A Lion-free Safari
01st October 2013 - 1 comment
It was impossible to anticipate what the Kalahari was going to give us this time... It was September, still winter and the Park was foreign again, the lack of vegetation calling desperately for rain. As always, the very first evening we set up camp at Rooiputs. Any fear we might have had, and any suspicion that the place was not the same found great encouragement in the sound of the barking geckos and the faint roar of lions. Later, passing through the vast landscape of this beautiful land, we migrated between camps and gradually quit the day to day reality altogether.

Our quest has always been to find the lions, for such encounters brought about immense happiness. We have been permanently dominated by the desire to see and photograph them, and to understand more about their behaviour. And even though we live in Big Five Territory, our trips to the Kalahari bring us closer to this pursuit. Far away from our home town, outside the constraints of pharmacy work and the daily struggle for survival, we are temporarily unconcerned with the future and live in the moment. This September, our dream-like state would have lasted for the duration of the entire trip if it wasn’t for the lack of lions. Try and imagine the Kalahari without them! It felt as if something had gone wrong, and we tried to correct that wrong by searching for signs of their presence and following spoor from dawn to dusk. We could not find them- we were always too late. I have had this fear for years…

Yet there was so much beauty on our way! We soon discovered joy in following, watching and photographing various other species like Springbok, Gemsbok and Wildebeest. Brown Hyenas, Spotted Hyenas, Honey Badgers and especially Blackbacked Jackals - notorious for their antics – have given us some stories to remember, and you are welcome to browse through our gallery and enjoy the recent images we have uploaded.

Last but not least, and still on the topic of photography, I would like to share those interesting words written by Allain de Botton in his book The Art of Travel: “…a dominant impulse when encountering beauty is to hold on to it…taking photographs can assuage the itch for possession sparked by the beauty of a place; our anxiety about losing a precious scene can decline with every click of a shutter…” -those lines echo our thoughts when it comes to wildlife and nature photography. This time around we searched for, found and captured beauty in just about everything, from the majestic flight of raptors at water holes to the little Brandt’s Whistling Rat.

A process of careful selection and then editing of our RAW files will reveal over the next few months the most memorable moments and sightings of our September trip-we would appreciate your thoughts on these images.

Gabriela and Andre
Telling The Story-Another Kalahari Chapter
25th November 2012 - 1 comment
Just like with other forms of art, there is meaning concealed in every photograph and every image tells the story behind it. We often wonder what makes a great photograph…These days there is great demand on photographers-a so called "great image" should supply an expression of emotion, information, it should speak to us directly or indirectly, there should be sharpness and blur, action or contemplation (sometimes both), colour or the absence of it, all leading to a certain discourse that should be altogether stimulating and intriguing for the viewer. Techniques change constantly and the contemporary photographer changes with times. He no longer has boundaries, he experiments with light and shadows and practices indoors or outdoors. The curse of the photographer these days is that he has to seek meaning not only in light but also in the absence of it, speaking a language where there is no room for the individual who does not own a DSLR. The photographer has always been a traveler and a seer, whose curiosity can be compared to a huge question mark against the world's landscape. Where does his pleasure come from? At times from the flash of the camera in the dark, which is supposed to reveal rare moments. Other times from the awe one experiences when facing the powerful or the sublime: landscapes, thunder, lightning, a sandstone valley, red dunes, the crescent Moon. In our case it is often that emotional connection we have with the Kalahari, which provides us with an awareness of limitation and gives us alternate feelings of power and powerlessness.

In October 2012 the Kalahari opened its hand to us again, this time with more generosity than ever before. The three of us - myself, Andre, and our special guest and friend Allan-were the fortunate receptacles of amazing scenes on a daily basis, from dawn to dusk. We were blessed to see again the clear blue skies and red dunes adorned with clumps of golden grasses and solitary trees. We enjoyed starry nights filled with the music of barking geckos. We also witnessed stormy skies and a downpour of heavy rain. In the evenings it was so dark in the camps that we could hardly see the silhouettes of lions passing through…At times we spotted wild creatures half-hidden in the tall grass nearby - foxes and jackals. The resident pride of lions joined us from day one at Rooiputs, and we captured on our cameras amazing interactions between the members of " The Rooiputs Clan". The young lions were playful and inquisitive and delightful to watch. Two adult females killed an eland almost every day so food was plenty for every one, including a number of jackals and brown hyaenas.

According to Allan we had eight wild cat sightings during the entire trip, while Andre counted eleven Cape Cobra sightings. At Rooiputs one late morning we had just returned to the camp for breakfast - Andre was busy making toast and scrambled eggs. I remember sitting on the ammo box and washing dishes from the previous night, when I lifted my eyes and saw a Cape Cobra passing by behind Allan. After warning him of the potential danger I rushed for my camera but unfortunately the snake made it for the bushes before I got close enough to take a shot.

For various reasons we have missed a photographic opportunity every now and then, and one instance worth mentioning is a cheetah chasing springbok near Mata-Mata. Heat haze and light reflected by the sun-drenched sand also hindered our chances of a good image, especially with birds landing at waterholes during midday. The glare from the cloudless sky is often unbearable when shooting birds in flight. We perspired under our hats as we sat for hours in the overheated Landrover watching the sun climbing the sky - that is the time of the day when the Whitebacked Vultures, Bateleurs and Secretary Birds come to drink and bath.

