Calling all Wildlife Photographers!! Nature Enthusiasts!! Big Cat Lovers!! Given the demographic of this audience, I’m guessing there’s more than a few of you out there.
Yes, this is Dawn at Africa Dream Safaris. And no… technically this is NOT a post about Africa. That aside, you still may wish to take note! I recently returned from the most FABULOUS wildlife-photography experience on this side of the Continental USA. In January I escaped to Montana with a friend to hang with some professional wildlife photographers and take advantage of some incredible opportunities to photograph the beautiful wildlife of the Triple D Ranch.
Montana is gorgeous in January!! Albeit cold. Like, REALLY cold. But it was easy to forget my frozen toes in the wake of the magical beauty of this place… a sweeping white wilderness freshly blanketed in a thick duvet of sparkling powdered snow! Alas, we were not here to photograph the landscape, even though it was quite worthy. We were here to photograph the ANIMALS!!!
Over the course of a week or so, we photographed several different types of wildlife in a pristine and natural environment, and BIG BONUS, in the SNOW. Species included Snow Leopard, Cougar, Tiger, Amur Leopard, Red Foxes, Arctic Foxes, Timber Wolves, Arctic Wolves, Coyotes, Bobcats, Lynxes and more. Even horses!
Each woodland creature showed up in its grandest glory, boasting the thickest and fluffiest fur coats you’ve ever seen! All were well prepared to stay warm in the harshest northern winter. And all were feeling QUITE happy and frisky in the cold air! Which made it all that much more fun for us photographers!!
My very favorite experience was photographing the Snow Leopard. First of all, what a GORGEOUS creature she was, in her prime winter coat. But it was her playful and unique ‘hide and seek’ behavior that made her SUCH a star. She would go off ‘stalking’ behind the snowy cliffs above us, out of sight for several minutes, and then suddenly, without warning, BLAST over the ledge 30 ft above us, quite airborne in a spectacular downhill skier fashion! With snow and ice flying, she would sail through the air towards us (and some faux prey we could never see) with limbs spread out wide (not unlike a GIANT flying squirrel!) Wow!!! She did this cat-mouse ‘surprise’ game with us no less than 6 separate times. She was so stealthy and then SO fast! I was never ready for it, even when I knew it was coming. Every time, my Adrenalin was pumping like mad and my heart racing, all over again! Never fast enough with the camera to get a great airborne shot (darn it!), but still, what fun! To photograph a Snow Leopard in the Snow?!!! Wow. That alone was a dream.
Photography at -11 degrees F in the snow is a LOT different than photography at 80 degrees F in the African sunshine, so it was challenging. But in a good way! I certainly picked up a few new tricks to put in my photography bag. And hand warmers are now my best friend.
We also visited Glacier National Park. Wow! What a stunningly beautiful place. The mountains were covered in a cloak of snow and the trees crystallized in freezing fog. White and icy and magical. It felt like a dream.
If anyone is interested in pursuing their own wildlife photography excursions in Montana, feel free to check out the Triple D Ranch website:
They run wildlife photography workshops all year long, so it doesn’t have to be in the middle of winter! Montana is certainly lovely in the summer too, or so I’m told, and I know I’ll be back to find out!!
For anyone who might be interested, I’ve shared some of my Montana pictures here. Thanks for looking!!
December 11th we made the trip of a lifetime to the Serengeti. We were so excited for this trip, and after reading thru all the informative guides from ADS, we felt we were totally prepared and had an idea of what to expect on the trip. After a great night of rest at the hotel the first night, we boarded our flight in Arusha to set out for the Serengeti.
As scared as I was about such a tiny plane, the pilot, Harry immediately put us at ease, and we had an awesome flight. What I was not prepared for, was how awestruck I was when I saw the migration of the wildebeests and zebras from above. It was incredible and I still cannot find the right words for the feelings I had seeing it. I looked at my husband, and we both smiled, knowing this was going to be everything we hoped and more.
What I was impressed with most on the trip, was how perfectly orchestrated everything was. From the second we landed in Africa to our flight home, the staff at ADS was there to help and guide us. This was such a new experience, and quite honestly I was little paranoid about safety. (I can’t help myself, I blame it on 20 years of working in NYC – it’s exhilarating, but leaves you a little twitchy!) I soon realized, we were in good hands, and as long as we listened to our guide, we had nothing to fear! We just had to sit back, and enjoy the ride.
After we landed and said goodbye to Harry, we met Emanuel, who would be our guide for the next 7 days. We quickly began to call him Eagle Eyes, because he did not miss a THING.
We’d be driving along and Emanuel would stop, pull out the binoculars, and boom! Leopards in a tree. Or, boom! Cheetah cubs hiding in some bushes. Or, a rhino mom and her baby! Or, bat eared foxes! The best was when Emanuel stopped as we were driving in the late afternoon on our way to the Ndutu Lodge. Boom! DUNG BEETLE with a ball of dung and his bride riding on top. It does not get better than that!
I think a good guide makes sure you see all the obvious things, but a great guide goes above and beyond to make your trip fascinating! ADS has GREAT guides for sure. The most moving part of the trip for me was the migration – being in the middle of 100,000+ zebras and wildebeests, and watching them was awesome.
The elephants and their strong family structure was a close second. I was truly surprised at how graceful and silent they were. (And, of course as I told Dawn from ADS, the hyenas are my spirit animals! So I loved watching their cunning antics) For my husband, it was the lions. Seeing them, you really do understand why they are named the King of the Beasts. They are majestic, strong, and fearless.
Every day we returned covered in dust, exhausted and with the BIGGEST smiles on our faces possible. We had so much fun, learned so much, and met so many nice people, my heart is still full from all the experiences we had on this trip.
I do want to mention that anyone considering this trip should take the time to read all of the info ADS gives you. We knew what to pack, how to pack, what to wear, what we were going to eat, even what kind of camera lens to bring for the best experience possible. We saw other travelers who were not as prepared as we were, and it affects your experience. I really felt we had a top of the line experience with ADS. My husband is already planning our next trip to come back!
Nicole and Raymond V.
Morristown, New Jersey
Safari Dates: December 11, 2016 to December 19, 2016
Thanks Jim and Sandra for sharing these amazing videos of a pride of lions hunting a buffalo. Jim and Sandra recorded this event in the Central Serengeti area, which is famous for the largest lion prides in Africa. Due to an unusually dry December and January and with their normal prey species dispersed, these so called mega prides have been forced to hunt more challenging prey including buffalo recently.
Jim and Sandra have taken several safaris in the Serengeti over the years and have recorded some truly spectacular videos. See this link here for their video from last year of a cheetah chase.
Thanks again Jim and Sandra…we’re hoping for a similar leopard video in the future!