Madikwe: May 2010 (Part 2)

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We headed straight for the sighting of African Wild Dogs that was called in on the radio. When we found them they had moved from the side of the road and were staring intently at something deeper in the bushes – would we see them hunt?

They soon lost interest in whatever was back there, and proceeded to move about and socialise with each other.

The surrounding bush was quite dense so the images aren’t that great – but this was my first proper Painted Dog sighting in years (I don’t have much luck with them in the ) and I thoroughly enjoyed spending a good deal of time with them in close proximity, watching the pack interact with each other.

When the dogs decided to lie down, we took our cue to return to the lodge, have a hearty brunch, and relax around the pool watching the wildlife come and go to the small waterhole in front of the lodge. We also met up with Grant Marcus and Gavin Tonkinson, two of the local Madikwe guides involved at the time with Tuningi Safari Lodge. They were keen to join us on our afternoon drive as they didn’t have guests to attend to at the time.Later that afternoon we decided to head to a range of kopjes for a sunset shoot – obviously looking for some wildlife sightings on the way. All these great plans were interrupted when this little lady shot across the road right in front of us!!

Back then, Madikwe wasn’t really known for quality sightings. The cats that were there were known to be skittish around vehicles. That’s all changed now and the reserve produces some great sightings consistently now. We decided to stick with this young leopardess and see what she does. She ended up providing us with a real quality sighting. Initially, after she scoped us out properly from behind a bush, she sauntered back across the road, and after earning her trust we gently followed her trail off the main road.

She was skulking through the long grass, peering ahead. Was she on the hunt?

She stopped at a nearby tree – not your typical tree preferred by leopards (this one was densely covered in branches and looked like a tough one to get high up in) – peered up, and before we even realised it she jumped into the tree and climbed to the top, where it seemed she had a kill stashed. She was just about to tuck in, when a lone male Impala strolled by. She immediately went into hunting mode – tail swishing to and fro, waiting for the impala to walk past right under her position…There was silence in our vehicle as we held our breath – would we see her jump down on this ignorant right in front of us???The wind shifted, and just before her quarry was close enough for a pounce, he caught wind of her and bolted in the other direction. She relented and carried on feeding on her existing prey. What a close call! The sun had now set (there goes our sunset shoot on the kopje, but we didn’t mind) and we used a spotlight to grab one or two images of her feeding, then left the sighting as other lodge vehicles started to arrive.

Driving leisurely back to the lodge with the spotlight at the ready, we came across some “African Unicorns” as well (you can figure that one out by yourself), and stopped to photograph some of the iconic dead leadwood trees under the stars as well.I still had a lot to learn about nightscape photography at this stage, but it was fun and that is what matters in the end!

We had a jolly dinner around the fire recounting the day’s exciting turn of events. What would our last morning in Madikwe hold?

Morkel Erasmus

Morkel Erasmus

I used to relish writing these kinds of “bio” pieces and would flaunt the odd impressive word and use dashing grammar to make it sound like I am a boundary-shifting photographer. These days I prefer stating it in much simpler ways, much more relatable ways, much more believable ways… The fact of the matter is this: I love Africa. I love its people, its wild places and its wildlife. I love being immersed in these places, observing and photographing the fall of light on the land and the daily lives of the creatures that call it home, and presenting the results to whoever will take a look. To me, nature photography is all about being in the moment, and capturing that moment in a way that can relate to someone who didn’t have the privilege of being there with me. Sometimes I am able to capture a unique vision of the scene before me, and sometimes I just capture it the way most folks would according to classical photographic guidelines. Yet I always enjoy sharing the images and experiences and imparting the knowledge I have, both in-the-field and later online or in presentations, workshops and courses. I also just simply enjoy capturing and sharing the beauty of God's creation! The greatest thing I’ve found about wildlife and nature photography in Southern Africa is the unity and familiarity of the community of people that share this passion. We come from all walks of life and all cultures and backgrounds, yet our passion for our natural heritage and our dream to see it preserved for future generations binds strangers together and fuels conversations around campfires long after other people have run out of conversation and energy. Join me on a WildEye adventure to experience this sharing community spirit and learn to anticipate that fleeting moment and be ready for it, learn to immerse yourself in the experience without losing focus of your photographic goals…and above all, learn to see Africa anew… because there are none as blind as those who look but do not see!

Morkel Erasmus

Morkel Erasmus

Since picking up a DSLR camera for the first time, a little over 3 years ago, Morkel has been invigorated with an unbridled passion for the photographic art form. He has grown at a tremendous pace and put immense energy into the creation of his images. He absolutely loves spending time in the wild places of his native Southern Africa. From a young age he has been visiting legendary wildlife and outdoor locations, including the Kruger Park National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains, with his family. Now that he has found a way to share the natural beauty of his homeland with the rest of the world he is regularly out on photography trips. An Industrial Engineer by profession, and an accomplished artist in genres like music and poetry, Morkel has always enjoyed whatever allows him to express his creativity to the fullest. Photography turned out to be the perfect "marriage" between his engineering brain and artistic soul. "I hope that in some way I can raise awareness through my imagery of the plight of not only our wildlife but also the fragility of the last remaining wilderness areas that they call home.” Morkel was recently honoured for his commitment to his craft by receiving a "Highly Commended" for one of his images in the 2010 BBC Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. He is based in Mpumalanga, South Africa and even though he prefers going on safari with his family and friends, Morkel also leads the odd photographic safari and has recently begun presenting workshops in post-processing techniques.

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Doris Charles

Brilliant drive Morkel super photos.