Feb 102016
 

The Amphitheatre at Royal Natal National Park is one of the most iconic spots in the whole of the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, part of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park in South Africa. It’s formed by a rock wall about 5 kilometres long and about 1,200 metres high resulting in one of the most impressive cliff faces on earth. To give an idea of it’s size, it’s roughly three times the size of the total combined area of all the cliff faces in Yosemite’s famous El Capitan in the USA! It is home to the Tugela Falls, which at 948m high is the second highest waterfall in the world after the Angel Falls in Venezuela, the Tugela River originating at Mont-Aux-Sources a few kilometres away.

There are some wonderful tourist facilities at the park: Thendele Resort offers a number of self catering accommodation units from basic 2 bed chalets to a magnificent six-bed luxury lodge. For those preferring things closer to nature, Mahai Campsite has around 120 large sites, some electrified and some not, and there are laundry and dish washing facilities available. More basic camping is available at Rugged Glen nearby which also offers Horseback trails. Royal Natal National Park is really about walking and experiencing the beautiful surrounds, the hiking trails varying from short easy walks around Mahai Camp and the Reception Centre to longer, more strenuous ones like the trail to the Tugela Gorge.

We recently drove up to Royal Natal National Park early one morning to shoot some time lapse videos of the scenery and arrived to cloudy, overcast conditions. Lucky the sun peeped through the clouds just after sunrise providing some dramatic lighting, the Amphitheatre reflecting in the dams close to the Reception Centre. This image was shot on the Canon 5Ds R and the lovely 8-15mm fisheye lens, while the video cameras did their thing with the time lapses. The resulting photograph shows typical fisheye distortions but a little work in Adobe Lightroom and with Photoshop CC’s Adaptive Wide Angle filter sorted things out.

Check out more Drakensberg images in our Image Bank

Royal Natal National Park scenery. Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park. KwaZulu Natal. South Africa.

Jan 312016
 

Buffalo Birth

Have you witnessed a buffalo birth? We’ve only seen one… There is a place in Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa called Buffalo Pans. It is an area of shallow pans and wallows fringed by tall trees and shrubs, which offer marvellous shade during the heat of the day and in summer the animals love it and so did we. On one occasion we arrived to find a large herd of buffalo milling about in quite an agitated state.

No sooner had we wondered what was unsettling them when we saw a young leopard in the undergrowth, eyeing a huge bull that was grazing not far off. Incredibly the cat appeared ready to take on what looked to be an 800 kg animal. It is not unusual for male leopards of about 18 months to have a rather misplaced sense of invincibility and this one was obviously flexing its muscles to prove to itself and the world that its hunting ability was incomparable.

Leopard. Panthera pardus. In tree after being chased there by buffalo. MalaMala Game reserve. Mpumalanga. South Africa.

As we manoeuvred cautiously forward, the leopard made its move and darted past our vehicle. In the blink of an eye no fewer than four massive bulls had surrounded the cat, lowering their huge heads in a sort of crazed rugby scrum, their horns and bosses crashing together. Their angry bellows filled the air and we held our breath as they separated, expecting to see the leopard squashed into the dust.

But it was nowhere to be seen.

Leopard lying on a branch in a tree. Mala Mala. Mpumalanga. South Africa.

Miraculously it had slipped out from underneath them and taken refuge in a tree, from where it looked down over the herd, panting. The minutes ticked by and the temperature rose steadily as we waited to see what would happen next. The two buffaloes that had positioned themselves beneath the tree stamped the ground impatiently and began to move off. As if on cue the leopard stirred. It came down the trunk in a flash, dashed between them with great bravado and rushed up another tree, the bulls not as quick to respond this time round. Then, with a self-satisfied air, the cat yawned and stretched, positioned itself more comfortably on a branch and promptly fell asleep.

Buffalo birth. Syncerus caffer. Cow giving birth. MalaMala Game Reserve. Mpumalanga. South Africa.Buffalo birth. Syncerus caffer. Cow giving birth. MalaMala Game Reserve. Mpumalanga. South Africa.

The buffalo herd however remained restless. It was not until we drove a short distance further on that we understood why. In a small clearing a cow was giving birth, the front legs and nose of her calf already showing. As she strained and pushed several other females hovered close by and one even appeared to want to hurry things along by hooking the calf out with her horns. As we watched time seemed to stand still and then suddenly it was all over and the calf lay in a wet trembling heap at its mother’s feet.

