Touched by Lightning

Blogging, I guess, is about sharing your experiences, opinions, joys and worries. However it is strange to unravel these feelings to an unknown reader. 

My simple premise in the upcoming remits is that if you have navigated your way this far through the cloud, we must share similar interests; it will almost be as if I am talking to myself. Recently I was told, from one open-topped game-viewing vehicle to the other as both were parked watching a 60-strong breeding herd of elephants, that Prince Harry was in the tabloids having just been photographed naked. If you have to wonder which I considered more interesting – a naked prince or 60 naked pachyderms – then read no further.

© Pete Oxford

© Pete Oxford

I and my South African wife and photographic partner, Reneé Bish, are ‘photographers-in-residence’ in the stunningly beautiful, provocative and awe-inspiring setting of Marataba. This 16 000-hectare private reserve that has no fences between it and the surrounding 80 000-hectare Marakele National Park in the Limpopo Province of northern South Africa. Part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, this is a Big Five park, and it’s stunning. Most of my blogs will grow from here. We want you to share our lifestyle and the experiences of what its like to truly live in the bush, with no TV, dreadful internet and no 9-to-5 schedule. I would also introduce you to some of the very special characters with whom we share our lives.

© Pete Oxford

© Pete Oxford

Let me start with Lightning. Named for the bolt-shaped row of spots across her forehead, Lightning is a female about three years old. I think she knows me. When we first came to Marataba (then called the Marakele Private Reserve) in January 2012, the guides from the only lodge to service the property (Marataba Lodge saw leopards regularly but briefly. As part of our raison d’detrewe are to try and habituate the animals. With no guests, an empty vehicle and the luxury of time on my side, I have spent countless hours in Lightning’s presence. She has become very used to me. I talk to her continuously. A little while ago she came to our back yard with an unknown male leopard and killed a doe impala 50 metres from our door. The male became aggressive and would not allow her near the carcass, so she took sanctuary in a low tree not two metres from my front bumper and waited it out. Suddenly a male bushpig, with zero hesitation and pumped with testosterone, charged in from nowhere and chased the male off the carcass, quickly coming back to feed on the kill.

© Pete Oxford

© Pete Oxford

I was astounded at the pig’s bravado. I moved in close to get a shot of the animal, with its extra-long head, flat nose and oversized Mr Spock-like ears, but my vehicle proved too much for it and it ran a short way off. Lightning seized her chance, running in and grabbing the impala. She hoisted her prize deftly into a scrubby blue thorn tree. The pig, realising his mistake, ran back as the rear hoof of the impala was tugged a few centimetres out of its reach. My white knight (actually my green vehicle) had saved the day for Lightning. Since then, our relationship has been truly cemented.

Recently it was even more gratifying to come home one evening and find Lightning staring at me from not three metres away, through plate-glass French doors. I switched on the lights, inside and out, and she watched me as I walked down the hall. Then she jumped into our river bushwillow a mere metre from the braai. I hope that the relationship continues, but I’ll keep you updated …

© Pete Oxford

© Pete Oxford

Pete Oxford

British-born Pete Oxford has been a resident of Ecuador, South America, for the past 27 years. He and his South African wife and photographic partner, Reneé Bish, have been regular and frequent visitors to southern Africa for the past two decades. They are presently based in the Marataba private concession in Marakele National Park, Limpopo province, where they work as 'photographers-in-residence', documenting both the treasures and the rebuilding of the contractual national park. The Oxfords' work has appeared in magazines around the world, including Africa Geographic, Time, Smithsonian, Life, BBC Wildlife and National Geographic. The couple has published 12 books. Pete is a founding fellow of the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers, has been represented 10 times in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards and was recognised by Outdoor Photographer Magazine as one of the top 40 most influential nature photographers in the world.

  • Cindy Hauert

    I guess it goes without saying that you know how lucky you are!

  • Ana Palma

    Great! Love your tales in any format 😉

  • Wayne Ranney

    Nice to hear from you and Rene! Life is good. I’ll be following you. I’ll be on an Around the World tour in February with a stop at Serengeti in Tanzania.

  • Maggie

    Looking forward to meeting Lightning with Barb and Terry next year.

  • Sharon McCallum

    Good to hear about what you and Renee are doing, Pete – well done. Do you ever get to Cape Town?

  • Robert and Caroline

    great idea to share your experiences this way, love to hear the next part of lightning’s adventures

  • Rainier Gonzalez

    Great to see the house and pics of your adventures in another continent. Take care and keep in touch.

  • Sue Cullumber

    Pete – so gorgeous what an amazing experience!!! Say hi to Renee! Miss you both.

  • All of the AuBuchon’s will be following your blog. Well done! It looks like you invited Lightening to the Braai! Much love and miss you.

  • Great that you have a blog! Love seeing the photos and reading what you’re doing.

  • Pete, good to read your blog, and share in your experiences in our beautiful area. Your’s and lightnings relationship is amazing, and to have such a beautiful model to photograph as a close friend is awesome! Looking forward to your update….

  • Marie-Claire Greve

    Dear Pete, Love to read your BloG!! I have to come back and meet Lightning in person… She doesn’t show herself if you are not around. Guess she is watching your house and waiting for you to come home. Please share more of your incredible experiences!! Big hug, Marie-Claire

  • Ruth

    Peeete! Escribiendo como hispanoparlante… estaremos siguiendo el blog, tenlo por seguro! Mucha suerte en la nueva etapa!

  • Kris McDivitt Tompkins

    Hi Pete and Rene, Kris and Doug Tompkins here! Wendy sent me your blog and one read and I’m already in love with Lightening and your style of description – please keep it going. i’ve never written to anyone’s blog before but here I am sending this to you. I wish we lived onthe same continent, it would be so nice to see more of you. Lots of love to you both, Kris

  • bridget

    Hope theres a spare bed! :)) xx

  • Sharlene Sarkady

    It is superb!!! Love your photo’s and your blog.
    Sharlene and Pieter Sarkady

  • Vasco v. Baselli

    Dear Pete and Rene, its great to hear from you and we are sorry we missed you during your last visit to Quito. Thank you for sharing the link to your blog which we will follow closely. In the meantime, stay safe and say hi to Lightening and Rene for us. Abrazo!, Vasco

  • Stunning and magical. Thanks for sharing, Pete. Take care!

  • Lisanne Newport

    Naked Prince Harry or 60 elephant… it’s a tough one!!! Looking forward to reading more about your exploits…

  • Gary Allport

    Wondeful to read of your exploits and looking forward to coming over to visit as soon as we can

  • Stephan Matthies

    Hi Pete!
    Written with a lot of sensitivity and understanding for the animals, showing that it is possible to link up to the often praised animal kingdom which is being treated so badly by most of humanity. Keep it up! I would like to read something about the rhinos and how they are doing, since poaching seems to be on the increase. Hope to seeing you sometime.
    Stephan from half a world away.

  • Gail

    Hi Pete & Renee,
    Great to hear from you, sounds like you are having yet another great experience.
    The Blog is a great way to communicate, hope to see you in South Africa some time soon.
    All the best from
    Gail & Rob – Australia

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