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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
‘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
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”’.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.”
“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.
Elizabeth Gilbert had to travel all over the world to accomplish these three things, but all Charlotte needed was just two weeks, a Covid test and some very stretchy jeans.
Happily, I made my way to Nicky’s house on the 9 June with my small carry-on luggage, wide-brimmed hat, and camera bag. It wasn’t long before my bag disappeared under a pile of heavy material needed for the bathroom vanities at Angama Safari Camp. My hat was squashed into a bag carrying an assortment of exciting and mysterious items for the lodge, and I had to add another 15kg suitcase to the hold.
Slightly weighed down, but as excited as ever, we arrived at Wilson Airport with great pomp and ceremony. I say this because I was travelling with Nicky Fitzgerald and it appears that anybody who has anything to do with tourism in Kenya has enjoyed a long and fond friendship with her (it was this, and maybe the mint chocolate cake we bought along as a luggage overweight peace offering for the airline team).
I remember thinking on the flight: “It doesn’t get better than this,” as we flew over the Mara in all its glory. My, on my, how wrong I was.
You know how they have those cameras at the most terrifying section on a roller-coaster? Well, I think Angama Mara should have a secret camera hidden for when people see the view for the first time. Luckily, I had Azei next to me to help pick my jaw off the floor.
And good thing too, because that jaw was put straight to work with ‘The Best Burger in the Mara’. This was something of an embarrassment because I had “trying to be a vegetarian” as my dietary requirement but in my defense, it was the best burger in the Mara.
The culinary treats just kept coming, from homemade ice-cream to curries that warmed the corners of your tummy. To say I was in heaven is an understatement. I tried my best to eat the Angama chefs out of house and home but they reveled in the challenge and won outright. I will happily go for round two though, this time with even stretchier jeans.
The pray and love part of my story at Angama are inextricably intertwined. There is a quote from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner inscribed on a plaque under Denys Finch Hatton’s (movie) tree near the Pavilion that reads “He who loveth well prayeth well”. If that quote is true, then I was in the company of all the spiritual entities those two weeks because, my goodness, did I love. My meditation was our 8:15 daily guest briefing; my rosary, the binoculars slung round my neck. Each morning before the sun rose, I faced eastwards as the balloons progressed on their gentle sunrise float across the Mara.
It was at Angama Mara where I finally understood what Elizabeth Barrett Browning meant when she wrote: “to the depth and breadth and height, my soul can reach”.
In Eat Pray Love, a quote goes “some days are meant to be counted, others are meant to be weighed”. I spent a day with Kina in the kitchen and she put me to work on weighing out the dough for the bread rolls. When I think back to my time at the lodge and look at the days as little mounds of dough all weighed up, I know that Kina would be proud of how my bread rolls turned out. The days I spent at Angama will keep me full for years to come.
Now all I need is some Maasai honey.
It’s been a season of ‘firsts’ at Wilderness’s two camps in Rwanda – Bisate Lodge bordering Volcanoes National Park and Magashi in Akagera National Park.
For the first time since Bisate opened in 2017, last month a camera trap caught a mountain gorilla strolling along one of the camp’s nature trails. In May and then again in mid-July, the rare shoebill stork was sighted in the wetlands near Magashi, another breakthrough. Both the gorilla and stork sightings are testament to ongoing conservation commitment and initiatives, in this case the reforestation of farmland around Bisate and general habitat restoration in Akagera after years of poaching and civil strife.
BISATE LODGE: SILVERBACK CAUGHT ON CAMERA
Beautiful, luxurious Bisate Lodge, perched on an eroded volcanic crater with endless views of misty volcanoes in the distance, is an ideal launching point for trekking within the park in search of the world’s most magical creatures, now numbering just over 1 000 and still endangered. But to have them exploring the Bisate property is almost miraculous.
‘We have never been as proud and excited to announce an animal-related story since Bisate Lodge opened’, says Camp GM, Jason Glanville. ‘It has taken five years of perseverance and hard work by our agronomy and reforestation teams. On the 21st of June at about midday, a silverback mountain gorilla was captured by one of our camera traps towards the northern section of the property.
