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Found 8 results

  1. This year I am celebrating 10 years of hosting wildlife and cultural photographic safaris. In this thread I will take a look back on those 10 years and relive some of the stories and images that I made on safaris during that time. So where and how did this safari stuff all begin? The idea of putting on safaris was sparked way back in 2006, in the very early days of the Nikongear forum. A member named Jorge contacted me and asked me if it would be OK if he started a thread asking the rapidly growing NG membership if anyone would like to join him on an expedition to Patagonia in a Land Rover Defender he had recently bought and was going to drive from Chile through the Patagonia region. I was absolutely captivated by this idea, not just in the hope of joining such an expedition myself, but because it seemed like a perfectly logical thing for me to do myself here in Africa. I didn’t get to join Jorge on his trip and I am not sure if any of the NG members did either, but the seed of an idea had been planted firmly in my mind. The idea began to sprout in 2007 when a member named papa-g joined up on NG. Geoff Cronje was a very well travelled guy who just so happened to live about 30km from me. He had recently gotten into photography and after he bought a Nikon telephoto lens from me, a friendship grew and we began to discuss the possibility of hosting a photo safari for NG members here in South Africa. Geoff would design the tour and I would do the organising and marketing. At the time I was going through some very difficult personal circumstances. The company I had started a few years earlier was facing a bleak future (or lack of any future at all). Long story short, don’t build a business that is entirely dependent on one supplier, because when that supplier disappears, so do you. So at the beginning of 2008 I found myself in a bit of a tight spot, my company had closed and I was being hounded by debt collectors. However, in spite of the difficulties I was going through, I had my eye set on this safari seed. I was going to make it work, one way or another because I knew that if I could just get it going properly, everything else would fall into place. I met with Geoff a few months into 2008 and we started talking seriously about putting on our African photographic safari. Then tragedy struck. I was sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon in July when I got a call from a mutual friend telling me that Geoff had died. What? How? Apparently he had collapsed of a heart attack after having an altercation with a security guard over a parking space at his workplace during the Durban Airshow. It felt surreal. I felt as if God had set up a permanent raincloud above my head. In the meantime I was eking out a living doing odd photography jobs and helping people build websites. It wasn’t a great time for me at all. I was undeterred though. A few months after Geoff died I started earnestly looking for somebody in the travel industry who I could partner with and get the photo safari business off the ground. I needed somebody who not only knew the game and could put together itineraries based on what I wanted to do, but who would also meet all the requirements as far as South Africa’s tourism legalities were concerned. I didn’t want to start a new business myself after all the drama I had been through with the one I had just been forced to close. I wanted to stay a sole proprietor with as few administrative responsibilities as possible and get paid commissions from the suppliers involved in the safaris. So I placed an ad on a local tour guide portal outlining what I wanted to do and that’s when Pepe Jones (real name Penelope) popped up. She came up with a proposal that was much better than all the others I had been sent from other operators. I got Bjørn Rørslett to join us as a drawcard and the first Nikongear Photo Safari was born. We had 6 people sign up. The numbers were a bit short of the 9 I had been hoping for, but it was better than calling the whole thing off, so in August of 2009 the first NG photo safari finally happened. For our road trip Pepe had arranged this colossus of a Land Rover Defender called the Kalahari Ferrari as well as a Toyota Quantum bus to ferry the 9 of us (me, Pepe & Bjørn included) around the eastern parts of South Africa and Swaziland over 2 weeks. I drove the Quantum and she took the Landy. Looking back, it’s a miracle that we didn’t end up as a tragic global headline, because the brakes on that Land Rover failed twice on our trip. It was also seriously unstable and the back of it fishtailed constantly at speed. Driving behind it I had visions of Nikon equipment and users being flung from it’s massive windows as it wound its way up and down the mountains of Swaziland. Headlines indeed! That first safari was a real eye opener for me. We had some very interesting people join it. Some got along well, others didn’t. In spite of it all some strong friendships were made (which still exist today on the new NG) and I learned a great deal about not only what not to do on a photography safari, but also about managing guests' expectations. For me the most important take away from safari #1 was that national parks in South Africa were not where I wanted to take guests. Apart from being logistically challenging for photography (you can only leave camp at sunrise and you must be back before sunset), animal sightings all depended on luck. In a big park like Kruger you cannot travel off-road and if anything interesting is happening near the road you will find yourself in a jam of other vehicles all straining to see the same thing. Situations like these tend to bring out the worst in people, which is not a good ingredient for a successful photographic safari. In spite of the dramas with vehicles and the occasional butting of heads between tourists, two weeks later I found myself back home and already planning the next adventure, one that would be entirely different and that would set the tone for the way things have been done on my photographic safaris ever since. But that’s a story for the next instalment. In the meantime here are a few images from Safari #1. \ The infamous Kalahari Ferrari parked outside my house on day 1 of the safari. Our first animal sighting was a giraffe in Hluhluwe Game Reserve. One of my favourite zebra images. This was taken in Mkhuze Game Reserve, just north of Hluhluwe. Left: Cheetah at Emdoneni rehabilitation centre. Right: A Zulu "warrior" at Shakaland, which is a bit of a tourist trap. Driving North towards the St. Lucia wetlands. In the waters at Lake St. Lucia you will find loads of these malevolent creatures. The scariest ever moment was when this elephant in musth charged us. Re-worked image of the mountains in Malolotja that form the border between Swaziland and South Africa. A carver at the market in Manzini, Swaziland, working on a small drum I bought for my son (he still has it!). We got as far north as the Tropic Of Capricorn. Well, I suppose that would be far down south for most of you! This also gives you an idea of the sheer size of the Kruger Park.
