This Week at Angama

After a hiatus from the bush and a much-needed break to rekindle some inspiration, this week marked a return to the Mara and some amazing wildlife captures.

 

 

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The Salt Lick female leopard sits comfortably in the dappled light of a fig tree

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The Mara is the gift that keeps on giving. Even after spending so much time in the bush, I’m still completely awestruck with each descent down the Oloololo Escarpment, thrilled by the new day and the bliss that accompanies every sunrise. Being in the Mara is a moving experience and the magic renews itself on a daily basis. However, this week seemed to stand out from the rest, making it the most special since my arrival at Angama, and I’m excited to show you why.

 

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The end to another night of feasting, a hippo makes its way back to the river

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These two stallions are fighting for females and in most cases, size really does matter

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While heading out with guests for a photoshoot, we came across Chongo strolling by the Kichwa Tembo Airstrip with a female. He gave us a real show and walked along the road for almost 200 metres. Such an astonishing display giving us great photographic opportunities and most importantly, leaving the guests with a memory that will last a lifetime. As Chongo walked by, so close he rubbed against the side of the vehicle, I watched the smiling faces of the guests on the vehicle and the atmosphere erupted with excitement. Even more special than the lion sighting itself, was witnessing someone else’s first ever close-up lion encounter.

 

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Chongo is an impressive lion, but for first time viewers he’s extraordinary

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Later that day, we approached the Egyptian Goose area, where I had my first sighting of Slit Lip, one of the most beautiful lions in the Mara and arguably, the “next Scarface”, as Adam says. He’s got a magnificent mane and is probably one of the largest lions I’ve ever come across, making him as regal as they get. To top things off, the Mara skies were showing off. It was the perfect opportunity to experiment with my creative side, and shy away from those all-too-common lion portrait shots. I decided it was my duty to frame the king in a way that celebrated not just him, but his domain as well.

 

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Slit Lip sits regally under the African sky

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The following morning, we set out without any expectations and ready for whatever we happened to encounter. As legend has it, those who lower their expectations reap the biggest rewards. We got off to a strong start, spotting three nomadic males at the Hippo Pools. We identified one of these lions as the Rekero Breakaway male. He was sired by the famous Musketeers and has a distinct wound on his back leg, sustained during a buffalo attack in July 2020. He was accompanied by two younger males and they were all deep in Bila Shaka territory, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds over the coming days.

 

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The Rekero Breakaway male with his distinctive scar

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These two youngsters were in dangerous territory

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We then proceeded further south towards the Inselbergs, one of the most beautiful areas in the Triangle. We then got a call on the radio, it was Angama guide Moses signalling that he had spotted the Egyptian Goose Pride. Lo and behold, it was Slit Lip, two adult females and several youngsters lounging around on the grass and momentarily moving around to find better sleeping spots.

The landscape provided the opportunity to get stellar shots of this iconic pride with the backdrop of those distinctive flat-topped hills. As we were having breakfast, the lions suddenly all rushed in one direction towards thick bushes. The rocks prevented us from getting closer. Shortly after, we heard some commotion within the bushes as the lions stumbled across what looked like a reedbuck. This quick shift caught us unaware and a tricky environment meant we missed the chance to capture the kill. Oh well, at least we witnessed it.

 

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Slit Lip has made himself comfortable among the Egyptian Goose pride

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After spending around two hours with the Egyptian Goose Pride, we decided to move on. Heading towards picnic trees, as we were cruising down the road with not another vehicle in sight, we had no idea what awaited us. As I was busy admiring the landscape, Adam brought the vehicle to a halt and pointed at a fig tree by the road. There she was, the Salt Lick female in all her glory. We approached the tree slowly and noticed she was with her cub. It was the same pair of leopards I encountered while writing This Week At Angama 188.  This time, quite far from where we first sighted them, an indication that their territory is huge.

 

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The Salt Lick female leopard looks out over the Mara from her vantage point

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With every leopard in a tree sighting comes the opportunity to capture the descent. Previously, I managed to get a few shots of the cub coming down the tree, but this time it was the mother. Few creatures possess the grace of leopards. My eyes will forever light up and heart will thump a little faster with each leopard encounter.

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The very definition of grace and agility

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BY

 

 


Rwanda’s New Gorilla Babies!

‘Kwita Izina’ means ‘to give a name’ in Kinyarwanda (Rwanda’s national language), a long-honored tradition of naming a child in the presence of friends and family – and now an annual tradition of naming the newest batch of baby mountain gorillas in the country’s Volcanoes National Park (VNP).

 

Held virtually this year on 24 September, Kwita Izina coincides with World Gorilla Day, which marks the date in 1967 that primatologist Dian Fossey established the VNP’s Karisoke Research Center and helped save mountain gorillas from extinction.

 

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The baby gorilla-naming ceremony celebrates an ongoing conservation success story and a renewed commitment to the gorillas, as well as to the communities surrounding the park, now themselves involved in protecting the gorillas and in sustainable development. Since its inauguration in 2005, the ceremony has named 352 baby gorillas, including the 24 this year.

‘In our culture, giving a name is a powerful act of love’, said Ariella Kageruka, Acting Chief Tourism Officer for the Rwanda Development Board, in the taped 17th Kwita Izina ceremony. ‘And a commitment to protect and nurture the child’s wellbeing. For the mountain gorillas being named today, we’re making the same commitment – to protect them and their habitat, today and into the future’.

 

 

Sixty years ago mountain gorillas were on the brink. Today their numbers have more than doubled, estimated at just over 1 000, making their home in the rainforests of the Virunga massif in Rwanda and the DRC, and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Poaching has been mitigated largely by upgrading the livelihoods and infrastructure of communities around the VNP, mostly subsistence farmers. In many cases, former poachers and their families have become informed, ardent conservationists, some working as trackers or guides within the park. Much of the income from gorilla trekking permits – generally USD1 500, even for Rwandans – goes to local farmers to offset any wildlife damage to their fields (the local golden monkeys enjoy feeding off crops, especially the potato fields).

 

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‘We protect our wildlife by investing in our people’, Kageruka said. Local communities protecting the gorillas in effect protect the other species, flora and fauna, living in the park, promoting biodiversity.

