Tag Archives: Ross Couper

Grassland Giants

November 20, 2015 - Lodges and Camps,Singita Grumeti,Sustainable Conservation,The Grumeti Fund,Wildlife

Singita Grumeti, situated adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, is an integral part of the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem. Singita manages the concession on behalf of the non-profit Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund, and is responsible for the long-term sustainability of the reserve. Elephants, the gentle giants of the grasslands, form an essential part of this ecosystem. Here field guide Ross Couper tells us more:

Elephants in the Serengeti - Singita Grumeti

Topographically, the Grumeti region comprises flat undulating grassy plains interrupted by scattered rocky areas, known as kopjies. Apart from the millions of blue wildebeest and several thousand zebra that move across the Serengeti grasslands every year, there are also several species that do not migrate.

Elephants in the Serengeti - Singita Grumeti

Elephants dwarf the other species in the region and, given the rich biodiversity in the Grumeti area, do not compete for food with the grazing herds. These lumbering giants are often described as highly emotional and demonstrate a significant level of intelligence. One such example is the way in which they have been known to treat elephant carcasses, showing an interest in retrieving the tusks and bones. This behaviour has been noted as a way of grieving a companion when they have passed on. This emotional connection is also apparent in the way in which elephants show concern for their family members, in particular the young calves within the herds.

Elephants in the Serengeti - Singita Grumeti

Elephants in the Serengeti - Singita Grumeti

As a keystone species in the Serengeti – animals whose behaviour allows for other species to thrive and contributes to the biodiversity of an area – elephants help to naturally conserve their own habitat. They stop the progression of grassland into forest or woodland, thereby providing plenty of feed for the migrating mammals. By uprooting woody plants that spout among the grasses (which form the beginnings of a forest), elephants help to manage the life-giving plains, including the throngs of antelope, wildebeest and zebra, and the predators who feed on them. Without the work of these animals, the habitat would change or disappear, completely disrupting the migration and the ecosystem at large. It’s just one of the reasons why looking after Singita Grumeti’s elephant population, and those of all the other species that live there, is a critical part of the conservation process.

Elephants in the Serengeti - Singita Grumeti

Elephants in the Serengeti - Singita Grumeti

A close-up look at elephant hide

Spanning over 350,000 acres of untouched wilderness, Singita Grumeti is home to five of Singita’s 12 lodges and camps, including Singita Explore, a private-use mobile camp that offers guest an intimate and authentic connection with the landscape and its wildlife.

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An African Treasure

November 07, 2015 - Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

Field guide and wildlife photographer Ross Couper was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in the Matopos National Park, so he has a special connection to the country and its fauna and flora. Here he shares his knowledge and memories of the local African Wild Dog population with us:

Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

Singita Pamushana Lodge is located within the private Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in southeastern Zimbabwe, which shares its southern boundary with Gonarezhou National Park. The park’s rich wildlife consists of 500 species of birds, 147 species of mammals, more than 116 species of reptiles, 34 species of frogs and 49 species of fish.

African wild dogs at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Malilangwe, Zimbabwe

Painted Dogs, also known as African Wild Dogs, are unique to Africa and they are among this continent’s most endangered species. It is estimated that less than 7,000 remain in the wild. One of my favourite experiences seeing these animals at Singita Pamushana was one winter’s morning when we drove out past a rocky section of the concession; a piece of land that would make an ideal location for their dens.

African wild dogs at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Malilangwe, Zimbabwe

As the land rover came to stop, above the early morning chorus of several birds, we could hear the distant calls from a hyena. It was a frantic scene; three hyena were moving in various directions, whooping and calling. Suddenly a flash of white appeared amongst the tall grass followed by three or four more – it was the wild dogs’s tails. Before we knew it, several pack members had arrived as if they are reinforcing the movement towards the hyenas. The scavengers beat a hasty retreat and the wild dogs feasted on the unfortunate impala ram that they had hunted earlier.

Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

Observing these precious animals in their natural habitat from the comfort of a game viewing vehicle is such a privilege, as is the ability to provide them with a safe, natural habitat in which to flourish. The 130,000-acre reserve was specifically established to conserve and protect this significant wilderness region; something it has done with great success since 1994.

Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

All proceeds from the management of Singita Pamushana Lodge benefit the Malilangwe Trust, and its numerous conservation and community outreach programmes. This Zimbabwean-based and -managed Trust was set up to develop a blueprint for creating harmony between conservation initiatives and community development in villages that neighbour wildlife areas. You can read more about the Trust and Singita’s work in the area on our website.

