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Written by: Francois van Heerden

The latest Africa Geographic photo safari to Madikwe Game Reserve was another memorable trip, during which all participants worked hard and were duly rewarded by a plethora of special encounters and experiences.

©Sarah Drake
© Sarah Drake

The first day started a bit slow as a result of a cold front and the first downpour in Madikwe since April. However, we didn’t let it damper our spirits and we were rewarded with numerous regal lion sightings during the first few drives.

©Sarah Drake
© Sarah Drake
©Francois Van Heerden
© Francois van Heerden

The cloudy conditions were actually most welcome as they allowed for extended morning photographic sessions. This meant that we had the chance to find a coalition of four male cheetahs and spend over an hour with them capturing their sensual movements and elegant beauty.

©Francois Van Heerden
© Francois Van Heerden

On one particular evening drive we were blessed with spending some quality time with two sub-adult brown hyenas at their den site. We sat in silence with baited breath as we watched and photographed these two individuals going about their daily lives, grooming and nibbling on old bones. When we left the sighting, everyone realised at once what a magical and blissfully unique opportunity this had been.

©Sarah Drake
© Sarah Drake
©Justin Mason
© Justin Mason
©Francois Van Heerden
© Francois van Heerden
©Francois van Heerden
© Francois van Heerden

By this stage I thought that we must have used up all of our luck, but it turns out that there was plenty more in store. As we slowly headed back to the lodge, we caught sight of an aardwolf – my third ever sighting of this species in six years of guiding in Madikwe! We watched as it marked its territory and then vanished into the darkness as it went about its mysterious nightly routine.

We were also extremely lucky to come across a group of giraffes that were besotted by the arrival of their latest addition. We probably just missed the birth by an hour or two seeing as the baby was still very clumsy and the mother never left her little one’s side for a second.

©Francois Van Heerden
© Francois van Heerden

We watched how the rest of the herd took turns to approach, take a closer look and a good sniff, then greet the newborn giraffe. This was an incredibly tender and beautiful moment to share and capture in the bush.

©Sarah Drake
© Sarah Drake
©Francois Van Heerden
© Francois van Heerden

As most of the toothy, hairier mammals had been sighted, we concentrated our efforts on locating wild dogs, which is never an easy task. We headed south in the early morning and we knew it was a tall order but, as the old adage goes, you cannot win the lotto without buying a ticket, so off we went to a likely hunting area.

As they are early risers, we were forced to beat their alarm clock so that we could be poised and ready before they started their day. And as soon as we arrived in the area, the pack emerged around the corner, trotting excitedly towards the car. Nobody could believe our luck – we had found them and the dogs were definitely in hunting mode.

Just to add to the drama, we got a flat tyre as soon as we started to follow them. However, in the minutes that followed what I’m pretty certain must be the world record for changing a tyre, we located the pack with a freshly caught red-hartebeest. We were then able to continue to enjoy this sighting as we photographed the dogs going about their business.

©Justin Mason
© Justin Mason
©Francois Van Heerden
© Francois van Heerden

The staff, drivers and trackers at Leopard Rock were all pivotal to making our stay in the bush as relaxing, pleasant and scrumptious as it was. Their attention to detail as well as their charisma never faltered, and we felt welcome, spoiled and blessed to spend such quality time with them during our stay in Madikwe.

leopard-rock

Comments from our guests:

“Could not have been better! Our guide was amazing and a wonderful photographer, displaying an excellent knowledge of local wildlife and their behaviour. He was helpful, friendly and patient with regards to answering all our questions about camera settings as well as the wildlife. We all walked away feeling like we had made a new friend, and as excited about our photographic learnings as our wildlife sightings.“ – Angela Podbury, Australia

“Excellent home-cooked meals, a fabulous lodge and friendly staff. Every moment was wonderful, from lying on the ground photographing critters, to photographing shooting stars and brown hyena cubs, to finding the wild dogs… the list is endless!” – Karen Van Rensburg, South Africa

©Angela Podbury
© Angela Podbury
©Angela Podbury
© Karen van Rensburg
©Angela Podbury
© Karen van Rensburg

“Francois could not have been better. He worked so hard on the group’s behalf to ensure that everything worked smoothly in the lodge and that all members’ photographic needs were attended to. He planned game drives to maximise our experience, and his intimate knowledge of the park was a huge benefit. His photographic expertise is excellent and I learned a huge amount – he is extremely patient!! We completed 415km on game drives and we worked out that we spent more than 40 hrs in the park being guided by Francois.I would like to stress that one does not need to be an expert photographer. Inexperienced photographers like myself should definitely go on this trip as Francois really does cater for all levels of expertise.” – Justin Mason

©Angela Podbury
© Angela Podbury

Travel to Madikwe with Africa Geographic

Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometers off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Read more about Madikwe here, or contact an Africa Geographic safari consultant to plan your dream vacation.

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