As always I was excited to go back to Africa and this time I headed of to South Africa, a first for me. This time I really felt like I came prepared, equipped with a brand new Nikon D4, a D800 and a D3s as backup – and of course my wife to carry the D800 (more on that later…)
We arrived safely in Jo’burg and were met by a friendly driver who took us on a morning drive north into the mountainous area called Entabeni. Pretty exhausted we arrived at the lodge just in time for lunch. After unpacking, we were ready to go.
|Lioness in morning glory. Nikon D4 and 500mm f/4.|
The wildlife around Entabeni was great, and the first evening we encountered the local lions resting just opposite our lodge. We spent two nights in this area, just to get the feel of Africa (though temperatures plunging to zero in the night felt more like home), and we had some great encounters.
|Lion king in the cold morning mist. Nikon D4 and 500mm f/4.|
After breakfast the second morning we were picked up by Jay at Africa Photographic Travel (APT). He took of his own time and drove us all the way east to Timbavati, bordering Kruger NP. A four hours drive turning into six due to roadwork gave us plenty of time to look at the stunning scenery and to talk. I hope we will do something together in the near future.
Upon arrival in Timbavati we met with our local host Greg Du Toit, a brilliant South African Wildlife Photographer, had a quick lunch and got onto the vehicle. And what a vehicle it was. APT has, together with Nikon South Africa, developed a specialized Landrover with photographic seats and bracket arms. I must admit it felt a bit awkward the first evening, but once you get the hang of it everything just came together. I probably missed a couple of shots due to the construction, but in the end I think I got a couple because of it as well.
|Spotted Hyena from ground point of view. Nikon D4 and 500mm f/4.|
We spent three nights in the beautiful Simbavati River Lodge and had great wildlife encounters, but one day in particular is worth mentioning. This morning the local Hippos just going crazy outside our tent woke us up. As we were enjoying a cup of coffee on the deck we could see these two males fighting in the river. Water was dropping so the territorial males were disputing over the recourses, and consequently the females. The good thing about going on a specialized photographic trip is that when you see a picture you work on it. So instead of chasing after the Big Five we got in the vehicle and drove the 100 meters down to the river. The next two hours were just amazing!
Greg and I got out of the car and onto the ground for a better angle as the two bulls battled in the water. The fight moved around for a while and at one point I was laying no more then a couple of meters from the water as the two males came charging up. I was well aware of the reputation these animals have, but I kept on shooting until I heard Greg calling my name from the other side, and something about “get the frog into the vehicle” or something like that… As I was way to close for my 500mm I jumped in at grabbed a shorter lens for more action. It was fascinating horrible to watch at the same time. The strongest male almost gutted the other one, and on the beach he was virtually chewing on him. They got back into the river and drifted a bit further down. Suddenly we saw this one male standing tall in the middle of the river, at the deep end! We never saw the injured male again and we believe he was actually drowned by his opponent right there.
|Two Hippo males fighting over water, females and the right to live. Nikon D4 and 500mm f/4.|
|As the Hippos came charging out of the water it was time to get of the ground. Nikon D4 and 500mm f/4.|
|Fighting to dead. Nikon D3s and 70-200mm f/2,8.|
Still shaking from the action we moved on and finished of the morning with a beautiful drinking Leopard and a large group of Elephants moving down the river. A lot to talk about over breakfast!
|Elephants on a morning stroll. Nikon D3s and 70-200mm f/2,8.|
|Leopard drinking. Nikon D4 and 500mm f/4.|
The same evening we got out ready for more, and we got what we were hoping for. Good encounters with local wildlife like antelopes, Lion, and then another Leopard. This time a young individual in a tree. The sun had already set and I tried some shots just to see what I could make of it. The D4 images seemed OK considering the conditions, but I didn’t bother working on it. My wife on the other hand was happily shooting with her D800 and a 200-400mm lens. Some people would consider ISO 5000 and a shutter speed of 1/5 sec to be just silly on this camera setup, but were we surprised when we saw the result! D800 might lack the speed and noise levels of a typical wildlife DSLR but the dynamics of those files were just mind-blowing. Did I mention my wife was happy!
|Leopard shot by my wife Irene using Nikon D800 and a 200-400mm f/4 lens @ ISO5000, f/4 and 1/5sec!|
To end it of we had a nice chameleon, Common Genet and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. Just before getting back to camp we saw our third Leopard of the day and this one was moving along the river. We managed to follow it, thanks to excellent driving by Chris, and eventually we ended up IN CAMP! The last thing we saw of this animal was as it hid underneath our neighbours’ tent. I guess it is needless to mention we had a strange feeling going back to our own tent that night…
A great thanks to the people at the lodges, Greg for being a great guy and Jay Maan at APT for providing a great itinerary.
After spending the week in the bush we travelled down to the southern tip of Africa for a very pleasant stay in Cape Town. Of course we went for some sharks in False Bay, tasted some wine in the stunning Winelands and “climbed” Table Mountain (love those Dassies…).
|Great White Shark catching a Cape Fur Seal in False Bay. Nikon D4 and 70-200mm f/2,8.|
|Cape Cormorants in False Bay. Nikon D4 and 70-200mm f/2,8.|
|Rock Hyraxs' or Dassies, on Table Mountain. Nikon D4 and 70-200mm f/2,8.|
To sum it up it was an amazing trip and it was all put together by Safari Opplevelsesreiser.
I really hope to do it again, perhaps with clients.
|Strelitzia flower. Nikon D800 and 28-300mm lens.|