Wednesday 27 August 2014

The Dogs of Mana Pools

On Friday morning I depart for my favourite part of Africa - Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. I am hosting a Wild Eye photographic safari to this pristine and ethereal wilderness area, and I am quite excited to return there...

During our maiden voyage to Mana, my buddy Marlon du Toit and I were fortunate to spend some quality time with one of the local packs of African Wild Dogs (also called Cape Hunting Dogs or Painted Wolves). Mana Pools is a stronghold for this species, the most endangered of Africa's predators (fewer than 4000 remain in the wild).

We located the pack again on our last afternoon of the trip, sunning themselves in a dry riverbed. We decided to venture a bit closer, and to do so meant we had to physically leopard-crawl over the coarse river sand for about 40 painstaking meters, with bare elbows and knees, carrying our cameras equipped with super telephoto lenses in one hand and our beanbags in the other hand. Progress was slow, as the going was tough and we also didn't want to cause the canines distress. When we were in a good position, still not too close to cause distress, we settled in and spent some time photographing their lazy antics.

Eventually, the alpha male got a whiff of us as the wind direction shifted. He immediately came closer to investigate. It was thrilling to look through the viewfinder as he bore down on us slowly, checking us out. 

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  1.4x teleconverter  |  f6.3  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-4000

When he was too close for my lens to focus, I looked up, and looked him in the eye. 

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  1.4x teleconverter  |  f6.3  |  1/320 SS  |  ISO-7200

He walked around us, taking in our scent, and after ascertaining that we were not a threat to his pack, he did the unthinkable - he flopped down a mere 15 meters from where we were still lying motionless.

It was epic. 
It was a moment that forever changed the way I see wildlife photography (well, that whole Mana Pools trip changed the way I see wildlife photography, to be honest). 

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.6  |  1/400 SS  |  ISO-2500

To make such a direct connection with our subject was a revelation to myself and to Marlon.
We came back and vowed to share the "Mana Magic" with others.
On Friday I am going back to do just that...and hopefully the Dogs will be obliging again!

If you want to join us on our adventures in Mana Pools in 2015, then check out the details HERE.

Thanks, as always, for reading my ramblings. I'll catch you on the flipside!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 25 August 2014

WILDpaper - Free Desktop Wallpaper for August 2014

I know. I'm lazy - I've been holding out on you. I skipped July when it comes to releasing new WILDpaper images for your desktops/laptops/tablets...

I hope you can forgive me...and accept this month's image as a peace offering! :)

This young Giraffe was photographed at sunset, ambling away from the Gemsbokvlakte waterhole in Etosha National Park in Namibia.

This month's cheesy quote:

"“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step...” 
- Lao Tzu

You can download your free high resolution version HERE.

Feel free to share this post with anyone whom you feel would love to download this wallpaper!
Also, take note that you are welcome to contact me for any fine art prints that you desire from my portfolio - you can mail me directly using morkel(at)

Thanks, as always, for your support.

Morkel Erasmus

Sabi Sands: February 2010 (Part 3)

This is the 3rd episode of a way overdue trip report from February 2010. If you need to catch up, check out PART 1 and PART 2 before carrying on with this post...

My lovely wife and I had a pleasant afternoon lounging around our room at Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve with its private plunge pool (summer months in the Lowveld are hot and humid). She took this photo of me looking out over the bush...

This photo shows the inside of our luxurious room - what comfort!

Soon enough, after stuffing ourselves with lovely teatime treats, we were off on our afternoon drive as the clouds were building for storms overhead. This photo shows Marius Coetzee driving us around the roads of the Sabi Sands - do yourself a favour and check out his website for some amazing photography...

Our first notable sighting of the afternoon was a journey of Giraffe (that's what a group of them is called) underneath a stunning rainbow (what is it with this trip and rainbows?)...

One of the bulls obliged me by going to stand in the perfect spot - how kind of him!

