NBPA 2018 POTY Winner Gonnie Myburgh reports back on her East Africa prize

January 31, 2019
Chobe River Northern Botswana

GRUMETI, SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK, TANZANIA JANUARY 2019

A huge thank you to the sponsors of Nature’s Best Photography Africa 2018  &Beyond and CNP Safaris who made this wonderful trip to the Serengeti from 15th January to 23rd January 2019 possible.

The management and staff of &Beyond at the Grumeti tented camp deserve a special thanks. Their passion and love were noticeable in everything they did as they went out of their way to make every guest feel special. We were treated like royalty in luxury accommodation. The wide variety of food was well prepared and tastefully presented at every meal. The safety of guests is a high priority. Each morning and night, while it was dark, we were accompanied by a guard to make sure we arrive safely at our tent or the reception area. One night they had to drive away a pride of about twenty lions that were passing through the camp.

It was an absolutely unforgettable experience to enjoy the luxury of the superbly equipped CNP vehicle with 360-degree movable camera support systems attached to comfortable chairs. All your camera equipment is stowed safely in canvas compartments within arm’s length from your chair which makes it easy to change lenses and cameras when necessary. The capability of the vehicle made it possible to get to places and through muddy and wet areas where no ordinary 4×4 vehicle can dare to go.

Chobe River Northern Botswana

Lou Coetzer was the group leader and provided valuable guidance on camera settings while we were at a scene. Each night and during mid-day breaks he scanned through each member’s images of the day to ensure that each and everyone applied the correct settings for successful images. Waziri was our &Beyond guide and an exceptionally skilled driver. He is very passionate about everything he does, so much so, that it is not just another job that must be done. His knowledge about the wildlife and environment is extraordinary. Their work ethic and the total commitment between Lou and Waziri, with the ability of the best photographic vehicle on the African Continent, made it possible to get the large number of exceptionally good images that we got on this trip.

Grumeti is in the western corner of the Serengeti National Park, bordering Lake Victoria. January is in the short rain season, therefore not many people visit the park during this time of the year — we saw only one other guest vehicle during our visit. Large open plains with short green grass attract large herds of Buffalo, Eland, Topi (hartebeest), Thompson’s gazelle and Zebra to graze here. This abundance of food then attracts the predators like large Pride of Lions – we counted 70 pride members in the Grumeti Pride, Leopard, Cheetah and packs of Spotted Hyena. Various species of vultures and other birds of prey joins the party at the killings.

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The highlight of the trip for me was the lions that we saw every day. We saw lions mating in the open while the cubs are playing nearby. You sometimes have to choose where to aim your camera, because so many things happen at the same time in one scene. The most touching scene was where three female lions walked in our direction, with seventeen cubs trailing behind them pleading for milk. When the females eventually lied down, the cubs were all over them trying to suckle. One could see the females had very little milk and were quite irritated with their young. As the grass was a little longer at this sighting it placed more demand on our photographic abilities but the images and experience were etched into our minds forever.

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We were also astounded by the peculiar behaviour of the Serengeti lions climbing into and resting in the trees. They sometimes do this to escape the onslaught of the Tsetse flies and of other biting insects, or to escape the horns of the grumpy buffalo bulls chasing the lions.

There was drama at a site where the Hyenas killed a Topi. The carcass was torn apart in a few minutes time. The Hyenas grabbed pieces of the Topi and ran with it. This attracted more Hyenas and they started to chase each other to claim part of the meal, causing chaos, but good photographic opportunities. The drama lasted a few minutes and it was over and done. A few vultures came down to collect the scraps and the scene was clean again as if nothing has happened.

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The Serengeti also hosts a large variety of bird species. We were treated to a display by Grey Crowned Cranes on various occasions. The White-bellied Bustard showed her feathers. On various occasions, we saw Usambiro barbets, Rosy-breasted longclaws, Yellow-throated longclaws, Lilac-breasted rollers, White-headed Buffalo-weavers, Black-headed herons and many more.

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Thank you so much to Natures Best Photography Africa, &Beyond and CNP Safaris for this unequalled experience. I could not have asked for a better award even if I had to put this safari together myself. There is simply not another mayor wildlife photography competition on earth that awards winners in such a spectacular fashion. What a journey and what an award! Thank you so much!

GONNIE MYBURGH