly post an image to my website. It was nice getting a lot of varied images off of my hard-drive and up on the website. My site’s traffic went from one or two page views a week to nearly 8,000 page views last month. The biggest reason that number appeals to me is that, last year, nearly 15,000 visitors checked out my images.
That’s pretty cool.
If you follow me on Facebook, I recently posted a picture of greeting cards in a few UPS Stores. It’s nice to know that someone likes my photography enough to buy it and send it to a friend or family member. It’s also nice to know the images have gotten off of my hard drive.
That all being said, towards the end of last year I decided I was going to scale back my photoblog. Somewhere along the way I realized I was working harder on content than quality. I was trying to pump out an image a day, and instead of getting up early for a spectacular sunrise, I was staying up late working on blog images. Ask any photographer, they’d much rather take pictures than write about them.
So I’m scaling back my photoblog. Things are busier now more than ever, which isn’t a bad thing, but I’m going to take a bit of time off from photoblogging, then occasionally I’m going to post a blast of photos at a time. Instead of one photo a day, I may post five or ten at a time, a couple of times a month.
Please stick around for the journey. I truly enjoy photography and hope you’ll enjoy what I produce. Some images are good, some images suck, and some images even take my breath away. Hopefully changing up how I do my photoblog produces more breath-taking photos.
One of the first things our guide asked us on our safari was “What do you hope to see?” I said I was hoping to see some baby animals (they’re always so cute) and my wife was destined to see giraffes.
As our time on the safari continued on, our guide heard about a group of giraffes on the edge of the property and raced to let us see them. They’re quiet animals, enormously tall, and vegetarians. They happily grazed on the leaves of the surrounding trees, and paid no attention to the Americans watching from not far away.
On safari in Kruger National Park, I could sit and watch the lion cubs for hours. They’d jump; they’d play; they’d hide in the bushes to attack one another. It was just like the movie The Lion King where the two cubs ran and played with each other. I follow our Private Game Reserve on Facebook and have watched the cubs grow into adult lions and set out on their own. I’m extremely happy to have been able to see and spend time with the lions when they’re that super-cute “cuddly wuddly” phase of young and adorable. A few months later and they would have been able to eat me in one bite.
I look back at pictures from our safari in South Africa and it makes me want to jump on a plane and go on another one. Unfortunately it takes a bit more planning and money to do that, but it was a truly majestic experience that I won’t ever forget.
In Kruger National Park, the animals can get overwhelmed by tourists snapping photos and surrounded them with their vehicles. On the private game reserves located throughout the African continent, the animals are better cared for and the experiences are incredible. Their comfort around people in vehicles gave it a whole new level of awesomeness.
The elephants, pictured above, weren’t too concerned about us in our vehicle because it is something they’re used to, and they don’t ever really have issues with people. Leaving animals with good experiences with humans will insure they aren’t scared of us the next time come back.
While on a safari in South Africa, my wife and I were fortunate enough to meet Nottens. She’s a female leopard and has grown up on the private game reserve located adjacent to Kruger National Park. The first night we were staying on the property, Nottens was tracking a meal when our vehicle spooked the animal she was about to pounce on. As Nottens made her way for other dinner options, we followed close behind.
Slowly she crept along in the tall grass keeping a close eye on a large field full of impalas. Quietly she waited for the right moment to act and, as if giving her a gift, a few of the impalas broke away from the rest of the pack and walked right into where Nottens was hiding. Suddenly, she sprang from her hiding place and scattered the impalas. In one lightning-fast move, she reached out her giant paw and brought down an impala, quickly breaking its neck. Our guide put us in a fantastic position to watch the drama unfold, and after the coast was clear, he drove us closer to the kill site.
Nottens was fast at work devouring her catch. This was Africa at its wildest, and the leopard knew her time was short. Before long, hyenas caught on to the action and wanted a piece of it for themselves. Using strength in numbers, three of them moved in, driving Nottens from her meal. Wisely, she ate as much as she could before the hyenas arrived so when she ran off it was with enough food to make it another day. Meanwhile, the hyenas couldn’t settle on who should eat, so they began to fight amongst themselves for the meal.
After we originally spotted her, barely ten minutes had passed before Nottens brought down an impala. A mere six minutes of feeding had passed before hyenas had chased her off. Such is life on the African bush.
Last week I asked how many pictures I’d take on any given vacation, and I genuinely didn’t know.
There is always discussion amongst photographers about taking too many pictures. One of the guys I frequently work with is on an effort to take less pictures this year. In general, a lot of photographers can hold their finger on the camera’s shutter button and fire off nearly a dozen frames per second. They then have to go through and decide which of those dozen is “the best.” The guys next to me at baseball games will do this for every pitch for most of the game. At the Air and Water Show in Chicago a few weeks back, one photographer I know took nearly 3,000 images in two days. Wedding photographers can shoot several thousand images in a day. So when my co-worker says he’s trying to take less pictures, I clearly see his point. Nobody picks up a camera and says “I want to sit in front of a computer editing images all day long!”
So to answer the question how many pictures can I take on a vacation: I suppose it varies amongst photographers, location and time spent taking pictures.