We then received word of a nice lion sighting, and proceeded there immediately. The Ximungwe pride was relaxing in a riverbed, and the sole surviving cub of that year's litter was playing with his mother. This little one had been dubbed "Supercub" due to the hardships he endured up to then, and the fact that he somehow kept up when the pride was on the move - which they did without consideration of a cub's presence in their midst.

As you can see, it was a fruitful sighting as far as photography goes. The mother was not very impressed with her cub's incessant playfulness, but she bore it like any good patient mother would. Shortly after leaving this sighting the heavens opened up and we got properly drenched!! Thanks goodness for the parkas in the vehicle (which I used to cover my gear which was on loan from Nikon South Africa)!!!

I hope you enjoyed this trip report thus far. More to follow in the 3rd episode...
Have a great week!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 18 August 2014

Ghostly Duo

A moment of magic in the bush as a Black Rhino cow and her calf approach the nearby waterhole. A storm is brewing and the day is drawing to a close. Every step is weary, and every sound is carefully tuned into with their amazing hearing. We sat very still in our vehicle and watched for more than 30 minutes as they carefully emerged from the thickets, quenched their thirst, nearly charged some impala that were also on their way to have a drink, and slowly disappear into the fading light...

To view the photos at their optimal sharpness and resolution, merely click on one and cycle through them using your left and right keys.

Moments like these are getting harder and harder to experience...
Rhinos in Southern Africa are being decimated at higher and higher rates by the day...
The Black Rhino is the least populous of the species found in Southern Africa...
Please check out the following initiative:

I hope you like this image. The monochrome conversion I created really spoke to me in a way the colour version could not do...I always like to show my before and after versions (colour and monochrome) - so here they are.

Nikon D800
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
f5.6 | 1/500 SS | ISO-3200

Thanks for having a look! Have a great week...

Morkel Erasmus

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Sabi Sands: February 2010 (Part 2)

This is the second episode of my long overdue trip report for this safari I enjoyed with my wife. If you need to catch up on part 1, click HERE first.

We were up early on the 2nd day of our stay in Leopard Hills, and the anticipation was high was we headed out on our morning game drive. Our first proper sighting was a small breeding herd of African Elephants. They allowed us quite close, which resulted in some interesting photographic opportunities.

We hit the road again after getting confirmation on the radio that a male leopard called Tekwaan male had been found moving in a drainage line. Every part of Africa has its own appeal - the wide open savanna of East Africa is awesome, but there's something equally special to the dense bushveld of the South African Lowveld region.

The Tekwaan male leopard was proving quite elusive, after getting moving again the vehicles that were in the sighting lost him in the drainage line, and we had to do some searching of our own. Through some clever prediction of the heading of the leopard as he was patrolling, our friend and guide Marius Coetzee stopped the vehicle in a dry riverbed and we waited in silence as he and his tracker scanned around. Moments later, our quarry popped his head up immediately to our right, not 20 meters from our position.

We waited patiently, and Tekwaan moved down the embankment and into the riverbed.

Unfortunately for us, he proceeded to walk in front of our vehicle as we slowly followed along the sandy riverbed. Overtaking him would disturb him and we let him carry on his patrol. He stopped for a drink in a puddle in the river - which would have made for awesome photos from the front!! I had to settle for some tail shots...

He finished his drink, turned around, and strolled into the thickets. The end of a riveting sighting, albeit not the best position for us in terms of photography...

We returned to the lodge for a scrumptious brunch on the deck overlooking the magnificently green bushveld...

I hope you enjoyed this post. Stay tuned for part 3, coming soon!

Morkel Erasmus

Monday 4 August 2014

Sabi Sands: February 2010 (Part 1)

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 last report was a series of posts on a trip with my wife to the Kruger National Park in 2009 - you can read them HERE.

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 Leopard 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.

As always, clicking on the photos displays them at the best resolution and sharpness, against a nice dark backdrop :)

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 vulture 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 European Roller 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.

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.

A lovely Malachite Kingfisher was following his fishing pattern despite the drizzle. 

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 South Africa).

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 Cape Buffalo 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