Top 10 Moments: Wildlife Photography Volunteering (Final Week)


“It’s not always unicorns and rainbows” – Mattias Karlsson (Volunteer)

I learned a long time ago not to expect sympathy from friends back home when I complain about things whilst travelling. And deservedly so! But as one of the other volunteers so eloquently phrased “it’s not always unicorns and rainbows”.

I began my last week as a volunteer on African Impact’s Wildlife Photography & Conservation Project on the bottom of the travel rollercoaster.

I was tired.

Things that I’d tolerated (or even enjoyed) for the previous three weeks began to irritate me. The mosquito net that also kept out other little critters from my bed now felt like a mesh prison. The bucket of water from my shower felt heavier than usual as I recycled it to flush the toilet. I found myself dragging my feet from my cabin to the communal lodge on a path that seemed to have lengthened overnight. I felt uninspired by the choice of cereal or bread for breakfast. The wildlife that had provided some incredible sightings seemed to be on strike during our first game drive of the day. Conversation that had entertained me a week earlier now irritated me. I was sick of wearing the same clothes.

And worst of all – I felt uninspired by my photographs.

Monday wasn’t a good day.

As I climbed into bed Monday night, I allowed myself a few more moments of moaning before I decided to snap out of it. I reminded myself where I was, what I was doing and most of all that I only had a few more days to enjoy it!

Tuesday was a better day. And by the time I walked out of my cabin for the last time on Sunday morning, I was not ready to leave.

Like my first three weeks, I struggled to limit my “top moments” to just ten!

1. Brave Baby Rhino


We had spotted this one year old rhino earlier in the week, obscured by the bush as the shy creature stayed by his mother’s side.  But he used our last game drive of the month to demonstrate his character development, in one of the cutest displays of bravery I’ve seen.  He aggressively approached this game vehicle, stopping within centimetre of the tracker before his bravery left him and he raced away as quickly as he had arrived.

2. The Last of the Stars


As the visibility of the moon increased during my last week at Thanda, opportunities to capture the Milky Way disappeared.  But I was able to indulge in one final evening of star photography, capturing the Milky Way as it sat above the Thanda camp-ground.

3. Sunrise with Savannah


I’m often asked if I prefer wildlife or landscape photography and my answer is “when I can combine both”.  The South Pride lions gave me this opportunity as Savannah, as she’s been christened by the reserve, and her cubs appeared during a picturesque sunrise.

4. Wildebeest on the Menu


Elton John’s “Circle of Life” has been ringing in my ears throughout my stay at Thanda.  One animal’s demise is another’s survival and although a herd of wildebeest are missing a member, this lion cub is growing up big and strong as a result.

5. Community Day


Although the focus of my time at Thanda was wildlife photography, I jumped at any chance to learn more about the culture of the region.  A Community Day shared between African Impact and nearby Mdletshe and Mandlakazi communities certainly provided that, with their Zulu culture on proud display.

6. Lions on Alert


Wildlife sightings are often found by following tracks.  Other times they are announced over the radio by other vehicles.  At times, they can even be accidental.  And sometimes, they are found by other animals.  These lions heard a nearby hyena before we saw it and within minutes of taking this photography, the lioness ran across the road to remind the hyena this was her territory.

7. 5-Legged Elephant


No explanation required!


8. Back to School


Part of the photography project includes a visit to a local school, to help educate the children about the wildlife that shares the land with them.  Understanding how conserving the wildlife can provide benefits to the local communities is an important step in the ongoing battle against poaching and environmental issues.  But sadly, many of this children are not even aware that these animals are so close to them.  When I asked the class “who knows where a leopard lives” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when one girl answered with “the zoo”.

9. Kudo


I don’t know where the Kudo had been hiding during my first three weeks, but I saw more on one particular game drive in my last week than the entire month.

10. A New Lion


One of the most exciting things to happen during my month at Thanda was the arrival of a new male lion.  I was finally able to get a glimpse of the beautiful creature through the fence of the boma, as we passed by it during out last week.  The boma is housing him as he transitions from his delivery vehicle to the game reserve.  From all accounts, it has been a difficult transition for him and he remains quite unsettled.  I don’t enjoy jet lag, so I think his grumpiness is quite understandable! 


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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. Raghuram S says:

    Fantastic blog and photos. I have been following this blog since our mail communication and it has been a fascinating experience for me to see the wild through your eyes. I just have a question – what lenses did you use? If I plan to travel will a 250mm suffice? Thanks.

    • Thanks – I’m glad you enjoyed them! A 250mm on a crop sensor will actually give you more than 250mm reach, so I think that will be a good lens for you to take. The majority of my shots were taken with a 100-400mm. Happy travels 🙂

  2. You took my breath away with these photos!!!

  3. I am sorry to see this amazing experience come to end. But am still thinking of volunteering here and look forward to your next adventures.

  4. Again with the amazing photos! I so enjoyed reading about and viewing (through your lens) your time in Africa. Yours is one of my favorite blogs.

  5. Love these photos especially the brave little rhino and the stars. Need to find out more about how to photo stars….we are on safari soon and really looking forward to it.

  6. So so jealous! I must look into this. Love the Sunrise with Savannah.

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