Buffalo birth. Syncerus Caffer. Cow cleaning newly born calf. MalaMala Game Reserve. Mpumalanga. South Africa.

Buffalo Pans had produced many good game sightings in the past, but on this occasion it really delivered – in more ways than one.

The African or cape buffalo, one of the most successful grazers in Africa, is a very large and strong animal, widespread in the majority of swamps, floodplains, mopane grasslands and forests of Africa. They prefer thick cover but can also be found in open woodland. A buffalo’s height at the shoulder can vary from about 1 to about 1.8m and they can be as much as 3.5m long, a large male weighing about 900kg! Unusually, the horns of the African buffalo males fuse at their base forming a heavy mound of bone called the “boss” and the spread of the horns can be a metre wide.

African buffalo, also know as Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer). Kruger National Park. Mpumalanga. South Africa.

Mating and births generally occur only during the rainy season, birthing happening first and then mating peaking late in the season. The gestation period is about 11.5 months and the new born call will be kept hidden in thick undergrowth for the first few weeks of its life. The calves suckle from behind, from between its mother’s hind legs, rather than in front of them like many other species.

Check out more of our work at http://www.rogerandpatdelaharpe.com and follow us in Instagram: @RogerdelaHarpe

Jan 252016
 

Black Sunbird Chicks

We have some tree ferns growing right next to the verandah at our home in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands in South Africa and a pair of amethyst or black sunbird have selected this as the ideal place for their nest. Pat and I have been keeping and eye on things and the chicks are getting bigger and bigger by the day. Demanding does not come close to the attitude of the chicks and the poor, exhausted (surely?) parents bring a steady stream of insects to keep the kids’ huge appetites satisfied. It’s wonderful to watch the whole, frenetic process…

The amethyst sunbird (also called the black sunbird) (Chalcomitra amethystina) is a species of passerine bird which are widespread residents of woodland, mesic savanna, forest edges and, lucky for us, suburban gardens. Nests are attached to a drooping branch or hidden by foliage and are built from fine grass stems, bound together with cobwebs and are often decorated with lichens or other debris.

See more of our work at http://www.rogerandpatdelaharpe.com

Jan 152016
 

We do Lodge photography and promo videos like this photograph of Jock Safari L:odge. Kruger National Park. Mpumalanga. South Africa.

A Giraffe Birth.

We were staying at Tuli Safari Lodge in Botswana and were very fortunate, late one afternoon, to come across a giraffe birth.

It was the stillness of the giraffe that first got our attention. As we approached she moved slightly and we saw why she stood so quietly. She was giving birth, the front legs and nose of her calf already visible. As the late afternoon sun beat down a miracle unfolded before us in the dusty veld in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve.

Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) giving birth. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana. The Giraffe Giraffe gestation lasts 400–460 days, after which a single calf is usually born, although twins do occur on rare occasions. The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then grooms the newborn and helps it stand up. A newborn giraffe is about 1.8 m tall. Within a few hours of birth, the calf can run around and is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old. However, for the first 1–3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones, which have lain flat while it was in the womb, become erect within a few days.

She strained forward suddenly and the calf’s head appeared and then time stood still as we waited for the shoulders to emerge. It was an anxious wait, which seemed to stretch endlessly into the approaching dusk. If we had noticed her predicament, there was every chance that the reserve’s predators would have too. She looked like a young giraffe and we wondered if this was perhaps her first pregnancy. And then, almost as if our concerns prodded fate, two jackals materialised from the scraggy bushes behind her and she moved off a short distance, luckily not very far and still within the range of our camera lenses. The intruders sniffed the area, lost interest and headed elsewhere to hunt, much to our relief, as Tuli’s jackals can be demons at harassment.