‘What makes this so special’, Jason continues, ‘is that this bachelor of sorts may have been scouting a new area to see what resources were here, and also if there was any competition (there wasn’t). As the tracker following him for the day reported, the silverback made his way across the farmlands to our north and went down into the large volcanic crater on our property. He then spent an hour feeding and exploring the crater, before being moved off the property by the trackers and rangers in the area.
‘This is an incredible milestone on our journey to reforest the area, and provide more space for these animals to survive. We hope he comes back with the rest of his family in future’ (see the camera trap footage below).
The Bisate team and guests have planted more than 55 000 trees in an ongoing reforestation project, including an on-site nursery – obviously paying off in terms of attracting wildlife back to the area. Local villages are also involved in reforestation and other conservation efforts, enhancing the symbiosis between the camp and communities, between people and the environment.
‘I feel the connection between nature and humanity here’, Jason says. ‘Compared to other safari lodges located in more remote parts of Africa, the experience here blends the two in a way that people can grasp and touch. When you look and listen closely, you can feel the presence of nature, but there is always a reminder that we are still part of the community. You pass the children playing in the potato fields and see the cattle grazing nearby, and then out of nowhere a jackal pops out from the side of the road. Our camera traps are such a great way to see what goes on behind the scenes. I think people would be surprised by what animals are around. It emphasises the importance of conserving the area, and of connecting the community to that mission’.
Bisate staff reported ‘a lot of animal activity’ around camp over the last couple of months, as well as an unprecedented bird visitor – a gorgeous African emerald cuckoo, spotted picking caterpillars off trees near the Bisate nursery.
This is an incredible milestone on our journey to reforest the area, and provide more space for these animals to survive.
AMBUSH AT MAGASHI
Lovely Magashi, resting on the shores of Akagera’s silver-blue Lake Rwanyakazinga, has become known for its spectacular predator sightings, nearly 500 bird species, the reintroduction of lion and rhino among an abundance of plains game – and its gentle, calming landscape of rolling, grassy mountains, woodlands, and golden savannah carving round lakes and other waterways.
Already twice this year, another incredible species, on the ‘vulnerable’ list, has been sighted there: a shoebill, one of the world’s most iconic birds, known to the Ancient Egyptians but classified only in the 19th century. With fewer than 50 shoebills in Rwanda and less than 8 000 globally, these two almost back-to-back sightings are special, and encouraging.
Friends of Akagera National Park reported the second sighting:
‘Another exciting sighting last weekend of a shoebill on the wetlands of Kilala Plains. Most often a solitary bird and preferring a habitat of undisturbed thick papyrus swamp, the mysterious shoebill is an ambush hunter, remaining motionless for long periods of time until prey moves within striking distance. These factors combine to make the shoebill a difficult bird to spot, and there is much unknown about their exact numbers in Eastern Africa. With waters seasonally receding in Kilala’s wetlands there may be more catfish exposed, attracting this shoebill to these hunting grounds. With the protection of Akagera’s wetland areas, a key habitat for shoebills and many other species, we hope that sightings like these will continue to become more frequent’.
Staff at Magashi have reported other great sightings, around the lake on boating safaris especially, as animals move to watering holes in the warmer months. The lions have been especially active, with a number of generational challenges from the youngbloods. Leopard have been around, but staying out of the lions’ way. Two of the older male elephants returned to Magashi from the greater herd migrating south, and could be spotted periodically drinking and mud-bathing. Plains game have populated the lakeshore, favouring the late afternoons. And with foliage thinning out, birding has been sensational, including sunbirds and flocks of wattled starlings frequenting camp and the concession.
Rwanda’s becoming one of the top safari destinations in the world, and for good reason. It offers some of the most varied wildlife encounters, set in a lush, ancient landscape. You never know what you might find there…
WIN AN EXCLUSIVE 7-NIGHT SAFARI FOR 4 AT MFUWE LODGE AND A CHOICE OF BUSHCAMPS
Enter Bush Camp’s sweepstakes to win an exclusive 7-night safari for four at their award-winning Mfuwe Lodge and secluded, intimate Bushcamps, each with their own distinct character, situated in the iconic South Luangwa National Park.
Enjoy an unrivalled wildlife experience, game viewing with a private guide and vehicle, with the option for walking safaris.
All meals and beverages are included in the prize, as are return flights from Lusaka to Mfuwe (excluding taxes). Your safari prize may be redeemed until the end of 2023.
