Tag Archives: Ross Couper

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:

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

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

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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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Field Guide Favourites: Submerged

September 17, 2013 - Kruger National Park,Singita Lebombo Lodge,Wildlife

Ross Couper is a field guide at Singita Kruger National Park, whose love for animals and the African bush makes him a keen wildlife photographer. Here he shares a stunning shot of one of the continent’s most fascinating and dangerous mammals – the hippopotamus:

Submerged copyright Ross Couper | Singita Kruger National Park

The N’wanetsi River flows directly below Singita Lebombo Lodge, which makes the lodge the perfect spot from which to scan for hippos and crocodiles in the water. Some mornings, guests will see the hippos move closer to the man-made weir that allows passage across the river. Originally used by travellers to the Mozambique border post, now it allows for a close and eye-level encounter with one of the most deadly creatures on earth and by far one of the most interesting.

The magical early morning light is fleeting but casts a spell over everything it touches, making for some spectacular photographic opportunities. This particular morning, I waited patiently as the hippos moved under the water, waiting for them to surface briefly for air. Luckily, one appeared in a pool of golden light and every painstaking minute spent focusing through the viewfinder was rewarded.

This photograph was taken with a Nikon D3s using a 600mm F4 lens. You can see more of Ross’ great photos in our Wildlife Reports, where field guides from all of Singita’s lodges and camps keep monthly game-spotting journals.

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Highlights from our Guides’ Diaries

March 13, 2013 - Africa,Experience,Kruger National Park,Lamai,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

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Did you know that our team of expert field guides write a monthly wildlife journal that chronicles the fauna and flora surrounding each lodge? High summer in Africa is a particularly fascinating time to document the local wildlife. Here are a few photographs from the most recent Guides’ Diaries from Singita Kruger National Park, Singita Lamai, Singita Grumeti and Singita Pamushana Lodge.

Carmine bee-eater

The southern carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) occurs across sub-equatorial Africa, ranging from KwaZulu-Natal and Namibia to Gabon, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. This species is a richly coloured, striking bird, predominantly carmine in colouration (hence the name). They are highly sociable, gathering in large flocks, in or out of breeding season. Unperturbed by the light rain, they continue to move in a large flock as they hunt small insects within the lower areas of the floodplain. This was a sight that we followed for a few hours, mesmerised by their acrobatic displays.

by Ross Couper (Singita Kruger National Park). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Giraffes

I’ve never seen as many giraffe about as there are at the moment. It’s possible that with all the rain and resulting thick vegetation they’ve moved to the few open areas where they can see, from their high vantage, any approaching danger. Giraffe are hunted by lions so it’s best that they avoid any ambush attacks.

By Jenny Hishin (Singita Pamushana Lodge). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Zebra

It is interesting to note that despite all the theories as to why zebra are striped, there is one that seems to be most valid; it’s as a defence mechanism against flies, especially the stinging types, like tsetse and horseflies. Flies are attracted to horizontally polarized light. Zebra stripes are predominantly vertical and, when they lower their heads to feed or drink, this effect is reinforced. It appears that this assists them in avoiding the bites and diseases associated with tsetse and horseflies, in that the flies do not see vertically polarized light.

By Lee Bennett (Singita Lamai). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Cheetah

Our cheetah sightings have been climbing recently and January was the best so far – sixty different cheetah sightings, and most of them consisting of more than one animal! The usual suspects on the property have become more and more comfortable with the vehicles and are less afraid to be seen. Then there are multiple newcomers who continue to sporadically show up. They include two additional brothers and a few single females. All of the newcomers are still quite skittish.

By Ryan Schmitt and Lizzie Hamrick (Singita Grumeti). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Our Guide’s Diaries are published on a monthly basis from our lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. You can read all of them here.

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Highlights from our Guides’ Diaries

December 04, 2012 - Experience,Kruger National Park,Safari,Singita Grumeti,Singita Pamushana Lodge,Wildlife

The monthly wildlife journals penned by our field guides are always such a special treat! At this time of year, with summer approaching, the fauna and flora surrounding the lodges is especially abundant and breathtaking. We hope you enjoy these beautiful photos taken from October’s Guides’ Diaries.

Ammocharis coranica

With the phenomenal rainfall over the last few weeks, the grey and brown colours of winter have been replaced by the new flush of green that has sprouted up everywhere. The concession is in full bloom and it looks incredible. The bush transforms into new life and revitalises itself from seemingly dead plant material to flourishing green life. The light rainfall has also spurred the bloom of several wild flowers. This ground lily (Ammocharis coranica) grows in open grasslands and flowers from October to February.

by Ross Couper (Singita Kruger National Park). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Shishangaan lion cubs

We got our first look at the newest members of the Shishangaan lion pride! While watching several other pride members feasting on a buffalo carcass, we spotted a restless lioness rolling from one side to the other on her back. On closer inspection, we saw three small fur balls that had been nursing from her peering back at us from between the blades of grass.

Upon returning later in the afternoon, we saw that the buffalo carcass was completely devoured with only a few morsels remaining. The mother of the three cubs was seen feeding on the last of the meat, and the cubs seemed fascinated with the carcass. Even at this young age you could see their instinct kicking in as they fought amongst themselves for the small soft scraps that were left.

by Ross Couper (Singita Kruger National Park). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Scrub hare

We flushed this scrub hare from its daytime resting place in a patch of grass on the side of the road where it flattened and froze in defence. It didn’t so much as twitch a whisker while relying on its superb camouflage to keep it hidden in the surrounding scrub. Scrub hares live in savanna woodland and mixed grass habitat.

By Jenny Hishin (Singita Pamushana Lodge). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Cheetah cub

We’ve been following the progress of two female cheetah cubs since they were born 14 months ago and I’m thrilled to report that they are still doing well. It’s been so interesting to watch their characters develop. One is a real tomboy – inquisitive, daring and a bit of a bully – while the other female is more timid, cautious and shy. If all goes well, these two cheetah cubs should reach independence in the next few months. Let’s hope they choose to stay on our abundant wildlife reserve.

By Jenny Hishin (Singita Pamushana Lodge). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Wildebeest invasion

In the latter part of September we saw large groups of wildebeest filing into Ikorongo. This was just a preview of what was to be experienced throughout the month. Tens of thousands of the incessantly restless animals spent the entire month moving onto the property, invading the plains of the western corridor once more.

By Ryan Schmitt (Singita Grumeti). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Lion

With the well-stocked wildlife buffet located on the Sasakwa plains, it wasn’t surprising that the Nyasirori lions found it unnecessary to move at all from the vicinity of Sasakwa Dam and its surrounds. It hasn’t been difficult to find lions lurking on the plains. While sipping coffee or tea from Sasakwa’s sprawling patios, all you need do is glance around the area with a pair of binoculars and you are bound to find the pale belly of a lion basking back at you.

By Ryan Schmitt (Singita Grumeti). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

Elephants

The elephant herds that frequented Sasakwa hill in September moved back down onto the plains and surrounding woodlands once again. On more than a few occasions groups of over 100 elephants were seen, and Sasakwa Dam still seemed to delight them on their visits. After a quick drink in the afternoon to top up their reserves, it seemed the best thing to do was for every mammoth to take the weight off its feet by getting into the water and have a jolly good time cavorting, splashing and spraying!

By Ryan Schmitt (Singita Grumeti). Read the full Guides’ Diary.

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