All images by: Al Nicoll Photography
What do you get when you combine a British surfer, his 600mm Canon camera lens, and a grumpy, short and sleepy, South African woman? How about one of the most amazing trips through the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve? At least that’s how it turned out.
Over the last six months or so, Al Nicoll and I have had some brilliant times. We have been privileged to work on some exclusive, fun and adventurous events. Having said that, as one of my favorite entrepreneurs Gary Vee likes to say, “The Hustle is Real”. And real it is, so when you do get a chance to break away, you should.
A few months (wow that long already), Al and I were invited up to Hluhluwe to spend a weekend at The Fever Tree Guesthouse. As you should all know by now, this is where Cee goes to breathe. To escape from the city, dig my toes into the wet grass, play with the dogs and eventually drive into the game reserve, where Africa awaits.
Cee doesn’t function to well before 05h00 and so she may have been grumpy for the first two or so hours.
Al, on the other hand not only studied Marine Biology and Zoology but because of his love of photography, acquired a love for being out in the wild. Watching and photographing wild animals in their natural environments. Whether its, ocean, land or air, as long as he has the right lens, you can guarantee Al will get the shot.
We ended up spending two days in both the Hluhluwe and Imfolozi halves of the game park. First we started closer to home in Hluhluwe, and on day two we moved over to Imfolozi. I really loved this, I love road trips, sitting silently in the car in the early morning watching the sun rise. It is one of the best feelings in the world. I wish I could bottle it.
This day was all about the cats. Several meters after we entered the Nyalzi gate we came across our favorite pride of lions. We have watched them grow up from cubs and it’s always a pleasure seeing them. Knowing that each one of them has survived another day in Africa, not an easy feat.
At first we caught them soaking up in the early sunlight on the far left of the hillside. There were quite a few cars lined up on the road and of course noisy people who don’t realize that you need to be quite. There is nothing worse than a game-viewer full of people making loud noise. Its terrible for other people viewing animals, and makes the animals uncomfortable. The same goes for those who fail to turn off their engines or guides who don’t ask their patrons to be respectful and quite. You know who you are!
Lazing in the Sun….
At one point while we were watching the pride walk down, a rather large female stopped mid step and looked up past the cars. When we turned to look behind us, there stood one of the most beautifully built Male Impala’s I have ever seen. This guy had no intention of letting any old Lion claim rights to being the “king” of any jungle, especially not while in his territory.
The wild is no place for the weak. Here was this animal standing up as a lone ranger against six large Lions. That’s like standing in your living room and having your house surrounded by fully loaded SWAT, while you yell “Come at me bro”! Anyway he made it through the day as far as we know. The lioness spent a few more minutes starring him down and then eventually, walked down to meet her siblings.
We are all friends here:
After a quick lunch and some stealthy camouflage we headed off into the reserve, but almost missed seeing this little guy.
And not to be outdone, we found a buffalo making friends with a few birds, who were helping him catch the flies. I often feel sorry for wild animals when you see them covered in flies and ticks, but you also forget that these little creatures keep them healthy and resistant to bad illnesses. There is an entire system that goes on behind the scenes, and we only see the main show.
Hide and Seek:
Just before we left, we found two lioness sisters playing a game of tag with one another and hide and seek with their striped prey. The zebra’s were walking so close to our vehicles had you stuck your hand out you would have touched them.
The lions were in tactical hunting mode, crouched down low below the grass, moving at a quiet but purposeful speed. After awhile the Zebras picked up on their scent and scattered across the road, the swarm of cars and vehicles made it a bit more tricky for the lions to attack at full speed had they gone for it. The sister’s didn’t seem to bothered about it and went on to play with each other, much like human siblings.
Not exactly the worst start to our wonderful weekend in Africa.
As if we hadn’t been spoilt enough day two arrived with many surprises in store. We drove down to the Imfolozi gate before dawn broke. Again that special feeling, an air of excitement and the unknown before you.
Having worked and lived on a game reserve and having a family who enjoy being in the local parks, its not as though we haven’t “seen it all”. That morning reminded us just how Africa works, there is always more to see.
As we turned around a bend not five minutes after entering the gate, we noticed a group of vultures sitting perched on a tree. Actually we noticed three groups of vultures perched on tree tops. Immediately this told us one thing…..kill. There had to be a kill below them where the bush was thick and we couldn’t see.
Not seconds after a few of us in the car had voiced this opinion, I almost levitated out of my seat with excitement and emotion. There right in front of our car stood one of my favorite wild animals. The Hyena.
As if Bruce Lightning, Al had his lens positioned and started snapping away, while everyone else in the car discussed the amazing sighting in front of us.
Now for something I learnt when I lived on the game reserve and shared a house with the rangers, and possibly also from one of my favorite movies titled Lucky Number Slevin. When everyone is looking to the one direction you should be focusing on the opposite. It’s a marketing trick used when brands are trying to redirect the attention of the oppositions customers.
So that’s what I did. The Kansas City Shuffle. While everyone was enthralled by the Hyena, I noticed a second Hyena in the bush to the left. And then when I turned to the far right……there stood a male Lion.
What we were experiencing right in that moment was already insane enough! Here were these vultures, then two hyena’s and now a lion? All doubt about a kill being under the bush thicket was erased as it seemed the entire jungle had come to feed.
Four Legs of Africa:
After viewing these amazing moments, we decided to move on. Not that we were expecting any more surprise treats after such a sighting. Boy were we selling Africa short with that mindset.
Only moments later as we got to the bridge, we came across the Wild Dogs. They were playing in the puddle’s on the bridge and with each other. It was beautiful watching them. A Wildlife vehicle was parked on the side of the bridge as the volunteers did their monitoring.
They didn’t hang out as long as the Hyena did but it was an absolute treat to see them at all. A rare early morning sighting.
Having seen these sightings we were pleased to still come across a herd of Elephants.
These giants are just so graceful and yet so large and bulky. I think part of the fascination we have with them is just that. How does one move like that when you’re that size? How do they disappear behind a tree so small? And what is that rumbling noise their stomachs make?
I often think that the Elephant’s hold the heart of Africa. And if that’s true than the Impala’s are the jokers! 🙂
Rhino’s are the protectors…..who now need protecting more than ever sadly.
And Giraffe’s are the puzzle pieces that fit everyone together!
Nature, is a beautiful and wonderful gift, sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we are the ones that need to look after it and protect it. No matter how big and strong these animals seem, we are the ones who need to fight for their homes, their water supply, and their lives.
And with that we said goodbye to the town of Hluhluwe, and headed back to the city! Always great to catch up with the bush, the smells, the sounds and the feeling of being in the heart of Africa!
If you would like to contact Al or I, in regards to working together on your next big event, media launch, show, or anything really, please fill out the form below!
And As Always…
You can find Al Nicoll & CeecesTravel on all our social media platforms: Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram at @Alnicoll and @ceecestravel