Top 10 Moments: Wildlife Photography Volunteering (Week 3)

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As the first notes of Toto’s iconic but cheesy song “Africa” reaches my ears I smile to myself.  My iPod is set to shuffle but I suspect it is also feeling the uplifting and energising effect of being on one of the world’s most thought-provoking continents 

My third week as a volunteer with African Impact is ending on a South African bank holiday and a Friday that is free of our usual hectic schedule.

I look outside at the unseasonal weather that has disrupted my plans for the day.  I feel a little guilty at being disappointed and frustrated with the rain that the region so desperately needs.  Water shortages are a serious problem at Thanda and water is delivered at least daily so we can enjoy the basic luxuries in life we take for granted back home, like showering and flushing the toilet.  The area needs the rain.

I replace my disappointment with relief that I finally have a few hours downtime.  Some of the volunteers are welcoming the early start to the weekend in St Lucia so the communal area of the volunteer camp is quieter than usual.  A small group of us started the day with a cultural visit to a nearby community, led by one of our Zulu game drivers.  But the opportunity to end the day with a game drive has been washed away with the rain.  Instead, some of us are catching up on photo editing, others are enjoying an afternoon nap and the rest are crowded around the iMac watching a movie.

Everyone embraces downtime differently.

This week has raced by and it’s hard to believe I only have seven more days as a volunteer on Thanda’s photography project.  I am trying to ignore the nagging realisation that I am heading back to London after this to (hopefully) replenish the bank account with a return to reality.  The fine line between feeling free and lost (and a depleted bank balance) has helped me feel comfortable with that decision but there is no denying I would rather be where I am now.

Luckily I have had a number of fantastic moments this week to distract me from impending reality.

Top 10 Moments – Week 3

1. Dinner for Two

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One of the highlights last week was watching a lion tear apart the carcass of a zebra.  This week it was the cheetahs’ dining on display and an afternoon drive took a dramatic turn when we came across two cheetah brothers feeding on a nyala.

2. Rhino Tracking

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Sharing the game park with tourists from Thanda Lodge means we sometime hear about sightings through the game vehicle radio.  So following fresh rhino tracks and being the first to sight the beautiful creature is a magical moment.  We first spotted this male white rhino in the bush alongside us.  He treated us to a great photo opportunity as he crossed the road, stopping for a few minutes to pose for us before heading back into the bush and out of sight.

3. Community Project

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In addition to the photography project I am volunteering on, African Impact runs a Research & Conservation Project and an Over 30’s Community Project.  I enjoyed the opportunity to join the community volunteers one morning at the Etshaneni Creche where these gorgeous little children were sitting quietly on these chairs and looking at the blackboard, eagerly awaiting our arrival.  The project does some amazing work and I’ll be sharing some more about it in an upcoming post.

4. Insight Into Zulu Culture

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One of the highlights of my stay at Thanda has been the opportunity to meet some of the local Zulu community who work as cooks, cleaners and game drivers.  When Chris, my favourite game driver, offered a “cultural day” in the community he was born and still lives, I jumped at the opportunity.  Although the weather was against us, it was an eye-opening introduction into the fascinating Zulu culture that maintains a strong connection to its history and traditions.

5. Starry Night at Thanda

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I had wanted to try star photography for some time but the location and conditions I needed had eluded me until last weekend in Drakensberg.  Now addicted, I’ve being making the most of the clear skies back at Thanda camp.

6. A Bush Proposal?

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The last thing I expected to see on one of our afternoon game drives was this scene.  We guessed a tourist at Thanda Lodge was planning a proposal – I wonder if she said yes?

7. A Bit of Frost

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My passion for photography has changed my behaviour and lifestyle in many ways, including setting my alarm to catch the first light of the day.  Most of our “winter” days at Thanda have been warmer than summer days in London, but frost on this particular morning announced colder weather was on the way.

8. Taela (Mufasa)

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The king of the lions at Thanda is Taela (also known as Mufasa), the beautiful dominant male who roams the reserve on his own.  I heard Taela before I saw him, from inside the lodge one morning.  We were getting ready to leave for our Drakensberg weekend and although my instincts told me he wasn’t actually in the camp, his roar was enough to raise the hairs on my arm.  He wasn’t too far away though and I had my first glimpse of him a few minutes after we drove out of the camp.  A few days later he provided a great end to an afternoon game drive, posing in the bush with the lush mane that frames his powerful face.  I hope it’s not my last sighting – he is a beautiful creature.One of my favourite animals is the African elephant and having only experienced a couple of fleeting sightings, I was keen for a closer look.  These two bulls provided just that as they ambled at a deceivingly fast pace alongside one of the roads we were on.

9. Elephant Viewing

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One of my favourite animals is the African elephant and having only experienced a couple of fleeting sightings, I was keen for a closer look.  These two bulls provided just that as they ambled at a deceivingly fast pace alongside one of the roads we were on.

10. Zebra Crossing

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I’ve heard it said that the safest time to fly is immediately after a bad crash.  Similarly, it seems the safest time for a zebra to cross paths with a cheetah is when the cheetah is feeding on something else!

 

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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 www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. Hey Kel – I am loving following your blog and reading about your experiences in South Africa. And the photos are incredible!
    Thinking of you lots, and so glad to hear what a great time you are having!
    Cath

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