Nothing screams Africa like a terracotta sunset serving as the backdrop to a lone umbrella tree hovering over a silhouette of an elephant. And there’s nothing more “African” than the call of the African fish-eagle and the guttural roar of a lion. There are so many scenes and sounds used to depict the bushveld life in Africa, many of which have become synonymous with the continent. So, we’re not going to delve into the depths of the big five here, but we’re going to list the 5 iconic wildlife scenes on safari. These are the scenes that you’ll stumble across in printed literature, and the ones that make their way onto banners on websites promoting safaris in Africa.
The giraffe walking across a golden horizon
This is quite a common scene while on safari, and certainly one that’s not hard to capture. Giraffe constantly journey through the bushveld in search of edible greens, with the acacia tree being their favourite source of nutrition. Giraffe will never remain in one spot for very long while browsing on shoots and leaves. And there’s good reason for this…
When a giraffe towers over the landscape and greedily feeds on the acacias, the trees release an excess of unpalatable tannins because they feel they are under threat. This forces the giraffe herds to move off in favour of alternate food sources. Acacia trees “warn” neighbouring trees of the imminent threat, so giraffe are often seen cruising across the skyline to a batch of trees far removed from their original eating place!
When they’re on the move they walk silently, slowly and carefully. Because of their innate curiosity, giraffe will stop and stare at their onlookers, which provides perfect moments for photography. Their height means that your image is largely uninterrupted by crowds of trees.
The sky in Africa is always on fire with reds, oranges and yellows; which inevitably means that you’re going to come away smiling with that giraffe sunset image.
Elephants in front of your lodge
This kind of sighting happens at most lodges that have an open camp with a swimming pool and/or a waterhole in front of camp. Yes, it’s common practice for elephants to descend upon lodge grounds; but it’s still considered a “lucky” sighting. It’s not quite as common as the giraffe on the horizon sighting, but it happens often enough. Especially during the dry winter season. And there’s a perfectly good explanation for this…
Elephants are purveyors of good quality water and they’re creatures of habit. These giant pachyderms will cover plenty of ground in search of the perfect source of water, and during the winter season water sources become scarce. Elephants have an inbuilt divining method that leads to them available water sources. Most lodges have a permanent/semi-permanent sources of water in front of their grounds, which certainly brings in the elephant crowds. Herds lumber down to soak up the water, smother their bodies in water and replenish themselves. You’ll see youngsters rolling around in the mud, providing plenty of entertainment for onlookers.
If the grounds of a lodge are unfenced and there’s a raised swimming pool on a deck area, you can guess where the pachyderms spend their days. Swimming pools are an elephant’s water bowl, and the water has no ill effect on an elephant’s robust digestive system. Lodge owners spend plenty of time refilling their swimming pools because
When the herds catch wind of waterholes and swimming pools, they’re return on a daily basis during the winter season..and year after year you’ll find them in the same spot!
Lions on the move in the darkness
There’s nothing better than watching the swag of a lion. Lions are associated with prestige and power; and they’re most certainly the sought after sighting while on safari. During the day our cats tend to sleep for up to 20 hours to conserve their energy for nocturnal activities. It’s not uncommon to stumble across these “flat cats” just lazing around in the undergrowth with their fellow pride members. The best time to spot cats? We’d have to say while on game drive at night ! This is when they come alive and they’re most active. We see them patrolling the ‘veld, marking their territory and stalking prey. And there’s something very “Ghost and the Darkness” about lions on the move at night. Getting the perfect photo of a lion in a pitch black setting is tricky, but certainly worth a try!
The African fish-eagle perched on a branch
An African fish-eagle has two distinct calls which are synonymous with the sound of Africa. This is a large and proud raptor that spends its days perched on branches around large bodies of water. Primarily a fish eater, this eagle is also not above hunting for a wide variety of prey. The African fish-eagle will steal hatchlings from nests, devour reptiles and even steal prey from other birds. A large part of a fish eagle’s day is spent scanning its surrounds for aquatic life. It sits quietly perched, and has a rather regal stature.
When you’re close to a waterhole, river or waterlogged region, keep your eyes peeled for this majestic bird of prey.
Leopard in a tree
Leopards love elevated areas and their nimble bodies ensure that they’re perfectly designed to bolt up the tallest of trees. When a leopard makes a kill it drags its quarry into a tree for safekeeping from scavenging hyenas and opportunistic predators. Leopards will eat their meal over the course of a few days, often leaving the kill straddled in a tree while it heads to the closest waterhole. They generally return to their kill to continue the feast. These cats invented “long lunches” !
Their body structure is perfectly adapt for dragging massive kills into trees. Hyenas are often spotted circling the base of tall leadwood trees – they’re a dead giveaway that there could be a big cat seeking solace in the tree above. Kill or no kill, leopards love trees. It’s the one place where they cannot be disturbed !
The next time you’re out on game drive, look up ! You never know what you might find slumped across the branches.