As the plane descended to the landing strip I could feel an overwhelming suspense in my chest, as if I had been waiting to exhale since the last time I was in the Sabi Sands. I had left home on the other side of the world with a blessing from my husband and young son to fill my heart and memory with the sights, sounds and smells of the bush. And so here I was, without my family, at Londolozi. For many of us, an African safari is a dream, perhaps even an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was determined not to waste this incredible opportunity.
An amateur photographer at best, I decided on a photographic safari in order to do justice to the incredible sightings at Londolozi. Tanya at Africa Direct arranged for Hilton Kotze, a professional photographer and photographic host to help me faithfully capture the images in my heart. I hired extra cameras, lenses and equipment support and together with ranger Mike Sutherland and tracker Mbongeni, we traversed this amazing place in our own vehicle.
I am so fortunate to have had such gracious and friendly hosts at Londolozi, people with a deep understanding, respect and love for this incredible place. Mike generously and expertly guided me, teaching me about the land and all within her. Hilton constantly instructed me, helping me to see the shot, and how to capture it. Together Mike and Hilton were able to anticipate the behaviours of the wonderful creatures here and thus we could prepare for some fantastic photographic opportunities. They were tireless and kind hosts and I am so fortunate to have shared this amazing experience with them.
Some of the most beautiful sights can also be the most difficult photographically – shooting in low light at dawn and dusk; spotlighting at night; animals in the shade seeking refuge from the spring sunshine; movement. Hilton helped me to overcome these difficulties and make the most of the light available. He also tutored me in how to handle and process my photographs post-capture in the Creative Hub at Londolozi – a welcoming and dynamic space where we could work on and print images. I am proud to have a gorgeous canvas that was printed right at Londolozi to take home with me. My deepest gratitude goes to Hilton and Mike for allowing me to see and photograph the most amazing subjects.
But ultimately this is not a story about all the incredible and dedicated people I met here, nor is it about the unparalleled sightings. It is not even about the beautiful, luxurious and professional Londolozi experience which is uplifting and calming all at the same time. It is about doing justice to this place, about capturing faithfully the heart and soul of the bush and having memories that you can feel viscerally. I wanted that, to remember the feeling of Londolozi. Whether you are a novice like me, or an experienced photographer I would encourage you to take a photographic safari. You will never regret it. You have dreamt about this trip for so long. Seize the opportunity, live the hardest you can, and capture the best images above and beyond your furthest imagination.
My eyes and ears were bombarded with unbelievable sights and sounds! My heart swelled not only because I was in the bush, but also with the kindness and humanity of the people who live and work here.
Written and Photographed by: Shanel Cameron