Selinda Spillway: A Birdwatcher’s Secret Garden
Jun22

Selinda Spillway: A Birdwatcher’s Secret Garden

It is popularly believed that the Selinda Spillway is one of the most alluring and untamed regions of Botswana; a hideaway in the country’s northern marshland territories. This exquisite wildlife conservancy lies between the Okavango Delta panhandle in the west and the Linyanti Swamps in the east, along the floodplains of the Selinda Spillway. This watercourse ebbs and flows with the presence of floodwaters each year, offering sublime avenues for African canoe adventures, riverside bush trails, mekoro canals, and exceptional wildlife viewing. A highlight of the area has to be the presence of the endangered cheetah and wild dog, roan and sable antelope, and free-roaming elephant and buffalo populations. Visitors to Selinda had better have an appetite for birding too, as there is, without a doubt, a feast to be had! Being the shameless Twitchers we are, we’ve put together a birding blog based on a recent trip to Motswiri Camp, which showcased some of our favourite and most photogenic feathered species. Here we go… 1. African Pygmy Goose For starters, this diminutive waterfowl is not a goose at all, despite what its name so clearly suggests. The African pygmy goose is, in fact, a duck – just like numerous other mislabeled ducks, such as the Egyptian goose. This colourful, beautiful bird is one of the smallest of the water birds and it is a total special in regions like the Okavango Delta, and areas with similar shallow waters with lots of green coverage; so the Selinda Spillway fits perfectly into this perching duck’s chosen habitat. The African pygmy geese are timid birds, and it is likely that they will take off just as you get the camera focused and ready to shoot. On the bright side (if you’re a good enough photographer), you’ll capture some fantastic movement shots as the little ducks glide along the water and flap their wings vigorously in an attempt to get away. They are considered to breed as monogamous pairs, and are often seen in groups of 2 or 4, but sometimes you might spot a larger flock, which will most likely be of an even number. 2. Half-collared Kingfisher This brilliant-blue little kingfisher is certainly one of the most striking and photogenic of the riverside birds to spot in Selinda. Its iridescent plumage is similar to that of the malachite kingfisher (pictured below, middle, for comparison) – its more commonly spotted cousin – but the dark beak is a dead giveaway. Once you’ve got the beak colour out the way, its white collar becomes an obvious feature indicating its identity. It wraps halfway around its neck, collaring the back of the neck, and then brushing a white patch on the bird’s chin. This spectacular...

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Em Gatland Wows Us with Her Black & White Wildlife Images
Feb04

Em Gatland Wows Us with Her Black & White Wildlife Images

Up and coming wildlife photographer Em Gatland knows a thing or two about the safari lifestyle. Having spent time traversing the arid thickets of Kruger and the weaving waterways of the Okavango Delta, she’s become an expert in capturing exceptional wildlife moments through her lens. She’s camped, stayed in luxury lodges and spent many evenings under the black canvas speckled with stars in the hopes of capturing the most mesmerising moment on camera. Her style is unique and focusses heavily on the angles, emotion and stark reality of the wild. Today we’ve decided to celebrate her black and white wildlife images. With such an extensive portfolio, it was tough to select our favourites masterpieces delivered to us via her lens. In the meantime, here are just a few of the animals she has photographed and a bit of advice on what to look out for while photographing wildlife. 1. Elephants : Em has mentioned that elephants are one of her favourite subjects to photograph. With their wrinkled skin and many folds, there are plenty of grooves and shadows to photograph. Then of course, their rugged tusks and swaying trunks make for great. Those ears that look like antennae can really highlight the size of the pachyderm. When you spot an elephant herd, look closely. You’ll probably find plenty of calves to photograph. This is because an elephant is raised in a matriarchal herd. Female elephants roam in herds and each cow helps to raise the younger calves. Elephant bulls form loose associations with other bachelors and only join a herd when its time to breed. 2. Leopards : With their furry mottled coat with stark rosette patterns, there’s plenty of opportunity to photograph a range of textures and colours. Leopards are notoriously elusive, so you automatically get credit just by managing to photograph one. Leopards enjoy the vantage point from tall trees, so if you spot one high above there’s ample opportunity to get some great angles and perspective. Leopards are mainly on the move during the nocturnal time of day. Make sure you have a great camera that takes good night shots. During the day, these cats conserve their energy by sleeping in trees or on top of termite mounds. When a leopard makes a kill, it will drag the prey up the tree for safekeeping. They have been known to feast on their prey for a couple of days – scavengers can’t access the kill when it’s stashed in a tree. 3. Lions : Lions spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping in open areas or under the thickets in the shade. It’s quite easy to...

