Safari 2017:   Helicopter Run Through The Blyde River Canyon

Safari 2017: Helicopter Run Through The Blyde River Canyon

Over the last 2 weeks, we spent time at 3 different Safari Camps including the Dulini Private Game Reserve, Jaci’s Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve and Khaya Ndlovu where we spent time with the Rhino Revolution team.

In order to get between most camps in South Africa, you either have to fly on scheduled Charters, drive for an unGodly amount of hours over horrible terrain, or take a Helicopter.  When it was time to transit between Dulini and Khaya Ndlovu, we decided to hire a Helicopter through Wild Skies Aviation out of Hoedspruit so that we can take in one of South Africa’s most beautiful natural wonders, the Blyde River Canyon.   The canyon is set apart from other canyons as it is the only ‘living’ canyon in the world, meaning that vegetation is found in abundance at the bottom of the canyon.

These photos will explain exactly what I mean! 🙂

However, the photos don’t quite do it justice!

As you’ll see in the video (taken with a GoPro mounted on the belly of the chopper), departing from Dulini and heading towards Bushbuckridge and Hoedspruit is fairly uneventful.   However as you approach the lush borders that surround the canyon, the world below is transformed into something magical.  Pay attention at the 30 minute mark and beyond since it is at that point that we enter the canyon and then weave through the canyon walls following the Blyde River out of the canyon and over a series of citrus orchards as we headed to Khaya Ndlovu.

 

 


Safari 2016:   A Leopard Earns His Bacon

Safari 2016: A Leopard Earns His Bacon

The 2016 edition of our annual Safari Trip came and went all too quickly.    As always it was a wonderful 10 days to be immersed in the beauty and savagery of the South African Bushveld.   Being addicted to the experience, we once again stayed at our favorite place in the world, the Dulini Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand Reserve.    We’ve become part of their family so it’s only proper that we visit kin every year!

Over 18,000 photos came home with us and I’ve started the daunting task of sorting through them to see what stays and what goes.

I had taken new equipment with me this year, including Nikon’s brilliant new D5, which shoots off 12 photos per second so it was easy to rack up a high photo count.   Especially since it could take 250 photos without taking a break to write the photos to memory and do it with a 20.8MP sensor.    Combining the D5 with the D800, I had substantial fire-power when it came to catching the right moment.    As far as glass was concerned, my beloved Sigma 150-600mm , Nikon 24-70mm, and a new Rokinon 24mm / f1.4 specifically for Astro-photography rounded out the kit.  Enough about the tools.

As I go through my photos, I’ll post my trip reports as quickly as possible.

For the first installment, I’ll share what we observed soon after a beautiful Leopard named ‘Torchwood’ successfully hunted a Warthog.   We had just missed the actually ‘strike’ by Torchwood but got there in time to see him catch his breath and begin feeding.

Torchwood has a reputation in the region for being a Warthog specialist and is becoming one of the more dominant male leopards in the area.   Warthogs will typically inhabit abandoned termite mounds and will burrow into them for shelter and safety.   Torchwood, having figured this out, will stake out active burrows and will attempt to ambush the warthog.   These termite mounds can sometimes between over 10 feet tall, so he’ll also stand on top of the mound and surprise the warthog from above when it attempts to leave its burrow.   Simply amazing to watch his master hunter at work.

The Sabi Sand region is blessed with a vibrant Leopard population, so it’s wonderful to see these leopards grow up from being cubs to  being independent and establishing their own territories.   From my own count there are at least 30 leopards in the region, and I might be a bit low on that estimate.

Some of these photos may be a bit  graphic for sensitive palettes, especially if you’re not a fan of seeing a bit of flesh or blood.   However it is part of the experience and part of the reality that exists in such a wild environment and goes a long way to tell the story of a Leopard and his successful hunt.

You’ll notice that my photos bear the Dulini watermark.   As in past years, I’ve shared my photos with Dulini for use on their Facebook page so when I processed my photos I kept it simple by just applying the Dulini watermark instead of re-doing an imagine for my watermark.

I hope these photos bring a sense of what it’s like to be there watching the event in person!  Enjoy!

 

How we found Torchwood minutes after his kill

How we found Torchwood minutes after his kill.

 

torch2

Yep, he’s staring my way…..

A few minutes later he went back to the Warthog to hide the carcass from Hyenae or other predators that could challenge him for the Warthog.

A few minutes later he went back to the Warthog to hide the carcass from Hyenae or other predators that could challenge him for the Warthog.

 

torch9

Dragging his trophy to ‘safety’.  Typically he would pull the Warthog up into a tree, but nothing tall enough was nearby for him to take advantage of.

 

torch3

You can see the exhaustion in his expression.

 

torch7

Hard work, but worth the effort for him.

 

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After another short break, he began to rip into the flesh of the Warthog and enjoyed the fruit of his labor.