For myself, whom I’ll call a “serious hobbyist,” spending a week in Maine during autumn netted nearly 600 pictures. While in South Africa, which is where the above Black-collared Barbet is native to, I took 1,100 images during the five-day safari.
One of the nice parts about going on a safari via a private game reserve is, I feel, the animals are far more docile. In the massive Kruger National Park anyone can drive through and scare the living bejeezus out of the animals, but private game reserves are far more strict on some rules, yet loose on others.
This really pays off with the different animals because they’re not as terrified of humans as they may otherwise be. As long as the animals are continuously left with a good experience with humans, they will continue to not be as terrified of them.
So, at a watering hole while in South Africa, we were able to sit and watch elephants drink water while other animals moseyed up and drank as well. The kudus (picture above) did glance over at us on occasion, but for the most part everyone did their thing and life continued without much care for the humans in the land rover nearby.
Recently I changed how I was going through my pictures.
Normally I’d import however many images I took, scan through them to choose the better ones, then post those in the galleries section, on this blog or on Facebook. Lately, however, I learned I’m skipping over a lot of good photographs in search of the next better one.
I learned with India to take the time and go through each picture to look at it. Yes, it may take several days, but I’d rather not fill my hard-drive up with 1,000 images I won’t ever use, and instead see about making all of the better pictures work. Between this photoblog and my stock photography sales (which I’m terrible at keeping up with), I can certainly do more with all of the pictures I’ve taken.
This is Nottens. She’s a female leopard and we stumbled upon her while she was out in search of dinner on our game drive in South Africa.
Rumbling through the African bush, we spooked a small animal that Nottens was getting in position to pounce on for dinner. The small animal darted away, and Nottens set out in search another meal. Our guide, Trevor, knew a clearing ahead, which Nottens was most likely headed to, and we raced ahead to see what would unfold.
In front of us, the leopard slowly crept towards a group of idle impalas (the deer-like animal, not the car) and waited for her chance. As the impalas began to move, some headed straight into the waiting ambush. In what seemed like a fraction of a second, Nottens had brought down an impala with a single swipe of her paw.
It was finally time for her dinner.
For whatever reason, I don’t have many pictures posted in the photoblog from the safari Alisha and I took in South Africa. It’s a shame because we had a wonderful time and I came home with a plethora of pictures — 1,107 pictures to be exact.
I could easily do a month or two of safari pictures every day that didn’t make the South Africa photo gallery, but instead I’m apparently going sparingly with them.
So here’s a picture of a Bateleur eagle leaping into flight.
August 2011. (4354)
I took a lot less pictures on our safari then I thought I would — which was a good thing.
On our first game drive, we exited the area in which our lodge was located, and promptly saw a group of elephants. All the while the elephants ate, I took a number of pictures. Eventually I slowed down my picture-taking, and then I stopped and just enjoyed the elephants.
I suppose a better photographer would keep shooting away, but I wanted to enjoy nature. It turned out to be a good thing, because we would see elephants several times throughout our stay, and many times in better light, closer experiences or, in the case of our final encounter, the elephant came up and sniffed the hat off of our tracker. Cool stuff.
During our stay, we came upon a watering hole that was the place to be, apparently. We watched a herd of elephants drink up and head out, just as another group came over the hill to also get water. (In the picture above, there is a tiny baby elephant that was adorable to watch. He was still learning to master his trunk, so it was fun to watch him suck up water, only to mostly miss his mouth when he tried to drink it.) As we sat, birds and Kudus came up to get drinks, as well.
These experiences would become my favorite part of our game drives: sitting and watching nature for a long period of time. Eventually, I’ll get to the story of how we sat for a half-an-hour, helping a leopard get acclimated to his surroundings, but in the meantime, quietly sitting and watching elephants do their thing was pretty remarkable, as well.
On our first safari in South Africa we were motoring around in the Range Rover, looking for whatever wildlife we could find. As we were rumbling along on some trails, we scared a small deer-like animal from the underbrush and it fled in terror of our vehicle. As we approached the area where the small animal was hiding in the brush, we saw a leopard who had been lying in wait.
Apparently we interrupted its dinner plans.
So, an adult female leopard (named Nottens) gave up her hiding place and set out in search of other potential food. We followed her through the brush, and our guide recognized she was heading towards and opening where a large group of impalas (more deer-like animals) were milling about.
Nottens crouched low in the grass and waited for her chance.
About this time the impalas split into two groups. A few went a direction away from the hiding leopard, while the majority blindly wandered directly into the leopard’s vicinity. With lightning speed the leopard jumped into action, scattering the impalas. With one of it’s giant paws, the leopard grabbed a fleeing impala from mid-air and dragged it to the ground. Dinner time.
The above picture is of Nottens, as she moved from her original hiding spot to her new location near the impalas.
August 2011. (3808)
I posted pictures online from our safari in South Africa. You can click your way over to them in the Travel Photography section by clicking here. The albums are cut up into two sections; Namibia and South Africa.
During out stay, we really enjoyed the lion cubs. There were many times I put the camera down just to watch the cubs tackle and play with each other. At one point, we watched a lion cub hide behind a tree and jump out to playfully “attack” it’s mother.
Lion cubs are so damn cute.