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Mala Mala and Mashatu Safari – Client Feedback
Sep29

Mala Mala and Mashatu Safari – Client Feedback

Mala Mala and Mashatu Safari Returning guests of Sun Safaris, Christine and Detlef, needed to be in the far north of the Kruger National Park for their son’s graduation as a Safari Guide! The guiding school is located in the private Makuleke concession in the Kruger National Park. This was the perfect excuse to go on safari! Starting with a charter flight from Johannesburg, the couple landed at Mala Mala, within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger. This iconic safari reserve shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park allowing freedom of movement for the animals.   From Mala Mala there is a direct flight to Mashatu Main Camp located in Botswana’s Tuli area, bordering the North West of South Africa and the south of Zimbabwe. Underground hides and herds of elephants awaited them at Mashatu! From Mashatu it was an easy drive to the Makuleke in Kruger where the proud parents enjoyed game drives and bush walks in the Kruger, led by their son! Magical! Here is Christine’s review of their trip along with her fantastic pictures! Dear Brett and Michelle, Here a short review! The itinerary and logistics were great. We saw more wildlife than expected and loved both camps. Below please find a review.   Two improvements I would suggest for the lodges: all meals were taken with the guides and same group as in jeep: not a must, would have been nice to have some private time or with other guests and give the guides a break! Food at Mashatu was not as good as at Mala Mala. Sun Safari as usually did an outstanding job, thank you!   Mala Mala: Mala Mala is an amazing place for wildlife sightings. We saw all the big 5. Leopards mating, wild dogs hunting and killing a steenbok as well as many white rhinos were all real highlights! From the terrace in our room we saw a lot of game as well! The lodge is nicely decorated and the rooms very large with two bathrooms (!) one with a bathtub. The atmosphere is pleasant and not stuck up despite the fact the lodge is high end. The guides are excellent (we were very lucky to have Olly) and the food was very good (same cook for the last 8 years) but too many meals (early morning coffee+, breakfast, lunch, high tea, dinner) which created a fragmented day and not enough time for resting mid day. Michael, the barman is an institution. Mala Mala is the biggest private area for wildlife viewing in the fantastic Sabi sands area; it was fantastic way beyond our (high) expectations.   Mashatu:...

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Awe-inspiring Angles on Wildlife Photography
Jul03

Awe-inspiring Angles on Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography has a big, big place in this world. Whether it be a passion or a career, for art or for marketing; photographing wild animals all over the world is a culture. Canon or Nikon (or neither of the above), cameras and photography have evolved over time, and now, in a time when people feast with their eyes, imagery of animals in their natural habitats is used for not only pleasure, but for education, conservation, and research. Technology has developed cameras to such an extent that they don’t even need to be manually operated by photographers. Automatic triggering of the shutter has created the possibility of capturing images without being physically present, opening a world of never-before-seen activity and behaviour in a variety of categories, but particularly wildlife. Camera traps – although no portrayal of photographers’ skill – have offered a glimpse into the secret activity of animals. Going a step further is photographer extraordinaire, Will Burrard-Lucas, whose invention of the DLSR camera trap has combined the quality and capabilities of a camera with the technology of a camera trap. These phenomenal photographs were captured using Burrard-Lucas’ invention and have a truly alluring, mystical, and awe-inspiring effect on the viewer. The movement of an animal is sensed by the camera trap and automatically triggers the click of a shutter, but the device is so non-invasive that the animals appear to be hardly aware of the camera at all. The value of this photography is immeasurable in terms of understanding behaviours and movements of various animals. Many of Burrard-Lucas’ photographs were captured in Zambia’s Liuwa Plains, North and South Luangwa National Parks, and recently he was at work with the World Wildlife Fund in the Kavango-Zambezi Conservation Area in Namibia. It offers an astonishing view of the wild inhabitants of Southern Africa when they think nobody is watching, and their behaviour is unaltered by the presence of humans. Just when we thought we had seen it all, Burrard-Lucas brought out his one-of-a-kind Beetle Cam, which is ‘an armoured remote-control buggy for your DSLR camera’. This pioneer invention allows wildlife photographers to delve deeper than ever before and to capture their subjects from a position that would never be safe for a human to be. The buggy carries your camera right up to the animal subject and evokes nothing more than a photogenic curiosity. The Beetle Cam comes with a protective carapace that protects your camera from the investigative claws and teeth of, say, a lion cub, or a leopard. The unbelievable images that have been released into the world of wildlife photography are truly unique to the field. One...