Each year the Rwanda Development Board invites a range of distinguished people from around the world – conservationists, scientists, artists, musicians, athletes, business executives, diplomats, and others – to help name the baby gorillas.

Among the meaningful names this year: Inkomezi (Inner Strength); Rinda (Preserve); Twirinde (Protection); Ingabire (Gift); Kabeho (Live Long).

Mountain gorillas are the only great apes whose numbers are increasing. To accommodate this growth, Volcanoes National Park is expanding, with reforestation efforts (like those of our Bisate Lodge) stretching its borders. Gorilla families typically share home ranges, but in certain areas of the park, those home ranges have become overcrowded.

 

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Though removed from the ‘critically endangered’ list three years ago, mountain gorillas remain on the endangered list. Kwita Izima reminds us how precious they are, and how remarkable is spending just one hour in their presence. Our close relatives, sharing more than 98 percent of our DNA.

‘Live Long’, long lives. May the 24 just-named newborns – and their families – thrive.

 

 

 

Written by Melissa Siebert

Gorilla photos by Suzi Eszterhas


Some Interesting Leopard Mating Facts

It was a beautiful spring day to head out on safari in the South African bush. I asked my guests if they wanted to leave slightly earlier on our afternoon drive, as we were on the hunt for the elusive leopard. It was the one animal my guests were desperate to see out in the wild. I heard earlier from a colleague a leopard had been spotted earlier that day.

With a direction in mind, we set off. I could sense the excitement of my guests build as we headed further into the bush. As we approached the general area, Vusi, my tracker, began scanning the ground for tracks or any sign to lead us closer. After half an hour of scanning and scouting, Vusi finally picked up on some of the tracks. We continued to follow them to see where they might lead us. After about an hour or so, we still had no visibility of the leopard. We agreed to go and stop for drinks and try again afterwards when it was a little bit cooler. I decided to attempt one last loop around a section of the bush where tracks went in but did not come out.

As I rounded the corner, there stood a beautiful male leopard right next to the road. What a magnificent moment! He slowly moved back into an open section of the bush. I followed him so my guests could get a few photos in before he decided to go deeper into the thicket. However, instead of moving further in, he lay down in the open with perfect photo opportunities. To our surprise, a female leopard made her appearance from behind us. She walked straight to the male. That’s when I knew it was about to happen. I told my guests: “keep your cameras ready or put it on video mode as this is going to be quick”. I barely finished speaking when this incredible sighting of leopards mating happened just a couple of meters away from us.

 

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Here are some interesting facts about leopards mating.
Did you know:

•Leopards mate every 15 minutes for up to 5 days and lasts only a couple of seconds

•This means that they can mate more than 250 times

•Although this may seem a little excessive, in leopards, the female requires a stimulus to start ovulation

•This is possible when the female’s hormone levels rise enough to produce eggs in a process called oestrus

•When a female enters oestrus she will and mark her territory more frequently, thereby attracting the dominant male in the area

•To stimulate the female to ovulate male leopards have barbs on their penises which dig into the female.

•These barbs make retracting the penis painful for the female which causes her to lash out at the male – you can see her reaction to the male from the images

•Leopards are a solitary breeder

•Males leave after mating frequently for about a week and the male will take no part in rearing the cubs

•If mating was successful, the gestation period will last about 100 days

•On average 2 to 3 cubs are born

With very excited guests still reveling in what we all just witnessed, we decided to spend some more time with them and follow them once again through the bushes. Just as we were about to leave the area, they treated us once again with another mating ritual. This time it was a little bit more private, behind some small shrubs. We could still hear them as they make a lot of noise during mating.

 

Watch the below video taken by Karula Ranger Marnus below which shows the females aggression.

 

 

 

The guests and I started snapping a couple of photos of them as they moved closer. I was also able to get a few shots of my fellow ranger Queen in the background to give you a perspective of how large a +/- two-year-old lion is. Leaving them and ready now to go and stop for our sundowners the guest couldn’t stop talking about this incredible event that just took place.

It just shows you once again, you must expect the unexpected and not give up too soon as you never know what your reward will be like if you do find the one thing you were looking for!

 

 

Story and photos by: Buffalo Camp Ranger Hancho Olivier

 


Chefs Shootout to Sustainability

When guests come on safari, it is not only the luxurious accommodation and beautiful wildlife that is part of the experience.

 

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A large part is also enjoying delicious locally inspired cuisine which encapsulates the heart and spirit of the people and culture of the places that they visit. Guests get to indulge in wonderful and unique tastes they might not ever get to enjoy unless on safari. However, one way to enjoy a culinary gastronomic experience and bring the flavors from afar back home, is recreate a few of these delicious meals through a cook book.
One of Kapama Karula’s delicious recipes has been included in the Africa Agape Safari Cookbook. It is an exciting and hilarious safari cookbook authored by Lynnet Chaurura, the first African female from the Roots of Africa who travelled extensively and worked in remote and Luxury Safari Camps in Africa – to create a book of this kind.
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Her book has been recommended by the World Bank to help Revive Tourism in Africa as she dedicated this book towards not only Tourism but Sustainable Development in Africa and Climate Action initiatives. There are over 25 safari companies in this exciting safari cookbook including adventure companies such as The Land Rover Experience as Lynnet hosted them many times in Botswana. All companies featured in the book have a passion towards Responsible Tourism and have exhibited great love for our planet, people and wildlife.

Africa Agape Safari Cookbook is about people, places, cultures, nature and adventurous trips which exhibit love through the sharing of signature recipes with the most amazing people including stories and bush tales from unique locations and safari properties in Africa. If you love the bush and are crazy about Africa you can rekindle those African memories by trying out amazing recipes featured in the book while discovering some of Lynnet’s adventures in the bush.

 

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Her inspiration in writing this book was birthed from Peit and Jeltje Van Der Gaast who were her Hospitality mentors. They owned The Lekkerbek Family Restaurant in New Jersey, USA in the 1960s and committed their lives to embark on 20 adventurous Hospitality trips to Africa. Lynnet first met Peit and Jeltje in Botswana in 2003 when they were on their last mission.