Sadly, a number of waterholes had no water because the solar pumps were out of order. Yet we were lucky again and again, for we discovered a Cape Fox den and then a Spotted Hyaena den within short distance of each other on our last drive ( about 20 km North of Polentswa). And have I mentioned Rosetta yet?Also known as Safran, this beautiful young female leopard graced us with her presence for about an hour or so, and we have photographs to tell her story…

We invite you to spend a few minutes browsing through our galleries…Enjoy, and kindly grace us with a comment or two…

Gabriela and Andre
From the Kalahari Diaries
27th May 2012 - 1 comment

Late night in the summer heat
We take shelter in this dark retreat-
It's only a tent.
You hold my heart in your hand
Like a flower.
Around us lions keep roaring-
Dead is the river of silence.
My heart still pounding
I turn around to look outside
And the hours slip by
As we wait for them
In our dark retreat
Watching in silence.
Camping at Polenswa
09th May 2012 - 0 comments
Polenswa is one of our favourite camps in the Kalahari. The scenery is beautiful and we have yet to mention the solitude we enjoy at certain times of the year. We were there few months ago, and you might find it of some interest to read my account of one particular sighting…

"…it was hard to say when exactly the night arrived, I was busy downloading the images taken during the day and Andre was cooking up a storm. And what an eventful day it had been! We witnessed one of the most amazing rain storms ever, and confused gusts of wind nearly blew our kitchen away and the tent got wet inside. The cleaning-up operation took us the most part of the afternoon. After the rain had stopped the sky turned purple and we decided to go and look for something to photograph while the light was still good. We did not have much time, the decline was gradual even though the sun was still bursting here and there through heavy clouds. First came a slight dip in the temperature, and that we enjoyed tremendously. We drove around taking pictures of the magic landscape unfolding before our eyes till we got tired and hungry. On our way back to the camp we stopped for a cup of coffee, and as I was busy filling our cups Andre saw the lions. Suddenly, any suspicion that we were going to leave the Kalahari without getting close to them dissipated. The sight of the four beasts was truly magnificent and it filled us entirely, awakening all our associations with previous encounters with lions. Their odor reached us as they walked slowly past our car windows. The older lion's mysterious confidence and that golden mane flowing about him in the sudden cool breeze killed the conversation in the car. We drew our digital weapons and aimed at them, still mesmerized by their sight, the sound of our Nikons suddenly meaningful even though both of us had forgotten to check the settings. The old male stared fixedly towards my window for a moment and I just sat there and took it all in. Then he walked away and I leant against the window panel, following him as a slight drizzle started to fall. I pursed my lips and thought--another missed opportunity. But it was all worth it, that encounter, that eye-to-eye contact, that moment which left my mouth dry and my heart pounding-I just loved his power and the danger he exuded…"

That evening we discovered we had taken some amazing pictures, despite the brevity of our encounter with the lions. On that very same evening I also managed to step on a puff-adder, since with all the excitement I had forgotten to wear my boots ( I should have known better, I should have remembered that snakes and scorpions tend to wonder about when there is a storm, looking for shelter). I was very fortunate to escape unscathed, that gorgeous big snake moved gently away as I carefully lifted my bare foot from its back, and then he spent the evening in a corner of our make-shift kitchen behind the solar panels. He was gone the next morning…

Our life passion-photography-has become crystallized around the Kalahari and its creatures. Although we visit other places, we always go back to the Kalahari. Our happiness depends on it, and we believe we have won our right to be there, be it for a couple of weeks each year. We hope one day we can move closer to the Park, right now it takes us two days to get there...

Why we go where we go...
05th May 2012 - 0 comments
It has been a while since we returned from our last summer trip to the Kalahari. It is winter now, and even though we live in Kwazulu Natal, there is a slight dip in the evening temperatures, some sporadic rain, and a couple of mornings when we actually go to work wearing short sleeves. One often experiences four seasons in one day here. Today the sky was cloudless and bright and it reminded us of summer in the Kalahari, of the intense heat, and of course, bare feet in the sand. Any sadness we might feel from time to time, any thoughts we might have that happiness is almost unattainable - "happiness" as in "going back to the Kalahari" - finds some degree of encouragement in a collection of photographs we have accumulated over time, some over-exposed and some not, others ready to be posted on our brand new website.

We could hardly describe the joy and delight we experience when waking up one morning away from home in the Kalahari, a place known for its challenging temperatures and unique landscapes. The so called "golden hour" (a term used to describe the time of the morning or afternoon when the light is "sweet" for photography) is essential to capture images where little work is needed to bring out the beauty of our findings. One early morning while waiting at a water hole, a young male lion walked towards us and stared at us curiously as we waited for him to have a drink. For a few seconds we looked at each other in wonder, and it took months for the psychological effects of this sighting to fade - the thrill, the enjoyment of what we had seen and felt has been there for a long time, and we still derive a great degree of happiness from that memory even today. As we look back on our previous journeys, small travel chapters unravel...Enjoy our photographic accounts and connect them to our stories - we will provide you with more chapters as we go along...