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White  lioness and a Trilogy Male mating in the Klaserie!
Apr22

White lioness and a Trilogy Male mating in the Klaserie!

What an epic sighting in Kruger: White lioness and a Trilogy Male mating!   Guests and the media team of Chloe Cooper, Carolynne Higgins and Kevin MacLaughlin were in the right place at the right time to witness this amazing wildlife sighting of one of the Trilogy males mating with not one, but three lionesses, two of which happened to be the rare white lions! Here is an accounting of the action from Chloe and Carolynne: When game drive takes place in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, you know you’re in for a treat when it comes to lion sightings. Africa on Foot and nThambo Tree Camp have reported sightings of the legendary Ross Pride, the Trilogy Lion coalition, and Ross breakaway lionesses all within the last week or 2. Then this happens… Today we saw white lions. Two of them. The 2 white lionesses of the Giraffe Pride, famous in the Klaserie and Timbavati nature reserves. On the main tar road that divides the 2 unfenced reserves, a sighting of one white lioness and one tawny lioness was called in on the radio. nThambo’s vehicle responded, and to guests’ utter delight, there they were. The snowy fur of the white lioness, standing out from her beige and green environment, and her blue eyes glistened like small pools of ice. Her tawny sister was harder to spot with her camouflaged fur, but there they were, behind the long grass, about 30m into the bush.           We could not have imagined what happened next. The tawny lioness rose and walked off down the long, open road, contact-calling quietly, pausing every so often. Eventually the white lioness followed and we watched in awe as one of the rarest lions in the world stepped out of the vegetation and confidently walked along a dam wall, in full vision of nThambo’s enthralled guests. After a couple of exceptional minutes, the radio grabbed our attention once again. A little further up the road and in an open clearing, one very familiar male lion and a SECOND white lioness were seen mating. Reluctantly leaving the first white lioness in search of something even more spectacular, we drove the last stretch along the road until a great, fiery mane popped out of the grass, accompanied by a smaller, snowy head. Instantly, the male was recognised as one of the Trilogy males, and the lioness was identified as the other white lioness of the Giraffe Pride. If you think this is where it ends, think again. A few bouts of mating take place between the 2 lovers, snarling and growling at each other in the heat of the moment, then, just as they are about to doze...

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Leopard vs Warthog in Kruger
Apr16

Leopard vs Warthog in Kruger

Leopard vs Warthog in Kruger Wildlife photographer Sheila from Sheila’s Africa, was lucky enough to be in the north of the Kruger National Park when she came across a sighting that would quickly become epic! While sitting at the Sable Dam in the Kruger Park, she was watching a warthog wallowing when she spotted movement in the bank about the pig. What followed was an epic battle between the agile and bigger leopard and the razor sharp tusked stocky warthog...

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Botswana Photographic Safari – Client Feedback
Apr07

Botswana Photographic Safari – Client Feedback

We received client feedback from a Botswana Photographic Safari in the form of wonderful photos. Nik visited the best areas of Botswana staying at Camp Xakanaka in the Moremi Game Reserve,  Xugana Island Lodge in the Okavango Delta,  Savuti Safari Lodge and Chobe Elephant Camp, both in Chobe National Park, but in very very different areas. Nik had this to say: I had a wonderful time, all the lodges were excellent, though Chobe Elephant Camp was very hot! I saw many different animals, everything from Dung Beetles to Elephants and a wide variety of bird life.   Botswana Photographic Safari photos from Nik: Gorgeous sunsets at Xakanaxa Black Backed Jackal in the Moremi Fish Eagle in the Moremi Blue Cheeked Bee-Eater in the Okavango Delta Neck Spotted Otter in the Okavango Delta Little Bee-eater in the Okavango Delta Curious Hippo in the Okavango Delta Adbims Stork in the Savuti Getting close with an elephant at Savuti Blue Cheeked bee-eater in Savuti Beautiful leopard at Savuti Lion Cubs playing at Savuit Relief from the heat in Chobe Perfect pose! In Chobe Big herd of Giraffe in Chobe Beautiful Sable Antelope herd in Chobe Time for a swim in Chobe Lioness surveying...

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