On June 16th I managed to get away from the rat-race that is Johannesburg, South Africa and travel to a part of the Kruger National Park that I have never been too before. Motswari Private Game Reserve and Safari Lodge is part of the Timbavati, which is itself a private concession that borders the Kruger Park. There are no fences between it and the park itself, so the animals remain free to roam as they please.
They really do roam freely and in great numbers too. If you want to keep abreast of the amazing sightings that Motswari has, then I urge you to follow along on the Motswari Blog. The blog is high on my list of web sites to check out each day, to share in the dream that is the African bush. The editorial content is usually concise and detailed indicating the sightings each day, but it’s surely the photography of the amazing animals that one can see there, that truly inspire.
Of course, the Timbavati is famous for it’s White Lions. The White Lions are so extremely rare, (more so than the Snow Leopard even). Evidence seems to suggest that it’s not a recessive gene that is causing the colour mutation, and they are not albino - just take a look at their beautiful blue eyes. Scientific research unproven at this stage, may even suggest that the White Lions are a different species altogether and this makes this part of the world even more remarkable. Check out the Wikipedia article for more interesting information and remember that the Timbavati has the last few remaining White Lions NOT in captivity.
Chad Cocking, a ranger at Motswari and all round amazing photographer; surely has one of the most iconic images of the White Lions from Motswari.
Now when I was there on June 16th, 2011; we unfortunately never got to see the White Lions. As I mentioned they are free to roam and they do have a fairly large territory that they control. And so it was, that a week before we were there they were sighted, and then a couple of weeks after we had left they were back again. Bitterly disappointing!
However we did get to see a fair selection of game. Not the least of which is the beautiful leopard Kahunya which appears at the top of this post. She really is one of the most beautiful leopards I have seen in the bush, and this morning that we were following her, she was skulking after some Impala. However they both really surprised one another and the hunt was off. Kahunaya however took the opportunity to climb on top of this conveniently placed ant-hill and posed there for a while for us all to capture the moment. The morning light was just sublime and it was really easy in fact to capture great shots of this moment.
So while we didn’t get to see the White Lions we certainly made do with some wonderful leopard sightings, elephant by the tonnes (literally), buffalo at a river crossing, jackal and several lion amongst other things. So all in all a wonderful trip away and if you get a chance to visit the Timbavati and especially Motswari then do so. Check out the links above and make that booking.
Be sure to visit my page on 500px.com to see larger versions of Kahunya Portrait and Kuhanya on a Termite Mound or visit my web-site to order a print of these images.
Kruger Park - Zebra Stallion Fight
In December 2010, the family went away to the Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in South African and really an icon for our country. Kruger is truly a massive game reserve and you really only get to explore small snippets of it each time you go there. It is however still one of the most magical places to go to and this year my children had reached an age where they really began to appreciate it.
This sighting was really a very memorable one as these two Zebra stallions were vying for the attention of the females and trying to win the right to mate with the ones that were in heat. It was a great change as so often Zebras are simply grazing and not doing very much at all, which doesn’t make for exciting photography. However as you can see, this time was thankfully different.
I tweeted the other day how powerful photography is for evoking memories that could be so easily forgotten. My daughter, Michelle - age 7; was standing at my computer while I was processing these images in Photoshop and she immediately recalled the event that day in the Kruger Park sitting watching these guys fight it out. Photography is truly incredible that way. When you think of the number of things we simply forget each day (more so the older we get!), and yet a simple photograph can conjure up a whole flood of memories, sometimes even smells and sounds.
I feel truly privileged that we have the Kruger Park to go to and share with our children. Long may it last. With each passing day, and each new Rhino that is slaughtered we have to feel grateful, it may not be here tomorrow.
If you ever have the chance to come to South Africa, be sure to book several days of your trip to go and explore the Kruger National Park. You won’t regret it. If you’re really lucky, it won’t just simply be fighting Zebra that you will see, but keep an eye out for the so-called Big 5: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino. The iconic Big-5, so named as the most dangerous animals to encounter on foot in the bush. But don’t forget the Little-5 too (Ant-Lion, Leopard Tortise, Elephant Shrew, Buffalo Weaver and Rhino Beetle). Keep an eye out for those too and you’ll be amazed at the variety of wildlife there is to see.
Hole in the Wall (Mono)
The magnificent Hole in the Wall rock formation off the east coast of South Africa is a great tourist destination. If you ever come to South Africa you have to do yourself a favour and travel to the Eastern Cape. It is very rural and rustic but such a beautiful part of the world with incredible scenery and friendly people. The roads are hell, so a good 4x4 is recommended but this makes it all the more fun as you really get to see the scenery as you travel around. Magnificent beaches, great fishing if you like that kind of thing and all round fantastic photographic opportunities.
This photo was taken near sunset and I was practically all alone on this stretch of beach by the Hole. Not once did I feel unsafe and even walked back to my car after dusk, so South Africa can be a safe place to vist. Really, you just need to be sensible. I remember this holiday like it was just the other day. It was really great spending time with some good friends (Cathy, Lance and family), who have now sadly moved away to Cape Town and we don’t see them anymore.
But I shall always remember walking down the hill and wading through the river. Setting up my tripod and trying to get the best viewpoint possible with an incoming tide was challenging. The monochrome conversion of this photo really does bring out some of the incredible detail more than the colour one, and in full-size at 22in wide it really looks great. I think I need to print and frame as soon as possible.
Eastern Cape (Transkei)
Additional EXIF Info
Camera: Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
Lens: Canon 24-70 f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/125s
Focal Length: 24mm
Date Taken: Apr 8, 2010, 4:57:45 PM
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Copyright Ian Weatherburn Photography.