The fun way to do it

30 10 2012

Over the last few months, we have seen various ways of dealing with the hassle of crossing Africa’s rivers.  The male lions started us off by casually starting to cross the river, then hitting an absolute panic and splashing their way nervously through the rest of the crossing.  It wasn’t graceful by any means, and the slip at the end, landing the lions head in the water and his tail in the air, didn’t help.  Next to cross was a large male leopard.  Always poised, and with a certain arrogance, he went for the cool, calm, collected approach.  He moved through the river as if it were not even there.  The judges gave him a solid nine point five.  Following the leopard, we had an example of how not to do it.  The young wildebeest that was trying so desperately to cross the Mara River, got trapped in some underwater rocks, and had a less than pleasant discussion with a monster crocodile.

We now have a new method of dealing with river crossings – the fun way to do it.

We came across a troop of olive baboons early one morning on a photographic safari in Kenya.  They were slowly approaching a small river that was flowing with some real vigour after a night of solid rain.  With almost no warning, the large male leading the troop took a single step run-up, and leaped across the hazardous water, clearing the obstacle in one go.  We quickly got into position, and enjoyed the rest of the troop, nearly fifty individuals, going for gold as they jumped across the water.  A good ninety percent of the troop made it without even touching the water, and that includes mothers with babies of various sizes attached to their fronts and backs.  The remaining ten percent were youngsters that were just too old to be carried by their mothers.  It was fantastic to watch, as the little guys gave it their best shot, but fell a little short drenching themselves in the process.  The sighting lasted for about ten minutes, most of which was filled with the constant clicking of some hard worked cameras.





A little teaser

17 10 2012

Having recently come back from Kenya, and having witnessed the most incredible wildlife spectacle first hand, I thought it was only fair to share with you some of the madness!

I will be leading The Great Migration Safari again next year, and am already looking forward to getting back amongst the tens of thousands of wildebeest as they gather on the banks of the Mara River waiting to cross, as well as all the predators that roam those beautiful, wide open plains.  The photographic opportunities are endless, as animals seem to constantly fill the viewfinder of your camera.  It really isn’t fair that one place on earth can have so many animals, with so much diversity!  It is a photographic safari like no other.

It does all come down to the famous crossing of the Mara River though. There is something about that experience which is quite difficult to explain – you can watch it on TV a hundred times, but you will never get the level of panic at each crossing.  The wildebeest herd is extremely sensitive, which seems odd given that they are not the sharpest animals around, and even the slightest disturbance will turn the mega herd around, delaying the crossings.  They seem to do their best not to cross, but the overwhelming instinctive drive eventually pushes them to do it. The tension that emulates from the herd is palpable, as they pluck up the courage to start the crossing. Eventually, one brave/stupid/pushed wildebeest makes the leap of faith, and is rapidly followed but the rest of the herd.  The tension climbs to a maximum in seconds as literally tens of thousands of wildebeest and a few hundred zebra hustle to get across the most daunting challenge that faces them on their yearly migration.  Add a crocodile to the mix, and the panic reaches melting point.  The wildebeest do their best, but many succumb to the strong current, and even stronger crocodiles.  The only way to truly understand what happens each year, and what has happened for millions of years, is to experience it.

Have a look at the little teaser I have posted for you, which should whet your appetite! If you would like to join me on next year’s safari, click here!





All bark, but no bite…this time…

22 06 2012

Hippos are notoriously territorial over their little puddles of water, and that doesn’t change at all when a small herd of buffalo want to quench their thirst!

I was sitting at a waterhole watching a hippo do what hippos do. It was slow going, as it can so often be with the extra large grazers, but the light was superb. I was hoping he would start his late afternoon antics, which involve all sorts of grunting and snorting, combined with the classic ‘yawn’ that so many photographers crave. Enter the buffalo…

A small herd of large male buffalo made their way down to their local waterhole, for a late afternoon drink. Their approach caught the attentions of the hippo, who had now lifted a little more of head out of the water, giving us a glimpse at more than just his nostrils! He made no real attempt at encouraging the buffalo to move on, until they hit the waters edge, and dropped their burdened heads to drink. The hippo, furious at this ‘forced entry’ into his private patch, let loose with a fantastic display of his alpha male status (to be fair he was the only hippo in the dam, so was the alpha male more by default than anything else), and he did so just before the sun went down, which made for some great images!

The hippo carried on with his testosterone driven display, until the buffalo, which had paid exactly no attention to the hippo, had finished their pit stop, and carried on with their day.
As is so often the case with wildlife photography, you need patience, but a little luck goes a long way! I find if you are patient enough, the luck will eventually come.





A morning splash about

20 06 2011

At least once, if not twice a week, I find tracks of male lions crossing the river at a particular point. It is a beautiful crossing with great photographic opportunities – except for the fact that I have never actually seen the lions crossing the river…
Riding on the back of the pangolin luck (see https://kurtjaybertels.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/the-good-luck-continues/), I managed to break the months of frustration and actually witness three male lions crossing through the river! Not only did they cross the river in front of me, but they crossed east, (for all of you not familiar with where the sun rises, it’s in the east – you should know that though…), into beautiful morning light! I was so excited, the buffer on my camera was used up before the first lion had even finished crossing! This means that while the images moved from the camera to the card, I was unable to take a photo – a breathless and painful couple of seconds. When breathing resumed, and the camera started clicking again, the lions were at the near bank, which seemed to be the end of the first round action, until, (unbeknown to the lions and myself, algae had grown on the exit point), the second lion through the river slipped, going belly up into the fresh winter water! I again have to comment on the brilliant morning light – the lion did not care about the morning light at this point.
With two through and one to go, the cameras were again raised. The third lion to come through the river, was the brave and noble individual that secured the buffalo kill a few weeks ago, see https://kurtjaybertels.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/an-age-old-battle/. While he is confident to work his way around a buffalo, he seems less sure of himself around water. It took him a while to get going, and even stopped to growl at the river. (Lions do fall victim to crocodile attacks). He moved cautiously through the first two smaller channels, and then came to the deeper third channel. He entered slowly and surely, staring into the deeper water. Three or four steps in; he lost his nerve and put the burners on! He charged through the water, in almost a panicked fashion – forgetting all about his alpha male status! The morning light needs another mention.
Absolutely fantastic to watch, and even better to photograph! Months of waiting, and years of dreaming have produced some of my favourite images! Enjoy!