Monday, May 13, 2013

Revisiting Mashatu

Text and images Albie Venter

The year seems to rush past and its amazing to think that this would have been the fourth time that I visited the Tuli Block this year already. What was amazing for me was the fact that I got to see all its drama's from drought to heavy rains and the worst floods in 25 years (which nearly washed my car into Mozambique!!) to a spectacular verdant bush teeming with life. All of this during the first four months of the year. What made our last visit so spectacular was not only the quality of the sighting but also the quantity of creatures, something rarely found on a photographic trip. Here are a few images that I chose with a few ideas of why it stood out for me. As always a bug thanks to Shem for a fun time guiding together and not least a great group of people joining in the photography.

 We managed to link up with these two cubs just as it got dark, a time when they start getting active. Just as the light from our spotlights and the last remaining ambient light balanced out the male yawned.

 One my favorites form the trip. I chose this image as it epitomize the Tuli area as well as the social life of elephant. I love the comforting touch of the older calf, possibly a sister, on the back of the second youngest one in the group.

 We had some Crazy Leopard encounters!

  During the course of our time there, no less than 6 individual leopards were seen. We managed to spend quite a bit of time with the two, seven month old cubs. Because I already had a great shot of both of them in the same frame in the bag, I went for the trickier motion blur image

  Our first sighting of lions were quite tricky photographically as all twelve of them were in dense vegetation. As the light faded some (mostly youngsters such as this one) crept into the sun.

  This is just a fun shot of a Saddle billed Stork loosing its meal. "Lucky Fish" :)

  Lions interacting in golden Light! What more can a photographer ask for?


Monday, May 6, 2013

May Trip Report Mashatu - Mike Dexter

Mashatu has donned her autumn cloak. The green vistas and fields of yellow flowers have slowly yielded to the cold, the dry and the shortening daylight hours and have turned to rich yellow and golden hues. Needless to say on the recent workshop we were greeted every morning with spectacular landscapes sweeping to the horizon.
Scenery aside, Mashatu delivered exceptional game viewing as always. On our first afternoon we spent some time tracking a group of 9 lion cubs. After some perseverance we were rewarded with a great sighting of all 9 cavorting in some long grass as they waited impatiently for their mothers to return, hopefully with dinner. 
To me the sighting of the trip was with the 2 leopard cubs, now 6 months old. We found them lying in the shade of a Fever Berry tree on the banks of the Majale river. They weren’t doing much at first so we turned in our seats to photograph a saddle billed stork and some cormorants that were fishing in a pool behind us. Used to being the centre of attention the male cub was not going to be outdone by the birds so decided to put on a show. As the stork turned his back on the cub, who was 50m away, the young leopard surged forward in true feline form. Low to the pebbled river bed, shoulders hunched he advanced on the unsuspecting bird until he was a mere 5m away. This must have been a lesson in perspective because on seeing the actual size of the stork and the water between them he soon lost interest. 
3 banded plovers on the other hand were not too large to handle and he proceeded to stalk, pounce and chase the tiny birds who seemed to be mocking him, taking off at the last second and landing behind him. He was distracted by this game when an adult male impala crossed the river 100m upstream. This was just too good to be true for the young cub, the perfect opportunity to impress mom! He darted off into the thick riverine bush in the direction of the impala where the terrain prevented us from following. I look forward to seeing the future of this overly ambitious little leopard! 
 In the meantime the mothers of the 9 cubs had killed a wildebeest. By the time we saw them much of the carcass had been consumed but it was still great to watch the squabbling of the cubs under the ever present and tolerant gaze of the lionesses. All in all the workshop was a resounding success and I can’t wait to have a closer look at more of the images from these wonderful few days in one of the most spectacular corners of Africa.