You can get 15 entries in the draw for only $75.
30 entries are only $135, and the more you donate, the bigger the discount!
All proceeds go towards our
Conservation & Community programmes
For an extra entry, please share the following link with friends and family, on social media – wherever the mood takes you!
Just two weeks in, the newest members of Kenya’s Angama’s Photographic Studio, Robert and Eric, stepped in to document This Week at Angama, discovering a few of the unimaginable scenes that unfold every day in the Mara Triangle.
This week we witnessed something truly unusual. One of those jaw-dropping, once-in-a-lifetime sightings. It all began when we heard the news of lions mating not far away. Our guide, Jackson, put his foot to the pedal and we arrived at the scene. Within minutes, we spotted a big male who strolled briefly through the overgrown grass before lying down again. We identified him as Chongo, one of the Bila Shaka boys. His name directly translates to ‘bad eye’, referring to his most distinctive feature – a missing right eye.
As we caught up to them, we noticed he had not one, but two females by his side. This was unusual but got even more intriguing. One of the lionesses was from the River Pride who recently sustained heavy injuries in a fight, consequentially leading to the loss of her right eye. This was the mother of all coincidences.
We waited patiently as they lazed around in the grass, doing what lions do best. Eventually, he got up and approached her. There it was, our chance to witness two lions, both with a missing right eye, mating. The golden light was the icing on the cake, illuminating them in a beautiful backlight and accentuating Chongo’s fabulous mane.
The following day we caught up with the Bila Shaka boys again, Koshoke, Kiok and even Chongo who had moved on from his honeymoon period. When mating, which can last up to five days, lions typically don’t hunt. This day, luck was on his side, as they stumbled upon the perfect meal to celebrate his return. The Bila Shakas were feasting on a hippo carcass with more than enough to satisfy all three of them. From the looks of it, Koshoke wasn’t impressed with our lenses and clicking shutters.
It seems that for elephants, the magic number is two. Around two years of age is when an elephant calf’s tusks first start to appear. Interestingly, these baby tusks are actually a set of milk teeth, extending from a socket in the skull. After two years of feeding, the mother will once again come into oestrus and mate with a bull. But ever the doting mom, she will continue to feed her older calf during the next gestational period – another two years, until the new calf is born. In some cases, the mother will still allow the older sibling to feed, even after the arrival of the new baby.
As seems to happen quite regularly in the Mara, love was in the air this week. We encountered a pair of ostriches – the male crouching down and dancing his heart out, hoping to win the heart of the female. It worked and she was wooed. Ostriches aren’t monogamous though, with both the males and females mating with multiple partners.
A serval sighting is always something special. Luck was on our side, as this serval scanned the grass thoroughly for any movement, eventually locking on a target and adjusting its body for the faithful leap. In the blink of an eye, the serval had landed a meal, popping up above the grass with a mouse in its mouth. That evening, we witnessed a masterclass from one of the savannah’s clinical finishers.
What servals may lack in size, they more than make up for in precision. With a higher hunting success rate than their bigger cousins, servals catch their prey in over half of their attempts, making them one of the best in the wild cat kingdom. This works out to about 20 percent better than lions who hunt together as a pride.
Last but not least, we cannot leave out the Great Migration. The Mara is currently overflowing with excitement as the wildebeest herds swarm in on a daily basis. The show is currently underway and we will experience a lot of action in the coming weeks.
With that, our second week at Angama comes to an end. If the last two weeks are anything to go by, no two weeks really are the same here, and we look forward to sharing all our Angama stories with you.
WRITTEN BY ROBERT SAYIALEL
The fifth annual Africa photographic competition – Africa in Focus – opens on 1 September 2021! The signature image that you will be seeing shared throughout the competition this year is the evocative “Willow”, last year’s People/ Culture and Community category winner, by Giovanna Aryafara.
This magnificent photo of an African child could not be more fitting for the competition this year, with its all-female judging panel and the sole beneficiary being Children in the Wilderness (CITW).
A key focus of the competition is to showcase the photographers and their amazing talent, and as such we asked Giovanna to tell us a bit more about herself, and provide some information on the photograph. We uncovered a heart-warming story of an outstanding woman and remarkable photographer.