She then made a follow up trip to The Hague, Holland that same year and came out of a Dutch newspaper as ‘Women Most Successful In Botswana.’ When Lynnet returned back from Holland she pursued her dream of working in the bush for a number of fascinating luxury safari camps as a Safari Hostess Manager for 10 years.

 

Why should people buy a copy of this book

 

” When COVID-19 struck the tourism industry and the world – all doors were closed. These are hard times indeed, especially for the safari Industry in Africa. As we all know Tourism is a major contributor to African Economies. I can not image a life without Tourism for the African continent. Africa has always been struggling with unemployment, poverty, hunger and other challenges. So I decided to write this book to help Revive the Tourism Industry in Africa by creating inspiration for travelers through the “Africa Agape Safari Cookbook”. To bring light and hope to African Tourism in the midst of the dark times the world is currently facing, by featuring various locations, camps and lodges so that the world can see and read about the, and also support their projects. This hope is the seed which Revives Tourism ion Africa. When you buy Africa Agape Safari Cookbook 25% of all book sales go towards lodges and camps featured in the book and the various projects they are currently working on. Book exposure with further help support sustainable development in safari camps in Africa and save many jobs. The rest of the monies will go towards COVID response through providing sanitisers, face masks, tackling hunger, child and adult malnutrition and deforestation projects in Africa.” Lynnet Chaurura:

 

If you would like pre-order a copy of the cook book and experience extraordinary cuisine from some of Africa’s top safari camps and lodges click here!


2021 WORLD RHINO DAY!

On September 22 each year we show respect to the planet’s rhino population on World Rhino Day – an occasion that gives the opportunity for cause-related organizations, NGOs, zoos, and members of the public to celebrate rhinos in their own unique ways.

 

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Rhino are still facing existential threats in many parts of AfricaSouth Africa, for one, has lost half its rhino population since the incessant poaching crisis escalated in this country over the past five years. However, despite these substantial losses, and relentless poaching, there have also been several restoration success stories too. Wilderness Safaris is proud to help aid rhino conservation in three African countries, namely Botswana, Namibia and Rwanda.

In southern Africa, Wilderness Safaris aids in the conservation of two sub-species of black rhino. Namibia’s Damaraland region has become a stronghold for south-western black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis). Back in 2003, Wilderness Safaris joined forces with Save the Rhino Trust Namibia and local conservancies, Torra, Sesfontein and Anabeb, to ensure the survival of this arid-adapted sub-species. Community conservation in Namibia grew out of the recognition that wildlife has value, and that this value can be unlocked if local communities are empowered to manage and utilize these resources themselves. The result after so many years of dedication has been the sustained increase in range of desert-adapted black rhino, as well as the overall population.

 

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2014 was a milestone for Wilderness Safaris – and Botswana’s rhino population – when the company, together with our government partners (Botswana and South Africa), numerous generous donors, trade partners, guests and NGOs, succeeded in moving a significant number of south-central black rhino (Diceros bicornis minor) from South Africa to northern Botswana. While this population has had its setbacks, the fight and population recruitment successes continue.

A Rwandan conservation success story has been the reintroduction of eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) back to the tropical savannahs of Akagera National Park. After an initial founding population was translocated in 2017, a further five animals of the same sub-species were moved in 2019. In this historic move, the rhino came from Safari Park Dvůr Králové in the Czech Republic. The translocation was a joint undertaking with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and African Parks, to increase Akagera’s existing rhino population and increase the gene pool. Subsequent to their release this population has been doing well and a dedicated team of trackers monitors them daily. Wilderness Safaris is also proud to play a supporting role in terms of monitoring this rhino population in Akagera.

 

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Today, over 90% of black rhino are found in just four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya, with smaller populations in Botswana, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and Swaziland. Black rhino are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Between 1970 and 1990, 96% were lost to poaching. By the early 1990s, the global population had plummeted to fewer than 2 500. Today, there are around 5 000 black rhino in the wild, thanks to ongoing and tireless conservation efforts by various organizations.

 

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Many of these rhino conservation successes could not have been possible without our valued guests and donors. You can help save Africa’s rhino by making a much-needed donation to the Wilderness Wildlife Trust.

 

 

 

 


Characters and their Cultures

The fourth category of Africa in Focus celebrates Africa’s characters, cultures, traditions, and modern adaptations of the continent’s people, and their engagement with their natural environment. In the past, entries in this category were dominated by three traditional cultural groups: the Himba from Namibia, the Maasai from Kenya and northern Tanzania, and the small Karo tribe from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. All three tribes fall in key tourism areas in each of these countries, and throughout the years have managed to maintain most of their ethnic traditions and values.

A few of these are highlighted below.

 

Himba, Namibia

 

The Himba are an ancient Namibian people, closely related to the Herero, and mostly found in the north-west of the country. With an estimated population of about 50 000 they are semi-nomadic, pastoral people who breed cattle and goats. One of the very few indigenous groups left in the world who still respect and live according to the traditions of their ancestors.

 

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The women are famous for rubbing their bodies with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre. They believe this protects their skin against the harsh climate. The red mixture is said to symbolise Earth’s rich red colour and the blood that symbolises life. The painting on the skin also differentiates the women from the men.

When entering one of the small villages consisting of scattered clay huts, you will always find a fire smouldering. Smoke plays an important role in their traditions. Smoke is seen as a medium to communicate with their supreme being, Mukuru. The smoke of the holy fires rises towards the heavens enabling them to communicate with their ancestors. Due to water scarcity, Himba women seldom will take a bath in water, but rather a smoke bath, to maintain personal hygiene.

 

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Maasai, Kenya and Northern Tanzania

 

Another semi-nomadic group residing in Kenya and northern Tanzania, arguably one of the foremost African ethnic groups, and known internationally due to their distinct traditions, customs and dress: traditional Maasai reside mostly near the many national game parks of East Africa.

Long before the formation of any protected areas, the Maasai moved and grazed their herds throughout the Rift Valley, with very little to no damage to the land or the resident wildlife due to their nomadic lifestyle. Hunting was also very limited since their diet relies on the milk, blood and meat of their livestock. They were seen as the first conservationists.