 

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Clearly enjoying his success!

 

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Tasting success…..

 

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Simply a beautiful animal…..


Scenes From Safari: Part VII

Scenes From Safari: Part VII

Part 7 continues with more photos that I though were worth sharing from our recent Safari trip.    You’ll find below photos from a wide variety of critters including Giraffes, Leopards, Rhinos, Cheetahs and a few birds.   After the photos, there’s a short video showing an adolescent Elephant greeting our vehicle…..

If you missed my previous installments, use the following links to see each part:

Part I,   Part II,   Part III,   Part IV,    Part V,   and Part VI

 

Night_Heron

A rare daytime sighting of a Night Heron

Hamerkop_Saddle_Stork

A Hamerkop (left) and a male Saddle Bill Stork share a watering hole…..

Scarnose_Wind

A Majingilane Pride Lion, nicknamed ‘Scar Nose’ puts his ‘hair’ into the wind……

Hyena_Hug

Hyena siblings enjoying a moment……..

Rhino_Scratch

A young Rhino hones his horn on the post…..

Giraffe_Head

A Giraffe leans in to see what I was doing……

Hippo_Submerged

A suspcicious Hippo finally came up after spending 5 minutes under water.

MoonRiseDulini

Capturing a moonrise behind a Leadwood tree with Stars in the background.

Ravenscourt_Male_Leopard

A Leopard is not distracted by having her photo taken……

Cheetah_1

A male Cheetah looking towards a herd of opportunity.

Rhino_1 copy

This elder Rhino is missing a fantastic sunrise……

Crocodile

This Crocodile is leaving after being beaten in a fight by an even larger Croc.

African_Grey_Hornbill_Male

A Gray Hornbill sits in the highest tree he could find…..

Torchwood

Another Leopard takes a pause after a succuessful hunt (notice the blood on his shoulders?)

 

 


Sunset:  Lake Michigan Style

Sunset: Lake Michigan Style

Ahead of a trip to Europe in a few days, I needed to calibrate a few pieces of equipment so we decided to make an afternoon of it and head to Lake Michigan and catch the sunset.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lake Michigan, it is the 5th largest lake in the world with a surface area of 22,400 square miles and has over 1600 miles of shoreline.  It it also known as the largest lake in the world to be within the borders of a single country.  History suggests that the name Michigan comes from the Ojibwa word ‘Mishigami’ which translates into ‘Great Water’.   Very fitting.

Being that I live only 20 minutes from the lake, I figured it would be a good place to take the photos I needed to test the equipment.   Conditions were great and we were treated to a fantastic sunset, so what became a quick run for a few photos became bit of a ‘trip report’.

All of the following images were taken inside of Holland State Park.  Fortunately crowds were small but the view was large!  Enjoy!

A bit of history behind Holland Harbor:

Holland_sign

 

No trip to the lake is complete with the standard Seagull photos……

Gull_2 Gull

 

While waiting for the sunset, a Windsurfer provided some decent subject matter….

windsurf_3 windsurf windsurf_2

 

Then came the light show……..

SplitSky

I like this shot especially because of the contrast between the blue sky and clouds ‘blocking’ it from the sunset.

SunBirds

My favorite from the evening…..

Mich_Sunset

 

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Visitors are treated to a dramatic sunset….

 

Holland, Michigan's famous Lighthouse at last light....

Holland, Michigan’s famous Lighthouse at last light….


Scenes From Safari:  Part VI – RHINO VIDEO!

Scenes From Safari: Part VI – RHINO VIDEO!

This installment picks up where parts I, II, III, IV, and V left off (please click on a ‘number’ to be taken to that part).

Here you’ll find an assortment of critters including Elephants, Lions, Dung Beetles, Birds, etc. etc.  At the bottom of this post, be sure to watch the Rhino video.   We were as close as we could get without jumping on him for a ride 😉 !

 

Did You Know? Elephants can communicate with each other through infrasound from 10-15 miles away!

Did You Know? Elephants can communicate with each other through infrasound from 10-15 miles away!

 

Mongoose_2

A Mongoose provides a rare pose.

 

Othawa_Behind_lodge

I was about 30 yards away from these Lionesses with nothing between us. Fortunately they were too lazy to do anything about it.

 

 

 

 

Tasselberry_Ravenscourt

A male and female Leopard (Ravenscourt and Tassleberry) are about to enjoy each other’s company.

 

Dung_Beetle

Dung Beetles battle over a pile of……territory.

 

Greater_Blue_Ear_Starling

Common but beautiful, the Blue-Ear Starlings shimmers in the sunlight.

 

Red_Bill_Hornbill

A Red-Billed Hornbill

 

Mom

Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, are you up? Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom


 

In this video, we experience a Rhino come as close to us as possible without sitting in the truck with us…..