Winter months at Londolozi offer some of the clearest night skies around. I have had many guests in awe of the amphitheatre of stars above their heads on a drive home at night. It really makes us feel insignificant when gazing up at the glitter of millions of shining galactic bodies of which we form part. This sense of awe is lost when there is any form of light around, whether that be from the moon or from light pollution in towns and cities.
Part of the Londolozi family, Rob Crankshaw, is an undercover photographic wiz. Some of his images were portrayed in The Week in Pictures #440. He specialises in scoping out beautiful landscapes and monitoring the weather conditions to find the perfect day and time for the perfect shot. This is true for stars too. As the Earth orbits around the Sun and the moon orbits around the Earth, so our perspective of the night sky changes on a daily basis. He and I had been meaning for a number of days to go and take some star photographs at a specific location that he had identified. We finally packed the hot chocolate and set out knowing that as it got darker, the milky way would line up perfectly with a set of boulders in the north of Londolozi.
There is a technique to the perfect milky way shot which, once mastered is not too difficult. However, getting the right composition and focus in the dark can be tricky. I was hacking away at grass, knocking the tripod, messing up my focus and all round failing at my initial attempts. To make matters worse, I would hear Rob gasping with excitement at how his shots were turning out…
I packed away my competitive side, picked up all my gear and set off down the slope towards where Rob was set up. Our respective partners were set up just next to the vehicle. Bear in mind that the best time to take star photos is when the nights are at their darkest with no moon. We couldn’t see much past a few metres in front of us… That’s when the grass started rustling both upslope and downslope from us.
Being the ranger in the group, I felt obliged to face off the threat and protect everyone, as much as I would have preferred otherwise. I grasped a rock (a poor weapon of defence really) and stepped carefully away from the vehicle with torches beaming from behind me. I knew the rustling was not a predator like a lion or leopard as they are light footed and knowing we were there they would tend to avoid us. But the suspense and darkness left us guessing as to what was approaching. We all held our breaths to listen.
The noise came again. It was directly under the bush in front of me… Clearly not anything too large!
I lifted a branch to clear my view, and there it was – a pangolin!
Seeing a pangolin is a once in a lifetime experience. They are incredibly rare. Safari enthusiasts wait their whole lives to see these shy, nocturnal creatures. It was definitely the last animal that we expected to be making the bushes rustle! From struggling to take a photo, to panicking about an animal coming towards us, it all came together under a beautiful starry sky at Londolozi…
Filed under Photography Wildlife
Wow! Amazing sighting. Always expect the unexpected. A pangolin is still on my bucket list. The star pics are lovely aswell.
Thats Awesome that you found a Pangolin its Beautiful and At night with the stars in the sky that must have been quite an exciting animal to see.. Awesome Find..
Wow what a once in a lifetime experience Pete! One can only wish that one will witness something this special and this perfect!!! I must say I am quite jealous 😂
Beautiful sky! So glad you didn’t step on the pangolin!
Pete, Looks like you had a great teacher that night! The photos are “stellar”. Thank you! Hope to practice again on our next visit!
The Pangolin sighting definitely puts you in the “A” team, but so does that last picture.
I was fascinated by your night trek to shoot the Milky Way, as I’ve seen it, but never had the opportunity to photograph this beautiful sight. I took note of your settings as well, but the bonus was the Pangolin- the holy grail of any Safari. I’ll need to keep traveling to Africa in order to view this truly elusive creature. Congratulations!
Pete, loved the pangolin
we have never been at Londolozi in May, but twice in January we have been with Alfie and had wonderful views of the array of stars and planets . because of the dark we could see so much better while here in the city it is impossible to see the stars. thank you for not only the stars but the pangolin!! Victoria
What a thrill! I’ve tried some night photography at Londolozi and it’s a bit spooky in the pitch dark. Some fun images for sure but a pangolin in the grass would have made it perfect! Lucky you!
A pangolin as well !!!!!
Still waiting for the Londolozi caracal
Beautiful photographs and what a wonderful surprise … the pangolin!
Isn’t that something?? Just amazing!
Spectacular photos, thanks for updating my background. great job, don’t stop.
Beautiful. Truly in awe when I visited at the night sky. Never knew there were this many stars
Well done! A beautiful night sky AND a Pangolin – very lucky indeed!
Hi Pete. What an exciting and beautiful night!! Those stars in the Bush are always SO MAGNIFICENT! Beyond words …. so exquisite …… You guys placed the rock and the tree etc exactly in the right place for your photos. Very well done indeed. Thank you so much for all your efforts. Quite stunning. Wendy M
P.S. And then on top of that splendour, a very wonderful sighting of a Pangolin! What an exciting evening you had! And such an obliging Pangolin too!! (This P.S. was supposed to be part of the review above so don’t worry about adding points etc.) Wendy M
What an extraordinary night! Your astrophotography is really beautiful and I love the use of the landscape in it. I was lucky enough to see a pangolin at one your neighbor’s just after leaving safari with you in December of 2018 Pete. Was a heartstopping special moment indeed! I’m thrilled you had the experience under such a glorious sky!
Such clear skies there, and a sense of peace.
Iris from Birmingham, the Midlands, UK, where it is unlikely to have such wonderful night skies.
That is so special!!!
Simply amazing and beautiful! What a wonderful experience it must have been all ‘round!
What a blessing and thank you for sharing it with us. Please protect him from poachers!
Astronomy personified in a heavenly manner.I cant help but fall in love with astronomy
Pangolin headlines perfect star night. brilliant images all round.greatly appreciated.