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Ross Couper: Field Guide and Wildlife Photographer

May 04, 2015 - Did You Know?,General,People of Singita

Singita Field Guide Ross Couper

Field Guide Ross Couper and his stunning wildlife photographs will be no stranger to regular readers of this blog. His keen eye for animals in interesting situations and the gorgeous landscapes surrounding our lodges have produced some of the finest photos we’ve ever had the privilege of publishing.

Copyright Ross Couper

Born in Zimbabwe, Ross grew up at Matopos National Park, where his father was Park Warden, and developed a deep love for capturing nature through painting and sculpture. The impracticalities of these art forms for an enthusiastic traveller like Ross brought forth an interest in photography as a way of documenting his surroundings. In this excerpt from his interview with the South African Tourism blog, he explains more about his passion for photography:

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: When did your passion for wildlife photography begin?
A: Photography happened because of a “don’t know what to get you for Christmas” situation with my wife. As a result she purchased my first camera with the hope of getting on top of my ‘Best Ever Christmas Gift’ list. In short, she has been up there ever since 2009. I had a great interest in art, however due to travelling the globe it limited my scope to take my art further, so receiving a camera was an outlet to capture my artistic view on life during my travels.

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: What inspires your images?
A: Finding an artistic view of capturing a unique moment. Capturing an image where the viewer will be in awe of how the image was captured and evoke a feeling of being in the moment when it occurred. As a wildlife artist, I always had an idea in my head before putting it onto canvas and I find that I have the same inclination when it comes to my photography. I am a photographer that prefers to take time to really study my subjects. I like to effectively capture moments that showcase the beauty of the wildlife in Africa and the scenery that embraces in every inch of the content.

Copyright Ross Couper

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: How would you describe your style of photography?
A: I have a strong drive to acquire uniqueness in my images, by capturing the beauty of the African surroundings and its wildlife, with the hope that my photography will inspire people around the world to travel and visit the wild areas of Africa and experience the imagery that has been captured first hand. I’d describe my style of photography as artistic. I enjoy portraying a wildlife subject as if it were stepping out of the frame and engulfing the viewer to feel as though they were in the moment. Captivating an audience to view an image and wonder, just how was this photograph was captured. A profound quote by Anne Geddes that inspires me: “The best images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed”.

Copyright Ross Couper

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: What are the challenges regarding wildlife photography, and what attributes should a wildlife photographer have?
A: Patience, timing, light, subject availability are all just a few requirements that come to mind. There are always challenges but I believe it’s how you overcome a challenge that makes you a great photographer. For instance if the light is fading and you don’t get the shot you are looking for, keep persistent to attaining that image, go out again, focus on the goal and keep trying. I can recall an event where I was due to service my car and on route out of the National Park during a day off, I was informed that there was a leopard and two cubs sitting on a rocky outcrop within an hour’s detour to my route out of the park. I called the car dealership and mentioned I was running late. Finding the leopard on the rock and getting a glimpse of the leopard cubs resulted in me sitting in the back of the car with my eye glued to my cameras view finder for 5 hours waiting for a perfect view. After calling the car dealership for the third time I knew it would be better just to cancel as this was an opportunity of a lifetime.

Copyright Ross Couper

Copyright Ross Couper

Q: What would you say to foreigners wanting to come and visit South Africa’s wild spaces?
A; What are you waiting for? There is no place like Africa. It’s place where you cry when you arrive due its beauty and you will cry when you leave because of it’s beautiful people. It will engulf you and sink deep into heart as a special place that you will always return to. It’s a soul enriching visit.

Copyright Ross Couper

Copyright Ross Couper

Read the full interview on the South African Tourism blog and follow us on Instagram to see more of his beautiful photos from the bush.

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Recent Facebook Highlights

September 19, 2014 - Experience,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Singita’s Facebook community has always been an active space where guests and fans share their thoughts and memories alongside beautiful snapshots by our rangers in the bush. In particular, there have been a number of stunning wildlife photos posted by field guide Ross Couper from Singita Sabi Sand recently that have been shared far and wide. Here is a brief selection:


A pack of wild dog entertained each other, whilst guests watched in awe at the social interactions taking place. A perfect spring morning.


A tender moment of an elephant calf that was deserted and shortly afterwards adopted by another female elephant.


Confident, self assured, tranquil – a few words that come to mind whilst watching the Nyeleti male leopard grooming himself.

Facebook Highlights - Singita - Copyright Ross Couper

A young male leopard keeps attentive to his surroundings as the afternoon light fades to darkness.

