Monday, September 20, 2010

Pixels & Predators

There are three vital pieces of equipment that everyone should remember to take on their Africa safari. They are - a camera with at least a x12 zoom, a pair of binoculars and a bird book. All the better if your bird book contains African birds. I did meet one Australian lady in South Africa who was complaining bitterly that she couldn't find any of the birds she'd seen in her book. I took a look. "Birds of Australia" the title boldly proclaimed. She was sure she'd seen a kookaburra too.

The binoculars come in handy too, especially if you look down the correct end. Most game drive vehicles will carry a set to share but it's better to have your own so you don't have to wait for other people to finish with them.

A good camera is essential though. For rank amateurs like me it needs to be light, robust and easy to use. By the time you've finished fiddling with light meters and manual focus the animal or bird has long gone. The camera I use cost about $900 five years ago and has served me well, (annoyingly it's about $200 cheaper now) although it's looking a bit battered these days - rather like its owner in fact. It does take great pictures though. It is a Panasonic Lumix SLR thingy. Don't ask me the details. I used to think pixels were little fairy like things living in magic forests until a couple of years ago. As far as I'm concerned SLR stands for "Somewhat Ludicrous Reading" and refers to the camera instructions that all seem to be written by the same dyslexic Korean. For example the instruction manual for my camera has an index that lists everything under "How to....." Not helpful. When you need help to remove the lens cap in a hurry you'd expect to find the instructions under L for lens cap, but no. It's under H for How to remove the lens cap!

You will get far closer to the animals than you'd think possible. They are not frightened of the game vehicles as they see them every day and soon come to know that they are neither a threat nor food. It's always tempting on your first game drive to snap away with the gay abandon of first world war machine gunner at the first glimpse of a distant impala. The results of these early photos are usually somewhat disappointing. "Why did I take a photo of that clump of grass?" Thank the Lord for digital cameras. At least you can delete the failures.

Sometimes you get brilliant photos completely by accident. My Mother in Law's school friend who lives in Cape Town has an old sepia photograph of her mother's school class - a group of a dozen or so teenage girls on a picnic in the African bush. They are standing under a large marula tree dressed in their bulky Edwardian skirts and shady hats looking very serious and demur, while in front of them on a dazzling white table cloth laid out on the grass is their picnic. Flasks of tea, sandwiches and cakes etc. In itself the photo is an interesting historical record. However, the most interesting thing about the photograph is the silhouette of a leopard sprawled out comfortably on one of the marula tree's branches some ten feet above the girls' heads.

Leopard Hills:
With only eight beautifully appointed suites, Leopard Hills offers as much privacy as you could wish for. Each luxurious glass-fronted suite has superb views over the bushveld and beyond. The romantic bathrooms have double indoor and outdoor showers. Each room has its own private rock plunge pool, viewing deck and fully stocked minibar. Game drives in open vehicles by day and night. Maximum - 16 Guests.

For more information call Ucango Travel & Cruise Centre on 07 5451 8600 or email

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