PHOTO TRIP REPORT | Big Cats of the Serengeti | Sept-Oct 2019
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 10th Feb 2020
Our very first "Big Cats of the Serengeti" photographic safari was a great success and proved once again that the Serengeti is one of the top places in Africa to photograph Lions and Cheetah.
The trip was split into two different locations with time being spent in the central Serengeti around the Research Kopjes area and from there we moved to the magical "Ndutu" area near Lake Ndutu in the Ngorongoro Conservation area.
The Serengeti is known as a vast place and you always feel very privileged seeing and photographing the Big Cats in this enormous area. We spent a morning making photos of two magnificent male Lions as they patrolled their territory, and also had a good photography session with a Lioness and her two sub-adult cubs up on one of the iconic "Kopjes" or rocky outcrops that are synonymous with the Serengeti National Park.
Along with other Lion sightings we had one of the very best Cheetah sightings I have ever experienced. Our guide, Jeremia spotted a mother with four very small cubs, in that special early morning light. We followed this family as the mother led them from one termite mound to the next, surveying the area for something to eat. Finally, she made a run at a young Thompson's Gazelle and brought it down. Shen then took her prize back to her hungry cubs.
The amazing photographic opportunities we had with some of the Lions and Cheetah in the Serengeti were then taken to the next level, when we came across a very rare Black or Melanistic Serval Cat. wow, what a way to start the trip!
On the following morning, our other amazing guide, Arnold, spotted an African Porcupine! this usually very secretive and nocturnal creature was walking about in the glorious morning. We were very lucky to get a few photos of it before it disappeared down a hole.
With some great shots from the Serengeti under our belt, we headed South via the Gol Kopjes to that very special and magical place, Ndutu. This area lies along the border of the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation area. Here you are permitted to drive off-road which allows you to spend quality time with the animals and have the flexibility to position the vehicle with the best light on your subject.
During February and March, Ndutu is the area where the Great Migration herds of Wildebeest and Zebra give birth to their young. The short grass plains provide excellent grazing and good visibility provides safety from predators. September, however, is the dry season and the mega herds have long departed the area. The remaining resident and territorial animals that call this area “home” are all that are left. Territorial Lion prides lurk around the marshy areas, hoping to catch animals that come down to drink the only remaining water.
Cheetahs also favour the Ndutu area as it has a good resident stock of Gazelle and Impala.
Some Ndutu Highlights included spending time with the Marsh Pride who were up to 17 members, photographing the small marsh pride of two females and a male, Black-Backed Jackal puppies, Bat-Eared Foxes, 4 different Serval Cats, a Caracal hunting Guineafowl and one of Africa’s rarest animals, a Pangolin or Scaly Ant-eater.
The Cheetah encounters were exceptional with three kills and a total count of 12 individuals.
This safari exceeded my expectations, not only was it great for photography, but it also provided a wonderful feeling of the true African wilderness. There were very few other vehicles, and a lot of the time we were totally on our own. We managed to follow up on the Cheetahs and Lions each day and got to know their characters and spent lots of time observing them. It is wonderful to share a part of these animals lives with them and get to understand just a little of what they have to go through to survive in this harsh environment.
There is no other place I have been to that offers such quality Big Cat sightings, observations and photographic opportunities.
We will definitely be adding this location to our photographic safari list of destinations, and I am already looking forward to the 2020 “Big Cats of the Serengeti” Photo Safari.
I would like to thank all the staff at both Mawe Tented Camp in the Serengeti and Ndutu Safari Lodge in Ndutu for looking after us so well.
Then a very big special thanks must go to the two amazing guides that we had for this trip. Arnold & Jeremia !! it is always a great pleasure working with you guys and thank you for getting us into those amazing sightings and for positioning the vehicle so professionally by respecting both the animals comfort levels and the need for a good photograph.
Thank you, Linda, Bernice and Frank for joining us again on another WILD4 Tour and the first “Big Cats of Tanzania” Photographic Safari.
Please enjoy a selection of images from this photo safari.
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I did a photo safari in and around Kruger National Park with Wild4. At the end of the trip I could not think of one significant thing that I would have changed to make the experience better. I have travelled to various parts of East and Southern Africa many times to photograph wildlife and I have to say that this was THE most photographically productive trip of them all. Not simply the volume of pictures, but the quality and variety of images that I returned home with was simply awesome. Key to this was Stu’s knowledge, enthusiasm and patience. Most days we were photographing from first light until sunset, and beyond on some occasions. I quickly learned not to worry about getting the vehicle into the best position for background, light, etc. We would see an animal and I'd start to assess where I would like to be for a shot, no sooner would I have done this I would realise that Stu was already getting us into that very position. The man is a first class guide AND an excellent photographer. Perfect. The whole trip, from start to finish, ran like clockwork. The camps were comfortable, the food was great and the company delightful. Going on Safari with Stu and Justyna was like being with friends, I had a truly unforgettable time. Photographic safaris do not come any better than this.
Mike Needham, UK
I recently did a trip with Wild4 which far outweighed any expectations that I had! Wow what a trip. There was a great variety of animals, Stu has extensive knowledge of the animals and their habitat and was always mindful of us getting the best shots possible. My friend and I had our own bench seats in all the vehicles, which was great as we both had 2 DSLRs with numerous lenses, each vehicle is equipped with beanbags to steady your camera / lens, pockets and enough room to take a camera bag. We had fantastic opportunities to watch the cats for a good period of time and learn a little bit about their life, rather than taking a photo and moving on. I loved that we could sit and watch the lions at Mala Mala play in the Sand River, it was a fantastic opportunity. Stu provided us with some great tuition, I certainly learnt a lot of new photo techniques which I look forward to using back home. I hired a Canon 500mm lens from Stu which was great, I think I used that about 85% of the time and used a 70-200mm for the rest. We had many opportunities for night photography, silhouettes, time lapse, low light etc At the end of our trip we did the reptile extension at Khamai Reptile Centre. We went behind the scenes at the centre and had one of Africa's leading reptile specialist spend the day talking about the reptiles, spiders, scorpions we were about to take pictures of. Donald and his team certainly made for a very safe photo shoot, they were extremely patient positioning some of the reptiles for better light or different background. I learnt a lot from Donald, living in Australia we do have some venomous snakes, the day certainly gave me a renewed appreciation for the reptiles. I would highly recommend the Wild4 team for your next photographic safari you will not be disappointed.
Linda Cappello, AUSTRALIA