She lowered her long neck again as she pushed and almost imperceptibly more of her calf started to show. Suddenly its

        A Giraffe Birth. Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) giving birth. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana. The Giraffe Giraffe gestation lasts 400–460 days, after which a single calf is usually born, although twins do occur on rare occasions. The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then grooms the newborn and helps it stand up. A newborn giraffe is about 1.8 m tall. Within a few hours of birth, the calf can run around and is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old. However, for the first 1–3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones, which have lain flat while it was in the womb, become erect within a few days.      A Giraffe Birth. Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) giving birth. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana. The Giraffe Giraffe gestation lasts 400–460 days, after which a single calf is usually born, although twins do occur on rare occasions. The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then grooms the newborn and helps it stand up. A newborn giraffe is about 1.8 m tall. Within a few hours of birth, the calf can run around and is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old. However, for the first 1–3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones, which have lain flat while it was in the womb, become erect within a few days.

shoulders were out and then with incredible grace it arched its long body and landed with a plop on the dusty earth in a great whoosh of amniotic fluid. She licked her new arrival with her long black tongue and nudged it with her nose to encourage it to stand. The calf tottered repeatedly to its feet only to wobble about and collapse in an unhappy heap of shaky knees and trembling limbs. The shadows grew longer as time passed and then in the fading light it finally stood and nuzzled its mother for a drink.

A Giraffe Birth.  Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) giving birth. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana. The Giraffe Giraffe gestation lasts 400–460 days, after which a single calf is usually born, although twins do occur on rare occasions. The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then grooms the newborn and helps it stand up. A newborn giraffe is about 1.8 m tall. Within a few hours of birth, the calf can run around and is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old. However, for the first 1–3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones, which have lain flat while it was in the womb, become erect within a few days.

We cheered them both, unashamedly emotional.

Some interesting facts about giraffes:

  • The name “giraffe” has its earliest known origins in the Arabic word zarafah which means “fast-walker.
  • The gestation period for giraffes varies between 400 and 460 days after which a single calf is usually born – rarely twins.
  • As, is obvious, the mother give birth standing up and the new born animal slides out and “plops” onto the ground rather than falling down. The mother then grooms the youngster and encourages it to stand, something that is not easy on very wobbly legs, but after a few hours it is capable of running around.A Giraffe Birth.  Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) giving birth. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana. The Giraffe Giraffe gestation lasts 400–460 days, after which a single calf is usually born, although twins do occur on rare occasions. The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then grooms the newborn and helps it stand up. A newborn giraffe is about 1.8 m tall. Within a few hours of birth, the calf can run around and is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old. However, for the first 1–3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones, which have lain flat while it was in the womb, become erect within a few days.
  • The species name camelopardalis is from Latin.
  • The family Giraffidae has but 2 species in it – the one is the giraffe and the other the okapi.
  • There are 9 subspecies of giraffe: Nubian Giraffe, Reticulated Giraffe, Angolan Giraffe, Cordovan Giraffe, Masai Giraffe, South African Giraffe, Rhodesian Giraffe, Rothschild’s Giraffe and West African Giraffe.
  • Fully grown giraffes are 4.3–5.7m tall, the males being taller than the females- the tallest recorded male was 5.88m and the tallest recorded female was 5.17m.
  • Both males and females have prominent horn-like structures called ossicones, which are formed from ossified cartilage, covered in skin and fused to the skull at the parietal bones.
  • A giraffe has only two gaits – walking and galloping.
  • Giraffes have an extremely elongated neck, which can be up to 2–2.4m long.A Giraffe Birth. Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) giving birth. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana. The Giraffe Giraffe gestation lasts 400–460 days, after which a single calf is usually born, although twins do occur on rare occasions. The mother gives birth standing up. The calf emerges head and front legs first, having broken through the fetal membranes, and falls to the ground, severing the umbilical cord. The mother then grooms the newborn and helps it stand up. A newborn giraffe is about 1.8 m tall. Within a few hours of birth, the calf can run around and is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old. However, for the first 1–3 weeks, it spends most of its time hiding its coat pattern providing camouflage. The ossicones, which have lain flat while it was in the womb, become erect within a few days.

See more of our work at http://www.rogerandpatdelaharpe.com, stay in touch on Facebook  and Instagram at @RogerdelaHarpe

We do Lodge photography and promo videos like this photograph of Jock Safari L:odge. Kruger National Park. Mpumalanga. South Africa.

Dec 022015
 

Pat and I had the great fortune to visit Jaci’s lodges in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa, a week or so ago and absolutely loved it. We’ve been there in the past – a number of times – because this is one of the places where we run our photographic safaris. Previously, we’ve always stayed at the Safari Lodge but this time Jaci booked us in to Tree Lodge and we were most taken with it.

Tree Lodge consists of eight large, air-conditioned, luxurious, elevated chalets, secluded in the riverine bush along the edge of the Marico River, and a central lounge/dining/boma area where guests can spend time reading and chilling.

