The Himalayan understudy

16 07 2014

One of the most sought after animal species in the world to see and photograph has to be the secretive snow leopard, and rightly so, but what most people don’t know, is what else is also running around high up on the Himalayas. The main prey species for the snow leopard is the blue sheep, or bharal to the locals.  These antelopes (the name is quite misleading – it is not a sheep at all, but a true antelope) generally live high up in the mountains between 4000 – 6500 meters (13000 – 21500 feet).  Their ability to manoeuvre up and down seriously steep cliff faces is remarkable, and is often their go-to defence against the smarts and cunning of the snow leopards. They come down into the valleys in the late afternoon, which is when they are at their most vulnerable.  If they get spooked while in the valley, they scramble for the nearest cliff, at a speed that makes you feel like a geriatric tortoise on a treadmill.  It is simply stunning watching these antelope navigate the rocky slopes of the mighty Himalayas.

The only way to see them and possibly get some photographs is unfortunately to climb up the mountains yourself, which starting at 400 meters is no easy feat.  On the up side, when they are comfortably settled on a sheer cliff face, they generally stand still and let their camouflage do the work, allowing you to get close enough to photograph them.  Once you get into position, have found your lungs again and managed to catch your breath, they are well worth the effort.  Their markings are striking, their behaviour both fascinating and slightly comical, and you really feel privileged to be in the company of a brilliantly designed animal.  The only trick left is getting back down the mountain…





When tigers play the game

25 06 2014

Photographing wildlife usually involves a lot of patience, and a lot of frustration.  This is normally the case, but sometimes it all comes together and you find yourself in the right place at the right time.  This is what happened when I was hosting a photographic safari in India.

Photographing tigers is a tricky business; they are designed to not be seen, which always makes things a little interesting. The next part of the challenge is finding a tiger that is happy to be photographed and comes and sits right out in the open.  Given the dense jungles of India, this doesn’t happen very often, but we have managed to find a place where the tigers are quite at ease in the open meaning they can be found with some regularity, giving us good shot.  On my recent photographic safari, we managed to find a large male, who was playing the game.  We found him lying down in a dried up river bed, quite a distance away from us, and decided to wait with him to see if he came any closer.  A solid two and a half hours later, he did just that, and let me tell you, it was worth the wait!  He approached us directly giving us great head-on photos, before moving past us while stalking a spotted deer.  He then made his way, very casually, to a small water hole where he stopped for a late afternoon drink before flopping down into the water to cool off.  Needless to say, the cameras were clicking away furiously!  It was photographic heaven.

I will be leading the Tiger Safari again next year, and cannot wait to see if we can see more of the same from these enormous cats!

To join us on safari, click here!





A fun day out

26 03 2014

I was leading a photographic safari recently, and we were lucky enough to find a pride of lions with a little surprise for us.  Hidden amongst all the teeth and claws of the adults in the pride, was a tiny cub, around 2 months old.  This little lion was having a wonderful time exploring his new environment, and seeing what life as a lion was all about.

We were captivated for the better part of an hour with the little cub’s antics, taking every photographic opportunity available.  It is not always the easiest thing in the world photographing a cub so small, because every time he moved off the path, he was completely covered by the grass.  Only every now and again would he pop out into the open and give us a few images.  When we did get a clear opportunity, the cameras went into overdrive – it was fantastic.  Eventually though, the mother of the cub decided we had been lucky enough, and they moved off into some thicker bush.  We didn’t want to overstay our welcome so left them to rest peacefully, and moved off to look for our next subject.

To join me on safari, click here!





A magical place

18 03 2014

There are so many fantastic places to visit on safari, it is pretty much impossible to choose just one favourite, and I am not even pretending to do that, but I have found a rather special place, which I can highly recommend.

I was leading a photographic safari to Kenya for the famous annual migration, and we added an extension to the safari that saw us land in Amboseli National Park.  This National Park is a little off the main tourist routes so immediately provides you with a quiet relief that all safaris should.  It is extremely dry and dusty (even more so than the usual African dry and dusty), with a few marshy swamps clustered together, and has probably the best views of Mount Kilimanjaro.  The views of Africa’s highest mountain alone are enough to justify a visit to this National Park, but when you add in the huge amounts of elephants to be found in the Park, it becomes spectacular.  There are many other species of animals as well, most notably lion, cheetah, giraffe and zebra, but the elephants steal the show.  Herds of up to, and sometimes even over, one hundred elephants can be seen on the flat grasslands quietly and peacefully feeding.  Drop in a gorgeous sunset over the back of these mighty herds, and see Africa at its best!  The photographic opportunities are amazing, and the cameras were certainly working over-time.

It is not the typical safari, it is not about counting the number of species you see, or how much action you can pack in, but it is well worth a visit.

To join me on safari, click here!