A unique photo safari experience with Francois van Heerden at Leopard Rock Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve.
3 to 8 August 2018: 5 spots available
12 to 17 October 2018 : FULL
Six lucky guests will have Leopard Rock Lodge all to themselves during this photo safari with guide Francois van Heerden. Explore the vast expanse of South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve and maximise on the fantastic photographic opportunities.
Leopard Rock Lodge is situated in the remote Madikwe Game Reserve, one of the largest animal reserves in South Africa and close to the Botswana border. The 75,000 ha (750 km2) Madikwe Game Reserve is malaria-free and easily accessible via a short flight from Johannesburg or by road. A great photo safari location, Madikwe Game Reserve is home to the sought-after “Big Five” – elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo and Rhino as well as the highly endangered African wild dog, cheetah and brown hyena. Madikwe Game Reserve boasts over 60 mammal species and is a bird lover’s paradise with up to 300 resident and migrant species recorded.
Your photo safari guide, Francois van Heerden, lives in Madikwe Game Reserve and understands its very pulse. His passion and local knowledge ensures prime time photo safari opportunities to capture that image that will remain with you for life and his eagerness to share his technical skills will benefit your wildlife photography.
Day 1: Arrival in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
Arrive and check in at Leopard Rock Lodge at around 12h00 via your own transport (transfers can be arranged). Guests will then be given time to settle and have lunch at 14h00.
After lunch, a photographic equipment check and briefing you will be itching for your first photo safari drive. Expect your first sightings to be of blue wildebeest, giraffe, impala, red hartebeest, burchell zebra… and more.
During the afternoon photo safari drive we will stop for a drinks and light snacks break and go through the game plan for the rest of the evening, making decisions like which species to target in the late afternoon light. This could be wild dogs, which are normally on the hunt in the late afternoon or even sitting at a waterhole surrounded by up to 100 elephants bathing and drinking.
Return to Leopard Rock Lodge around 20h00 – depending on sightings off course, for dinner and to reflect on the goals for the next day.
Overnight at Leopard Rock Lodge.
Day 2-5: Photo safari heaven
Mornings in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve start early, with guests gathering in the lodge around 04h30 for coffee/tea and a bite to eat, aiming to depart around 05h00 for the first photo safari drive of the day.
Getting up early is always hard but for a serious photographer those golden hours are the best moments in your day.
We might set out to find the lions, cheetahs or leopards but of course nature has its own plans and we might be diverted by spotted hyenas or even the rarely seen brown hyena – Madikwe Game Reserve’s high diversity means we have to keep an open mind. One of the days Francois van Heerden would like to spend as much time with the charismatic and highly endangered African wild dog. The goal will be to find these beautiful animals and if possible witness them hunting. Key will be to be with the dogs as early as possible in the morning (or just before sunset in the afternoon) – the most likely times for the dogs to go hunting.
We will return to Leopard Rock Lodge for breakfast around 09h00 (again depending on sightings) and after breakfast you will have the chance to edit and download your photos and Francois van Heerden will be available for assistance and helpful hints during this process. During the afternoon photo safari drive we target specific species and photo opportunities, but again this is a flexible plan.
Again we will return to Leopard Rock Lodge around 20:00 for dinner and to reflect on the day as well as going over the game plan and expectations for the following day.
Overnight at Leopard Rock Lodge.
Day 6: Departure from Madikwe Game Reserve after one last photo safari
Our last early-morning photo safari drive would be to target the species we have missed out on so far – perhaps cheetah or black rhino, but of course we might be surprised by what we do encounter.
We return to a farewell breakfast and the last chance to share photographic techniques and ideas before departing on our own travel arrangements.
Check out will be at 11:00am
End of services
Accommodation: Leopard Rock Lodge
Leopard Rock Lodge is situated in South Africa, high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the surrounding Madikwe Game Reserve plains. The bar and entertainment room face towards a waterhole, with a constant parade of elephants, antelope and a myriad of bird life.
The elegant individual guest suites fan out around the hillside, each ideally situated for maximum privacy. All suites are equipped with an outside deck, a lounge area with fridge, tea and coffee maker, a huge bedroom and a bathroom – complete with colonial-style ball and claw bathtub. Each suite at Leopard Rock Lodge has its own outdoor shower which is tucked away into the rocky crevices for privacy.
Central to the main lodge is the swimming pool which is perfect for lounging in-between photo safari game drives. A barbeque boma provides the perfect spot for al fresco dining around the camp fire, underneath the brilliance of the Milky Way stars.
About the Guide
Born and bred in South Africa, Francois van Heerden developed his passion for wildlife while assisting in managing a small reserve on Makhado Air Force base – his favourite activities being snake wrangling, game captures and game counts.
After spending time in the UK working, Francois van Heerden returned to South Africa and qualified as a professional field guide in 2007. He then bought his first DSLR camera and started photographing nature’s beauty, which he is so privileged to see on a daily basis. He has guided tourists through the South African bush, working in the greater Kruger area, the Eastern Cape and currently in Madikwe Game Reserve as a photo safari guide.
Francois van Heerden believes that to take your photography to the next level you have to know your subject intimately – to be prepared for that split second that defines that once-in-a-lifetime photo.
To Francois van Heerden photography is not just about taking a great photo but also about building memories and sharing nature’s beauty and diversity, it’s a great tool to broaden people’s imaginations and awareness of our precious wildlife.
Climate: June is usually warm (Temperatures: average minimum is 4°C/40°F | average maximum 22°C/72°F).
We recommend you bring a warm fleece and even long trousers – as morning drives and evenings turn chilly after the sun has set. Rain ponchos are also available on game drives, but we suggest bringing along a water resistant jacket too.
Difficulty: This photo safari tour is largely vehicle based and is not strenuous. Walking possibilities exist but are optional, the opportunity of taking short walks to vantage spots or get a better look at something may exist.
Group size: The photo safari has been limited to a maximum of 6 people.
Price Includes: All accommodation, meals, snacks, mineral water and local brand drinks, game drives, all conservation and entrance fees to access the reserve and professional guide fees. Informal photo processing workshops, and free internet connectivity. 24/7 office support.
Price Excludes: International or domestic flights, road transfer to the reserve (although these can easily be arranged from Johannesburg International airport – please ask us), visas, items of personal nature, telephone calls, laundry, travel and medical insurance, gratuities, excess baggage charges, or any activities not specified in the itinerary.
Booking and payment details: Once you have decided to join one of our safaris, you will need to contact us for a booking form, which will include details relating to deposit and final payments etc. As our groups are small they fill up quickly.
Read all about our trip reports from our latest photographic safaris with Francois van Heerden at Madikwe Game Reserve here:
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