Timbavati Photographic Expedition and Safari
I met up at Motswari Lodge at lunch on a very warm afternoon in the Timbavati photographic expedition and safari with 6 very excited photographers. After a great welcome by the ‘legend’ of the Vati, Mr. Chad Cocking they all tucked into the amazing lunch spread of the talented chefs at the lodge. The excitement was electric as the briefing for the first shakedown drive was completed and we prepared to leave.
One of the discussion points was that we should concentrate on the best “photographic ‘opportunities and would be selective on where we went and which calls we responded to. The bush was quiet but we were treated to capturing some low level images of the resident hippos in a large dam that survived the floods of February this year. Some Lions and antelope in soft light followed………..
The highlight for all was on route back to the lodge for dinner when we came across and African Wild Cat sitting on a small mound in a thicket. A few record shots as she was quite a distance away but enjoyable indeed. We all freshened up and enjoyed some delicious food and some of those ‘epic” cold ones…..
A 05h30 wake up call with hot coffee and muffins were enjoyed with the sounds of the bushveld and the hyena tracks on the pathways from the rooms showed how close nature is to you in the Timbavati. A welcome mist descended on the Timbavati early and added for some epic light.
On route to the southern part of the area in search of a leopard with a sub adult cub seen the evening before, we managed images of general game and birds. The rest of the drive was spent trying to get a decent position to photograph the leopard but she proved to be very elusive and even with the expert on foot tracking by Petrus, we only managed tracks and a “bird on a stick”.
Breakfast was enjoyed with the usual photographic banter and discussion. Afterwards, Chad took Philip, Nadine and Kariem on a bushwalk to look at the smaller inhabitants of the reserve while Andre, Andrew and Jolanda spent time in the “gallery” discussing photographic techniques and processing software. The weather proved to be pretty intense with the mercury pushing 32 dgr Celsius through the day. A relaxed lunch and some refreshments helped ease the heat.
The afternoon drive was filled with adventure as we again headed in the direction of the leopard territory.We passed up some lions, rhino and elephant sightings to concentrate on finding the leopard. Little did we know how this would turnout?
Soon we heard that the leopard was sighted hunting a small antelope and we stopped some distance away as not to disturb the situation……..after some time we repositioned the vehicle to see the leopard under a small shrub only meters from its unsuspecting prey……..
After what seemed an age, the small steenbok moved off and the leopard was unable to close the gap due to the open area. A quick pounce on a small bird or animal in the long grass was also a fail. The sound of ooohs , aaaghs were drowned out by the tripping shutters. We managed to reposition numerous times to get alternate views.
Without warning she sank into a crouched position and started to stalk along the road to a small tree. She lay motionless staring across and open area at some Impala some 100 m away. We repositioned and waited…….Then , as if scripted she covered about 25 yards across the open area as if she was one with the ground…Amazing light and open area with stalking leopard , clicking shutters…..heaven.
Sadly we had to make room for another group of excited guests and we moved off with a quick stop at a Hyhena den to see if there was any activity. Could this day get any better, well the cherry on the top was on the way back to the lodge we found a Eagle Owl perched on a open branch which provided great opportunities for all the guests to shoot in manual with a spot light.
Upon returning to camp the excitement and adrenalin was still pumping and the fact that the group was mock charged by an Elephant in the dark in the camp was taken with excitement and nervous laughter. Dinner was a festive occasion with Chad breathing a sigh of relief with the amazing photographic opportunities he had delivered that afternoon.
The same routine, as the day before with a awesome misty sunrise in the bushveld being enjoyed. We decided to venture back to the Hippos first to make use of the soft morning light to practice some exposure techniques while waiting for the bush to come alive.
The rest of the drive was spent following lion tracks and photographing the wealth of birdlife in and around the riverbeds. With the temperature climbing to 38 degrees it was going to be a scorcher of a day. A quick stop at the big dam to capture some group shots outside the vehicle and a large bull elephant across the water ended a great morning. Back to the lodge, breakfast, lazing by the pool and more photographic discussions and reviewing of images. After the now standard delicious lunch we were back on the vehicle heading out to capture the magic.The afternoon was filled with general game, Elephants and a White Rhino and her calf.
As the sunset we were taken to a most inspiring section of the riverine and enjoyed a phenomenal sundowner after the most extreme day in the Lowveld. As we approached the vehicle to head back to the lodge, the call we had been waiting for came through and off we were to photography a leopard with a kill . We arrived on scene we quickly determined that it was the same young female leopard as the day before but this time she was not alone. Although the photographic opportunities were limited we managed some shots with the spot light. We had a brief glimpse of the young one but it was in extremely dense thicket.
The excitement again peaked and we made our way back to the lodge with some great images captured by all. Dinner was a grand affair with music, dancing and drinks. We were also joined by the lodge owner for dinner and enjoyed the fruits of the Timbavati.
Our last morning of the expedition and there were mixed emotions as we enjoyed the coffee with the now famous Motswari muffins. We headed towards an active hyena den and were entertained by the antics of two youngsters who darted in and out of the den and tried to suckle on one of the adults.
After waiting for a opportunity to view the leopard we had seen the night before, we arrived as she moved out of thick riverine bush, walked directly across our front end and moved up to a shady embankment. There she lay lowing for great photographs.As if scripted she climbed a fallen tree trunk and posed with more images.
It was then we realised that her kill had been stolen by a hyena and then by a lion. We moved off as she followed the scent trail but to no avail. We were heading back towards lodge when we found another vehicle stationery next to ANOTHER leopard in a thicket. Still not over , we started back and still we managed to view and photograph the lion munching away on the left over leopard kill that he had stolen earlier that morning.
After returning to the lodge, a breakfast was enjoyed and bags packed. We all arrived as strangers but left as friends with a common interest in photography, Africa and sharing. Thanks to all the staff at Motswari , Chad , Petrus , Andre , Jolande , Andrew S , Karim , Philip and Nadine for a epic expedition and I look forward to the next time we get to share Africa through the lens
Dont stop capturing the light , one frame at a time
Peace n Light – AA