Africa - Part 2

Around the Eastern Cape
Day 4.
No rendezvous with the birds today, we’d have to wait to meet again another year – we had a full days drive ahead of us with chauffeur planned to take us on a spectacular trip through the Western Cape National Park and on to the Cape of Good Hope itself.


Distance beach. I mentioned I had a penchant for the square. This composition worked really well in that format the tree leading the eye from bottom right through the composition to the beach in the background. Hand held with Hoya pro circular polariser 18-70 mm Nikkor lens.
I fully expected a jeep and was totally blown away with what my lovely wife had planned for me – a suited and booted chauffeur holding the door open for us to a beautiful pristine white Mercedes saloon car with plush leather interior! With big smiles we drove off for a spectacular journey around the cape. http://www.sa-venues.com/maps/peninsula_hotel_map.htm


The weather was up to its usual trick, grey cloudy morning but we were assured by our chauffeur that the 3 day storms were now abating and we would have good weather for the rest of the day. The drive along the western side of the peninsula was amazing. Breathtaking views first beyond Llandudno, then Hout Bay and from the elevated drive of Chapmans Peak. The plunging steep cliffs being washed by a sparkling azure sea far below was awe inspiring.


False Bay Western cape, South Africa. Looking down from Chapmans Peak the crashing waves pounding the rocks below added to the excitment of the view stretching out before us. The refracted light from the ocean was amazing. Sun and cloud were playing with each other for most of the morning a wait for the right break in the clouds bathed the scene with colour and light.
The fishing fleet as Fish Hoek harbour.Old and new stand side by side in a colourful spectacle of painted boats standing in the calm deep waters of this working port.
Our driver crossed inland through ‘Sunnydale’ and down to Fish Hoek then followed the coastal road through Simon’s Town with its interesting harbour area. We detoured to gain a promontory above the town which was perfect timing as the sun appeared from behind a huge cloud at just the right moment casting a warm glow, sparkle and light over the whole of the bay - beautiful!


 


Simons town from the old gun emplacements. Worth the detour a stunning colourful vista. The sea colours were intensified with the use of a circular polariser. It was a tricky exposure with so much white so exposure compensation was used so as not to blow the highlights.
Leaving Simon’s Town my heart began to race – we were heading for ‘Boulders Beach’ and ‘Foxy Bay’ – home of the ‘Jackass penguins!’ This was one of the areas I really had planned to visit here in South Africa and I longed to see them as I knew that at this time of year many of the chicks would be in various stages of ‘moult’, parent birds in the colony at the same time would lead to very interesting photographs. Birds and wildlife again up close!


Jackass penguins Boulders beach, south Africa. Stunning little sea birds. A delight to share all but a brief moment with them in the bright light of mid day they were a real challenge to photograph Left chic in a state of moult. The furry down is a real encomberance to the birds causing them to over heat they open their mouths to pant to help reduce their core body temperatures. Right adult jackass on the long march back to the nesting site.
On arrival the light was extraordinarily bright and the sands really reflective – I knew I’d be adding plenty of exposure compensation. As we began to walk along Boulders Beach looking for these beautiful birds to photograph I was told by some shivering bathers rapidly towelling themselves (autumn sea temperatures can be cold despite the sun), that the beach was full of penguins the previous day – but not today!


On limited time, we quickly made our way around to ‘Foxy Beach’ and along the board walk to get as close as I could to a colony we were informed were there. The penguins are a real attraction and coach loads come to see them... as well as UK photographers wanting enough elbow room to photograph them too! Needless to say, I managed to find a space between the masses and set to work.


Jackass penguins Boulders beach, south Africa. One on the nest, another cooling off close to the sea.
Not the ideal circumstances I must say being pushed by a heaving mass of tourists jostling to get to the front – my tripod and lens was continually knocked and interchanging between focal lengths for most of the shoot was near impossible! Needless to say, I managed it but it was very difficult! Added to this was my own limited time (we had much to see) and exposure was very tricky as the light was extraordinarily bright creating really contrasting tones in the extreme!


LeftJackass penguin and chick. the parent bird will accept the harshness of the sun to protect its chick the sunlight was particularly intense. Jackass penguins pair for life therse two look particularly comfortable in each others company
Sunbathing jackass penguin. Its not uncommon for the jackass penguins to see shelter from yth eharsh sun. however, this one was a real sunbather cathcing the rays on top of a granite boulder.
Jackass penguin burrow. The penguins that use or create a burrow stand the greatest chance of success with their yound. Those exposed to the harshness of the weather on the beach tend not to do so well. The burrow enables the penguion to stay cool in the heat of the day and sheltered from the elenments. However, the nest sites are at a premium so competition for them is quite fierce. The penguins that arrive first to the breading colony have the best choice.
The black and white feathers of the birds and the incredibly reflective sand meant that exposure compensation was way up in the ‘+’ categories! As soon as I slipped out from an ever increasing crowd my ‘front row seat’ was being fought over by several pushy people. I’d got the shots I wanted. Lessons learned. A driver to a specific location next time, be there early! Roll on the next big open space!


The wild rocky coast of the cape.
The Eastern Cape and the Cape of Good Hope
After the ‘enthusiastic’ sardine crush at Foxy Beach, it was a real pleasure to be on our way heading for the Eastern Cape National Park and the Cape of Good Hope itself. As we drove through and along the open landscape on the elevated plain along the plateau road of the Eastern Cape National Park, the landscape reminded of the moors of North Yorkshire at home with the colourful heather. Rich in photographic compositions this again was another area to note for a return visit – should I ever be so lucky. We were not far now from dipping our feet in the ocean itself at The Cape of Good Hope!