Who is Giovanna Aryafara?
Giovanna’s life-long passion for photography started 40 years ago in Sydney, Australia, and continued in New Zealand where she was a school photographer for several years. Now resident in Bali, Giovanna travels to India and Ethiopia yearly, both for her business and photography. Her love for photography, art, fabrics, and tribal crafts come together at her highly regarded homeware and lifestyle stores, “Bungalow Living Bali”.
As a photographer, Giovanna travels the world in search of subjects that awaken our emotions, invoke a sense of shared spirituality, and reveal our world through a minimalist, design-inspired lens. Her works offer access to the beauty of our Earth, inspired by her love of sharing the diversity of the human experience. Giovanna is dedicated to the promotion of awareness of these stories and supports human rights organisations around the world that help create a more just environment for all.
Follow Giovanna on Instagram for more brilliant images
What Inspired Your Award-Winning Photo, “Willow”?
I have been travelling to Ethiopia’s Omo Valley for the last six years, photographing the people. There are many tribes here, including the Hamar, Daasanach, Abore, and others . But the Suri are the ones that I have connected with on a personal level, and have been accepted into some of the families. This personal connection has reached the point where they wanted to meet my husband and daughter, which we did on my last trip. They held a small family ceremony to officially accept us, and offered a goat sacrifice (even though my daughter and I are vegetarian). At this very personal time, we camped by the river, and it gave us a lot of quality time to talk about the problems that they face, such as lack of education, and the future of the next generations, especially the females.
My inspiration for photographing the Suri is to capture the amazing connection they have with nature, which they express through their body art, using natural clay from the river. They grind it down to a paste with different colours and apply the body paint in a very artistic way, combining seasonal and exotic flowers, plants, berries, and seed pods, with patterns inspired by birds and other natural elements. They have been doing this for hundreds of years.
It was very late in the afternoon just as the light was starting to fade when I spotted this young Suri girl at a distance. She appeared like a nymph in the wild lush wilderness. I didn’t have any time to change my lens otherwise she would have disappeared. I quickly held up my camera and took this shot, holding my breath, hoping she wouldn’t look away. I felt a rush of excitement and I pressed the shutter twice as she stared into the lens for a short few seconds – I knew I had captured the moment.
What Convinced You to Enter Our Competition Last Year?
A photographer friend of mine suggested that I enter the competition, which is a new experience for me, and it turned out to be a great one! I am still grateful to my friend who recommended it.
I would definitely urge any photographers to join the competition. I was overwhelmed by the responses and encouragement from the photographic community (plus my husband was super thrilled that the prize is for two people, so we can enjoy our African safari together!)
CCELA and Who is Naluguru
I support the Care for Children and Elders Life Association (CCELA) as they are a non-political, not-for-profit, privately run humanitarian organisation. They currently provide a loving, secure home environment for six toddlers, aged between one and four years of age, and five adolescent girls.
Thanks to the relationship that I have with the Suri, I quickly realised we share the same idea of how important it is to have education for the young ones. The parents understand the benefits of having their daughters going to the university level of education.
In fact, my husband and I now sponsor an Ethiopian child called Naluguru, whom we feel as close to as our own daughter. I met Nalu in Ethiopia and immediately felt a connection with the little girl. After getting to know her and her family, it was clear that there was something special about her. I decided to set up a sponsorship with the help of CCELA for her education and her wellbeing – in her own country, so that later hopefully she can give back to her own people. Nalu is now studying in Addis Ababa and lives in a very loving environment. She even refers to us as “mom” and “dad”, and we call each other on the phone or video-call twice a week.
Naluguru is now studying at an international private school. She speaks three languages, is one of the school’s top athletes, and also one of the top students in her class. My husband and I are fully committed to supporting Naluguru through her education at university. We are grateful that we are able to support her through photography, and now everyone who enters this year’s competition will also be able to also help children in Africa, as all proceeds from the 2021 Africa in Focus competition will go to CITW.
Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today
Children in the Wilderness
CITW is currently commemorating its milestone 20th year of operation. The privations of the COVID-19 pandemic have been particularly hard-felt in Wilderness Safaris’ neighbouring communities where CITW partner schools and projects are situated, and the programme’s regional co-ordinators have been busier than ever supporting them with much-needed hampers – despite its premier fundraising event, the Nedbank Tour de Tuli being cancelled in 2020 and postponed in 2021, due to COVID lockdowns and regulations.
