Well, if Mashatu had been giving us a good show over the last few workshops, she wasn’t about to give up… this workshop again provided fantastic viewing and photography- really top class sightings with some added bonuses too! But you will have to read on to see what that bonus was…
1. The first drive was by all accounts very quiet. We did find some elephants in the last evening light and got some stunning images of babies in the evening golden glow, but that was the extent of it. I wasn’t at all concerned. In fact I was quite happy, as things could only get better and I knew how good the mornings were here. So I was quietly confident. Of course, this is nature we are dealing with, so we enjoy the quiet days and work hard through the good ones. A highlight was seeing a martial eagle come down to drink. Stunning bird, stunning light and some very good images!
2. If any one was not awake by the time they got onto the vehicle, they were sure awake by the time the sun rose. We found a young male leopard near his kill. However, the real highlight was him grooming himself in stunning morning light out in the open on the bank of a riverbed. If there were no pixels used last evening, they sure were being used now… from there it was off to see three cheetahs. Of course we bumped into a herd of elephant and had to spend 30 minutes with them- made all the more beautiful by the low white clouds in the sky and the tiny baby that scurried across an open patch of ground allowing it to be covered in pixels- I would expect around 100 million in fact. The cheetah were very co operative and allowed a few nice portraits- but by now it was getting late and we headed back to camp with cards full and stomachs empty- it was after all 11h30 by the time we arrived back!
3. The wild dogs are still denning. C4 Images and Safaris organised that we were to be the one vehicle allowed to the den site. This is to minimise disturbance and the guides are under strict orders to follow certain protocol around the den site. This is very important to ensure that the den is not unduly disturbed. By this time the pups are out and lying around the den. 13 pups to be exact! We spent 90 minutes watching them sleep, get up, walk around and then flop down to sleep again. Just as we though nothing was going to happen that evening, the whole pack arrived and the quiet atmosphere turned into absolute chaos! 25 dogs running around you, next to you and away from you is somewhat overwhelming- try photographing it! It was absolute bliss. There was begging regurgitation, play, chase and action all around. The dogs then tried to go and hunt and the pups tried to follow. There was constant to and fro as the adults tried to get the pups into the den and the pups tried to go and follow the hunt… A real highlight and one that won’t be forgotten soon. By the time we were back at camp, everyone was knackered. Leopard at dawn, elephants, cheetah, wild dogs at den for 3 hours… it’s a hard life.
4. Morning wake up and we are back out there. Our intention is to work some smaller species rather than the big mammals. First up is a herd of 300 eland- perfect, who said anything about large mammals? At least we also got a beautiful steenbuck in mopane golden colours, a blacksmith lapwing bathing, some nice landscapes and then another small mammal in a herd of elephants. A full morning indeed.
5. The evening started where we left off, with more elephants feeding quietly. Some got so close we were using the wide-angle lenses- only in Mashatu! After dark we found the young male leopard again. He was up a tree, but grooming, meaning he would soon be up and about. We stayed with him and followed him on his evening meanderings until he drank and then headed off into the dark to hunt.
6. The morning was about more elephants crossing riverbeds, wide-angle shots of impala drinking and bee-eaters at the colony. We latched onto a few lions hunting. However, they gave up, but we noticed they were hungry, so planned to return…
7. Red billed quelea's back lit was the challenge for the afternoon and we were doing very well when we noticed how good the light was getting and decided to head to the lion. We arrived in that last 45 minutes of light, just as the glow starts and the lions wake up. We positioned ourselves perfectly- with a nice dark background and the lions in sunlight. Then the show began. The lions groomed and licked and yawned while we photographed happily away. Having an open setting and no thick grass proved such help here and it is one of the great advantages of Mashatu. (One of the reasons we keep holding our workshops here..)
8. Last morning- never nice, as every one is leaving. We drove through one of the most scenic parts of the reserve- white cliffs on the Mojale river- and it rewarded us well. The pools of water are still around from an exceptional rainy season. Saddle billed storks, herons, fish eagles and hamerkops were all fishing in the pools for trapped fish. We were happily photographing away, when all of a sudden baboons, kudu and impala surrounded us. It was a very tranquil scene of animals and birds all around us below these huge cliffs, and one that fittingly ended an exceptional photo workshop with C4 Images and Safaris.
Or view a video taken whilst on workshop in Mashatu here.