Sabi Sands: February 2010 (Part 1)

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Some of you may recall that I have been posting some WAY overdue trip reports on my blog as well. I am still far behind, but I thought it best to get going again…my last report was a series of posts on a trip with my wife to the in 2009.

Let’s kick this one off then – back in February of 2010, my wife and I were invited to spend 2 nights in the luxurious Hills Private Game Reserve within the Sabi Sands Game Reserve (part of the Greater Kruger ecosystem). It’s one of the most prolific areas for leopard and lion viewing, and we were pretty excited to visit our friend Marius Coetzee who was at that time a full-time field guide at the lodge.

We decided to latch a few nights in the Kruger National Park to the back-end of this trip, and we also left home VERY early on the morning of 18 February so as to be able to reach the Malelane gate and make our way through the southern section of Kruger before checking in to the Sabi Sands around lunchtime.

It was an overcast morning with a slight drizzle throughout. The animals didn’t look overtly happy either.

Our first find on our short drive through Kruger was a herd of impala rams. These two were nudging closer in the rain.
This white-backed was also looking very sorry for himself…
We came across the remains of a kill. It was too far off to see what the carcass was – but the rain did not deter the spotted hyaenas and the vultures to contest each other for the remains…
Summer is also the time when beautiful migrant birds like the are “in town”!
The view from this famous lookout “kopje”/inselberg on the road between Malelane and Skukuza is always lovely – and even more so in the lush summer months.
A lovely was following his fishing pattern despite the drizzle.

It was a quiet drive, but nice nonetheless. There was one more obligatory stop before we would leave the Kruger Park through Kruger Gate and enter the Sabi Sands – the famous Lake Panic bird hide close to Skukuze…despite the rain.

This was my first outing using the Nikon D3s (at that time the top of the range Nikon DSLR and the undisputed king of low light photography). It was this trip that convinced me that somehow I would have to get my hands on one of these cameras on a permanent basis (it was a loan unit from Nikon ).

These photos below were taken at settings like ISO-4000, and they are also significant crops (the longest lens I had to use on this trip was the Nikkor 200-400mm VR which is not ideal for photographing small birds like these).

We arrived at Leopard Hills and checked into our rooms – what opulent luxury!! This was the view from our bath…

After having our lunch and taking a nap, we prepared for our first afternoon drive…which was delayed due to a sudden heavy thunderstorm moving through the area.

When we eventually did get out on our drive, we were met by the most wonderful scene…a herd of was lying in an open patch called the Ximungwe Clearing, and above them was a spectacular rainbow!

The rest of the afternoon was eventful – with an enjoyable sighting of the Hlaba N’kunzi leopardess and her cub feasting on a kill, albeit in a dense thicket which made photography nigh impossible.

We eventually enjoyed a lovely sundowner somewhere out in the bush.

What would the next day 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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