 

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They are well-known for Maasai jumping dance, the adamu. This is a traditional dancing ceremony performed by young Maasai men who gather in a circle, jump up and down in unison and rhythmically chant together. Each of the young men takes a turn stepping in front of the group and jumps several times straight up in the air, as high as he can. All of this is to show their strength, in the hope of attracting a wife.

 

Karo Tribe, Omo Valley, Ethiopia

 

The Lower Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia is home to over a dozen different tribes, estimated at 200 000 people. One of those tribes is the Karo, with a population of about a 1 000 to 2 000 individuals, making them one of the smallest ethnic groups on the African continent. They live on the eastern bank of the Omo River where they grow sorghum, maize and beans, through flood-retreat cultivation.

 

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The Karo are undeniably artistic by nature. Like many of the other tribes in the Omo, the Karo paint their bodies and faces with white chalk. The chalk is mixed with yellow rock, red iron ore and charcoal to create the colour. Face masks are worn at times, as are clay hair buns decorated with feathers.

Both men and woman scar their bodies – the women in the belief that it makes them beautiful, while for the men it represents an enemy or dangerous animal they have killed.


5 Tips For Your Photographic Safari!

Wildlife photography is one of the most popular forms of photography. However, even city dwellers do not have to venture into wild areas to photograph animals and birds, as they are all around us – including unlikely city areas such as Manhattan, where you will find birds, and surprisingly animals, that have made the city their home. The following five tips should get you started on the road to becoming an accomplished wildlife photographer, or at least prepare you for that once-in-a-lifetime African safari.

 

Your Equipment

 

If you are hoping to take wildlife photography seriously, the hard truth is that you need high-quality equipment. Unlike landscape, portrait or travel photography, you need better equipment, and a 50mm lens will just not do the trick. You definitely need a telephoto lenses if you want to photograph distant animals or birds.

 

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This does not mean that you need to run to your nearest photographic store and purchase the most expensive equipment. Unless you recently won the lotto or have some spare cash under your pillow, it will take time before you will have the ideal equipment in your bag.

Most hobbyists start with second-hand equipment. Photographers are always upgrading their equipment and there are good deals out there. I’ve been lucky enough a few times to sell my second-hand equipment for almost the same price as I bought it. With the extra money I saved, I was able to buy a larger and better lens.

It is also not necessary to start your photographic journey with the highest-quality goods. Your first piece of kit should be a decent mid-level zoom lens. It will be less costly, but it will give you some extra range when you start out as a wildlife photographer.

Also, if you discover you will be having access to a once-in-a-life-time photographic experience, you can always rent better equipment for that short period of time. This is not something I would suggest doing over a long period, as you may end up being able to buy the equipment by the time you return it, but it will allow you an opportunity to experiment and use the equipment before you take a big step to buying something similar.

Remember, technology has improved so much over the last few decades that a smaller point-and-shoot camera can initially get you started. I am sure you will fall in love with wildlife photography almost instantly and that you will want the larger and better equipment, but at least this will give you an opportunity to see if wildlife photography is what you want to pursue.

 

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This photo is proof that if you are too close to your subject, you need to get creative with your longer lenses, and that owning the longest telephoto lens is not always to your benefit. I would have needed to change lenses if I wanted to capture the rest of these cheetahs taking a nap on a very cold and misty morning.

 

Patience is Key

 

Patience is key for wildlife photography. Unfortunately, you cannot tell your subject what they need to do, and wildlife is not a building that stands still, and will be there again tomorrow. Interfering in the natural behaviour of wildlife is unethical and the likelihood is that they will not listen to you anyway. Yes, it sounds pretty much like photographing kids.

Your patience should not have an expiry date when it comes to wildlife photography. If you are not in a rush to get to your next destination, take your time. Spend those extra few minutes with your subject, especially earlier and later in the day when animals tend to be more active.

Not only is it important to be patient at that specific moment, but it is also important to stick with wildlife photography for the long run. There have been a number of times that I have returned from a weekend away with just a few average photos, only to come back with a lot more and some to be really proud of the very next time. It’s the natural world and there are so many variables at play – one week to the next can be completely different and provide vastly different opportunities and results.

 

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A photograph never tells the full story. It probably took 30 minutes and 500 shots to finally get this photo of a bee-eater coming in to land.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

 

As with most things in life, if you want to get good at it, practice. Whether it is getting that perfect golf swing or baking the perfect cupcake, everything takes some practice.

The more you practice, the more you will understand what the best settings are for each situation. So go on, photograph those birds coming for a drink at the water bowl in your garden, or the neighbour’s cat hanging out on the fence. Go to the park and photograph the squirrels playing in the trees or birds flying overhead.

 

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I photographed this kingfisher from my bedroom window. I woke up early one morning to find this fellow perching on a tree overhanging our swimming pool. Luckily, in this case, the bird was very patient, and I had photographed some other birds the day before, allowing me to get hold of my camera and capture it before it flew off.

 

At the same time you will get to know your camera a lot better for those times youneed to react quickly to a change in your subject’s behaviour and make the adjustment in your settings. Not only will it increase your success rate in achieving your objectives, but there will be lot less ifs… If I only did this, or did that…

 

Southern and Eastern Africa Wildlife Safaris

 

In South Africa we are fortunate to have a number of smaller protected areas within a few kilometres of where we live. In the beginning I was able to practice a few times before I was able to travel to areas like the Okavango Delta or Mana Pools, where you see the real wild Africa.

 

It Is All In The Eye

 

Unless you are photographing an animal or bird, wanting to show them within their natural environment (scenic), it is always key to make sure the eyes are in focus. Especially if they are looking right back at you.

This allows you to have a natural point of focus in your shots and helps draw the viewer into the photo. Eyes are also an easy focal point as they are a source of colour and help give your compositions a certain mood.

 

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Although this photograph was taken from a vehicle at a 45 degree angle and not at ground level, you will still get lost in this cub’s mesmerizing eyes.

