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Nottens Bush camp, Sabi Sands May and September 2015


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Simple Pleasures Sitting Around the Camp


In between the game drives there was eating (lots) as well as a shower and shaving (not going to risk that by candlelight at 5.30am), a swim in the pool and sometimes a walking safari. Somehow the time between morning and evening drives tended to vanish and there was less time to sit and think than I had imagined although I tend to think that this is what long-haul flights are for.


There was some down-time though and I would find myself on the main deck (possibly with a cold beer, who knows) watching the local animals (very few birds when I was there) come and go. As mentioned above the waterhole is around 300-400m from the lodge and so direct views of activity there were lacking which was a shame. There were a few things to amuse us though and I’ve put a few below (apologies for the harsh light in some images), most were taken at some distance..


There was a family of warthogs that came and went regularly. Very impressive male but very ready to turn and run and the slightest noise and movement.








The monkeys were ever present and specialised in eating fruit from the trees and dropping the scraps on the iron roof of the main building. No break-ins on this trip…..






Some zebra came and chased for a while,












There were a pair of bushbuck with the female the more confident. The male gave me opportunity to practice my panning and action capture













Next up (but subject to festive season delay) will be another evening drive.

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After an absence of several years I returned to South Africa twice in 2015 for stays at Nottens Bush camp in the Sabi Sands. Both were short trips as my wife doesn’t share my interest in wildlife or

Just a quiet evening – zebra, giraffe, rhino and a few more lions…   It felt like a short break between our leopard delayed breakfast and heading back out in the late afternoon. It felt very easy t

This safari lark is easy – wild dog and cheetah on first drive J   After a quick swim I was sitting on the deck when movement caught my eye. A lone male elephant was headed towards the lodge at a fa

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Just a quiet evening – zebra, giraffe, rhino and a few more lions…


It felt like a short break between our leopard delayed breakfast and heading back out in the late afternoon. It felt very easy to be back with the same group of people for the 4th trip out – fortunately we all seemed happy to take things at a gentle pace if there a reason to stop but also happy to drive quite long distances if there was a hope of something at the end of it. After the morning I think we all subconsciously expected a quiet evening. Initially that was what we had.


A small group of zebra returning our stares.




A reflective impala.




A watchful eagle.




And the rarity (for me) of photogenic rhino.




Another rather handsome impala (it always seems a shame to look past them because one get’s so accustomed to them).






As it was getting dark we came across a family of dwarf mongoose but it was beginning to push the ability of both camera and myself to capture the moment (this was at ISO 3200 and 250mm f/5.6 with an exposure of 1/320 sec).




A loving couple (plus intruding oxpecker) were nicely framed against the last of the evening light.






Darkness fell but without the customary discussion about sundowners. Instead we headed purposefully off but we passengers weren’t given any idea why. After about 15 minutes we swung off the track and pulled up beside a trio of female lions. Fortunately for us who were last in the ‘queue’ to see them everyone else had gone and the trio were showing signs of stirring.

There was a fair amount of stretching and yawning.






This was followed by some mutual grooming (which did not photograph easily). Suddenly the mood changed and first the largest of the three moved off purposefully for a few yards.




Her sisters also moved and it was clear that something had caught their attention. This became one of those truly impressive moments for me on safari when we witnessed all three turning to follow whatever had caught their attention with perfect synchronisation. I found myself contemplating how vulnerable one would be outside of the vehicle if the subject of such scrutiny and commonality of purpose.






Whatever attracted them just as quickly became irrelevant and they returned to the business of waking up gently, leaving me with one nightmarish vision to keep me company in my dreams…




We headed off to explain why we were late for the second meal of the day J

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Nottens sounds like a blast with the big 5 carnivores!
Awesome, crisp spotlight photography in the latest one too!

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@ Big_Dog

Thank-you. The Sabi-Sands does seem to enjoy excellent sightings of cats in general. We had an exceptional few days in March. My return in September felt less marvellous at the time but on reflection in order to write this report it was actually not that bad! One of my aims for these trips was to get some decent images through preparation as well as luck. I did some reading around both animal behaviour and wildlife photography techniques. I thought quite a lot about what kit to take and how best to set it up. The lesson I learnt during the first trip was to trust the ability of the D7100 to work at high ISO values - my roots are so far back in the film days that I am instinctively suspicious of any ISO above 400!

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Love that last black-and-white image of the lioness (yawning/snarling?). I'm enjoying your report very much. The differences between your two visits based on time of year will be most interesting. Looking forward to more.

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"It’s only since that I have discovered how infrequently cheetahs are spotted at Sabi Sands"

Another sighting. Lately reports from this area have been full of cheetah.


And the other thing that everyone is seeing everywhere is leopard cubs. Lucky you.


I find the ele running for an urgent scratch to be really funny.


Nice spider. The rhino calf in the water with its mother is a different rhino perspective from the usual.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Beautiful shots throughout - but in particular the leopard

Very enjoyable!

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@@Alexander33 - Thank-you - the problem with the lion shot is that the lighting meant that she appears one-eyed. It may take a while for me to get tot he second visit but it probably won't spoil it too much if I let you know the main differences were cheetahs (none) and weather (too much).

