It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting down to write about my 2019 highlights. For one of the longest years in history, 2020 really flew by! It was a strange year for every single one of us: no matter where we might be in the world, who would’ve thought we would all find ourselves in these most interesting and frustrating of times?
I won’t lie, it was a difficult year indeed, but it would be criminal for us to only focus on the negatives when the positives are still out there for us to find. The sun still sets over Africa every single evening and every morning the loud dawn chorus of all the birds waking can still be heard – yes indeed there are positives out there and we are exceptionally fortunate to be surrounded by them. Now, I know so many of you didn’t get to enjoy the great outdoors this past year and I know you are pining for another safari – or possibly even your first safari. To all of you, I want you to know we are here, we are waiting, and we will welcome you with open arms when the time is right. I just hope that the content that we have produced over this past year has been a ray of sunlight in some small way for every one of you!
Before I really get into my highlights, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about our amazing content creating team. It has been a wild ride adapting, evolving and growing with all of you! Shara, you have fearlessly led us all year: your dedication to Tanda Tula and to us has been incredible. The name Sofa Safari will always originally be yours! Thank you so much for all the time spent planning, discussing and directing us – I know we can be frustrating at times! Chad, you have stepped up in such a huge way this year and I can happily say that to work alongside you is an inspiration every day. Thank you for producing content and images that are breathtaking with every single click – one day I will catch up, but for now I will look on in awe. Britt, my word, what else can be said other than you have become a better lion, leopard, elephant, giraffe, millipede and whatever-else spotter than all of us combined! Your passion for work behind the camera has been beautiful to witness. Your drive to get out there no matter what during lockdown to get the shot definitely got me up and going at the hardest of times. Your unwavering support of me fills my heart every single day and now as you bravely carry our child, I swell with pride for you – thank you my love. Dale and Formen, as directors of Tanda Tula with just so much on your plates, you still managed to step up and help where it was needed. Gents, I raise a glass to you both, thank you!
Right! Let me chat about the wildlife, the bush and the gorgeous views now. The first image I have selected is that of a dung beetle pushing his dung ball. This image holds a special place in my heart, even if I did need to wash my shirt afterwards from lying on the ground to get it. I just love how hard these little guy’s work! The image was captured in February and as you can see the bright greens of summer were still in full effect.
A few days later while on a drive with Britt we happened across a little family of slender mongoose. What made this sighting so special was two things: for one, sightings of this species are usually over as quickly as they begin, but on this occasion, we must have sat with them for well over half an hour as they just ran up and down the road playing and having what looked like the best time. Secondly, this was the first time I had ever seen baby slender mongoose! In total there were three of them and it’s sightings like this that hit you hard and remind you that the bush isn’t just about big creatures with big teeth!
In March I was very fortunate to be out on drive with star guide, Scotch, and a long time return guest Mike De Vivo when we were fortunate to see the two young Monwana males pursuing their father, also known as The Black Dam Male! This is not unusual in the world of lions; every dog has his day and eventually a young dog will take his place. Nonetheless, this altercation ended peacefully and in fact their relationship became a lot more peaceful in the following months as they seemed to form a loose coalition. Sadly, Black Dam Male is no longer with us. He was gored towards the end of the year during a buffalo hunt and succumbed to his wounds in the night. A sad moment for me indeed, as I have known this lion since before he even had a mane when I started my career as a guide almost 10 years ago in the neighbouring Thornybush game reserve. Rest in peace my friend.
Next up is an image I named ‘The Hammerkop Boogie’, which I think is bang on the money! This image will also be special to me because it is one of the first images I took as the reality of lockdown started to ring true. Britt, Chad and I were out and about still conceptualising ideas of what to do for our social media during this time – the name ‘Sofa Safari’ had not come into existence just yet.
I could not be happier with this image. There are few things better than seeing wild dogs get the upper hand on a clan of hyena and then also capturing an image of the situation that’s not blurry or half out of frame. We had been looking for wild dogs to film for days and this was the awesome sighting our patience was rewarded with!
