Overall winner of the 2018 Indlovu River Lodge Wildlife Photography Competition Prize!
I just returned from an amazing four nights at Indlovu River Lodge, with our winner of this year’s photographic competition, Geo Jooste.
After meeting at lunchtime on day one, we discussed our game plan for the 4 nights, paying special attention to the weather forecasts we had received. The Indlovu River Lodge hides are most active on the days that are very hot, and the first two days were predicted to be pushing 40 degrees celcius!
The first session is typically one where we find ourselves getting into the swing of hide photography. It is very different to normal photography, due to the low shooting angle and tiny depth of fields caused by being so close to our subjects. We were greeted by the larger of the two hides, the Thapama hide, with a selection of birds such as bee eaters, swallows, bulbuls, drongos and diving king fishers to name a few. This session was so incredibly productive that we had very little time between discussing techniques and putting them into practice.
After an hour or so we had just settled into a bit of a routine before a very special visitor arrived…. the broad billed roller. This bird is well known in these hides for being extremely difficult to photograph. It arrives from a blind spot, drinks on the wing and typically does not return. It is also known as the spirit breaker as many photographers have aimed their cameras at it but are yet to photograph this magnificent specimen.
This session was also the first time we were introduced to Tony. Tony is an adult leopard tortoise who arrived every evening at 4pm to have a swim. In my 5 years of guiding I have never seen a tortoise swim, yet this guy absolutely loved it!
After an amazing 4 hours of non-stop photography we finally made our way back to the lodge for a well-deserved dinner and rest.
On the second day we made our way to the smaller of the two hides, the Hoseng hide, where we focused on small birds such as golden, cinnamon and lark like buntings, blue waxbills and red-billed queleas for the first two hours or so.
As the time went by, we were greeted by very special visitors, a pair of African goshawks. This was the first time I had seen this species in the hides and they are known to be very shy. Both Geo and I both let out a sigh as the pair landed, got spooked, and flew away almost instantly. However, our disappointment was short lived as one of the pair returned about half an hour later and drank 6 meters away from us! Topped off with a small herd of zebras, this made for an incredible session.
In the afternoon we returned to Thapama, where we once again had amazing sightings including yellow throated long claws, Tony the tortoise, a dazzle of zebras, some nyala, impala and some waterbuck. We also focused on some different techniques such as trying to capture a brown hooded king fisher and some European bee eaters splashing into the water.
Day three for us was a transition day as far as weather goes. It was very hot in the morning, but some thick cloud cover was rapidly rolling in and the threat of rain ever nearer. We made our way to the Hoseng hide and were pleasantly surprised as a number of new species arrived. Green wood hoepoes, southern black tits, and a pied wagtail to name a few.
On the morning of day four the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Cool weather had set in and we thought we may finally get lucky with some much-needed rain in the Karongwe reserve. Unfortunately, even being surrounded by thunder storms in every direction, the rain never arrived…..and neither did many animals. We had a brief sighting from a small herd of wildebeest and a couple of doves. This however was a great time to discuss photography in general and Geo and I made the most of the quieter morning session to really focus on questions he had about photography in general.
In the afternoon session we decided to take a break from the hides as the weather was terribly cold and windy. We went on our first and only game drive and were treated to some baby impala, a heard of elephants and three rhino sightings. We had a lovely sundowner in an amazing area surrounded by giant wild fig, jackalberry and leadwood trees, before returning to the lodge for a boma dinner under electric skies!
Our final morning came around and we once again returned to the Thapama hide for one last session. The weather was still quite cool, and we had some thick clouds, so we weren’t expecting too much from the session. We were pleasantly pleased however as myriad of small birds decided that today was the day to bath, and we enjoyed yet another technique trying to capture the motion of the bathing with slow shutter speeds!
Overall this was an incredible trip and a fantastic experience to spend such quality time in these amazing eye level hides. We managed to photograph exactly 57 species in just 5 days, and heard and saw many more.
I just want to thank At Close Quarters, but in particular Lance, for the unforgettable 4 nights I had the privilege of spending with while staying at Indlovu River Lodge. It was a huge honour to be the overall winner of 2018’s wildlife photography competition.
Lance, you were absolutely world-class, your professional way of interacting and guiding during the four days was remarkable. Your knowledge, and guidance in a photographic way, as well as in terms of a nature guide, cannot measured in any kind of way. I really have learned a lot and overall it was an experience I will never forget.
So many thanks to you Louisa and your team…it was really world class service, food and accommodation. Also a huge thanks for the prize you sponsored, I am really privileged to have won it, and stay four nights at the lodge, with Lance as my guide.
Indlovu River Lodge: www.irl.co.za
At Close Quarters: www.atclosequarters.com
Our 2019 Wildlife Photography Competition in Association with Indlovu River Lodge goes live on Friday 1 March 2019. Be sure to check our website in order to find out more about this year’s competition and how to submit your entries.