Second in our series of our field guides’ favourite wildlife photographs is this delightful snap of a baby elephant by Marlon du Toit at Singita Sabi Sand. The Sabi Sand is a privately owned game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, and together the two areas make up some of South Africa’s most incredible and pristine land.
“All babies are simply adorable and well worth spending time with. Little elephants have great personalities and make for stunning images. This one had huge ears and this unique pose works very well, and the soft light compliments the skin texture.”
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It is always awe-inspiring being in the presence of elephants. As the world’s largest mammal, they’re not only physically intimidating but also known to be highly intelligent, functioning in a complex social structure. It is estimated that Zimbabwe has a population of around 110 000 elephants, which is more than twice the optimum capacity; a problem also faced by neighbouring South Africa.
When I first encountered the elephants of Zimbabwe, I was initially struck by the enormous size of the bulls and their colossal tusks, which were noticeably superior in size to most elephants I had observed in the Kruger National Park. These tusks are modified incisors, located in the upper jaw and made of calcium phosphate, more commonly known as ivory. They are essential tools to the animals and assist with eating by digging up roots and debarking trees. They are also used as a weapons during interaction with other bulls, while protecting their more vulnerable trunks.
Interestingly, like humans, theses animals are either right or left “handed”, favouring a particular tusk, with the master or dominant tusk being noticeably worn down due to extensive use. The longest tusk recorded was from an African elephant and measured just over three meters with a weight of over one hundred kilograms. Unfortunately statistical data shows the average weight of an elephant’s tusk has decreased at an alarming rate. In the seventies the average weight was around 12 kilograms and by the early nineties it had dropped to just three.
We contribute this rapid evolution to relentless poaching, as the males with the largest tusks are usually targeted. This in turn has caused the breeding behavior of these animals to change rapidly over a short period of time. It was then even more gratifying to see so many healthy bulls in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve and still in possession of such magnificent tusks.
Follow the adventures of field guide James Suter as he explores the wilderness surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge and its fascinating inhabitants. You can also read James’ previous elephant post on Singita’s grey giants.
Visiting Singita is always an unforgettable experience and for many guests, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Africa in a very special way. It is especially gratifying for us when guests stay in touch with the lodge teams once they have returned home and share their astounding photographs of the trip.
Jeff Thompson and his wife Julie visited Singita Pamushana Lodge from Atlanta twice last year with a keen eye for unusual photo opportunities. Here is a selection of his gorgeous wildlife pictures, taken throughout the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve surrounding the lodge. We hope you enjoy these photos and would love for you to share your own shots of Singita with us by visiting our Facebook page or getting in touch on the website.
© All photographs copyright Jeff Thompson 2013
We are always delighted to hear from past guests who have visited Singita, especially when they share their memories of their trip with us by way of some spectacular holiday snaps. It is so special to see the lodges and their surroundings through the eyes of our visitors and some of them have been generous enough to allow us to share these photographs with you.
Stephen Saugestad traveled to Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Ebony Lodge from Vancouver, Canada and was particularly taken with the variety of wildlife they spotted on their daily game drives. We hope you enjoy these lovely pictures and we encourage you to share your own photographs of Singita with us by visiting our Facebook page or getting in touch on the website.
© All photographs copyright Stephen Saugestad 2012
Encounters with elephants are always a treasured experience. These beautiful animals are not just impressive to the eye, but it is remarkable to witness their intelligence as well as the camaraderie and communication between individuals.
There are an abundance of elephant found within the Singita reserves due to the large rivers running through the concessions and plenty of surface water to sustain them throughout the year. Elephants hold a special place in any nature lover’s heart; their majestic size, temperament and endearing traits separate them from many other species.
An elephant herd is an incredibly close-knit family, with members not only taking care of their offspring but also working as a unit to ensure the success of the next generation. A female and her daughter may maintain a bond for up to fifty years and a youngster will stick to its mother’s side for up to six years after being weaned. Without a doubt they are the most versatile herbivores with a varied diet which they may alter or change depending on the season.
One can spend hours watching them as they constantly keep one entertained with their daily activities, spending the majority of their time feeding, having to sustain their massive frames. No encounter with these animals is ever the same and often they are full of surprises. They all possess different personalities and will react to human presence either in a relaxed manner or sometimes with a more intimidating approach.
Keep up with James Suter as he treks through the pristine wilderness of Singita’s game reserves across Africa.
Written by Marlon du Toit, Singita Guide, Singita Kruger National Park
Elephant, Cape buffalo, White Rhino and Hippo are plentiful on the concession. There are two prominent water sources within the concession during the dry season: the Nwanetsi River system and Gudzane Dam. As the last remaining water holes dry up west of the concession, animals are forced to move east in order to quench their thirst.
Elephants can trek amazing distances in pursuit of water. They prefer to drink at least once a day and will cover up to or more than 12km in a single journey. We have a large resident hippo population. As the water evaporates under the heat and the pressure mounts, some sections of the river can house more than eighty hippos. This is not ideal for them as they are territorial animals that do not like to share, but they have no choice. Battles between dominant male hippos are a common sight.
To read more of this month’s safari updates from Singita Guides, click here for recently published journal entries. Also for up-to-date, out-of-this-world photography of the daily happenings at Singita Game Reserves, follow us on Facebook.
From Singita Guide, Marlon du Toit – Singita Kruger National Park
Featured in this article are a variety of photographs from elephants to lions and leopards. In general the Singita Kruger concession is still blowing everyone away, including guides that have been here for a long time. Viewings of wildlife have been spectacular over the past weeks.
As far as lions go, the Mountain Pride has been staying within the Kori Clearing vicinity for the last two weeks now. That is good news for us as we don’t have to drive too the far north in order to find them.
Young elephants having fun.
Another highlight from the last few days were two slender mongooses battling it out for territory. They went about it as if their lives depended on it, and it was the first time I witnessed something like that. Also, we have been seeing black rhino at least twice a week; amazing considering there are fewer that 500 in the whole entire park.
To keep up with monthly wildlife happenings at all of our Singita reserves, follow our Guide’s Diaries for updates.
The Mopani tree bears this beautiful name thanks to its butterfly shaped leaves. Mopani means butterfly.
The amazing Mopani tree has more to it than just butterfly shaped leaves … it is also highly intelligent in design. It stores tannins, which lie dormant in its root and bark until an animal tries to eat the leaves. When an animal takes a nibble it releases the tannin making the leaves inedible to most creatures.
photo CC attribution: artbandito on Flickr
The Mopani tree may be intelligent in design but it is also an elephant’s favourite snack. To get past the tannin issue the elephant doesn’t bother with nibbling off the tree instead it tears a whole Mopani branch from the tree. So, while the rest of the Mopani is rendered inedible thanks to the tannin, the elephant’s branch tastes delicious!