While I’m not much of a macro shooter, there is one thing I love shooting up close (preferably with a wide angle lens) and that’s animals. Yes, it’s gimmicky and cliché but it’s still so cute. So today, in honor of #FriFotos, I’m giving in to the cuteness.
Up close with a French bulldog in Los Angeles
I’m a huge animal lover (except for sharks, which I actually fear to an irrational extent) and I love when I get a chance to bond with charming and exotic animals during my travels.
Of course the best place to see animals up close is on Safari (if you’re new to my blog, you can read my previous safari posts here) but I’ve met plenty of critters on my travels and here are some of my favorites.
Mexican jumping dog in Baja, Mexico
Black cat at The Delano On South Beach
While trying to play with Marron, the chocolate lab, in Malmo, Sweden I realized that the dog did not understand English (unlike most Swedes) but did understand the universal pleasing nature of “fetch.”
Straight out of the horses mouth Santa Fe, New Mexico
A darling camel I met in Giza, Egypt
Camel with an underbite Giza, Egypt
Giant turtle Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Young Male Lion at Kwandwe
There is no better place to see the big five animals (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard) than on an African Safari. Here’s a gorgeous young lion I saw this spring on Safari at Kwandwe Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Afric.
Me bottle feeding an 8 week old white tiger cub at Zion Wildlife Gardens (now called Kingdom of Zion in Whangarei, New Zealand).
Cute as they may be, wild animals are wild. This guy was strong and 8 weeks was just about the last time anyone untrained got to play with him.
Note: A zookeeper at Zion Wildlife gardens was killed by a white tiger in 2009. I don’t know if if this little guy was involved or not. But it’s best when wild animals can remain in the wild.
An 8 week old baby white lion cub I got to play with at Zion Sanctuary in New Zealand. Check out those paws!
Cuddling a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was the highlight of my trip to Queensland, Australia.
Taxidermy always seems in Vogue in St. Germain furniture shops and Deyrolles in Paris, France
Mountain Lion taxidermy at the Helena, Montana airport
A typical day at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve goes something like this:
5:30 your Ranger calls your room to wake you up. You get dressed and go to Fish River Lodge for a cup of tea or coffee before heading out on your morning game drive in an open top 4 x 4. It’s still cold, but there are blankets and you’re got a jacket on.
Self-portrait: ready for the morning game drive at dawn
From 6 am until 9:30 or so (depending on what you view) you’re in your out on a game drive. The sun has just risen and your barely awake until something wakes you right up. It could be a lion’s roar or an elephant crossing the dirt road or flock of blue cranes flying over head.
Pictures of Elephant Walking. Guess who gets the right of way?
Then you find yourself fully awake and completely fascinated by the skill of your ranger (in my case, Robin) and tracker (Ernie) who can help track animal movements and tell you all about the dynamics of the animals that live on the land. It’s not really a vacation as much as it is travel and education. You leave far more aware of the ecosystem and amazed by the animals who survive there.
Rangers know all
You return to camp around 9:30 for breakfast and free time. You avoid the mid-day sun in your room or at the lodge (which is rather comfortable) before heading out at around 3:30 for an afternoon game drive. One of the perks of the afternoon game drives is that you get to stop somewhere scenic for a sundowner- a cocktail in the bush and a snack before heading back to the lodge. While gin & tonic is usually my sundowner adult beverage of choice, this trip I learned that Amarula tastes great mixed in hot chocolate if the weather is a bit nippy.
Fish River Lodge- a luxurious home base to come back to. I loved the bathtub in room 6.
As a photographer, shooting on safari can be problematic. It’s extremely challenging attempting to get video while on bumpy dirt roads and with other people in the vehicle, often blocking your shot. If I do it again, I’ll rent a good 400 mm lens because I felt that my 300 mm was not quite as sharp as it could be and I would have appreciated that extra telephoto oomph. There is so much I didn’t capture on video or stills because I just wanted to be in the moment and enjoy seeing the animals in Africa. That’s not to say I came away empty handed, I got some great stuff. Of the so-called Big Five animals I did not see a leopard or a black rhino on this trip, but I met a charming leopard tortoise and the white rhinos are just as adorable. I hope you enjoy this highlights reel of some of the game spotting from my recent trip to Kwandwe.
A Side Note/rant:
I am tremendously lucky to be able to have experienced a few luxury safaris in my life. But I am also a Hollywood Liberal, and I feel much better about spending my money at a place that not only provides great guides, excellent game viewing and comfortable surroundings, but at a place with a strong philanthropic bent. Kwandwe is such a place.
At Kwandwe, they are serious about the conservation of the land and the wildlife, and about responsible tourism. They lead by example. More important, Kwandwe is also dedicated to making humans lives better too. In a part of the country where one third of the households survive on an income of less than $25 US per month, poverty is serious. The owners of Kwandwe started a rural development trust, The Angus Gilles Foundation, which aims to help the local rural community living in poverty by helping members create opportunities for themselves and helping them acheive them. They provide real opportunities for rural communities by teaching self-reliance and empowerment. I even bought one of the adorable Unthando Dolls made by a collective of local women.
Here are some additional safari photos:
First set is animals in Africa:
A trio of elephants
Scenes from a safari: Bull elephant eating a pork bush tree (also known as spek boom, a succulent that grows readily at Kwandwe and also has enormous environmental benefits to combat Carbon emissions).
Here are some more images from my amazing few days at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. Much thanks to my guides: ex-cricketer turned-excellent Ranger, Robyn; and my tracker, Ernie. They showed me everything from aardvarks to aardwolf (the latter being more rare than the black rhino).
I found myself particular charmed by the grace of a giraffe family and the offbeat cuteness of the warthogs.
Elephants are one of the most charming animals in Africa. The babies especially so!
The wildlife here at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa has been amazing thus far.
Besides the rain, there have been some technical difficulties including intermittent blackouts, and spotty Internet connectivity.
This means I haven’t have not been able to post as frequently as I would like. But I wanted to share with you a few beautiful black and white safari shots I got today.
Animals in Africa: “Lion on safari”
Cape Buffalo – One of the Big Five game animals