Jermaine Kelly
 
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A Safari Enthusiast

Zimanga, in KwaZulu Natal, is the first reserve in Africa designed for avid safari enthusiasts whilst simultaneously satisfying the needs of modern wildlife photographers of any level, both who prefer a deeper appreciation of the bush and crave an unhurried exclusive experience.

 
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The Reserve

Spread over nearly 70 square kilometers of pristine Zululand bushveld, fever tree forests and rolling hills, Zimanga is bisected by the Mkuze River and home to a splendid variety of animals and birds.  Species including lion, elephant, wild dog and cheetah roam freely across the region and can with luck be tracked down for unparalleled game viewing and photographic opportunities and the mornings… from sunrise, are fantastic!

 
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Babysitters

To say that almost everything that we experienced felt like a privilege, would be an understatement - can you imagine being allowed to almost be part of a wild animal’s Babysitting crew and a predator at that?! Well these increasingly rare Wild Dogs allowed us to do just that, to stay at the den with one or two (other) adults, looking after the cubs while they went off to hunt!

 
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WARNING: SOME DISTURBING SCENES

The Hunt

We were then lucky enough to find evidence of said hunt… as we caught the excitement in a dry riverbed (scroll past if you’re a little squeamish).

 
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“I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat… I did, I did!”

Sat crossed legged on the warm ground, this close to an adult cheetah who was so relaxed in our presence was an amazing experience! It just looked, listened and observed, obviously having decided that we were neither prey nor threat - it was comfortable and just led there taking in the rising temperature, as we transitioned from the surprising coldness of sunrise into the gentle heat of early morning.

 
 
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Not as fast as a Cheetah…

…then, all of a sudden this cheetah got up, stretched a little and began to walk towards me!!! Now, as many of us know cheetahs can reach a top speed of near 70mph and I’m fast, but not THAT fast! So my only option was to remain seated and take in its steady approach, whilst my heart pounded at a somewhat accelerated rate… and then as quickly as it got up, it changed direction and slunk past me, heading for the gap between me and a nearby bush and then was gone.

 
 
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Big Tusker

There were SO many times that we were able to get out of the truck, feel the warm of the ground as our bodies ‘earthed’ and feel a part of the world that we were visiting, it was a grounding experience and one where we also felt humbled… humbled whist in the presence of ‘big’ beings. I don’t think that anyone can prepare you for the actual size of an elephant and how that makes you feel, you know they’re big, but when stood on the back seat at the rear of an open truck, standing tall and a massive bull elephant with tusks almost the length of you, standing taller than you still and with a great ‘mass’ of presence, walks up to within a few metres of you, stops and for a few brief seconds, really looks at you and takes you in, that is something that you have to feel.

The big tusker that you see at the top of the page, allowed us to follow him; we’d drive past him, get out and position ourselves sat on the ground, photographing him walking towards us and when he got to a ‘comfortable distance’, we’d clamber back into the truck, photograph him ambling effortlessly past us and then do it all again. We followed him to his watering hole and watched as he drank and then scratched himself on what looked like his favourite tree!

 
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