The wild Cape Ostritch feeding upon the plentiful natural vegitation running along this stunning coast.
The Cape itself is wild, beautiful and had the feeling of being ‘untamed’. Wild ostriches roam the shore between the craggy outcrops of rock feeding from abundant short grasses and vegetation all around us. We were warned not to get too close though, so the use of a telephoto lenses was more than appropriate!


Sad to leave but leave we must, our patient and kind chauffeur surprised us driving us on the ‘Outside’ road (which runs parallel to the plateau road) but instead give amazing views along the shoreline for quite a way. The views towards the distant sea were fantastic to see in the softer now fading light of late afternoon.
 


Soon we reached the outskirts of Cape Town passing through the main conurbations of the outskirts of the city – first past Kirstenbosch and then on past Signal Hill and a last look at Camps Bay in the soft evening sun before finally back to the luxury of our welcoming hotel. A truly magical day!!








 


Dawn light. Pumba private game reserve South africa. I paticularly like the smoke echoing the rising mists from the lake. The figure gives the scene a sense of scale.
11 April Pumba Private game Reserve – Eastern cape
The internal flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth was almost a ‘hop and a jump’ in comparison to our 12 hour flight to get to South Africa itself. We arrived on schedule and once through the airport our driver whisked us away to Pumba!


Vervet in eveneing light. I was completely looking the wrong way out of the other side of the jeep. Look, a monkey exclaimed one of the younger occupants of our jeep. I quickly slid over to the opposite side and propped the 300 F4 prime lens on top of my bean bag. Auto ISO setting helped to ensure a sharp result. I will be forever grateful for the youngsters sharp eye too one of the best vervet shots on the safari and it was all down to someone else
Forktailed Drongo on thorn branch. Pumba private game reserve South africa. The abundance of birdlife in this private game reserve was spectacular. negative exposure compensation applied to capture the dark tones in the birds feathers.The catch light in the birds eye is lovely and carefully planned
We entered the outer boundary of Pumba Private Game Reserve and to our very surprise there were animals in abundance everywhere – particularly gazelle, Zebra and ‘Pumba’ warthogs running comically between the bushes. Bird life frequently darted from the bushes their chorus filling the air with a welcoming song. A group of zebra caught my eye on the way in and having my camera ready and over my shoulder, it was quickly put into action! We drove on with scampering ‘’pumbas’’ (warthogs) scooting out of the undergrowth at regular intervals – the tusks of the male adults glistening in the sun – still wet with moisture having, no doubt, recently left one of the many mud pools and streams that crossed the reserve.


After a very warm welcome we were shown to our room which was SPECTACULAR with an elevated view right out through trees surrounding our room, balcony, decking and private plunge pool. However, we had little time to unpack as the first safari would be heading out very soon! Grabbing my gear, our shell coats and fleeces (anticipating a return at dusk in a chilly air) we were off!


The reserve was teaming with wildlife. To be in the company of these magnificent creatures was nothing less than fantastic. Plunged straight into our first safari – adrenalin working overtime. Time to rest! Around every corner an exhilarating experience.


Pumba elephants. Nothing ever really prepairs you for thier enormity
Pumba elephant. Up close and personal So close we could pretty much touch short range zoom essential
Elephants! Nothing really prepares you for your encounters with such huge mammals. They were so close. As they passed I lowered the camera and looked straight into the eye of the lead elephant who fixed my gaze – an unforgettable experience!
































 


White lion male at Pumba. Beautiful, elegant but also deadly certainly no pussycat. The scars on his nose are testament to his stuggles to keep his alfa male position. This lion is in his prime.
The big cats
One of the reasons for visiting Pumba was to see the rare and endangered species – the ‘White Lion.’ The Pumba Private Game Reserve has been home to a flourishing pride of free roaming White and Split Lion since 2006. There are less than 500 White Lion left in the world. It is extremely important for the survival and sustainability of a pride of lions that they are not all white but mixed with the tawny ‘split’ gene lions, as pure white lions stand out far too much because of their colour and, on their own, are not successful hunters.


We were informed that it was one of the long-term goals of Pumba’s breeding programme to reintroduce an ‘integrated’ pride of White and Tawny Lion into the Main reserve to re-establish the natural harmony of the eco system; something that was successfully achieved in December 2011.


White lion male at Pumba. That concentrated look I certainly would not like to be a prey species 300mm lens got me close enough
The morning after Pumba. Hard work all that night time hunting Wonderful dappled morning light caught this female lioness just right. I waited until she raised her head and began to yawn so the light would catch the side of her head worth the wait.
In my new shooting position right at the front of the vehicle (to be ‘my’ seat for the rest of our 5 day stay) I was in my element! Having an arcing 180 mm field of view to see all the wildlife I encountered especially these lions at a really low angle (to give a ‘natural’ feel to my shots being as close to ground level as possible) was fantastic!


On our second morning our driver got the call that white lions had been spotted and we headed of in the direction of the sighting. As the light was not high the softer morning light was great. To get some shots of the lion would be amazing! On a hill top knoll – her repeated roar calling for a partner directed us to her! It was fantastic to see these wild lions unperturbed by our presence. What a great start to the day! 


The third days safari drive revealed some other equally wonderful highlight encounters – cheetahs! These big cats are so graceful in movement and their patterned coats are just stunning. Their lithe bodies rippling these spotted patterns as they moved stealthily amongst some hillside grasses was mesmerising. Truly they are very beautiful creatures. The hill they looked down from was steep and the ground rough – a good elevated position for the cheetah’s for sure to watch our proceedings and struggling vehicles trying to get closer to them! Try as our ranger might, we just could not get higher up the hillside. We’ll be back!


South African books with blurb being published soon!