Top 10 Moments – Wildlife Photography Volunteer (Week 2)



I zip up my jacket as a light breeze announces the presence of a South African winter evening.  I turn on my torch and scan my surroundings, searching for a pair of fluorescent eyes that suggests I have company – I see nothing.

I am alone but not lonely.

I take a sip of beer from the bottle in my hand and sit back on the cold but dry grass.  I look up at a dark sky that is alight with stars.   The realisation that millions of other people in the southern hemisphere are looking at the same constellations is both comforting and overwhelming.

I am insignificant but part of a bigger picture.

The silence around me is broken by the cry of an animal in the distance.  The red light from my camera signals my star trail long exposure is not yet over.  I breathe out a sigh of contentment as I soak up the moment I am – the perfect combination of landscape, wildlife, travel and photography 

I am free but not lost.


My second week in South Africa ended with a break from Thanda Game Reserve, where I’m volunteering on an African Impact photography project.  My wide angled lens replaced my telephoto.  My focus on wildlife subjects shifted to landscapes.  And instead of sitting in a game vehicle, I enjoyed my surroundings on foot.

Drakensberg was the picturesque location where I tried star trail photography for the first time, hiked 30 km for some well-needed exercise and enjoyed some downtime with a group of like-minded travellers from all walks of life.

It was a fitting end to another week of highlights at Thanda where I continue to accumulate a collection of wildlife and landscape photographs that capture the magical moments I’m experiencing in this unique part of the world.

In the first two weeks of my volunteer assignment I’ve refreshed my photography skills in a course run by a local professional photographer.  I’ve enjoyed eight game drives, a day in a hide and a boat cruise alongside hippos and crocodiles.  I’ve taken a break from photography with a morning of conservation work and enjoyed weekends in St Lucia and Drakensberg.

I am becoming addicted to the adrenalin rush of seeing African wildlife in its natural environment.  I am enjoying the luxury of spending more time at sightings than a typical tourist drive.  And I’m soaking up the opportunity to capture the behaviour of African birds and animals with my camera.

My first week at Thanda was full of highlights – and they continued in the second!


Top 10 Moments – Week 2

1. Lion’s Dinner = Zebra’s Funeral


The circle of life is the driving force behind some of the most exciting sightings we’ve had during my time so far at Thanda.   Our presence was irrelevant for this lioness who only had eyes for her dinner.

2. Star Trails in Drakensberg


I’ve been wanting to try star trails for a long time, but had struggled to find a location and conditions to let me try.  Emil Von Maltitz, the professional photographer who led our weekend trip to the Drakensberg was on hand to help me set up my first attempt.

3. First White Rhino Sighting


We ended our first week at Thanda with great sightings of all of the Big 5 – except the rhino.  We didn’t have to wait long on Monday morning to complete the Big 5 checklist with a sighting of five of these incredible animals.

4. Clear Skies in Drakensberg


Shooting star trails requires time and patience.  Shooting a 30 second star image is a great alternative!

5. Sixth sighting of the usually elusive hyena


There are staff at Thanda who have yet to see a hyena so I appreciated how lucky I was to see a sixth one in broad daylight, casually walking across the road.

6. A Break from Wildlife Photography – Drakensberg Sunrise


Another volunteer recently asked me if I preferred wildlife or landscape photography.  When I can’t indulge both at the same time, I have to admit landscape is the winner.

7. The Warthog Family


We had already seen a few warthogs but never had a chance to photograph them as they scooted off as soon as they saw us.  So this scene at a waterhole at Mkhuze Game Reserve was a real treat.

8. Reflective Zebra


We took a break from Thanda game drives to visit nearby Mkhuze and take advantage of the hides that sit within the park.  We weren’t sure what to expect when we arrived at this waterhole late morning and were overwhelmed with the rhino, zebra, wildebeast, monkeys, warthogs and nyala enjoying “happy hour”.

9. King of the Jungle


Male lion sighting – enough said?!

10. A Tired Hippo


A boat cruise at St Lucia last weekend provided the opportunity to capture the classic hippo yawn image. 


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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at


  1. Loved the Drakenburg. This really looks like an awesome experience. I’ve looked at Thanda’s website and the Wildlife ACT which organizes volunteers. Do you really think it’s worth the money?

  2. Great shots Kellie!!
    Love the star trails, have always wanted to do one! (not sure my camera is good enough)

    • All you need is clear skies, a camera that has bulb mode, a cable release, tripod and patience! I’m writing a post soon about how to shoot them. I wanted to try them when I was in the Flinders but the skies weren’t clear enough.

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