You can see more of Singita Sabi Sand’s wildlife and landscapes in this “week in the life” video, shot by another of our talented field guides, Dylan Brandt:

Follow us on Facebook and join 13 000 other wildlife lovers who get regular updates from all twelve lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. One such example is this incredible face-off between a hippo and a pride of lions, captured by a guest.

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Creatures Great & Small: The Giant Snail

September 09, 2014 - Did You Know?,Experience,Sabi Sand,Safari,Wildlife

Giant snail

With the green vegetation sprouting along the roadsides and over the grasslands, creatures from large to small are on the move. A few days ago, and within minutes of leaving the lodge, we noticed movement on the road. A giant African land snail glistened in the morning light.

Like almost all pulmonate gastropods, these snails are hermaphrodites, having male and female sex organs. Although giant African land snails primarily mate with one another, in more isolated regions they are capable of reproducing on their own. Giant African land snails lay around six clutches of eggs every year, laying an average of 200 eggs per clutch – that amounts to about 1 200 eggs per year! What is really incredible is that around 90% of snail hatchings survive.

Giant African land snails are active during the night and spend the daytime hours safely buried underground. They reach their adult size by the time they are six months old and although their growth rate slows at this point, they never stop growing. Most reach between five and six years of age but some individuals have been known to be more than ten years old. The giant African land snail seals itself inside its shell to retain water. They do this about three times a year, depending on the areas which they inhabit. During periods of extreme drought, they practice aestivation which is a type of ‘summer sleep’.

Singita Sabi Sand, South Africa

Driving along looking in various directions for a twitch of an ear or a flicking tail, your eyes scan through the bush up and down, left and right. Often when looking for something large and obvious you miss the smaller treasures, without even realising it.

This description of an encounter with a giant snail by Ross Couper first appeared in the November 2013 Wildlife Report from Singita Sabi Sand. The monthly ranger diaries are written by the field guides themselves and contain plenty of delightful stories and stunning photographs from the bush. You can catch up on the Wildlife Reports from all the Singita lodges and camps here.

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Curious Cats

June 09, 2014 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

Just in! Field Guide Ross Couper from Singita Sabi Sand sent through this incredible snapshot from Thursday afternoon’s game drive. In it, a serval faces off with a pair of cheetahs:

Cheetah vs Serval by Ross Couper

“Upon a approaching a cheetah sighting, a serval and two cubs were seen moving through the grass within meters of the cheetah. The serval’s movement caught the attention of the cheetah after the adult serval attempted to catch a rodent in the grass. A chase ensued and the adult serval was surrounded by the two cheetah. A moment of sheer aggression from the serval saved its life and several tense minutes were felt amongst the guests viewing the interaction. As dusk settled we returned back to the lodge, the fate of the serval unknown. It was a true privilege to witness this interaction in the wild.”

Ross regularly shares his stunning wildlife photos with our Facebook community, so follow us there for the latest sightings, direct from the bush!

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Lion Line-Up

May 08, 2014 - Sabi Sand,Wildlife

This photo of the Mhangeni pride walking in what appears to be military formation through Singita Sabi Sand, was taken last week by Field Guide Ross Couper. Of the unusual and entertaining sighting, he says: “As the honey coloured morning light filtered through the mist on the horizon, we knew we were in for a very good morning.” Ross’ stunning photo was even featured in the Cape Times a few days later, aptly captioned “Dawn Patrol”.

Lion photo by Ross Couper Copyright 2014

Follow us on Facebook to see more wildlife shots straight from our field guides in the bush.

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Elephant Antics at Singita Sabi Sand

April 26, 2014 - Experience,Sabi Sand,Wildlife

One story from our latest Wildlife Report from Singita Sabi Sand got plenty of attention this week and was shared on various news and social media networks worldwide. It’s easy to see why when you look at this amusing series of photos by field guides Leon van Wyk and Ross Couper – they certainly gave us the giggles!

Marula tree at Singita Sabi Sand

Time has once again flown by, and yet another marula season has come and gone. February 2014 saw a real bumper crop of these delicious fruit being produced by the many hundreds of marula trees that are to be found at Singita Sabi Sand. Various animals were seen tucking into this fruity feast with great gusto! Not only the elephants, who are so famous for enjoying these smooth-skinned, large-stoned fruits, but also monkeys, baboons, impala, kudu, warthogs, zebra… and, of course, humans.

