About Rich Laburn

Rich Laburn

Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.


Latest Posts by Rich Laburn

Learning the Nuances & Body Language of Elephants

January 11, 2015 by  

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I used to be terrified of elephants — the terrible, debilitating kind. Before I started guiding I felt like every time we saw elephants we would get charged and at the mere mention of their name I would drop to the floor of the car and find a safe space under the seat while every one else enjoyed the looming elephant.

Seeing elephants was never an enjoyable experience and no matter what anyone said to me I just knew it was going to end badly because it pretty much did, every time.

Having guided and been in control of the vehicle and the distance at which I can view elephants has completely transformed how I feel about them and they are now one of my absolute favorite animals to watch. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that elephants are honest with their body language and if you read these easy steps for how to understand them, you will be able to enjoy elephants both safely and without fear too.

Watch out for the following body language when you next come across elephants:

Tails: Just like a dog, when an elephant’s tail is swishing from side to side swatting away flies, it is happy. As soon as the tail goes stiff, normally held out to one side, it means that the elephant is anxious. At this point it may even start to run from you, normally swivelling over its shoulder to keep an eye on you as it tries to get away.

Eyes: An elephant’s eyes can tell you an incredible amount. Just think of humans, when we are stressed, excited or scared our eyes open wider. This is part of the reaction to the release of adrenaline in our bodies and better enables us to handle the perceived threat. This is exactly the same for elephants. If an elephant approaches you with lazy, almost half closed eyes and its tailing swishing slowly from side to side, it is a good sign this animal is very relaxed.

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An elephant bull demonstrates how ‘dozy’ their eyes can get when they are relaxed and feeding. It seems this bull was even struggling to keep them open at all.

Ears: I have also often experienced guests begin to stress as an elephant approaches us with its ears flapping. Please don’t stress. The elephant is merely cooling itself down. It has huge, fat veins that run beneath the thin skin of the ear and as they flap their ears against the wind, they cool the blood and therefore their overall body temperature. The time to be weary is when an elephant turns and faces you head on, with its ears extended and held out at its sides (normally with its head held high and trunk and tusks raised). The elephant is trying to make itself look bigger and intimidate you.

Trunk: I have also often heard the theory that if an elephant runs at you with its trunk out, it’s a ‘mock’ charge and if it tucks it in, then it means business. To be totally honest I have seen an elephant run at us trumpeting, with her trunk extended, for about a kilometre. That elephant meant business. I think the general rule should rather be that if an elephant is running at you, just back down and get away. They are bigger than you and its best to treat them with the respect they are asking for. Having said this, try not to race away from a juvenile elephant who is just showing off. This only teaches them bad manners and nasty habits for when they turn into big elephants.

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A young elephant attempts to make itself look bigger. Sadly for it, this will only be intimidating in another decade or two.

Rumbling: This has to be one of my favourite noises in the bush. Most of the noises elephants emit are at frequencies we can’t even hear. However, this comforting, low rumbling sound we are lucky enough to hear is the elephants communicating with each other, so sit quietly and enjoy it.

Trumpet: This is generally not a good sign and usually signals distress. Even if it is just a youngster trumpeting, who doesn’t pose a threat to you, the trumpet will usually summon its mother in a matter of seconds who will more than likely blame you for its child’s temper tantrum.

Head shake: This is when an elephant picks its head up high and throws it back down in an arc, creating a big noise as its ears slap against its body and a billow of dust pours off its head. It is intimidating and that’s exactly why the elephant does it. If the elephants does this and moves off, then you are safe to continue watching the herd, however if it does this in conjunction with wide eyes, turns to approach you with ears extended, back arched and tusks held high then it is in your best interest to heed that elephant’s warning.

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The ever intimidating head shake and resultant dust cloud. Photo courtesy of Google Images

Temporal dribble: This is the dribble that you sometimes see on the temples of the elephant and many of the fallacies state that an elephant showing this is in musth, a heightened state of testosterone the males go into, which makes them unreasonable and highly aggressive. It is true that a male in musth exhibits this but so do other elephants, including little calves. People are unsure as to exactly why this sweating occurs but most say it’s due to stress or excitement.

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A secretion from the temporal gland, which can be seen on both males in musth as well as females and youngsters. Photo courtesy of: www.elephantsforafrica.org

Urine dribble: The really important sign to look out for with big males is a constant dribble of a foul smelling urine down the back of their legs. This is a sure sign that the elephant is in musth and should be treated with space and respect because during this time they can be highly aggressive and unreliable.