On the edge of a nearby waterhole is a sleeping platform where you can overnight if your heart desires (and it should – it’s fantastic), and in the middle of the waterhole is the Terrapin Hide (#terrapinhide) offering water level views of elephant, antelope, lion and other species as they come down to drink. We spent quite a bit of time there as you can imagine!

It was the game that drives we loved though. JR, our guide, was informed, knowledgable and professional, and showed us a great, unhurried experience the in the bush. We had ample time on sightings with no need to rush off to the next one.

We’ll be back.

Check our move of our work at http://www.rogerandpatdelaharpe.com and more of our movies at https://vimeo.com/user9578839

 

Nov 142015
 

Pat and I are thrilled to have had our work printed by William Walker of Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape.

We recently spent a few days with William and his wife, Mary, at their lovely home, working through some of our wildlife and landscape photography, and printing some of the images on his archival, large format printers. William is a genius when it comes to printing having studied under Mac Holbert and John Paul Caponigro at the Brooks Institute in the USA. And it shows. Our photographs have never looked this good.

He also has copies of our new book (African Icons) on display.

Here are a few images of our work hanging in the gallery and if you’d like to have a look at these, our African Icons book, and some of the other prints hanging there, give William a call or pop in to the Gallery – he’s passionate about the craft – you’d enjoy it: 12 Royal Street, Riebeek Kasteel, Western Cape, South  Africa. Phone: +27 (22) 448 1104.

Some of our photographs on display at the Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Some of our photographs on display at the Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa. Some of our photographs on display at the Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Some of our photographs on display at the Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa. Some of our photographs on display at the Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Some of our photographs on display at the Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Some of our photographs on display at the Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa. Some of our photographs on display at the Pictorex Photographic Gallery in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Oct 062015
 

Surely, one of the most beautiful sights in the world must be Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles in Cape Town, South Africa. The Khoikhoi called this rather large lump of rock Hoerikwaggo and it owes it table-top to the fact that it is a syncline mountain, meaning that it originally was the bottom of a valley.

Table Mountain and 12 Apostles viewed from Lion's Head. Cape Town. Western Cape. South Africa

Table Mountain and 12 Apostles viewed from Lion’s Head.

Table Mountain home to about 1 500 species of bird, and to put this into perspective, more than occur in the entire United Kingdom. To say that Table Mountain and its environs have a spectacularly rich biodiversity is quite an understatement, its vegetation consisting  for the most part of several different types of unique Cape Fynbos.

Rooistompie (Mimetes cucullatus). Kirstenbosch Gardens. Cape Town. Western Cape. South Africa.

Rooistompie (Mimetes cucullatus). Kirstenbosch Gardens.

Birdlife too is stunning, particularly when the fynbos is flowering, sunbirds and sugarbirds creating flashes of colour between the blooms.

Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer) on pincushion. Kirstenbosch Gardens. Cape Town. Western Cape. South Africa

Cape sugarbird (Promerops cafer) on pincushion.

What to do: The easy way up is via the cable car but you can also walk. It takes 2 to 3 hours up Platteklip Gorge, depending on you fitness levels (it’s not for the sedentary by the way) and once up, there a number of hiking trails to explore. Or, just take in a glass of the Cape’s lovely wines and watch the sun drop into the Atlantic Ocean – dinner awaits at one of the thousands of restaurants in the city below. There are mountain bike trails (not on top, but in the area), bird watching is awesome, caving, and rock climbing for the more athletic amongst us.

We stayed at the delightful, quirky Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street while working on our African Icons book. Search for more images of Cape Town in our database.

Grand Daddy Hotel. Long Street. Cape Town. Western Cape. South Africa

Grand Daddy Hotel. Long Street. Cape Town.

 

This is what a #lion looks like when it's roaring. Not nearly as threatening as a snarl or the end of a yawn as in a previous post. We've actually had people requesting lion roaring #pics from our #PhotoLibrary only to find out that what they were really looking for are pics of lions just finishing a yawn. 😊😊 We photographed this lion in #Ruaha Game Reserve in #Tanzania for our #AfricanIcons book and we stayed at the lovely #kwihala Camp. @asiliaafrica #lions #wildlife #africanwildlife @lexarmemory_sa @lexarmemory ...

