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Sunday, August 16, 2015

The wild Pantanal - a nature paradise in Brazil

In search of the elusive Jaguar

The Pantanal (portuguese for swamp) is one of the largest inland wetlands of the Earth. It is located in the central south west of Brazil in the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. In this unique natural paradise, there are countless species of birds and mammals such as jaguar, puma and ocelot. But even anteaters, armadillos, marsh deer, numerous species of monkeys, the rare giant otter and the widespread Capybaras, the largest rodent on Earth, can be observed.

My first stop is the Fazenda Santa Thereza. The lodge lies on the Transpantaneira, a 147 km long, unpaved road that leads to the heart of the northern Pantanal to Porto Jofre.

This time of year the floods are already largely diminished and on the extensive river system birds as well as mammals and reptiles can be photographed from the boat. The Toco Toucan is searching for food in the early morning light and also the omnipresent caimans waiting for prey. The capybara carries her cub on her back



With up to 650 species of birds, the Pantanal is extremely rich in feathered inhabitants. The Tiger Heron remains almost immobile, while the Ringed Kingfisher quickly captures a fish. The Pygmy Kingfisher is very hard to see and even more difficult to photograph, because he is very shy. The capped heron proudly displays his plumes.

After continuing the trip on the Transpantaneira to Porto Jofre, I'm in "Jaguar Land", where my base is the "Flotel". For years the elusive jaguars were accustomed to the presence of people and motorboats. Today they can be well photographed from boats. However, they are not easy to find, as the area is huge and they often show up only for a short time on the shore. The Jaguar is similar to the African Leopard, but built bigger and much stronger.


In a branch of the Rio São Lourenço I find the rare giant otter. The species is endangered and there are only an estimated 5000 animals left. A giant otters can be up to 2 meters long (of which about 70 cm is the tail) and weigh up to 30kg. The animals are diurnal, but incredibly fast and playful. They are very social and live in families. They support each other in the hunt for fish. A Giant Otter can easily capture a 60 cm long catfish.



It is winter in the Pantanal and one morning there is dense fog, which only slowly dissolves in the first sunrays. An opportunity for atmospheric images! In the evening, Jabiru storks search for food in front of the setting sun.

The first part of my fantastic trip to the Pantanal is over. The second part leads me further down into the southern Pantanal, which fascinates with its beautiful landscapes and the abundance of animals. There I travel mainly because of the macaws and the anteaters - but I found much more! Thereof I will report in the next blog entry, which will be published soon.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Big Nine" and more in Botswana and South Africa

Incredible variety on my trip to the South of Africa

As announced in my last blog, in June I have traveled Botswana and South Africa with Greg du Toit.

The "Big Five" is the goal of every safari, where the Rhino unfortunately is increasingly becoming a challenge. On this trip, I am fortunate to see in addition to the Big Five even Cheetahs and African wild dogs. But that's not enough. I can photograph the rare Aardvark and even a Pangolin. The very rare Caracal I am able see for a very brief moment.

The first lodge is Mashatu, a beautiful Game Reserve in northeastern Botswana. Hides at waterholes allow spectacular shots from ground level.

The excessive light pollution in urban areas covers a multitude of stars. The following image shows the starry sky in the darkness of the African wilderness - fantastic.

A leopard in the first morning light, looking for prey. The colors of the winter forest match the pattern of the beautiful animal.

Exciting to see the capture of a Helmeted Guineafowl by a Martial eagle.The chicken tolerates the eagle in its immediate vicinity. A hopper and the eagle has the chicken. So quickly a "Guineafowl" becomes a "Guineafool".

Dramaturgy of the wilderness:
White with black dots - black with white dots
Head forward - head backward
Predator - prey

Sunset at 'Rhodes Baobab Tree". We spend the night in a Kgotla, which is transformed to a "Wilderness Camp" under the open sky. And that at temperatures near freezing point!