 

Ground Level

 

Try to be at eye-level with your subject. Definitely not easy if you are in a game drive vehicle and a lion is staring back at you from 30 metres away – but do try to get as low as you can. It is always good to be at the level of your subject. Being at your subject’s height, you’ll be able to get a better bokeh effect in the background, which will make your picture stand out even more.

According to photographylife.com, bokeh is the quality of out-of-focus or blurred parts of the image rendered by a camera lens – it is NOT the blur itself, or the amount of blur in the foreground or background of a subject. The blur that you are so used to seeing in photography is what separates a subject from its background, and is the result of shallow depth of field. It is generally simply called background blur. The quality and feel of the background/foreground blur and reflected points of light, however, is what photographers call bokeh.

 

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From a boating activity in the Busanga Plains – a herd of lechwe was browsing on the river embankment, allowing me to be at ground level with my subject.

 

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I was lying on my stomach on a little island in the lagoon to photograph this African oystercatcher. At least no risk of a lion attacking you…

Hopefully these few very easy, non-technical tips will get you started, or help improve your wildlife photography.

 

 

By Carel Loubser


A Winter Morning in the Bush!

I set off on morning safari from South Africa’s Kapama Southern Camp with my assistant guide (Sifiso) and our guests. That particular morning was freezing, so we tried to get to a spot to watch the sunrise while we defrosted our bodies before setting off on our adventure. Vervet monkeys can be observed doing a similar thing and bask in the early morning sunshine to warm up.

 

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We always ask our guests what animal would they would like to see while out on a safari. Lions are often top of the list. While soaking up the beautiful winter sunshine, a fellow ranger, Queen from Kapama River Lodge, called in a sighting of lions on the move. I decided to respond to the sighting because we had not had a decent lion sighting up to that point. On our approach to the area, we heard impalas alarm calling, something they do if they spot a potential threat. Scanning the surroundings, I could not see any lions. Then suddenly we saw impalas running all over the place. Through the chaos of the impalas running, we caught a quick glimpse of one of the lionesses as she moved deeper into the bush. It seemed to be her tactic to try her luck again. Impala just snorted and moved out of the area.

 

African Safari Co. - Kapama Private Reserve

 

That is when I knew that it was an unsuccessful hunt. It is common for lions to miss most of their hunting attempts. They generally only have a success rate of about 20-30%. It was also low for these particular lions we were watching. They were sub-adults from another pride that were moving on their own as the two females they belong to have recently given birth to another litter consisting of seven cubs.

After a short time, the lions started to move closer to the road again. That is when we saw the pride. It was three young lionesses and one young male lion. They moved onto the road in front of us and continued in a southerly direction while we follow behind them. When I noticed a road that made it possible for me to move around them, I took it to see if we can get a frontal view of them as they continued down the road. I managed to get ahead of them and decided to wait for them to come to us. It was not long before they made their appearance around the corner.

It was not long before they made their appearance around the corner. The first thing our guests noticed was their beautiful yellow eyes staring down at us.

 

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The guests and I started snapping a couple of photos of them as they moved closer. I was also able to get a few shots of my fellow ranger Queen in the background to give you a perspective of how large a +/- two-year-old lion is.

 

African Safari Co.

 

Kapama Reserve - African Safari Co.

 

African Safari Co. - Kapama Safaris

 

We continued to view them for a couple of more minutes before we set off to go and stop for a morning coffee. It was a fantastic sighting and one I don’t think our guests would easily forget.

 

 

 

Story and photos by: Southern Camp Ranger Viljoen Jordaan


What’s for Dinner in Nairobi?

Whether you’re in the mood for something refined or relaxing, Nairobi has it all. Could this be the gastronomic hub of East Africa? We certainly think so!

 

East African Safaris - African Safari Co.
Mawimbi’s seafood is hard to beat, but the competition in Nairobi is strong

 

Please trust us when we say that going on safari without including at least one night in Nairobi would be a mistake. You may already know about the many wonderful experiences to be had in and around the city but perhaps, even more importantly, why chance missing out on what is fast becoming one of the most vibrant food scenes in Africa? With influences all the way from Ecuador to Japan – but always with a distinctive Swahili touch – it was near impossible to whittle down the list of must-do restaurants. Nevertheless, here is our current shortlist of Nairobi’s best dinner eateries.

 

INTI

 

Exciting cuisine, incredible views and gorgeous design all wrapped into one – INTI is  Nairobi’s first Nikkei restaurant (and in fact, the first in Africa). High up on the 20th floor of One Africa Place on Waiyaki Way, INTI boasts incredible views of the city lights. A combination of Japanese and Peruvian fare, the style of cooking first emerged in the late 19th century when Japanese farmers moved to Peru to work on sugar cane farms. Unable to find many of their familiar ingredients, they turned to Peruvian produce but retained their traditional cooking methods. Come early to toast the sunset with a Japanese craft cocktail, and then dine on ceviche and tiradito (Peruvian sashimi) prepared with Kenyan seafood, with the zing of lime, chilli, and soy.

Located in Westlands, INTI is best for guests staying at Villa Rosa Kempinksi.

 

Nairobi Cuisine
With an exciting menu and vibe, INTI is the buzziest restaurant in Nairobi
Photograph credits: INTI

 

Mawimbi Seafood Restaurant

 

Meaning ‘waves’ in Kiswahili, Mawimbi Seafood Restaurant near Nairobi’s central business district evokes the ambiance of an island holiday. With its heavily palmed entrance and white-washed walls and fresh produce flown in daily from the Kenyan coast, the tropical theme carries through to every dish. Delicious seafood prepared by Ecuadorian executive chef Carlos Espindola features both African and Latin American influences. Who can resist an elegant and refreshing ceviche, followed by ‘The Poseidon’, a platter piled high with lobster, fish, prawns, calamari, oysters, and octopus, served with a dazzling choice of cocktails with background live jazz?

Located in Nairobi’s Central Business District, Mawimbi is ideal for guests staying at Villa Rosa Kempinski.