Elephant antics at Singita Sabi Sand

There has long been an African myth about the marula fruit intoxicating large mammals that have consumed huge amounts of the fallen fruit. This bush legend played in my mind recently when we had a sighting of an elephant herd moving through the bush, feeding on the fermenting marula fruit. The younger elephants walked behind the older siblings, picking up and eating the fruit as they moved – the older elephants seemed to be ‘teaching’ the youngsters what was safe to eat. An adult cow had forcefully shaken a nearby marula tree, knocking off lots of the fruit, which a few younger elephants passed by our vehicle to eat. We watched in awe because the youngsters definitely seemed to display signs of being rather tipsy!

Elephant antics at Singita Sabi Sand

As amusing as the idea may be, it is in fact extremely unlikely. In reality, an elephant eating only marulas may consume roughly 30kg in one day or approximately 714 individual fruits. This is less than half of the marulas needed to produce intoxication. There have been reports of elephant behaviour that resembles an intoxicated state, but research shows that this is unlikely to occur only from eating marulas.

Elephant antics at Singita Sabi Sand

It has been speculated that the behaviour may be the result of the elephants eating beetle pupae that live in the bark of marula trees. These pupae have traditionally been used by the San people to poison their arrow tips, and this toxin could lead to behavioural changes in animals that consume it. Another explanation is that bull elephants, who are particularly fond of marula fruit, are simply defending their favourite food resource.

Elephant antics at Singita Sabi Sand

The beautiful elephants of Singita Sabi Sand feature regularly in our monthly Wildlife Reports and on our social media pages. Spanning more than 45,000 acres, this concession is also renowned for high concentrations of big game and frequent leopard sightings.

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Field Guide Favourites: Ruffled

November 07, 2013 - Experience,Kruger National Park,Safari,Wildlife

Ross Couper is a Field Guide at Singita Kruger National Park and a keen wildlife photographer. As part of our series of favourite photos from our game rangers in the bush, Ross recently shared a stunning photo of a mature and battle-worn female leopard. Today, he sent us this slightly comical shot of a scruffy-looking Bateleur – read on to find out how this photo came about:

Ruffled copyright Ross Couper | Singita Kruger National Park

This photograph could easily be described as a ‘backbreaker’ as I waited over an hour with my camera focused on this Bateleur in the hope that I would be able to capture the bird in flight. A few puffy white clouds were passing by and I knew that if I had a chance I would be extremely disappointed if a cloud appeared behind the bird as it took off. As we both sat there staring at each other, even the Bateleur started to look at me as if I was crazy and decided to groom himself instead. After preening for several minutes, he ruffled all his feathers – in an attempt to dislodge any unwanted parasites – and I was able to get this shot. I was only able to take one photograph with the pure blue sky behind the bird and it turned out beautifully. The eagle continued to clean himself for a further thirty minutes, never taking off from the bare branch, and all the while oblivious to my desire for that perfect in-flight photo.

This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 300mm F2.8 lens. To see more wonderful shots of the flora and fauna surrounding the lodges, you can catch up on the monthly Wildlife Reports from all of Singita’s lodges and camps, or read our earlier Field Guide Favourites.

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Field Guide Favourites: Captivated

October 04, 2013 - Experience,Kruger National Park,Wildlife

Singita Field Guide, Ross Couper, is an experienced member of the team at Singita Kruger National Park and a keen wildlife photographer. As part of our series of favourite photos from our game rangers in the bush, Ross shares the story of how he happened to cross paths with this stunning leopardess:

Captivated by Ross Couper

My guests departed early for their next destination and, as it promised to be a beautiful day, I decided to head out into the bush on my own to see what was out there. I grabbed my camera and headed east for approximately thirty minutes, before I turned a corner and happened upon this beautiful female leopard. None of the other guides had started their morning game drive and I was the only vehicle out in the bush. Realising that the leopard was on a territorial patrol, I reversed further down the road in order to give her enough space to walk towards me. I angled my vehicle on a low slope, knowing that she was bound to come over and the photograph would look like I was on ground level with the leopard. It’s not often that you can capture such a beautiful subject in pristine winter’s light on eye level. What made the encounter even more special is that this particular female leopard is approximately 18 years of age; well over the average life span of most leopards in the wild. She has undoubtably been in several thousand photographs and as she gracefully walked past my vehicle, it was evident that her beauty was not defined by age.

This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 600mm F4 lens. To see more wonderful shots of the flora and fauna surrounding the lodges, you can catch up on the monthly Wildlife Reports from all of Singita’s lodges and camps.

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