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Hi guys. We are posting most of our stuff (pix and movie clips) on Instagram these days. Please look us up there: @RogerdelaHarpe. ...

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What an incredible deal! ...

Get two of the finest books ever published about Africa - for the price of one! Buy your copy of African Icons at the regular price of R3,500 and we'll include a copy of Africa's Finest, absolutely free (delivery included). Please email me at eardstapper@gmail.com for more information, thank you. ~ David Bristow with Roger and Pat de la Harpe Photography ~

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Check out the full story of a buffalo birth and a leopard at MalaMala Game Reserve. Was a happy ending - well, except for the leopard - no supper. But then the big buffalo bulls didn't get him so happy story all round! 🙂 Africa Geographic rogerandpatdelaharpe.com/blog/facts-about-buffalo-and-buffalo-birth/ ...

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Roger and Pat de la Harpe Photography shared African Icons's photo. ...

Mashatu - land of dust and giants... Mashatu Game Reserve forms the largest portion of the privately owned Northern Tuli Game Reserve. The reserve within a reserve (there are no fences anywhere other than foot-and-mouth disease control gates for local herders) is named after the giant mashatu trees that shade the riverbanks. ~ David Bristow with Roger and Pat de la Harpe Photography ~

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Oct 042015
 

Hell’s Gate National Park can be found south of Lake Naivasha in Kenya and is named after a narrow break in the cliffs that looks so good in early morning light. It’s a small national park, known for its wildlife and scenery which include the Fischer’s Tower and Central Tower volcanic columns (plugs) and Hell’s Gate Gorge.  There is quite a bit of volcanic activity happening with hot, sulphurous springs and steam escaping from the ground, particularly in the gorge and the park is also home to three geothermal power stations at Olkaria.

From a photographic point of view, the best time to visit is in the very early morning when the  cliffs and Fischer’s Tower light up beautifully just after sunrise as in the panoramic photo below. This (and, we had only a few minutes light here before it all went great and overcast) one was made up of 5 individual shots and stitched using the Photo Merge function of Adobe Lightroom CC.

Check out our other photographs and movies

A stitch of 5 photographs shows Fischer's Tower and the beautiful cliffs that the Hell's Gate National Park is know for.

A stitch of 5 photographs shows Fischer’s Tower and the beautiful cliffs that the Hell’s Gate National Park is know for.

Oct 032015
 

We had fun in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania while working on our African Icons book. Yes, there was a huge amount of pressure to bring back images and video material for the book but there was still time to “play” with photography, experimenting with long exposures to create motion blur, being just one example.

For this pic of a wildebeest running I dropped the ISO right down to 31 on the Nikon D810, giving a shutter speed of just 1/10 at f5.6 on the Nikon AF-S 80-400. Smooth panning is a must – follow through – don’t stop panning when you trip the shutter release. You do get a lot of duds but occasionally something interesting pops up.

We travelled with Wild Frontiers on this trip – great people, great expertise! Have a look at more of our photography and movies.

Slow shutter speeds result in the blurring in this pic of a wildebeest running.

Slow shutter speeds result in the blurring in this pic of a wildebeest running.

 

Aug 252015
 

At Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana (http://mashatu.com) there is a small, stunted baobab tree clinging to life at the end of a rocky ridge near the Maloutse River in the west of the reserve. It’s a quiet, eerie place; the silence in the evenings broken only by the calls of jackal and hyenas getting ready for the night’s forage.

Rhodes' Baobab. Mashatu Game Reserve. Northern Tuli Game Reserve.  Botswana

Rhodes’ Baobab. Mashatu Game Reserve. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana

On the west side of the tree, facing the setting sun, the initials CJR and ADS are carved into the the bark, and some say that they belong to Cecil John Rhodes and his secretary/friend Antonio da Silva. Certainly Rhodes was in the region in the late 1800s surveying a route for his famous (infamous?) railway line that was to run from Cape to Cairo. Who knows though…

It was also the site of an ancient settlement, the Mmamagwa people lived and thrived here around 1200 AD. Alas, they are no more but their spirit remains in this desolate place.

It’s one of our favourite spots and we have spent many an hour there over the years, just enjoying the piece and solitude.

We shot this panoramic photograph while working on our African Icons Book. Please mail  us if you are interested in acquiring a copy.

See more of our Mmamagwa and Rhodes’ Baobab pix here.