“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – This quote is attributed to Roman philosopher, Seneca, and its essence is something that we as photographic safari rangers understand and deal with on a day to day basis. The challenge with wildlife photography is that we can’t tell the ‘models’ what to do and we don’t get any retakes. To make up for this we try to anticipate their next move and position ourselves accordingly.
Out of all the animals in the animal kingdom, there are very few that fascinate me as much as the leopard. Their secretive nature, elusive behaviour and tremendous adaptability has resulted in many gaps in scientific literature. They have the uncanny ability to continually surprise the observer.
Sometime during 1976, in a rather small village roughly 30kms from MalaMala Game Reserve, Vusi Mpandza entered the world. To use the term 'from humble beginnings' would only describe half of his story as Vusi was also born into an unequal society of suppression and segregation. However, despite the circumstances, he went on to make something of his life. Like cream rises to the top, so did Vusi.
The Impala Aepyceros melampus
The month of April has brought with it the impala rutting season. It is the time of year, signalled by the shorter days and longer nights of Autumn, where we see the adult male impalas being completely intolerant of one another, especially in the presence of females in oestrus.
As a ranger in South Africa, you often hear of this mystical place called MalaMala Game Reserve (aka "The Promised Land"). Stories, as we all know, can sometimes sound too good to be true and so I found myself wondering if these unconfirmed reports were fact, or simply fiction, hyped up by the ‘bush telephone’. I decided to find out for myself…
For centuries, humans have dreamed of flight and all of us have, at some time in our lives, looked up at the birds in the sky and wished to have their amazing abilities. There is one bird in particular found here at MalaMala Game Reserve, that captures the hearts and minds of all who look upon it. It awakens the deepest-seated awe and envy with every graceful flap of its wings. This bird is no ordinary bird; it is the undisputed Lord of the skies. The mighty Martial Eagle.
Many of us have joked that if everyone at Rattray’s Camp, barring Shadrack Ndlovu, was taken ill and unable to work then the camp would probably still run smoothly. Obviously this is said in jest. We believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but you get the point… Shadrack is a jack-of-all-trades and he has mastered each one.
Over the many years since our inception, Mala Mala Game Reserve has been the focal point of several documentaries and research studies. Indeed there are currently two studies being carried out on the reserve, one of which is being done by Panthera, a charitable organization devoted to preserving big cats and their ecosystems around the globe. In this article, we'll touch on their motivation for this study which focuses on leopards.
You may feel far removed from 'the real world' and you'd be quite right, you are, but in a very good way. You are now in the wild, living with wild animals. You have become part of a pristine and vast ecosystem, breathing in its fresh air. Just being here may make you feel like you've inadvertently booked a massage for the soul. But why stop there?