  2. It is the season for baby birds here in Minnesota. During a walk around White Bear Lake last weekend my wife and I heard the distinctive sounds of hungry young birds, and sure enough I spotted this little Downy Woodpecker poking its head out waiting for dad to feed him. We went back to the same White Birch tree two days later, and the little ones had already left their nest.
  3. Last few shots from my Townsville trip. A day out at the local wildlife park. To avoid overloading a thread with images, I've split it into mammals, birds and reptiles. Death Adder (through glass - thank goodness for the polarising filter!) D7E_0015 Croc - the only one of these three not shot through glass!
  4. Last few shots from my Townsville trip. A day out at the local wildlife park. To avoid overloading a thread with images, I've split it into mammals, birds and reptiles. Red Kite Cocky #1 Cocky #2 Frog Mouth [/url ]Magpie Goose - hard landing Gosling
  5. Here in Minnesota, we had our first major snowfall of the season. The light, fluffy snow made for some interesting photos out my home office window. This tree rat is looking for some sunflower seeds that are buried under the fresh snow
  6. OK, I bait my subjects, but they are willing participants in this arrangement. I built what I call my "bird studio" in our backyard. It is a work in progress, but I am getting a larger and more diverse base of local birds just outside the windows of our home in Minnesota. This is a White-breasted Nuthatch I shot this afternoon from our bedroom window. This peanut feeder has been a real magnet for woodpeckers as well as the nuthatches such as this guy.
  7. I get asked a lot by people wanting to come on safari about the difference between the Kruger National Park (KNP) and Sabi Sands. For the uninformed, Sabi Sands is a private reserve that adjoins the greater KNP. It is named after the two rivers that run through and along one of its borders, namely the Sand River and the Sabie River. The reserve is populated by dozens of privately owned lodges and camps, each of which has their own boundaries. Some of the camps have traversing rights on each other’s properties, but for the most part you’re unlikely to encounter much traffic from neighbouring private reserves when you’re there. There are no fences between KNP and Sabi Sands, so animals are free to roam between the two parks, generally oblivious to the fact that we humans regard these as two different places. The total size of the Sabi Sands reserve is approximately 65,000 hectares, which put into perspective is just shy of 3% of the total size of the Kruger National Park, or if you prefer to put it into human habitat perspective, a shade over half the size of New York City’s 5 boroughs combined. The Kruger Park itself is about the size of Hawaii, or close to the size of Switzerland if, like me, you have no idea of how big Hawaii actually is. One of the interesting statistics about the Sabi Sands is that it has the highest density of leopards to be found anywhere else in Africa, and ergo the world, for that matter. They practically fall out of trees here. On our first safari there in 2010 we saw leopards more often than we saw lions. It was somewhat different this last time around, mainly because the Southern Pride of lions has established the area of Sabi Sabi as its main hunting territory. That pride is now over 20 strong and if you follow Richard DeGouveia’s (RangerRich) and Ben Coley's blog you’ll be able to read a lot more about how this pride is changing over the years. There are constantly territorial battles being fought between themselves and other male lions that want to move into the area. Fascinating stuff, to which we were witness during our week long stay there at the beginning of October. Note: the photos in this story have been laid out for best results using the default Fotozones theme. The wider theme may result in a bit of a chaotic look! Chef Shadrack cuts some home baked bread for our Safarians - click to enlarge A delicious salad! Once we arrived at Little Bush Camp our hosts Hugo, his wife Alta and their staff gave us a very warm welcome, briefed us on how the program would run for the week of our stay and invited us to have our first lunch on the deck adjoining the lodge’s main lounge. For me it was kind of like a homecoming of sorts. Little Bush Camp is very intimate and there are only 6 suites there, each of which can accommodate 2 persons. This makes it a perfect spot for our photographic safaris because we can book out the whole place and as a result we get to alter the daily program however we like. The suites at LBC are lovely and each of them has a private deck overlooking the Sand River, as well as a Jacuzzi and outdoor shower.Little Bush Camp is situated in the middle of the reserve and there are no fences around it to prevent predators from entering. There is a strand of electric fencing about 1.8m high which is used to keep out the elephants because they can be very destructive. Moving between the main building and the suites at night you will have to be accompanied by the rangers, otherwise you run the risk of becoming leopard dinner! The experience is entirely authentic and that's what makes it so exhilarating. On our first drive that Monday evening we came across a lioness resting in the shade of a tree, not very far