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After the resounding success of the last photo safari in Madikwe with Francois Van Heerden, we were a bit nervous to kick-start the second departure. Topping our last experience was going to take a massive stroke of luck and effort, but thanfully Francois’ charisma, professionalism and magical Madikwe delivered to create another spectacular and unforgettable experience.

© Vanessa Harris

Tour leader and award-winning photographer, Francois van Heerden, had this to say about the trip: “The first afternoon arrived and we were off to an amazing start, enjoying the company of three brown hyenas.  Seeing these shy animals up close and personal was a real treat and not even the well-travelled safari enthusiast could have bargained for such an incredible sighting. Seeing the three individuals interacting gave us photographers, with very itchy shutter fingers, amazing photo opportunities. We capped the evening by following two big male lions as they went about their nightly routine, thereafter we headed home for a good meal to rejoice on our fantastic first afternoon and experience in Madikwe Game Reserve.

madikwe lions
© Sue Alstedt

Every drive we set off with a certain goal in mind, or a targeted species, and each drive would be spiced up by some precious side-line sighting that would invariably enamour the group. For example stopping for a flap-necked chameleon crossing the road, or getting low down and dirty with a dung beetle.

photographing chameleons
© Francois van Heerden

Thanks to the huge diversity Madikwe has to offer, one just never knows what next surprise awaits around the corner. Even from Leopard Rock lodge’s deck we had ample opportunities to photograph herd after herd of gentle elephants coming to quench their thirst during the heat of the day at the lodge’s waterhole. What a treat it was to absorb and photograph them during our down time rests.

madikwe baby elephant
© John Pinheiro

One particular morning our plan was to head to a pride of lions that were feasting on a buffalo they had managed to pull down a few days earlier. Upon arrival we were surprised to find both brown and spotted hyena lurking in the background awaiting their opportunity to feed on the scraps, unfortunately they had to wait until night fall when the lions eventually moved off the kill. We were all so excited not knowing where to point our cameras with hyenas on one side and lions on the other and near perfect light conditions all around us, we truly could not have asked for a better way to start the morning.

madikwe hyena
© Sue Alstedt
© John Pinheiro
© John Pinheiro

Another unforgettable moment was following four cheetahs on the prowl.  A great sun downer with incredible cloud build-up was brewing as we joined the four cheetah brothers on a scouting ramble in search of likely prey.

cheetah madikwe
© Joe Knapman

In summary, the whole trip was endlessly eventful and participants were challenged constantly with new sightings and techniques, it seemed no one ever had enough memory card space as sightings of lions, brown hyena cubs (one of my personal favourite sightings), elephants, cheetahs, leopard, rhino, rollers and chameleons never ended. However none of these sightings would have been as exciting if had they not been shared with such great, fun and passionate people; all sharing a common goal and appreciation for all things wild, thankfully aware of how fortunate they had been to see and photograph all that we did.”

madikwe leopard
© John Pinheiro

Images and comments of participants on the trip speak volumes about the quality and success of this photographic safari.

When asked about the guide this is what participants had to say:

“Francois is about the best you can get, his three hour game drives often ended up to be five hour plus affairs.” – J. Knapman, UK

madikwe hyenas
© Joe Knapman

“Marvellous!! This was my 10th safari in Africa and Francois was one the best guides I have been with in the field. It could not have been better.” – S. Alstedt, USA

© Francois van Heerden

“Francois was uber great to work with. I was very worried and intimidated about doing this trip but he made it so comfortable and gave guidance and direction in a way that I learned so much and felt more confident every day with my camera and saw real progress.” – M. Allen, USA

© Francois van Heerden
© Francois van Heerden

“Francois was an excellent guide. He was extremely professional, relaxed and friendly, and had expert local knowledge of Madikwe and its wildlife. He also did a great job of positioning us for photos with the right angle, light and creative composition. Thanks to his forethought with positioning I have many great shots!” – V.Harris, Australia

© Francois van Heerden
© Francois van Heerden

When asked about the venue these were the participants impressions:

“Very nice lodge, great rooms, staff was wonderful and caring, common areas were lovely, food was perfect – just enough and little was wasted. LOTS of beer and wine. All one could ask for!!” – S.Alstedt, USA

“Being a non- commercial lodge gave it a lovely homely feeling and lots of privacy. Loved it!” – J.Knapman, UK

madikwe photo safari
© Francois van Heerden

“Loved the accommodation. It was great to have a relaxed private lodge to ourselves. Also loved the outdoor shower amongst the rocks and the bed was so comfortable. Not too often do we find a bed we love in our travels in Africa! Also liked the waterhole at the front of the lodge and the constant stream of elephants coming to drink at it.” – V.Harris, Australia

madikwe elephant
© Francois van Heerden

Don’t miss out on this September’s 2015 Madikwe Photo Safari with Francois van Heerden. Contact Africa Geographic Travel to secure the last two spots available, or enquire about our 2016 Madikwe departures!

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