The Real Mystery of Wildlife Photography

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Wildlife photographers are the impalas of human society. They are everywhere. As you leave the airport, en route to the safari lodge, on the lawn at lunch, under the trees and across the plains on just about every game drive.

Yes, many of these photographers are truly talented individuals with an impeccable eye, superb mastery of the machine, and, well, really good cameras.

Many of us are guilty of using these connoisseurs of the camera as an excuse to not try our own hand at the art. If someone else can do it better, why bother? Perhaps you’ve never thought this. Perhaps you just don’t see the attraction of photographing wildlife. But like other art forms, photography is about so much more than the product. The whole process awakens us to the little wonders and idiosyncrasies of life – its quirks that often go amiss otherwise …

Like the tight scrunch of a leopard’s nose. The twitch of a lion’s whiskers. The endless fly-eyes of the impala. The knees – or are they elbows – of the elephant’s front legs. What looks almost like a smile from the tiniest rhino in the crash. How the morning sun shoots through the clouds like Zeus’ lightning bolt.

On safari at Morukuru

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There is such magic in the details. No matter how many times I go on safari, no matter how many thousands of images I take of a leopard in a tree, each moment I fall in love with life a little more. The camera opens our eyes to the world, to life, and urges us to make better use of our senses, like a wild dog in the midst of an impala chase.

How lucky we are to have the opportunity to see more of life even in moments that aren’t necessarily new. Here are few details from Morukuru Family in the Madikwe Private Game Reserve that recently stood out to me.

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Morukuru Dining

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Take time to detect the details. Pick up the camera. And discover more about Morukuru Family in our blogs:


For Everything There Is A Season | Londolozi In The Dry Season

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“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein

intelligent – ɪnˈtɛlɪdʒ(ə)nt/ (adjective)
a. having or showing intelligence, especially of a high level.
b. able to vary its state or action in response to varying situations and past experience.

The majority of us may not be as intelligent as Einstein, but we’re definitely not as intelligent as Nature. It’s a humbling fact, not an insult. It’s comforting too, to know that something much smarter than us is at the helm. That’s the way I see life, it’s not the preference, perhaps, of one who treasures a strong grip on control, but I like to yield to a force that is greater than me and to let it teach me all that it knows. A force like Nature.

Nature’s unmatched intelligence, its ability to adapt to change, is perfectly, beautifully, displayed in the wilderness of South Africa’s Londolozi Private Game Reserve.

Someone who has experienced just about every season, if not all seasons, at Londolozi is Dave Varty, co-founder and owner of this iconic Relais & Châteaux safari lodge in the heart of the Sabi Sand. Having spent many, many years in the reserve, Dave and the Varty family’s lives have encountered their own changing seasons here. Theirs is a life cycle intertwined with the cycles of the wilderness. If anyone understands nature and its ever-changing moods, it is Dave Varty.

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Above: Dave & wife, Shan Varty, at Londolozi

In his blog, A Dry Year: Why This May be a Good Thing for Wildlife, this great conservationist explains why a drought doesn’t necessarily mean devastation, but rather, quite simply, a different season…

“Countrywide in South Africa… there is a lot of talk about drought and its devastating effect on agriculture and the economy. Whilst this is undeniably true it is important to understand and recognise that the wildlife of Africa has evolved over eons of time and survived countless cycles both wet and dry.”

There are many benefits that come with a drier season, for instance, the wild dogs who are thought to thrive in these drier conditions, as Dave points out, “less cover makes it far easier for the dogs to hunt and safer for them to avoid tree stumps and foliage as they run at high speed after prey. The thinned bush also helps them to spot big predators such as lions who actively hunt and kill wild dog pups.”

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Above: “Nature has often been described as intelligent, able to adapt to the ever-changing patterns.” – Dave Varty

“Animals are also by nature incredibly resilient and although the amount and quality of food is depleted they can adjust their diets where necessary. For example, a buffalo, which is thought to be strictly a grazer, does in fact begin to browse near the end of winter or in drought conditions, to supplement what is missing in their diets.”

Browsers munch leaves, bark and green stems from plants, while grazers nip vegetation closer to the ground.

“The low rainfall cycles also favour the short grass feeders like wildebeest, who thrive and multiply whilst the improved visibility is likely to result in more unique sightings such as ant bear, civet, pangolin and the like. In this area, currently, the density of general game such as impala is also above the carrying capacity of the land and drought serves as nature’s way of removing the weak from the population and re-establishing a balance in the environment.”

A Look At Londolozi

In celebration of Londolozi turning 90 this year, we bring you a look at the reserve this season, through these spectacular images from Marina Carlaw, a recent guest at the lodge.

[Read Marina’s TripAdvisor review of her safari here.]

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The Armchair Safari | Destination: Morukuru

At home at Morukuru

Since I was a lone girl child, my father and I have been talkers. We don’t talk to other people much, but we talk to each other. About other people. But also about big ideas. Philosophy. Politics. Plants. Every and anything. It has been a way of working through the commodious complexity of daily life. A method for understanding ourselves as much as the world outside of our small sphere.

These days, when I return from assignments out in the bush, we sit across from each other on big leather couches in the family lounge, my mother beside us, completing our sphere. And we talk. We drink tea and we talk. About everything from poached eggs to poaching. About the warthogs I met. “Do you think I could keep one in my flat? They’re just like fat puppies.” About the lions. “You were right, Dad. I’m a wimp.” About the colours, the smells, the sounds of safari. The talking can go on for days, as new memories return. Like a sort of Armchair Safari.

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In a way, this blog at Relais & Châteaux Africa is me opening up my family living room to the greater world. You don’t talk back as much as my father. But perhaps enough has been said. The rest, the unsaid, the yet to be dissected and contemplated and rolled over through the mind’s cogs and heart’s strings, I’ll leave to the images to portray.

Below are photographs from our latest safari at Morukuru in the Madikwe Game Reserve. A special lodge beside the Marico River made up of three exclusive-use villas, with their own lounges and leather couches for you to share your own tales between game drives and sundowners.

Find out more about Morukuru in our blog, 10 Questions With Morukuru’s Wild Man.

Flight to Morukuru



Arriving at Morukuru with owner, Ed Zeeman




Morukuru Farm House

While it began life as a family home, Morukuru was developed into three exclusive villas (Morukuru River House, Owner’s House and Farm House), as the owners wished to share the joy of Africa with others. These images hail from the latter – Morukuru Farm House.



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Dining at Morukuru



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Game Drives



Explore the African wilderness in search of the Big 5 and more elusive creatures, like the wild dog and cheetah, while a dedicated team (including a personal manager, ranger, tracker, chef, butler and housekeeping staff) takes care of your every need. With a private game vehicle and ranger you have the flexibility to head out whenever and how often you wish – whether on game drives, bush walks, fishing trips or bird watching excursions.



Bird Watching

The Morukuru Tree

On Safari