Trip Report – Madikwe: Big 5 & Hides Photo Tour 2022
“Anything specific that you are interested in photographing?” I asked
“Wild dogs!” they all replied.
It’s a question I ask at the start of every photo tour and at most destinations this particular answer leaves me quite perturbed as wild dogs can be notoriously difficult to find, fortunately on ORYX’s Madikwe Photo Tour, this is not the case so I was quietly confident as we sat for our first dinner overlooking the floodlit waterhole. I’d glance up every now and then between sips of good red wine to check for any activity at the water’s edge and thought I was seeing things when a black rhino emerged from the darkness. Knives and forks were silently laid down and everyone slunk back to their rooms to retrieve cameras. There is an underground hide at the waterhole and we needed to get there, soon, and undetected. We padded softly along the dimly lit pathway, into the tunnel and up to the viewing hatch and there he was in all of his glory. A black rhino is an animal whose majesty you can only truly appreciate in close proximity and absolute silence and the only sounds were his slurping as he drank and the distant calls of nightjars. It was an incredible start to the safari.
The next morning we set out in the icy predawn darkness for a far flung area of the Park where a pack of wild dogs had been seen the previous day. It was misty there, and as the sun peaked above the distant mountains it threw shafts of golden light all around us. This is the moment the dogs chose to make their appearance! They’re never easy to follow when they’re on the move and the dense thickets made it particularly tough but everyone managed to fire off a few shots of the enigmatic animals in perfect light. Two endangered species in under 12 hours, the bar had been set.
The most emotive sighting of the safari, and one of the best photographically, was a male cheetah searching for his brother. The sun had just touched the horizon when we first saw him, walking and calling constantly. I could see that he was making his way towards what looked like a scent marking tree so we looped around and positioned ourselves in anticipation, and boy did he put on a show. Next to the tree was a termite mound which provided him with a good view of the surrounding area and he made good use of it. He was so close that we were looking up at him as the glowing light from the sunset sky lit his body and eyes with an almost otherworldly quality and he gave us every pose in the “Cheetah Portrait Photography 101” book. We managed to get some magnificent silhouettes of him as well.
Yet another memorable sighting was a pride of lions with 7 cubs. They were on the move, once again in gorgeous light. We had them walking along the road, in long grass and finally on dark rocks with the whole of Madikwe stretched out behind them as they tussled with each other and annoyed their mothers.
Aside from these sightings we also had exceptional elephant viewing on every drive, saw the cheetah brothers (now reunited) kill a zebra foal, spent time with a male lion after dark and photographed giraffe, various antelope, mongooses and a diverse array of birds.
It came as no surprise that we were all a little sad when we left camp for the last time and headed for the airstrip and the short flight back to Johannesburg.