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@@Atravelynn Thank-you for your kind words. The leopards in the first trip delivered - all except the classic shot involving a tree! I understand that sightings of cheetah in the south of the Sands have been far fewer recently.

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@ TonyQ Thank-you. The leopard was very obliging - she will make another appearance later on......

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You succeeded with your panning action on the running bushbuck. Everybody was racing and stomping around the waterhole. Those warthog piglets making a quick exit were adorable. You are right about the nightmare quality to that lioness in the dark.

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‘Has anybody seen anything?’


We were feeling very happy and irrationally pleased with ourselves after the previous day filled with lions and leopard (and a lot of other less aggressive game). Quite why we should have felt pleased with ourselves when all we did was sit and marvel I’m not sure!


Anyway we now knew this safari lark was easy, nothing to it. We headed out as dawn broke and after a while came to another scrutinizing zebra.



Then a lone wildebeest – possibly contemplating retirement options.




Ten minutes later we came round the corner and stopped. A large family group (around 15 or so) elephant were at the road edge. For the next 30 minutes or so they crossed over and back again.




We were spellbound by watching the various interactions – it seemed as though greetings were being exchanged.












Youngsters appeared to be imitating their elders.




And then chasing round as kids do everywhere.








The odd glimpse of a senior member unmoved by all the action.




Finally a good dust bath after all the exertion.








The elephants moved off and we sat for a few moment smiling.


Then we searched.


And searched some more.


A team search on foot left us laughing nervously on the vehicle.









Off we went. Still nothing.


Then the chatter on the radio was interrupted by a plaintive question, ‘Has anyone seen anything’?


Well no they hadn’t. We stopped for morning coffee and I played (unsuccessfully) at eagle photography before we returned for an on-time breakfast.








It would have been easy to feel disappointed but actually it was relaxing to concentrate on the landscape and I defy anyone not to find the presence of elephants restful (unless it is a male in musth (coming later) or a group who feel you are between them and an urgent objective…


Edited by pomkiwi
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The odd glimpse of a senior member unmoved by all the action.



Love this image, along with your caption.

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Fabulous sightings! Looking forward to more!

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Great report so far - looking forward to the rest.

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The quiet day continues (and I continue to try and love rhinos)


The evening drive rather followed the morning drive in providing more contemplation than excitement.


Initially however there was a moment to trigger a raised pulse. As we were heading down the road a lone male elephant stepped out of the bush in front of us. He did not appear keen on sharing the space.

We engaged reverse but clearly not quickly enough.




When we stopped at a respectful distance we appeared to receive a look both challenging and full of contempt. He was in musth and clearly in considerable discomfort.




Next we spotted a lone rhino (the theme of the evening was isolation it seemed). We sat and spent some time as little else was happening.




The rhino carried on clearing the grass and the ox-peckers squabbled. I lost myself in the landscape..


We surprised a steenbok (again alone).




Brief excitement on spotting a leopard – albeit rather smaller and slower than the previous sightings.




A couple of buffalo in the water broke the theme of solitude and seemed to enjoy some mutual grooming.






Finally a family of waterbuck gazed at us as we drove past.




And that was that. A peaceful drive that happily coincided with a bush brai that meant an early finish in any event. Overall a good day to remind one that in a wild ecosystem nothing can be guaranteed – even with multiple vehicles out and about and radio coordination .

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A quiet drive with such sightings is still a great way to spend your time!

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I don't disagree although the images above disguise quite long periods of driving with very little to see. That doesn't work for me too frequently as it is not even possible to really immerse yourself in the landscapes from a moving vehicle - for that I find I need to walk (or even sit). A quiet day is fine - I might find 3 in succession a little testing!

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I think we are all on the same page about quiet drives. One or two in a while - perfectly ok, but more than that it´s very normal to get a bit ... itchy. :)


Some wonderful photos in the last batch of posts. Really like the warthog family running off (around camp) and the young Eles playing. That shot with the youngster looking on is just priceless! In the not-so-cute sector, that lion snarl is genuinely scary. Fully agree about Impala - they are beautiful, and deserve to be showcased much more.

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Nothing wrong with not being especially captivated by rhinos (there are some "iconic" animals that fail to stir much in me - the panda, for example, though the red panda is another story), but I admire your persistent efforts. :)


Quite a dynamic capture of the ele's trunk in the first picture on this page.

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Peter Connan

Some beautiful photos and good sightings so far, and I enjoy the humour a lot!


Thank you.

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More rhino to come (not solely out of a sense of duty). Thank-you for your comment on the elephant photo - I could spend all day watching them.

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Thank-you for your kind words.


Back to the writing....

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The last drive – how does Africa know?


Almost without my realising it my final morning had arrived. More about my reactions to this later (perhaps) but once more at 5.30 I was stumbling around and managing to get most of my clothes on without too much muttering / cursing. The morning coffee on the deck was welcome as usual and I managed to capture some pre-dawn light before we set off.





30 seconds after leaving the gate we spotted some white tails bobbing in the grass – wild dogs. The pink stained faces suggested a successful night but the agenda this morning appeared more one of general socialising.








We spent nearly half an hour with them and my abiding memory is of almost constant motion.








A hopeful hyaena kept his distance.




But his presence had been noted.







Eventually the dogs decided to move off and we did likewise.

Edited by pomkiwi
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