In July 2015, Premier Safaris arranged a photographic safari and sponsored the first prize for the 2015 Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year competition. Chris Renshaw, winner and our 2015 Photographer of the Year, was accompanied by professional wildlife photographer and guide Albie Venter, who shared some of his wonderful images and insights with us below.
Contrary to what many may think, Uganda has some of the most beautiful savannah landscapes. The 348,000 hectare Murchison Falls National Park is one such example and hosts, among other species, good numbers of elephant, buffalo, Jackson’s hartebeest, lion and leopard. © Albie Venter
“Uganda is a clean, friendly and surprisingly diverse country in terms of wildlife, yet is largely only known as one of the continent’s best venues to view the critically endangered mountain gorilla. Surprisingly the country offers so much more than the great apes. Everything from exquisite bird-watching to great predator viewing, interspersed with large herds of buffalo and elephant is all here.
The western section of Africa’s Great Rift Valley skirts around the western side of Lake Victoria forming the western or Albertine Rift, one of Africa’s endemism hotspots. With 41 species of mammal, 42 birds, 19 reptiles and 38 amphibians occurring nowhere else on the planet, it doesn’t need much more to convince any nature fanatic to pay the place a visit. It is firmly set as my favourite country at the moment.
Our safari wound its way along the Albertine Rift and incorporated parks such as Murchison Falls, Kibale Forest National Park as well as the park with the most evocative name in Africa, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest,” said Albie.
One of the holy grails for all birders visiting Africa, the very distinctive shoebill will make even non-birders embark on a four hour search for a glimpse of one. Slowly drifting towards this individual on the Nile Delta where it enters Lake Albert gave us frame-filling images. © Albie Venter
With so much happening and guests who are truly interested in everything Murchinson Falls National Park has to offer, it is remarkable how low on the agenda big cats were. Nevertheless we did go in search of them one afternoon and found two females with five cubs between them not far from the shores of Lake Albert. © Albie Venter
Restricted to Central Africa, Hueglins francolin is one of the many special birds that can be encountered in Murchison Falls National Park. It is best identified by the bare patch of yellow skin behind the eye. © Albie Venter
Although not the dominant male but certainly an elder in the troop, an old chimp takes a brief break after the first feeding session of the morning. Photography within the dark interior of the forest can be very tricky. No flash is allowed, so very high ISO and a few exposure tricks are necessary to capture the scene correctly. There is the constant temptation to try to get clear and clean images of the chimps, yet this would not convey their natural habitat correctly. I deliberately chose this image as it captures both the animal and its habitat very effectively. © Albie Venter
Superficially resembling moths (hence the name), these bugs are just one of the many fascinating smaller creatures living within the forests. Both nymphs and adults are gregarious and often concentrate on milkweeds. © Albie Venter
Normally people only get to spend one hour with the chimpanzees, but Premier Safaris arranged a full day with these remarkable animals. The knowledge of the guides really comes into play here. It takes about an hour for the initial buzz to subside and only then can one start to absorb a fraction of the vast amounts of knowledge these guides have. Uganda Wildlife Authority guides not only know Kibale forest intimately, and can name each chimp by name, but they will also unlock other forest secrets. © Albie Venter
Premier Safaris arranged a full day as part of the habituation program allowing some fascinating insights into the chimps’ daily schedule. Here guest Dave Renshaw stands a respectable distance from one of the chimps taking his mid morning break. © Albie Venter
There is a sensation that you may well be the first to “discover” something when walking the damp undergrowth of equatorial forests. Although I am sure this little amphibian is already named I could not manage to identify it beyond genus level. With some help from herpetologist friends who pointed out the horizontal pupil, we managed to narrow it down to one of the reed-frogs of the genus Hyperolius. © Albie Venter
A huge silverback of the Mubare gorilla family takes a quick wander to another feeding site in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. © Albie Venter
Read our Photographer of the Year’s account of his dream safari in the wilds of Uganda’s Albertine Rift in: Uganda Dreaming