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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For thirty-five years I had dreamed of going on a photographic safari in South Africa. This year I finally realized that dream and it is fair to say that my hopes and expectations were surpassed in every way. I had done extensive research on African photographic safaris on the Internet before settling on Wild 4 photo safaris. What an inspired choice that turned out to be! This family company run by Stu Porter and his wife, Justyna, and aided by Stu’s parents, John and Ann, provides the perfect safari experience for photographers of every skill level. Stu is one South Africa’s finest wild-life photographers and a first-class teacher into the bargain. His knowledge of the habitat and habits of the animals and birds to be found in Kruger National Park is simply encyclopaedic. I was accompanied on the trip by my 25 year-old daughter, Amy, and we eagerly adapted to the early morning wake-up call to go off into the wilds in one of Stu’s specially fitted jeeps to photograph animals at sunrise. Every day brought its special moments whether the spectacle of lions mating just a few metres from the jeep, or leopards lying lazily in the grass digesting a meal, or elephants and hippos frolicking in a river. The days sped by and we returned home with thousands of photographs of birds and animals to sort through and cherish for the memories they bring back. A safari with Wild 4 is more than a photographic experience with a master photographer: it is an initiation into the wonders of South Africa – its wild-life and spectacular landscapes - and, above all, an experience of friendship as everyone aboard the jeep bond in common purpose. Everything about Wild 4 is first class: organization is superb, accommodations excellent, choices of locale perfect. Our safari with Stu and Wild4 was truly the experience of a life-time.
Andrew Oliver, CANADA
On arrival we were treated as part of the family by Stu Porter, his wife Justyna, and parents John and Ann. The conditions for finding and photographing everything from small birds to large game was perfect – a 500mm lens on hire from Stu, a specially equipped vehicle, which was referred to as a hide on wheels ( with only 3 photographers) , a dedicated and professional approach to photography and plenty of time. We would set off at sunrise, find a group of lions as they were beginning to yawn and stir from sleep, or a pair of saddle-billed storks building a nest, and quietly move our cameras into position. The initial sighting was accompanied by the rapid firing of shutters, but then we would wait as long as necessary in the hope of getting further shots. Stu was very sensitive to our needs and would only make suggestions about the best camera settings if he thought we needed his advice. His awareness of how animals behave was very useful in planning our shots. Stu’s knowledge of African Wildlife and skill as a wildlife photographer is second to none, and I have learned a lot from his expertise. I am delighted with my photos !! This was the trip of a lifetime, good accommodation, delicious food and great company. It was altogether a wonderful, challenging and thrilling experience and, if you are looking for a photo safari in Africa, I too recommend you contact Stu Porter at Wild4.
David Austwick, UK