By Rebecca Thomas, team member at The Dovetail Agency
I’ve been incredibly fortunate during my time at The Dovetail Agency to work with clients that inspire me daily. It was in January 2015 that I first had the opportunity to visit one: Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa. It was here that my new found love for safari and my personal interest in photography first combined. I do tend to be snap-happy when travelling, filling my computer with thousands of images. Yet, each has the power to instantly transport me to the destination. During this time of lockdown, this resonates with me more than ever. Below is a selection of some of my own favourite images, captured on visits to South Africa and later, Namibia, with another Dovetail client, Natural World Safaris. I hope you enjoy them. For me, this is arm-chair travelling at its most personal.
This mighty male leopard – Maxabeni – we were fortunate to follow for almost an hour while on safari at Sabi Sabi. Completely unfazed by the vehicles, he patrolled his territory, scent marking to let the other leopards know he was in the area.
Having a fast shutter speed on my camera allowed me to capture this moment where he flopped by the side of the road and yawned. You can see the immense power they have in their jaws. Leopards have become my favourite of the big cats.
On a different occasion at Sabi Sabi, this sleek female leopard demonstrated to us just how effective their camouflage is amongst the grasses of the Bush. Having spotted her fresh kill, we were unable to find her, until subtle movement immediately to the side of our safari vehicle gave her away. The slight flash of white on the tip of her tail is the only part which catches the eye.
Thanks to the help of a spotlight by our tracker, I was able to capture this image of this female leopard completely relaxed on the low branch of this tree. One thing I admire about leopards is how they so often look as if they have been dropped from a great height, sprawled across the limbs of the tree.
The sleeping lion which gave himself a hug has a soft spot for me. This majestic male, one of two brothers called the Charleston Males, was flat out asleep in the Bush. At the precise moment I went to take the photograph, he stretched out his front legs and wrapped them around himself.
I captured this cheeky look at us over his shoulder by this zebra as we drove past. Keeping the landscape wider in the final framing gives a sense of the vast space of the Bush at Sabi Sabi.
Another zebra shot, this time captured on the morning safari. I loved the reflection of the zebra in the water, especially as the foal came alongside the adults to have a drink.
Time for my favourite bird of the African Bush: the lilac breasted roller. So often these flash by as a burst of colour, gone before you can capture them. After many frustrated out of frame or focus shots, I was pleased to be able to highlight the beautiful coat patterns of these birds.
Ending my South Africa photos on a recent high which left me rather emotional. After a number of safaris, it became a running joke that I always just missed the wild dog. They had either just left the area when we arrived, or a friend or colleague had spotted them. When finally, in November last year it was my turn, I burst into tears at spotting these fascinating and endangered dogs.
I have also been fortunate to travel on holiday with the help of the experts at Natural World Safaris to Namibia. The second least densely populated country on Earth, it is home to ancient deserts, vast salt pans and an array of wildlife.
One thing we saw a lot of was giraffe, including this lone giraffe making his way across Etosha National Park. The barren landscape only serves to emphasise their majestic height and elegance.
Self-driving in Etosha National Park puts your tracking/spotting skills to the test. Luckily for us, this pride of lions had decided the side of the road was the perfect spot to sleep. This young cub however was far too busy climbing over the family.
This tower of giraffes caught us by surprise at Okonjima Nature Reserve. We were so busy watching a leopard that we didn’t realise this bachelor group had crept up on our right almost silently, in a procession format.
Okonjima is home to an array of rehabilitated wildlife, including a set of orphan cheetah who had been bonded together as a family. Wearing radio collars, we were able to track them on foot and watched them try to take down a baby eland.
We were fortunate to be able to see one of the world’s only two populations of desert adapted elephants in Twyfelfontein. They have relatively broader feet, longer legs and smaller bodies than other African bush elephants. Drawn to water, it was incredible watching the herd gather around this water tank to quench their thirst.