 

East Africa Wildlife Safaris - African Safari Co.
Mawimbi’s food is sophisticated but the atmosphere feels like being at the beach
Photograph credits: Mawimbi Seafood Restaurant

 

Cultiva

 

Originally planned as a pop-up restaurant to make the most of an abundant season of crops organically farmed in Langata, fans of Cultiva simply couldn’t get enough. Now a permanent fixture, Cultiva is the brainchild of another  Ecuadorian kitchen maestro, Ariel Moscardi, who loves to showcase the very best freshest produce from farm-to-table. The menu changes regularly and is a great choice for vegans and vegetarians, but there is heaps to keep carnivores happy, too. The on-site bakery prepares delicious sourdough breads and the ice-cream shop delights gelato lovers with combinations such as caramel, bacon and peanuts, and sesame and Canadian bourbon made with all-natural ingredients and vanilla beans grown in Uganda.

Located in Karen, Culitva is perfect for guests staying at Hemingway’sGiraffe Manor and Eden.

 

Fine Dining on Safari
Fresh, flavourful, and fabulous to look at… need we say more?
Photograph credits: Cultiva

 

Seven Seafood & Grill

 

You may have heard of the celebrity executive chef at this much-loved restaurant, Kenyan Kiran Jethwa. Kiran has feautured on cooking shows on Nat Geo, Channel 4 and the Food Network. At Seven Seafood & Grill, his creative Indo-Mediterranean cooking style showcases the very best Kenyan produce – freshly flown-in fish, crayfish, prawns and oysters from the coast and the finest local beef. The combination of fish and meat is likely to make most happy, with platters showcasing both and a range of vegetarian options for those who don’t like either. Before heading home, end the evening off with one of the ‘Dangerous Ice Cream Cocktails’ or ‘Boozey Coffees’.

Located in Westlands, Seven Seafood & Grill is suited for guests staying at Villa Rosa Kempinksi.

 

Dining in Africa - African Safari Co.
Mouth-watering and satisfying, the food at Seven never disappoints
Photograph credits: Seven Seafood & Grill

 

Fogo Gaucho

 

While the concept of Fogo Gaucho may be Brazilian it is undeniable that Nairobians have a deep love for nyama choma, or grilled meat. It comes as no surprise that the Brazilian tradition of a churrascaria would be a huge success in this city of meat-lovers. Serving up 17 cuts of meat every day – each cooked to perfection over open coals and carved off steel skewers – Fogo Gaucho has an all-you-can-eat offering, so maybe consider skipping lunch before your visit. On the table, you’ll find a token which you will turn to green when you want the waiters to bring on the meat and turn to red when you need a break. Make sure to leave some space for their famous grilled pineapple with cinnamon sugar for dessert.

Located in Westlands, Fogo Gaucho is convenient for guests staying at Villa Rosa Kempinski.

 

Wildlife Safaris Experts - African Safari Co.
With a a wide variety of meats – including crocodile – Fogo Gaucho is a must for carnivores
Photograph credits: Fogo Gaucho

 

 

BY

 

 


What goes on in a gnu’s brain?

What goes on in a gnu’s brain? This Migration Season reinforces just how much these animals live up to their collective noun – an implausibility – as they continue to behave in perplexing ways.

 

African Safari Co. - Great Migration Safaris
The endless migration herds stretch over the plains

 

The Migration seems to have gone south, quite literally. The heavy rains of a few days ago seem to have confused the mega herds that had streamed into the Mara Triangle. The anticipation grew as they slowly mowed their way north towards the river, setting the stage for what we expected would be the most spectacular crossings of the season. Then the heavens opened consecutively for a few days. Storms raging from the north left areas of the Mara Triangle waterlogged – and the herds decided to start heading back.

 

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Hundreds of thousands of animals moving in sync

 

The big question in everyone’s mind right now is, what prompted the sudden turnaround? I have a theory. Not long ago, there were a large number of fires around the Serengeti border – including the southern parts of the Sand River and the southern regions of the Mara Triangle, though the bigger, more expansive fires were in Tanzania. When the first of the big herds arrived in the area, the landscape was scorched and devoid of grazing. The wildebeest thundered up quickly into the northern parts of the Triangle where there was plenty of long grass to eat. But while they are happy to eat long grass, they prefer shorter green shoots.

 

African Safari Co. - Kenya Safaris
Trying to anticipate and predict their movements is a fool’s errand

 

While the Migration continued to flood north, we had a period of consecutive afternoon and overnight showers. The burnt areas suddenly exploded with life and fresh green grass covered the southern Mara and northern Serengeti. The wildebeest reacted almost immediately, turning south and marching down to the border towards the burnt areas where they have now spread out like ants dotted across the landscape.

 

Now the question that remains is just how long the short, green grass will last? And when it is finished, will they turn back and move north again into the Triangle, or will they continue south, into Tanzania?

 

Kenya Family Safaris - African Safari Co. - Angama Mara
The questions are endless when it comes to the Migration and the answers equally so

 

Great Migration Safaris - Maasai Mara
After all the chaos we don’t blame this zebra for taking a dip in this peaceful little pool

 

This new development in the herd’s movement clearly depicts the impact humans have across the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The burning of wide expanses can have a negative effect on some of the smaller species that heavily depend on the cover of grassland. But controlled burning is important as it helps maintain open savannahs by keeping thorny scrub and trees at bay.

 

African Safari Co, - Angama Mara Kenya Safari Camp
The sheer scale of the migrating herds illustrate the expansiveness of the Mara

 

African Safari Co, - Travel Experts
It is remarkable that the ecosystem can support such a large and sudden influx of animals, even for a short while

 

The smaller herds that crossed the Sand River and moved towards the eastern side of the Mara River are now crossing in small batches into the Triangle. Unlike the Sand River crossings, the waters here are infested with crocodiles and we have seen some interesting and successful attempts by the crocodiles in securing a meal.

 

African Great Migration Safaris
With the mega herds out of play, the smaller herds have held the spotlight as they continue to cross the Mara River

 

Great Migration Safaris to Kenya - African Safari Co.
They have held us captive with endless drama

 

On the banks of the river, dangers are still ever-present with leopards and lions waiting for an opportunity to strike. Sammy our head guide was very fortunate to capture some beautiful shots of a leopard stalking its prey.