The next destination is the Mala Mala Lodge in the north of South Africa. The open border to the Kruger National Park allows the animals to migrate freely. The lodge is the largest private lodge in South Africa and famous for the variety of animalsOn the first day I experience early morning fog. A mystical atmosphere as the Giraffe wanders trough the woodland.


On one day we can see five different Rhinos. But also a Lioness with her cubs and a pack of African wild dogs with puppies delight the photographer's heart. And so I'm already at "Big Seven".


The stay concludes with two Hyena cubs who have absolutely no fear of humans and can be photographed from a distance of two feet. The upcoming darkness sets a challenge - but with incredible results.


Half a day's journey away by plane my next target is the Tswalu-Lodge in the Kalahari Desert. A fantastic, beautiful lodge in a wonderful setting. Quite cold, at least at night.
My guide
Greg, who has lived for twenty years in the bush, was able to photograph an Aardvark! The next three days I see 8 different ones and can photograph six of them! Unbelievable. And this is even surpassed by a Pangolin, that I see on the first day and photograph up close. The "Big Nine" is complete.

But the photographic target is Meerkats. These cute animals are so tame that in certain colonies they even run over photographers lying on the ground!



The trip to Simonstown near the Cape of Good Hope, to photograph White sharks is not successful. First of all the shark activities are exceptionally low, secondly the weather is difficult and thirdly the boat with the many tourists on board is not ideal. But with so much success in the first two weeks I accept that and do some work on the African penguins.

In the coming days I will fly to Brazil with the aim of Pantanal. Jaguar, Tapir, Toucan, Macaws and much more are on the wish list!

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Big Cats in the Serengeti

Big Cats instead of the Wildebeest migration
The plan was to travel to the southern part of the Serengeti to photograph the calving season of the Wildebeest. In March the Savannas of the southern Serengeti are full of lush grass and millions of wildebeest graze there and get their calves. Later they begin the great migration to the Masai Mara
, following the rain.
Not so this year! Since December, it has virtually not rained and the savannas are extremely dry. And so the animals are further north in desperate search of water.
Empty planes instead of millions of Wildebeest!

Almost a day's journey to the north, I then still find a herd. Dramatically the bleating of young calves who lost their mothers in the dust of the dry earth and wander around. The only water they find is brackish and salty. And so they move on to the north, in the search of water.


As a wildlife photographer I'm used to be flexible. And so, instead
of photographing Wildebeest, I take pictures of Big Cats - which certainly has its charm! There is more than one pride of lions in the park, but they are hard to find. Much patience is needed and long game drives. But it is worth it. The lion king is majestic and the cubs are really playful.


In the Serengeti, it is rather rare to find lions in the trees. What at first looks like a leopardturns out to be a lioness. She has apparently escaped from the Tsetse flies. Stoically she spends almost all day on the same branch.



The elegance of cheetahs always fascinates me. I am lucky, to see many different cheetah mothers with their cubs. Be it in the side light of the setting sun or after a successful hunt. The lower two pictures show a mother with her three very young cubs. She keeps them at a great distance, and only thanks to my long lens I am able to photograph them.


To discover a Leopard in a tree is a always a highlight. Often they are only found, because the drivers spread the message via the radio. While the female on the first two images just makes Siesta , the strong male has brought a hunted wildebeest-calf to safety on the tree. Lions often steal the prey from Leopards.

Besides the fascination of the Big Cats, there are always beautiful sunrises and sunsets and much more. I can photograph the Zebra Baby and the Elephant Family in the almost "empty" Ngorongoro Crater. Where normally Jeeps line up around an animal, I can observe a huge herd of elephants for nearly an hour without even a single car coming close. A very unique experience.

In addition to mammals, the feathered inhabitants of the savanna are always nice too. The Lilac-breasted Roller poses in the sun and a Crowned Crane feeds in the immediate vicinity without fear.

Although the ultimate goal of the journey - to photograph the migration  - has not, or only partially been successful, the beauty of the landscape and the wildlife in Africa attracts me more and more. In June I travel Botswana and the Kalahari with a side  trip to Simonstown in South Africa.

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