One the Nahru males poked his head out of the drying, but still long, April grass as the season was beginning to change. I named this image ‘Did someone say pizza!?’ and well I hope your sense of humour aligns with mine! The three Nahru males have become the authority in this area of the Timbavati.
An image I have always wanted, a leopard walking through the dark of night with only the concentrated beam of light from a spotlight highlighting its existence. Interestingly on this evening there were actually two leopards in the sighting. One a male, and the one pictured – a female. I think we may have ruined their date, however, considering that there is a new little leopard cub around at the moment, I think they picked up right where they left off once we left the scene.
This is what I consider to be the cutest portrait I have ever taken! I just love how this image makes this lion cub look like he is about to embark on his first day of school. This is one of the River Pride cubs of which there were originally six, today only one survives.
Many of you will remember the gorgeous and famous late Marula leopardess, my favourite leopard of all time. Well, before she left us, she made sure to leave us with two of her cubs and while her daughter Marula Jnr has become very shy and elusive, her brother Xisiwana (orphan) has taken to the vehicles beautifully. This is him, early one morning on a kill of his own making. A few minutes after this image was taken, he jumped down the tree and bagged himself a guineafowl too!
Those wintery bushveld sunsets that you all love still managed to take our breath away throughout the season.
A stunning little Pearl Spotted Owlet stares at me during the film of our short Sofatography series.
There are few things that get avid safari goers and guides more excited than a sighting of a pangolin! The crowning jewel of African sightings. These very special animals are incredibly endangered, and it has been said that the majority of humans on this planet will not even know about this species before it goes extinct, a very sad idea indeed. If you ever get the chance to see one, please relish every moment you are afforded in its presence, you will literally be in the company of fauna royalty.
It always makes me smile when I remember the circumstance under which this image was taken. You see, there was a dead buffalo not far from camp and nearby that dead buffalo lay two very fat and gaseous Narhu lions. I sat with them for ages until one decided he needed to relieve himself. As he did so, he looked right into my lens from not more than 3 meters away. And that’s the story behind this half portrait shot.
As gruesome as some may find it, predators do in fact kill and eat their prey. It is a very natural yet extremely powerful thing to witness. While some of us may feel sad for the prey, we also have to remember that everything has a part to play in this incredible ecosystem and at the end of the day, a kitty has gotta eat!
While out and about one day shooting an episode of Sofa Safari with my much better half, we came across this gorgeous scene of a herd of elephants dust bathing but the light just wasn’t right. I quickly drove around to get the backlighting and this is what the light of late wintery August produced. I love this image.
No highlights of the year of mine would be complete without an image of perhaps my favourite species to spend time with! Hyenas are so misunderstood and I love changing people’s perceptions of them when I take them out. On this occasion a large buffalo bull had gone down, resulting in a tremendous hyena party!
Lying flat on the ground while capturing this image of a classic hippo yawn (using the vehicle for protection with Allied Mathebula) was a lot of fun! I look forward to seeing where this young, talented photographer goes in the future.
It had been a good few years since I had seen the Sumatra Male, so I was very chuffed to catch up with him one afternoon as he lazed about in the heart of Narhu territory with his buddy, the Hercules Male. Don’t worry, he wasn’t lying on his back contemplating the universe, I just happened to snap the shot just as he rolled over!
Cheetah are sadly not a species that we have the honour of seeing too much of around here, so when it does happen we risk long drives and sunburn just to get a glance at them. On this occasion I really did get the pink skin to show for it but it’s always worth it the moment you lock eyes with such a precious and beautiful creature.
Last, but definitely not least, is an image that I think is very suitable to end off this year. An image that I sat patiently trying to get for over an hour. A reminder to all of us to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, keeping moving forward. It is of my belief that there is always a silver lining, a habit I inherited from my amazingly positive mother. 2020 wasn’t the year we all thought it would be but it is up to each and every one of us to find the magic to brighten up our world and if you ask me, once you start looking for it – it really isn’t that hard to find.
Here’s to all of you, thank you so much for all the support you have shown this year and every year. It has been so special to connect with you all in a very different way and to have your support all the way through this year has been amazing. Thank you all!
Until next time, happy snapping, happy new year and love and health to you all.