 

Africa Wildlife Safaris Experts
A sneaky leopard is another factor to account for in their life-or-death equation

 

Speculating on what will unfold in the coming weeks, our guides are fairly convinced the herds will turn back north sooner rather than later. How soon? That is still anyone’s guess. One thing is for certain – we haven’t yet had our fill of these single-minded mammals swarming across the Triangle. The predators, too, will surely be hoping they return. This is without a doubt one of the most unusual migrations in years.

 

Luxury African Migration Safaris
Crocodile, lions, leopards, you name it –the migrating herds have to overcome it all

 

BY  

 

 


The Perfect Photographic Safari

Capturing your safari in striking images is any photographer’s dream. Jaw-dropping landscapes, active and abundant wildlife, great equipment, and good guidance up your chances of getting ‘that image’. These amazing camps offer the ultimate photographic safari, taking you from the game-rich plains of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, to the banks of the Zambezi River at Mana Pools, then on to the watery channels of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and finally, on terra firma again, still in the Delta, to one of the most spectacular game-viewing destinations in Africa.

 

African Safari Co. - Custom Photographic Safaris

 

Geared toward both amateur and professional photographers, these luxurious, photogenic camps, start with Linkwasha and Ruckomechi in Zimbabwe, followed by Little Vumbura and Mombo in the Okavango. Both land- and water-based game viewing and highly diverse environments mean a field day for you and your camera. On land, whether game drives or walks; on water, in boats, canoes, or traditional mekoro; or from the air, via hot-air balloon or helicopter, you’ll have an endless range of perspectives enriching your shots.

All four camps offer guests the use of state-of-the art Olympus camera units, as well as highly experienced guides, photographically trained; guests are given a complimentary SD card to take their images home with them. The game vehicles guarantee a window seat for all guests; at extra cost, guests can book a private vehicle should they want to stay longer shooting specific sightings.

 

Linkwasha, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

 

Custom Luxury Safaris - African Safari Co.

 

A contemporary safari camp in an iconic African landscape, Linkwasha sits on the edge of the renowned Ngamo Plains of Hwange, Zimbabwe’s largest national park. A staggering 5 657 square miles of diverse habitat, Kalahari sands seeping into teak woodlands and golden savannah grasslands, Hwange serves up some of the best game viewing on Earth, year-round but especially rewarding during the dry season. Linkwasha has access to the exclusive-use Makalolo and Linkwasha concessions, incorporating the Ngamo Plains, dotted with vleis and ilala palms and home to an ever-changing wildlife parade.

Potential Linkwasha highlights: in winter, particularly, welcoming uncountable numbers of dust-kicking buffalo and many of the park’s 40 000 majestic elephant at a waterhole, perhaps from a walking safari, or spying from a hide; following the herds, and predators in their wake, on a day game drive, and at night searching for the more elusive pangolin, caracal, lesser bushbaby, or honey badger; after the rains start, seeing swirls of raptors fill the skies; witnessing dramatic blood-orange sunsets or summer thunderstorms, sound and light shows flashing across the Plains.

 

Custom Luxury Safaris - Botswana & Zimbabwe

 

‘Linkwasha brings your senses alive’, says Olympus photographer Joe Hanly. ‘Panoramic views of the Plains allow you to feel immersed in the bush’.

Using one of two Olympus units or your own camera, the camp’s sunken hide is ideal for honing your photography skills. ‘It’s the perfect location to shoot without any pressure of moving on to a different sighting. The animals come so close that you can really put your creative instincts to the test, while also enjoying the unbelievable experience of observing the details of their social interactions, their movement, their textures or coat, and their gaze’.

 

 

Ruckomechi, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

 

African Safari - Ruckomechi, Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

 

One of the pioneer camps of Mana Pools, northern Zimbabwe’s magical World Heritage Site along the famed Zambezi River, Ruckomechi has been thrilling guests for more than two decades. Not just human guests. If you visit this remote, seasonal camp, you’ll be sharing it with a wildlife menagerie: lots of elephants, big cats, hyaenas, buffalos, hippos, crocs, wild dogs and whatever meeker game that might be on the menu. A Grand Central Station of wildlife-in-transit, at the southern tip of the Rift Valley, with distant views of the escarpment and front-row views of the Zambezi.

The photo ops, like the wildlife, are countless.

‘Guests get to be in the midst of wildlife’, says Safari Guide Nyenge Kazingizi, on hand to assist them with their photography and the Olympus camera equipment. ‘Guests love the concentration of animals around camp, especially elephants – roaming around the tents during the middle of the day as they pick the acacia pods, or swimming across to the island to feed. As one guest said, “Just sharing the space with these gentle giants is so amazing”’.

 

African Safari - Luxury Travel Experts

 

Take to the river by boat, or canoe and find your shot, of elephants swimming; hippos surfacing; hundreds of bird species, including iconic fish-eagles soaring and carmine bee-eaters nesting on the riverbanks; and so much more. Linger amidst the golden light in a forest of ana trees, as elephants come to feast, standing gracefully on their hind legs, then vanishing like giant shadows.

‘Ruckomechi is both magical and mystical’, says Camp Manager Eddie Mudzimu.

Your photos there will likely be the same.

 

 

Little Vumbura, Okavango Delta, Botswana

 

African Safari Co. - Little Vumbura, Okavango Delta, Botswana

 

Sited on a lovely island in the far north of the Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta on Earth, Little Vumbura almost seems to float. Surrounded by water, the camp rests in the middle of the melapo, the annually inundated grasslands, and offers both land- and water-based game viewing. Wildlife and landscape change with the ebb and flow of the waters, through the seasons presenting an abundant variety on which to train your lens: elephant; giraffe; impala; sable antelope; kudu; zebra; common waterbuck; reedbuck; tsessebe; wildebeest; red lechwe; Cape buffalo; predators including African wild dog, lion, leopard, cheetah, and African wildcat; hippo and crocodile in the waterways; and more than 400 bird species, affording exceptional birding year round. Intimate wildlife encounters occur regularly on the spectacular floodplains, studded with ilala palms.

