Phinda Private Photo Safari Part 1

19th May 2015
I Hosted Shanel from Sydney at Phinda Mountain lodge on a 5 day private photographic safari, it was great to see Shanel again as we had met about 2 years previously at Sabi Sabi and it was good to catch up again.

It was the first time Shanel was visiting Phinda and on our wish list was Black Rhino and Cheetah, and from past experience at Phinda I knew we had come to the right place for both.

After checking in at Mountain lodge and meeting our ranger and tracker team we set off on our first drive, we decided to stay in the south of the reserve and it wasn’t long before we saw the first of many Nyala, a beautiful and very common antelope on Phinda, a bit later we bumped into our first herd of Elephants, it was a cloudy afternoon and there was little light but we got a few images of the Elephants as they moved past us, shortly thereafter we saw our first Black Rhino, barely 45 minutes into our first drive and we had found a beautiful old bull Black Rhino, we spent the next hour with him as he fed on the scrubby bushes, we got some great portrait images of him before he walked off into a thicket.

What a great start to our Safari, unfortunately the weather got worse and it started to rain, we got news that some lions had been spotted nearby so in spite of the rain we went and had a look, the lions were fat and lazy and with the fading light there were no photo opportunities, a few moments later the Black Rhino bull we had seen earlier popped up on the ridge in the distance, he was beautifully silhouetted against the dark blue cloudy evening sky and we managed to take a few images of him before he disappeared down out of sight, by now it was quite dark and we headed back to the lodge.

The following morning we spent more time in the South of Phinda, after a few minutes as we rounded a corner we spotted a Leopard, we were very excited to find one in Phinda but after a few moments we realised something was wrong, the Leopard was not moving and we realised it was dead, we got off the vehicle to have a closer look, the Leopard had been in a fight and had been bitten to death and from the tracks in the sand we figured out that the Southern pride of Lions had ambushed the young Leopard and killed it.

After the Leopard we carried on with our drive and we photographed a couple of Buffalo, some general game as well as the ever present Nyala, we also found a mother Warthog with her 3 little piglets and they were are real treat to watch as they snuggled with their mom and then later they ran around in crazy circles chasing each other, by this time it was quite late in the morning and we headed back home for brunch and a training session in Lightroom.

For the afternoon drive we decided to leave early and head up to the Northern part of Phinda, a vast open grassland area called the marsh, I really enjoy the North of Phinda and it didn’t take us long to find our first cheetah of the trip, a big Male Cheetah that was sleepily lying down of a small termite mound, he was not going anywhere that afternoon so we eventually left him and started the long journey home, the bush had other plans for us and the dominant male leopard of the area was found and we raced off to go and have a look at him, we then heard that the North pride of Lions had been found and that the Lions and Leopard were walking towards the same junction in the road and they were on a collision course.

The Male Leopard didn’t become the dominant Leopard in the area for no reason and he was alert and spotted the Lions from a safe distance, he quickly ran to the closest and largest tree he could find and climbed up it, by the time the Lions had seen him it was too late ! the Leopard was safe in his tree, the lions did however wander over to the base of the tree and stare up at the Leopard but they decided it wasn’t worth the effort to try and climb the tree and instead they lay down for a short nap, this meant that the Leopard spent a rather uncomfortable time high up in the tree until the Lions eventually moved off, we also had to leave as we still had a long way to go to get home.

The following morning we spent our drive in the South of Phinda, we found a large herd of Elephant that were feeding on the side of the mountain, we spent some time with them getting images of the Elephants with the mountains as a backdrop, later the Elephants moved off to a nearby waterhole for a drink and we got some great Images of the herd of Elephants drinking in a long line on the edge of the water, we also photographed some of the beautiful Phinda landscape and some general game before going home for some breakfast at Mountain lodge.

That Afternoon we went in search of the Mountain Pride of Lions, they have a bunch of young cubs and after a hour or so and some great tracking we eventually found the pride as they rested in the late afternoon heat, it was not long however before the cubs got restless and playful, they would wrestle with each other and their moms, one youngster was practicing his stalk and pounce on his moms tail ! it was great to watch and we spent the next hour or so photographing the lion family, eventually the Lions moved off down the Mountain and we were unable to follow so we had a sundowner drink and then headed back to camp for dinner.


Photo comment By Barbara Krause: Absolutely beautiful photos and video clips,thank you so much for bringing this beauty of Phinda Game reserve into my home..
Photo comment By Shanel: Thanks Andrew, for letting me relive my magical safari! I have such incredible memories and images that I could not have dreamed of capturing on my own. Can't wait until the next photo safari!

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