Tanzania’s Southern Serengeti – A Wildlife Photographer’s Vision
I find being in natural areas and being surrounded by nature truly inspiring. I find that my senses are heightened as I become much more aware of my surroundings, the slight noises in the bush, the tell-tale flicker of movement in the corner of my eye. I end up looking all around me; up and down, left and right, far and near. I am alert. I am aware.
I am present.
The intoxicating rush received from the combination of relaxation and anticipation is enthralling. Watching animal behaviour, learning about the wildlife we are so fortunate to be able to get within close (and always respectful) proximity to has led to many of us building intimate and personal connections with these creatures.
It makes sense that the next step onwards for many of us would be to capture our memories of these encounters and explore our personal vision.
My private “Predators & Calving Migration Photo Tour” in Tanzania that was just that which took place towards the end of February 2020 in the Southern Serengeti.
Our primary goal was twofold:
To witness the Calving Season of the famed Wildebeest Great Migration which occurs annually in Tanzania’s Southern Serengeti from approximately mid- to end-January to the end of March.
The ideal scenes which we seek are for thousands of herds of predominantly Wildebeest and Zebra gathered on the Serengeti’s plains as they calve – imagine scores of Wildebeest with many 2-weeks to new-born calves pressed close to their mother’s sides. With the utter bounty of these undulates, you can expect Predators to be close and active as these beasts are definitely sough-after!
Photographic Vision & Growth
My guest was seeking a private guided experience in order to focus solely on her photography, her experience of it, and to further explore and master her voice and vision. The itinerary I created took us to perfect areas where we could experience sightings and scenery without crowds of travellers being around.
Connecting with our subjects and building on these connections is one of the strongest tools you can have in creating evocative and powerful imagery. In this mostly private space, I gave my undivided attention to my guest as we explored the various photographic possibilities, positively challenged composition choices, camera capabilities and functions, and really getting in depth in on a lot of creative and technical approaches and why those choices would/were made. A private photo safari is incredibly personal, and allows you the space and time to fully explore your photography at your own pace.
Our first destination on this Tanzania photo safari was chosen for its well-known reputation for the great migration herds congregating on its expansive grassland plains. The reputation most certainly held up for us.
Thousand of black dots littered the landscape for as far as the eye could see, stretching from one side of the horizon to the other. We woke up as well as drifted off to sleep to the sounds of nearby grunting gnus. Spliced within these dark shapes where smaller tawny-coloured bodies – Wildebeest calves – and they are they adorable! As with many areas in East Africa, the Southern Serengeti had been receiving rain nearly non-stop since mid-November and the grass was intensely green and packed with all sorts of nutrients that these ungulates were thriving on.
What were also thriving was the resident pack of 19 African wild dog (also know as Painted wolves, Cape Hunting Dog) which we were very lucky to have seen and photographed on every game drive we went out on to seek them. Why do I say we were lucky? These dogs have home ranges that cover vast areas and can be gone from an area for days, even weeks at a time. The alpha female was heavily pregnant and we were surprised to see that she hadn’t gone to den already. This was great for us though as it kept the dogs in the area and we got to see them in action every morning and evening.
Whilst the endangered Dogs were some of our top highlights of Kakessio, the large herd numbers were spectacular too. Other predators we were fortunate to see on this Tanzania photo tour where some pretty wild-eyed Lions; the males looking pretty relaxed where the Lionesses were certainly aware of us.
We had 3 different sights of Cheetah, 2 of them with a kill and the third attempting to hunt! Kakessio was an absolute dream.. We saw more cats here that what we were expecting as Kakessio is more well-known for their African Wild Dog sightings and the migrating herds. Our expectations were certainly exceeded and we couldn’t wait to see what Kusini had in store for us.
Our next destination was chosen as a complimentary to Kakessio. Where Kakessio is known for its herds, Kusini is most certainly known for its predators and big cats.
Designing this Tanzania photo tour to take us to two areas allowed for further photographic opportunities as well as further exploration of an incredible ecosystem and habitat. the landscape here was notably different to what we had in Kusini, yet wonderfully familiar at the same time. Large grassland plains stretched out around us. The Wildebeest herds were found here too due to the rain and it was wonderful to finally see large numbers of Zebra in the mix! At one point we just stopped in the road as we photographed and breathed in the Great Migration happening all around us.
We saw a lot of Lion. Truly, a lot! This is not uncommon for the area at all and we didn’t see the same individuals more than once.
Where African Wild Dogs seemed to be the main Special of the Day at Kakessio in terms of frequency in sightings, Lions most certainly held this position at Kusini.
That being said, we had an incredible and very fortunate sighting of a female Cheetah with 4 VERY young cubs. We only spent brief time with this special family before leaving them in peace. With cubs so young and defenceless and with only the mother to protect them, we didn’t want to call any attention to them by other predators and scavengers.
We also had a full-bellied Leopard sitting oh-so-happily in a tree on our first afternoon, ending off that day with our vehicle alone with two male Lions, also, sitting in a tree looking not as comfortable but seeking shelter from the flies and the heat from the day.
And every night before dinner we would sit around the fire under the vast night-sky, sipping wine and sharing stories and laughter with one another and the other camp guest and staff.
What a wonderful journey it was.
My private Tanzania – Predators & Calving Migration Photo Tour 2020 was one of those photo safaris where every game drive leaves you pretty exhausted from the come-down of excitement had. One of the best ways to handle this was my guest and I sitting together at her laptop as I taught some editing sessions.
Even though my guest was very well-versed in Lightroom, the beauty of photography as a medium is that it is an art, and one that it interpreted and created differently from one person to the next. My vision as well as style of editing definitely gave my guest more to consider and learn from. Our editing sessions were always so productive and it is always so rewarding to see the power that is enhance in each image. When some images didn’t quite work out, we would discuss why. When some images worked out well, we discussed why. Every step, every question and discussion was a great learning opportunity.
Travel with ORYX and Penny Robartes to Tanzania
Penny Robartes is a dedicated Private and Scheduled worldwide Photo Tour Leader for ORYX Photo Tours.