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Have a look at the back right leg and you’ll spot the dark stain of the urine dribble that gives these males their distinctive foul smell. Photograph courtesy of Google Images.

Watch your guide: Lastly watch your guide. If they look totally relaxed and are enjoying the elephants, then this is a good sign that you should too.

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An elephant bull approaches a vehicle, getting rather close, but based on its body language you can tell that it is totally unfazed by the presence of the vehicle.

With all of this, as with anything in the wild, I think the most important thing to remember is respect. Respect that elephants are bigger than you, respect that they can change their minds and respect that they are wild animals. Remembering this I’m sure you will have no more problems with one of Africa’s greatest giants.

Written by: Amy Attenborough

 

10 Wildlife Photos Certain To Make You Plan a Trip to the African Bush

January 5, 2015 by  

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These images taken in South Africa caught our attention whether it was because they were the most striking or in some cases more unusual. Although it is summer and the bright colours of the bush and its greenery stand out in some of the images, there are also a few monochrome pictures that seemed to be popular with the photographers who took them.

There is a mix of subjects from elephants, lions, leopard, zebra, cheetah, a beautiful weaver, a giraffe drinking water with perfectly captured water droplets and my personal favourite, elephants walking along the road taken from Ximpalapala Koppie. Enjoy!

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A swirl of water. Michael Johnson.

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An overheating Mashaba female seeks shade and a slight breeze in the canopy of a Marula tree, with her eyes towards a nearby herd of impala. Sean Cresswell

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A cheetah scans the bush around him from his vantage point on a fallen tree. Don Heyneke

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Weavers – the master architects of nest building. Michael Johnson

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The moment the lions realise that this elephant really does mean business. Amy Attenborough

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A zebra and her foal peer out from their dazzle. James Tyrrell

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The Mashaba female, the perfect predator, silent and stealthy blending into the evening darkness. Trevor Ryan McCall-Peat

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The chase. A male of the Styx Pride chases after a female of the Sparta pride. James Tyrrell

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The serenity of the bushveld is perfectly complimented by the gentle presence of elephants. Michael Johnson

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An inquisitive young elephant bull sniffs the air as the wind swirls. Simon Smit

Photographed by: James Tyrrell, Michael Johnson, Sean Cresswell, Simon Smit, Trevor Ryan McCall-Peat and Amy Attenborough

 

 

 

Sacred Moments That Will Reignite Your Love of Nature & Wildlife

December 26, 2014 by  

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These photographs will show you how and why wildlife can steal the show on any safari or moment you’re in the African wild. Leopards, lions, new cubs, stolen kills, unusual interactions, battles between animals and the wonderful season of new births, it’s all there to discover. These riveting moments are brought to you below.

Marthly Male Steals from Tutlwa Female

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Mouth full and muscles ready to take the drop. Mike Sutherland

Leopard Threesome

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The Tu-Tones male, seemingly favoured by the Tamboti female, dismounts after a relatively non-aggressive mating bout. Notice the gash on his leg, which in no way slowed him down when it came to mating. James Tyrrell

A Young Starving Leopard Takes an Uncalculated Risk

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The desperate leopard fends off a pack of wild dogs. Richard Burman

Wild Dogs Take on a Dazzle of Zebra

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The chase between a zebra and wild dogs. Chris Goodman

A Kill and Steal

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The leopard is chased off its kill by lions. Kee Loon

Stealing seems to be the easiest way to get something without having to do the actual hunt. It began with a leopard killing a warthog, piercing screams, followed by stillness and a lone hyena lurking nearby. The cat however had even more to worry about. Within a few minutes the Sparta pride appeared… The pride had the upper hand in numbers and managed to frighten off the leopard, much to his dismay.

Incredible Lions vs Hyenas

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The hyena shrieks in pain as the lion bites down. James Tyrrell

An Elephant and a Snare

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The other elephants in the herd would carefully tend to the youngster. Generally tugging the wire free, loosening any attached debris and even going so far as to carry the wire over the more rugged terrain. Amy Attenborough

When Tyrants Collide

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Two hippo bulls take each other on in a fight of epic proportions. Territorial males will allow other males in their waterholes as long as they show signs of subservience and typically a bit of yawning, flicking of dung and honking is enough to decide who the boss is before any conflict is actually needed. However, in this case, the two opponents were apparently evenly matched and both were vying for territoriality. Amy Attenborough

This sequence of images shows the mighty force of two hippos fighting in a territorial battle. As Amy says: ‘You’ll never look at the ‘placid hippo’ in the same light again’.