from LBC and right next to a rocky hill overlooking the northern part of the reserve. According to the rangers she had become separated from the Southern Pride during a hunt and they weren’t sure if perhaps she might have been ousted from the pride as well. With the afternoon sun about to drop below the horizon I found myself willing this lioness to wake up and walk up the hill so that we could get some decent shots of her. Well, it was almost as if she was tuned into all of our thoughts because she did exactly that and we were rewarded with some wonderful images of her looking into the very last of the day’s sunlight. The sleeping lioness awakens - click to enlarge The waiting game - click to enlarge The reward of patience - click to enlarge But, it was about to get better. I was remembering our first trip to Sabi Sabi in 2010 and how we got lucky with a male cheetah chasing an impala shortly after beginning our first drive of that trip. The thoughts had barely solidified in my mind when our comfortably perched lioness spotted a wildebeest moving through the bushes in the distance. Oh my. She began stalking the wildebeest on her own and suddenly there were some very excited photographers watching this unfold through their lenses. Considering that the light had changed from the golden hour to the blue hour, I switched to shooting video of the hunt using my newly acquired Olympus OM-D E-M5 and 45-175mm Panasonic Lumix zoom lens, which has been specifically designed for video and even has a power zoom function. Now, I am not a video person by any stretch of the imagination but I thought that if I was going to get anything from this event, video would be the best thing to go away with. We followed the lioness for a while as she continued stalking the wildebeest and she got pretty close to it before it sensed her presence and bolted. The little OM-D was battling to keep the lioness in focus as she moved between the bushes, something that reinforces my respect for those wildlife photographers who rely entirely on manual focus to keep track of animals as they move through objects that will definitely confuse any electronic auto-focus system. Oh well, with the wildebeest having escaped becoming a lioness’ dinner (this time) we headed off in search of other attractions from the cast of many creatures in the reserve. When evening falls, more magic appears - click to enlarge In the next instalment of this series I will introduce you to a typical evening at Sabi Sabi. Link to Part 1 Side Note: The Sabi Sands is designated as a low-risk malaria zone, meaning that while it isn’t as prevalent in this part of Africa, it is always wise to keep yourself protected against the disease by taking prophylactics such as Malarone. On the previous safaris I had been taking the “other” well known anti-malaria medication known as Larium, much to the dismay of Pepe who informed me of the severe side-effects it is known for, not least of which is psychotic behaviour. On the 2009 trip I didn’t have any side effects that I could notice (it’s entirely possible of course that my fellow Safarians were keeping me in good humour so as to avoid any possible states of psychosis or emotional melt-downs), but in 2010 I definitely noticed that I was having some seriously bad dreams while on the medication. Bad enough to make me wonder if I had been dreaming or not. Waking up in cold sweats is not something I like to experience too often, so I stopped taking the pills midway through that trip. Since the people who work in the reserve can’t take anti-malaria medication constantly and none of them seemed particularly concerned about it, I decided not to medicate myself at all for this safari. Risky, but I came quite well prepared with long pants and long sleeve shirts for the evenings and a little stick of Tabbard, which is like a roll on anti-mosquito substance that doesn’t leave any residue or feel sticky on your skin. On arrival at LBC I asked where our good friend Calvin (the barman) was and was told that he was off work, suffering from a very bad case of malaria. I ordered a Gin & Tonic immediately! From what I am told, malaria is not pleasant and once you get it, you will continue to have relapses in the future as the parasite that enters your blood stream literally lives there forever and will only die when you do. I think in future I won’t take the risk again. Malarone, whilst expensive, does seem to be an effective protection against this killer disease. We strongly advise all our guests to avoid the stress of wondering if you're going to get infected by using an effective anti-malaria prophylactic like Malarone.
  8. Guest


    Hello all. The name is Bob and this is my howdy to all the membership. I've been an avid photographer since 1970 and have progressed from amateur to profession and finally the highest honor, retired. I love photography and am presently using Nikon gear along with a pocket Leica V-Lux 20. I have no particular area of specialty although I was a wedding & portrait photographer many years ago. Now, living in the Pacific Northwest, I dabble in landscapes, wildlife and things that grow everywhere. I hope to fit in here, learn a little, teach a little and share a lot. My door is always open, my mailbox is always full. There is someone home. - Bob
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