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Cheetah Family – A Day in the Life of the Fastest Cats

In February, I was able to spend 10 days at Little Kwara Camp, one of Kwando Safaris lodges in the nothern Okavango Delta. On the fringes of the world’s largest inland delta, this concession is a diverse area of woodland, open floodplains and deep lagoons. Game viewing is excellent, with Kwando’s strong focus on tracking and predator viewing.

A cheetah family had been resident on the Tsum Tsum plains for around 15 months when we found them on my second morning. I had see this female 2 years previously, and shortly afterwards she lost her week old cubs. This time, she has been far more successful and proving an excellent mother.

On this particular day, we would watch the family from sunrise, through 5 unsuccessful hunts to finally catching an impala.
Before sunrise, we found the the six cheetah moving through the long grass at ‘last mbala’ on the Tsum Tsum plains.
The cubs provided plenty of entertainment for us guests, though were a clear distraction for their mother. By this point, they had already disrupted two hunts. It is common to find Cheetah climbing fallen tree like this one, it gives them a vantage point across the plains to look for prey.
The mother heading out with intent with two cubs close behind.

Tsum Tsum is classic Okavango terrain. An old floodplain, it is dotted with small islands and open grasslands, bordered by woodlands. During the high water levels of the Okavango flood, this area could well be underwater.
Having rested and moved a couple of times, the overcast and rainy conditions provided the cheetah with the perfect conditions to continue hunting through the heat of the day. Moving across the floodplains, the cheetah started to approach a herd of impala. They got more than bargained for, with a troop of baboons also spreadout among the same herd.

With their excellent vision, the baboons quickly sent out an alarm call to foil the stalk. Three large male baboons took exception to the the cheetah and agressively chased the family. One of the young males tried to show his dominance towards them, though as you can see in the two images below, was soon running to avoid them.

Over 9 hours since we first spotted these Cheetah, they were able to successfully catch an impala. Leaving the cubs hiding in the thickets, the mother moved inbetween a zebra herd a burst into a small open area. Falling into a small channel, the impala was an easy target. Not wanting to disturb the hunt, we were unable to get into position to get any images from the hunt.

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Wildlife Photography Technique is Where Most Amateurs Fail

Is wildlife photography technique important? Many wildlife photographers assume that by having the best gear, and getting sufficient opportunities to take pictures, they will automatically produce good pictures. I hope this is not you! Wildlife photography technique is the one area where most wildlife photographers can improve.

Before I had professional photo gear, I used to think that if I could only have THAT lens or THAT camera, I will also be able to produce pictures worthy to be published. Well eventually I got the gear, and came back to earth in a big way when I discovered that my pictures were certainly not quite there yet.

Technique! I realised that I was lacking on technique, because I thought pros mostly “got the shot” with their equipment. I refocused my efforts to improve my technique and here I am ready to tell you how to do the same.

A little warning. Getting your technique up to where it should be to get the best shot every time is pretty hard work. You have to be dedicated. I realise that if you are reading this, you are most probably one of the dedicated few who will work to turn their dreams into reality. Just thinking back to all the days I spent taking photographs of flying birds with a long lens reminds me of what I went through. Luckily the practice was all worth it, and nowadays I get that sharp shot more consistently.

Wildlife Photography Technique – ISACA

ISACA is an acronym I built for reminding me to think about all the important things before I release my shutter. Click on any of the items listed below for more information.

I = ISO Speed
S = Sharpness
A = Aperture
C = Composition
A = Action Considerations

One dreadful afternoon, shortly after I bought my first digital SLR, I walked up a mountain and took about 50 photos. This included some quite unique shots that I was very excited about. One problem though! My camera’s ISO setting was 1600 for all those shots… Needless to say I couldn’t keep one of the images due to unacceptably high digital noise on photos taken in bright sunlight (with a Canon EOS 300D body). Also, and more importantly, I NEVER made that mistake again, and never will.

This example illustrates to you why it is important to implement the ISACA acronym or some similar acronym derived by yourself. It will help avoid you making similar mistakes. It also makes you think of all the important factors before releasing your shutter.

One book that focuses on wildlife photography technique in a nice way is Wildlife Photography Workshops by Steve and Ann Toon. It is a good educational book with really useful lessons to be learnt the easy (safe) way, showing off some great photos as well.

The book is a bit difficult to read though, because it tells you to practise what you learn in one chapter before reading on. This can be difficult if you can’t get to a nature reserve, or other place providing wildlife photography opportunities, on a regular basis. It is still highly recommended reading for the budding nature photographer.

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Visiting the Mountain Gorillas in Africa

When people talk about safaris, the very first place that comes to the mind of a person is Africa. The safaris in Africa draw thousands of people from all over the world. Holidays in Africa give you the opportunity to become a part of nature. You must have surely seen documentaries about Africa safaris and there are several adventures you can ever take on the African continent.  However have you ever thought about taking a gorilla safari in Africa? Visit the gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo to make your dream come true. Many travelers look for something new to do during their holiday. Do not wonder any more about which adventure activity you can engage in during your next trip. If you are thinking of an adventure holiday that will never fade from your memories, you should consider taking a gorilla safari to Eastern Africa.