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Elephant birth. Irene Nathanson

See anything unusual about this herd of elephants? Well, if you observe closely, you’ll see an elephant about to give birth.

Ultimate Lions vs Buffalo

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If looks could kill… The pride faces another repulse from the old bulls while their prey struggles gamely for air. James Tyrrell

Lions and Buffalo are two iconic prizefighters of the African bush. To see a a fight between the two was an adrenaline filled moment for everyone involved. James Tyrrell captured the extraordinary scenes of this incredible battle.

A Prickly Dance: Lions and Porcupine

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The porcupine backs into an approaching lion. Lucien Beaumont

Written by: Kate Collins

Which of the above moments fascinated you the most? Share with us in the comments below!

 

 

In Celebration of Christmas: 10 Shots of Animals Celebrating Family Bonding

December 25, 2014 by  

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The Festive Season is a time where families come together after a long year to spend quality time together. Every year we pack our bags, clean our office desk and head off for the holidays to see our loved ones.

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” – Gavin Coolidge

December allows us a chance to reconnect with our family whether its is sharing a meal or simply just being in the same space.

In Africa, it isn’t any different. Even in the bush. Animals spend time together too.   Below are some of the photographs that show the loving bonds shared between animal families. Let’s like them, spread love amongst friends and loved ones not only now, but in everything that we do. We wish you all joy, love and peace during this festive season.

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A gentle nuzzle. James Tyrrell

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Feeding time. Mark Nisbet

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Cheetah family under the shade of their mom. Kate Neill

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A Sparta lioness carries her cub. James Tyrrell

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A newborn elephant fits perfectly under its mom’s belly. James Tyrrell

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Play time. Mike Sutherland

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Sparta lionesses grooming. Talley Smith

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Egyptian geese and their goslings. Simon Smit

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A mother leopard stands guard over her cub. Mike Sutherland

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The joy of birth. James Tyrrell

What are you doing for Christmas and over the holiday season? We’d love to know what you are up to!

15 African Wildlife and Nature Shots Sure To Entice You…

December 22, 2014 by  

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Below are images all taken by different people in the southern African bush, most of which are shots of wildlife with some dramatic skies and night shots thrown in starting with a spiritual night dance below. These shots are sure to entice you to a safari or at the very least spending more time in nature.

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A Spiritual Dance by Tim Moolman

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Mighty Majingilane by Megan Thomas

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Nanga’s newborn by Gary Tankard

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Scruffy after feasting on a zebra by Phil Judd

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Black and white elegance by Bruno Bervoets

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The four tenors – red-billed oxpeckers by Paul Gold

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Family Crossing the Sand River by Richard Keyser

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The Ximpalapala Young Female quenches her thirst by Gary Tankard

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A palate of red, the scarlet chested sunbird by Tony Goldman

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Droplets by Tony Goldman

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Curious youth by Gary Tankard

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A fiery night by Steve Gordon

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The family of three by Phil Judd

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Defying the elements by Phil Judd

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A wee tired elephant by Ed Hubbard

Which of the above guest images do you think deserves the number one spot?

Let us know in the comments below!

Ten Shots That Will Make You Want to Visit the African Bush

December 3, 2014 by  

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November began with the moving story of an elephant herd in the southern African bush– they lifted a wire snare with their trunks, caught around a young elephant’s foot. Their actions help to alleviate the tight pull of the snare, as seen below.

The action continued when two hippo bulls fought one another in a battle for territory – a sequence that is a reminder of the brutal force that these creatures are capable of.

Lastly, and more recently, we watched in awe as a nyala gave birth in the confines of Varty Camp, a glimpse into the intimate exchange between a mother and baby.

A brave leap. Lucien Beaumont

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Two hippo bulls take each other on in a fight of epic proportions. Territorial males will allow other males in their waterholes as long as they show signs of subservience and typically a bit of yawning, flicking of dung and honking is enough to decide who the boss is before any conflict is actually needed. However, in this case, the two opponents were apparently evenly matched and both were vying for territoriality. Amy Attenborough

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The effective power of black and white. Bruno Bervoets

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The cleaning process was incredibly special to witness. Amy Attenborough

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Under a starry Londolozi sky. Steve Gordon

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Even the youngest elephants were seen helping. This one was desperately sprinting down the road trying to keep up and pull branches off the wire as it bounced down the road. Amy Attenborough

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Ears alert as the Scar Nose male hears the distant call of a rival male. Trevor Ryan McCall-Peat

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Intentions. Bruno Bervoets

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The Experiment. Trevor Ryan McCall-Peat

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A loving moment during feeding. Phil Judd

Photographed by: Lucien Beaumont, Trevor Ryan McCall-Peat, Phil Judd, Bruno Bervoets, Steve Gordon and Amy Attenborough.