Founded some two decades ago by Wilderness Safaris, after hosting the late Paul Newman and learning about his inspirational Association of Hole in the Wall camps, Children in the Wilderness (CITW) is the driving force behind our life-changing focus on community.
Throughout the year, we operate Eco-Clubs in rural schools in the communities with which we work. They follow a structured curriculum, providing all learners interested in the environment a chance to meet, learn, discuss and expand their knowledge of environmental issues.
CITW’s Eco-Mentor training aims to develop local community members, including local teachers and Wilderness Safaris camp staff by upgrading their skills in environmental understanding and enabling them to better implement school and village environmental projects and initiatives.
Did you know? CITW’s weekly Eco-Clubs reach over 3 300 children in rural community schools across seven countries, while 1 000 or more teachers and Eco-Mentors are trained on the programme.
It’s wonderful news that Vaccines seem to be making people more confident to travel again – and there’s now even more reason to consider Azura Mozambique as your launch pad for returning to travel!
Join the Global Carbon Neutral Pledge!
Azura is committed to preserving the environment where it operates for future generations to enjoy and we have signed up to the Global Carbon Neutral Pledge. Work has begun on installing a 400Kw Solar plant with 3,200m2 of solar panels, feeding Tesla Battery Banks, to take power generation at the hotel Carbon Neutral. This is the first solar plant of its kind in Mozambique, and with private pools at each of our air-conditioned villas its been a 2 year quest to find the right solar power provider. Tesla offered up an innovative tech solution, and we’re the first business in Mozambique to make use of Tesla power.
Carbon Offset Program for Guest
With guests wanting to take fewer but more meaningful trips as the latest trend in travel, we’ve also been looking at how guests can offset the carbon from their travel to and from Azura. We’ve launched our new Carbon Offset program for guests through them buying trees that Azura will plant at Chateau Pas de Loup, France. Not only does the Chateau produce the wine our guests enjoy during their stay, but it also has a Carbon Capture Tree planting programme. To date 3 hectares have been planted, predominantly oak but also a mix of acacia, birch, ash and conifer, which will over their lifetime remove over 6,000 tonnes of Carbon from the atmosphere.
The next phase is to plant a further 15 hectares to extract another 30,000 tons of carbon.
Socially Distanced Travel
We know its been a tough year for our travel partners, so we’re excited that finally it looks like some international travel is back on the cards for 2021, with the wonderful news that fully vaccinated Americans can travel without the need to quarantine on their return. Our team at Azura has noticed a distinct increase in new bookings this past couple of weeks, particularly from the USA and Europe. Let’s hope the traffic light system due to be announced by the UK will also mean people can once again dream of a holiday in remote Africa, where their stay can make a meaningful difference.
Azura has been welcoming guests throughout this past year with full covid protocols in place, with April 2021 occupancies back at our usual levels – it’s been wonderful to have a full hotel enjoying our socially distanced beaches and pristine reefs once again. We offer PCR testing for onward travel from the comfort of your villa, and with just two small aircraft a week landing at nearby Vilanculos International Airport (VNX) our gateway, low covid cases countrywide, and full protocols in place it’s the perfect African tropical island escape. See our Covid Travel Protocols for more information.
Meet Chef Jorge Zivane!
Born and raised on Benguerra Island, Head Chef Jorge has been at Azura Benguerra Island since 2011 He was hired as a sculler but after only 4 days his potential was recognized and he was quickly put to work in the kitchen as a chef. He has trained alongside Azura’s international chefs before taking on the kitchen as his own. He has recently been involved in revamping the menus with a focus on simple and delicious Mozambican cuisine, taking full advantage of the fresh seafood available on our doorstep. He loves working with local fresh ingredients and the challenges of running a kitchen on an island with difficult logistics.
We can’t wait for your guests to sample our delicious local cuisine. And don’t forget that Azura’s Peri Peri Beach Club has been rated ‘Conde Nast Traveler Best Beach Clubs in the World’ for 2020 and now again in 2021!
Lets start planning your wildlife and beach African Safari Adventure today!