A gorilla safari can entail a trip ranging from a 1 to week+ adventures through the forests in Uganda, Rwanda or Congo looking for the mountain gorillas in their natural habitats. These trips are led by experienced trackers who have spent their entire lives living in or close to the forest. The treks are enchanting as you weave through overhanging vines, moss-covered Hagenia trees and giant Lobelias that thrive in the tropical climate tracing for the forest dwellers who colonised these thick forests. There are several places where you can go gorilla trekking and these are;

Volcanoes National Park

The Parc National des Volcans (PNV) is one of the most popular places where you can go gorilla trekking in Africa. This tropical rainforest in Northern rwanda is part of the Virunga Conservation Area and covers more than 125 kmsq. The park is home to five Virunga volcanoes: Sabyinyo (3.674 m), Gahinga (3.474 m), Bisoke (3711 m), Muhabura (4.127 m), and the Karisimbi, the highest volcano with an altitude of 4.507 m. All five volcanoes are extinct and if you are looking for the active ones, the nearby Congo has some; the Nyiragongo erupted in January 2002 and Nyamulagira in July 2002.

Virunga National Park

The Virunga National Park is abother interesting place to visit if you are looking to gorilla tracking in Africa. It would have been the best place to see the gorillas, however the political instabilities in the Eastern part of Congo have greatly disturbed gorilla tourism in Virunga National Park. Howevr of late the park is open to tourists looking to see the mountain gorillas in Congo and there are a few tour operators who offer gorilla trips to the Park.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest of all the gorilla parks. It is located in South Western Uganda  on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains. The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park covers 33.7 sq.km and was established solely to protect the mountain gorillas. The park provides a secure habitat for these massive, but gentle creatures and there is one gorilla group that has been habituated for gorilla warching. The park can be reached by road through Kibale and Kisoro 510km to Kampala.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Bwindis Impenetrable Forest is true African Jungle where travelers go gorilla watching. Its dense undergrowth, vines and other vegetation make it almost impenetrable and thus a place that offers the true gorilla trekking adventure. Its mysterious and awesome. There are ten habituated gorilla groups that are available for tourists interested in watching the gorillas. Trek through the huge trees that are festooned with creepers and parasitic plants , giant thickets of bamboo as you look for the endangdered mountain gorillas. The park is also home tp several other primates that incliude Colobus Monkeys, Chimpanzees, etc. There are also several species of birds that can be seen, including various turacos and a great many birds of prey. This forest is a sanctuary for almost half the worlds population of mountain gorillas (about 420 of 880), which is the rarest race of gorilla.

Creating a Gorilla Trip

There are several tour operators offering  safaris to the gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Most safaris can be tailor made according to your requirements and budget. You can easily combine your gorilla trip with another adventures such as sightseeing, game viewing, boat ride or canoe safari to watch water based animals in other national parks such as hippos,crocodiles, buffaloes, elephants and zebras while drifting along water.

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Wildlife Photography Safaris in Uganda

Uganda a block of East Africa hosts an incredible variety of habitats and wildlife. The conservation of these habitats into National Parks and Wildlife Reserves is the cornerstone for wildlife viewing. One of the most important geographical features of the region is the Great Rift Valley. The large depressions within the Rift Valley fed by streams have become great Lakes, around which many species of wildlife can be found.

They include several National Parks and Wildlife Reserves and concentrate on different aspects of wildlife observation.  Some Uganda safari packages focus on a particular interest or activity like bird watching, primate viewing. Some safari guidelines bases on national Parks are too often selected for quantity of animals, certainty and ease of viewing on the game drives. Some National Parks became so popular that they are overcrowded with too many minibuses and jeeps getting careless and scaring animals. Animals move around, seasons change weather varies. There is no way of knowing what each day will bring and there is no guarantee that you’ll see absolutely everything you are after, but most safaris give an amazing wildlife experience!

The long stay is an important aspect, the more time you have to go on safari the more you will see! The chosen travel style will also greatly enhance your wildlife experience; Camping safari will offer you a different experience than lodge safari a part from Katara lodge in queen which provide wildlife view verandah.  The game drives are the most common way to observe African wildlife and for most visitors the backbone of their safari. Game drives should be undertaken in a customized 4 x 4 drive vehicle with a driver-guide who has experience and knowledge of the area.

The game drives can be organized at any time of the day but you will have the best chances to encounter wildlife in the early morning and late afternoon. It is cooler and animals are then most active.  A first-time visitor will want to see plenty of game, mainly large animals. Although the major animals are important, we advise not to get too caught up with ‘Big Five’ fever, the African wilderness has so much more to offer, especially its incredible bird-life, smaller mammals, primates, reptiles, trees and other plants… If you are receptive to learn about the different aspects of nature and conservation your trip will be much more meaningful and pleasurable.