What We Can Learn From Animals & Take Into The Real World…

November 28, 2014 by  

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When one envisions the perfect African Safari, images of the Big Five tickle the imagination, and for a good reason! The uncanny power of lions and leopards and their fascinating lives, leave us in awe. But behind the scenes a much larger force plays an invaluable role. They might not be as beautiful, majestic or nearly as large as these animals, but their role in the well being of a healthy ecosystem outweighs the Big Five ten fold.

White backed Vultures

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Werner Breedt

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Trevor Ryan McCall-Peat

“Hawk-eyed” is a byword for excellent vision and observation. “Vulture-eyed” gives new meaning to the word. These phenomenal birds are able to spot a three centimeter object at over a kilometre away.

Vultures, like hyenas have been made out to be ‘evil’ for all the wrong reasons. Both feed on carrion or animals on the verge of dying – thereby classifying them as scavengers.

They are perfectly adapted to perform these tasks with their exceptional eyesight (second to none), strong bills and ability to utilize thermals (a vortex of warm rising air) to soar high above the ground without expending too much energy in search of food. One of their most important tasks is to control the spread of anthrax. They are able to feed on infected meat, which their extremely corrosive digestive system breaks down. They are able to consume 20% of their bodyweight in one sitting thereby minimising the spread of this deadly disease.

Dung Beetles

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The dung beetles are out in swarms and make for very exciting sightings in the summer months. Generally you will see a dung ball being rolled by the male, with the female clinging to the side.

Dung beetles (coprophages, which means feces eaters – although some do feed on mushrooms and rotting vegetation), are principle members of the clean-up crew of the bushveld, able to carry off and scatter a pile of dung in an amazingly short time.

Dung beetles play a remarkable role in the ecological balance of Londolozi. By burying dung (in which they also lay their eggs) they effectively aerate, fertilize and enhance the structure of soils. They also indirectly protect other animals by removing balls of dung which, if left, could provide habitat for various pests, such as flies. Their work results in a healthy environment.

Spotted Hyenas

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Werner Breedt

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James Tyrrell

The hyena has traditionally been feared and loathed as the embodiment of evil. Let’s try and change the perception of this astonishing animal. Thanks to its acute eyesight, excellent sense of smell, and also a social way of life, hyenas are one of the most skilful and dangerous predators. They are however more revered for their ability to utilize every last scrap or bone of a carcass.

Their jaws and teeth are capable of crunching the densest bone, which they are able to digest (only a handful of other animals are capable of doing this) Thereby taking advantage of proteins and calcium that other animals simply can’t eat.

By having these wonderful olfactory capabilities, hyenas just like the rest of the clean up crew creates a safer, cleaner bush environment for us to enjoy.

Contributed by Werner Breedt

15 Incredible Photos of African Wildlife

November 24, 2014 by  

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Summer is always a great time in the African bush. Full of new borns, the migrant birds are back and the contrasting colours of the natural vegetation is always a beautiful sight.

Two of the Majingilane in full cry as they battle for the right to mate with the Sparta females. With all four of these males taking on a single Selati male, you can only begin to imagine the noise and carnage of the scene.

Tsalala lionessAfter a night of unsuccessful hunting a hungry lioness of the Tsalala pride watches as vultures circle overhead.

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The Tamboti female catches her breath after being chased by a herd of elephants during the afternoon heat.

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A closeup of the striking painted reed frog.

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The Piva young male asserting his dominance.

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This white-crowned lapwing was seen wading through the waters of the Sand River.

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I used this image to experiment with post-processing and while this image was taken in the day, I managed to create the effect of a night scene.

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Often confused with a yawn this male hippo is actually showing his dominance.

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This young female cheetah amused us with her playful nature and her general excitement for life.

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I got some good macro shots of this little fella – the painted reed frog.

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The Goliath heron patiently awaiting an easy meal in the Sand River.

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The Nanga young male shows up beautifully in this backlight.

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There’s no better way to start your day than with a beautiful sunrise.

Written and Photographed by: Trevor Ryan McCall-Peat

 

 

 

 

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