 

 

The Delta is an ever-changing ecosystem; no season is the same as the next. Water levels change, the flow of water changes, and with all that the animals change. Having the option to get out on water year round makes this concession truly magical. Definitely a highlight for any guest, and a thrill for photographers, is the sight of lions leaping the channels when the water is high, hopping between islands in pursuit of prey.

With add-on options of booking a helicopter and/or hot-air balloon, you and your camera can explore diverse perspectives on the panoramas below. Or, drifting along gently in a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe, you can focus on smaller flora and fauna, such as the ubiquitous water lilies and tiny reed frogs. Or, on a delta boat, speed up to see more of the wonders around you.

 

Hot air balloon safaris

 

Mombo, Okavango Delta, Botswana

 

African Safari Co. - Mombo, Okavango Delta, Botswana

 

Your photographic journey culminates at our flagship camp, Mombo, the ‘Place of Plenty’ overlooking Delta floodplains teeming with wildlife and offering some of the best game-viewing – and so naturally, fabulous wildlife photography – on the continent. Located in the Moremi Game Reserve in the northeastern corner of Chief’s Island – once a tribal leader’s hunting ground – legendary Mombo is known for its exceptional concentration of game and its predator action.

All told, the holy grail for photographers…

‘Wildlife around Mombo has always been nothing short of spectacular’, says wildlife photographer Sean van der Merwe. ‘The Okavango is one of the prime destinations for game viewing in Africa, and its rich biodiversity attracts regular as well as unique sightings rarely observed on the continent, ranging from leopards seen daily within the camp’s footprint to a glimpse of the rare pangolin. Mombo is your best bet in the Okavango for encountering all the predators and big game. Key bird species around Mombo make this a bird nerd’s paradise’.

 

 

The Olympus photography experience at Mombo is extensive, offering guests use of top-notch equipment and private tuition, should they so choose.

 

 

‘A sensory overload’ is how Sean describes 24 hours at Mombo. And potentially a profusion of sensational photographs.

 

 

Written by Melissa Siebert


Women’s Month in South Africa!

National Women’s Day in South Africa is celebrated annually on the 9th of August. Women’s Day not only celebrates the  strength and resilience of women but also their impact and contribution to the country and our society as a whole. In South Africa, Women’s Day forms part of Women’s Month where we pay tribute to incredible women who have paved the way and laid the foundation to empower women and strive for gender equality.

This year’s theme is powerful. It’s “Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future”.

Kapama Private Game Reserve is proud for our role we play in empowering women in the very male dominated industry of Field Guiding.

During this Women’s month we honour and pay tribute to our proud female field guides pioneering the path forward for other women to follow in their footsteps. All across Africa female guides are breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes by moving into a male dominated industry.

In our field guiding team we would like to introduce you to Liezel Holmes our Safari Manager who has been in the industry for over 17 years.

Included in our team is Queen Manyike, a young guide from the local community – Acornhoek, which surrounds Kapama Game Reserve. Let’s find out a bit more about Queen,

“My name is Queen Manyike and I’m 26 years young, I’m from Acornhoek Mpumalanga in the rural areas of Tintswalo village, I’m a proud female field guide, currently working at Kapama Private Game Reserve at River Lodge. Nature is my passion. Growing up visiting my father in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve Headquarters and attending Eco Children’s holiday workshops enhanced this passion and appreciation a lot. I want to see myself grow in this industry and become a professional photographer and field guide and inspire other young women out there to follow their passion as anything is possible.”

Liezel together with Queen were both featured in Hi-Tec SA’s “Against the odds” campaign. Women who are passionate about the outdoors. It’s a campaign inspired by South Africans who are constantly pushing the limits of their capabilities. Incredible people who are proving over and over what the human spirit is able to overcome when one’s head is in the right place. Watch the full clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WksYtaw_7KM&t=68s

 

African Safari Co. - Kapama Reserve

 

Queen was also part of the: Inside Africa Documentary which featured on CNN. The title was: A wild Life – Behind the scenes with South African photographers. This focused on a wave of young photographers emerging In South Africa, where an abundance of wildlife provides picture-perfect opportunities. You can watch the documentary here, with Queen being featured from the 8th minute https://edition.cnn.com/videos/tv/2021/08/10/inside-africa-wildlife-photography-travel-conservation-spc.cnn

 

African Safari Co. - South Africa Safaris

 

Other strong and passionate field guides in our team include Tasha van den Aardweg –  a proud Kapama River Lodge field guide and Lindi Taljaard– a proud Southern Camp field guide.

 

African Safari Co. - Travel Experts

 

Luxury African Safari Custom Travel Experts

 

The newest addition to the Kapama family and field guiding team is Sindi Mhlodi, from Kanyamazane, close to Nelspruit, a proud Kapama River Lodge field guide. Here is her story:

“Growing up I always loved animals. After school I worked in a restaurant and when a colleague moved to the Kruger National Park, he offered me a waitressing position in one of the lodges. It was here that my love for guiding bloomed. I started to see wildlife all around me and I also saw the lifestyle of the rangers. Whenever I was off duty I asked to join on game drives. I began learning more about the birds in the area and became a master at spotting things. I loved the interaction with guests and how the rangers shared their wealth of knowledge. This inspired me to become a guide.

“Being a woman has come with its challenges and I had a few people try and dissuade me from perusing my passion. At one Lodge, a manager did not want to hire me as he said a woman ranger would not have the physical strength. But I don’t believe that is true. Woman are strong and can overcome a lot. We bring a different kind of strength to the profession. I feel being a woman in this industry also offers a softer side to things. We are nurtures by nature. As nurtures we want to see something grow and that means being passionate about conserving nature and our surroundings.”

 

African Safari Co. - South Africa Luxury Safaris

 

“It does come with its downfalls though. As a woman you have to put in double the amount of work and prove yourself continuously. But I think your passion is what makes you stand out. But in spite of this, I will never change or go back to doing anything else besides guiding.

“It has been an amazing journey so far, even though I started my career a bit late, I am looking forward to growing in this industry and one day becoming an example for others to follow and be an inspiration to others especially young children who come from the type of background I come from. “

We are so proud of our lady field guides and safari manager and look forward to following their careers as they achieve their goals and aspirations and forge the path for others to follow.