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sabi sands

Wildlife Photo Safari in South Africa

In the heart of the Greater Kruger National Park lying on the boundary of the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve and the world-famous Kruger National Park, you will find 13,200 hectares (33,000 acres) of some of Africa’s most prime wildlife real estate. MalaMala Game Reserve is one of the largest game reserves in Southern Africa, and draws in the most seasoned safari goers, wildlife photographers, filmmakers to newcomers and enthusiast to its doorstep from around the globe.

It is no surprised that MalaMala is one of ORYX’s top wildlife destinations of choice for our guests traveling to South Africa, whether for a private or one of our scheduled photo tours.

malamala game reserve6

In October & November 2020, I led 2 photo tours to MalaMala Game Reserve for our South African residents; the only clientele who were able to enjoy our natural wonders and areas due to the global lockdown and travel restrictions. Limited to 3 guests and myself as the ORYX Photo Tour Leader, we embarked on a 5-day photographic adventure with my objective to explore each guest’s personal photographic vision & goals, all the while sharing insights on technical and creative photography opportunities.

Sitting on a slice of 20 kms (13 miles) of Sand River frontage, we were constantly surrounded by beautiful sights and sounds of the natural world while we were at camp, but the river brings more than just a lovely setting. The river is a source of life to the reserve. It is a magnet that acts as a natural drawcard for wildlife.  The eastern boundary of the park is unfenced with the Kruger National Park which allows wildlife to freely traverse between the two areas; moving from the Kruger National Park through MalaMala to the river, and back again. The foot traffic here is immense, making MalaMala’s wildlife viewing unparalleled!

malamala game reserve
malamala game reserve

Home to the Big 5, MalaMala’s attraction further entices safari-goers, wildlife photographers & enthusiasts and filmmakers with other noteworthy species such as the endangered African Wild Dog, Cheetah, and – if you are lucky to see – Pangolin. But perhaps the most sought-after species which bring travelers to this reserve from near and far, are their no-so-elusive Leopard.

Over the course of each 4-night Photo Tour, my guests and I came upon a variety of wildlife sightings which presented us with a number of opportunities to capture animal behaviour images from Southern Ground Hornbill’s feasting on rotund Cape Rain frogs, Lionesses grooming one another, Leopard cubs playing around at their den sight whilst their mother was away hunting, and more!

sabi sands
sabi sands

This destination is perhaps one of my favourite to take guests to in South Africa. Apart from generally offering easy game viewing of the Big 5 in up close and personal sightings, from a wildlife photographic perspective, we are able to play and explore with an abundance of techniques & creative expressions. Once such technique we worked on was spotlight photography. This technique/genre was explored with on both of my photo safaris with all guests having little or no experience with. After our photo safari together, it is now a technique that my guests are comfortable using, and eager to explore more of.

sabi sands
malamala game reserve

With the Leopard being the reserves most iconic species, our game drives were mostly dedicated to spending time with these cats, although we weren’t fixated on them – and you never should! We had an action-packed African Wild Dog sighting that left us all breathless with its intensity and the interaction between the pack members. We had 9-month old pups chasing each other around our vehicle, leaving us properly dizzy as we tried our hardest to keep our eyes and cameras trained on them. We spent a beautiful morning with a Lioness grooming her young cubs as the sun began to rise and bathed them in golden light. We were open to what the reserve had to offer us in terms of wildlife species and sightings, with our main goal of learning, homing in on skills, our visual voices, and taking our wildlife photography to a more personal and thought-about level.

malamala game reserve
sabi sands

I was able to dig deep with each guest as much as they wanted, give specific advice and creative ideas to the group as well as to each guest specifically depending on their needs and wants. It was very personalised and intimate, and the best way one should experience a wildlife photography tour. This is an aspect I work hard to achieve with all of my photo tours.

I currently craft and lead private photo tours to MalaMala Game Reserve in South Africa for both locals and international travellers. If you are interested in joining me for a dedicated, custom photo tour here, please do get in touch. We can also combine MalaMala Game Reserve with some other spectacular destinations in Africa.

Stay passionate!

Penny Robartes is a dedicated Private and Scheduled worldwide Photo Tour Leader for ORYX Photo Tours.

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