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Tanzania 2012

Day 3…Lioness and cubs
Lion Safari vehicle Stephen Powell and Steve Morvell Artist Photographer Guided African Safari 2012An isolated kopje on the Serengeti …..A massive group of granite boulders rises huge and brooding from the Seronera Plains. Tangled roots of fig trees overtop twining scrub and long summer grasses to cast deep , cool, dappling shadows over the heated rocks.
To the base of this fortress comes a lone lioness, powerful muscles rippling her burnished coat of coppery gold. Her teats hang low and it is plain she has suckling cubs hidden somewhere in that granite castle.

She walks slowly up a steep rocky path which winds between the jumble of boulders and up over a shoulder of the kopje. Pausing briefly there she turns her head to scan carefully over the plain behind…checking her approach has been unobserved or maybe for a sister lioness still out hunting.
We drive around to the opposite side of the kopje, knowing by her furtive behaviour that the cubs are somewhere very close by. As the mother arrived over the crest she gave several short moans- pitched low and soft- barely audible to us parked 50 metres away down on the flat. But clearly came small mewling calls as her 2 tiny cubs tumbled out from a cleft almost hidden by a large spreading fig tree.
Maybe 6 weeks of age the two spotted fluffballs sprawled over each other in their hurry to rub cheeks with their grunting mother…head lowered to caress her cubs with her whiskered jowls. Pushing over each other in their mewing delight the fat –pawed babies shoved under her to suckle on her swelling breasts. Spreading out on her back the mother cat gave room for her hungry twins to feed. After 20 minutes of drinking the lioness rose to walk out onto a high, bare flat of granite. The kittens followed but kept close as she lay quiet….watching over the plains below. Apparently reassured after 15 minutes she took her now playful pair back down to their rock crevice where they surrendered to the growing midday heat and slept…satisfied.

Lion and cubs Stephen Powell and Steve Morvell Artist Photographer Guided African Safari 2012

A nuclear explosion on the horizon….well sort of…..really just another spectacular Serengeti sunset!

Sunset Stephen Powell and Steve Morvell Artist Photographer Guided African Safari 2012

Day 4 Serengeti, Maasai Hills
Life is all fun and games for a family of cheetahs….full tummies and nothing to care about except pounding your sibling into the dust!!!

Cheetah and cubs Stephen Powell and Steve Morvell Artist Photographer Guided African Safari 2012

Until the ever watchful mother spots a hunting lioness cresting the horizon and trying to scent the young cheetahs one kilometre away down slope.

Mother takes Cheetah and cubs Stephen Powell and Steve Morvell Artist Photographer Guided African Safari 2012no chances and hurries her precious young away through the long grass….but like all babies there is always one who stops to take a last look at the watchers in their Land Rover.

Young Cheetah Stephen Powell and Steve Morvell Artist Photographer Guided African Safari 2012

 

 

 

Lake Victoria
Nile crocodile Stephen Powell and Steve Morvell Artist Photographer Guided African Safari 2012Much to see on this magnificent lake and not the least are the Nile crocodiles. If you are fortunate enough to find them out basking on a sand bank you can sometimes approach quite close. This fellow responded to me sliding up on my belly by opening his mouth when he figured I had got close enough. When I wriggled to within 2.5 metres his mouth gaped fully open and I knew I had reached a critical distance where he would do one of two things….slide back into the water….or bite my head off. Being the sensible coward that I am…..I quietly reversed thrust and left him to continue basking in the sun ….raising his body temperature in peace.

 

 


TElephants and baobab Stephen Powell and Steve Morvell Artist Photographer Guided African Safari 2012arangire National Park - Silale wetlands
The savannah bordering this timeless ecosystem is dominated by towering and ancient baobab trees. Like some prehistoric, alien life form these singular giants lend a character to the area which can only be found in Africa. Sometimes attaining an age of 3000 years or more these startling and ecologically important trees are vanishing due to increased over grazing around the edges of Tarangire. Even within the park itself browsing by elephants has removed most of the young trees meaning that in years to come these awesome pillars of the savannah will probably vanish altogether. I hope I never live to see that day…..

Steve's Blog
'Putting both the 'wild' and the 'life' back into animal art'
''Going wild in Africa'

How was the South African experience?………….How does one come away from Africa and answer those questions?…..how was it?…..what was it like? etc. As near as I can resolve the big question my answer would be something like “It was awesome!” Now I need to qualify that by saying isn’t my first trip there but as ever it was awesome in all its many facets ……The fantastic wildlife, culture, colour, opportunities and also its spectacular problems.

But for me Africa is, and always will be, about the wildlife. After all it’s pretty hard not to be impressed by the largest land mammals on earth and also many of the most intelligent and dangerous ones…..especially when you are face to face with them in their own habitat and on their own terms……where you are only permitted to remain as long as you respect their personal space and their own unspoken terms.

Charging elephant photograph by Steve Morvell
When I was chased in my hire car down a road, at high speed in reverse gear, by an enraged bull elephant I began to feel really ‘at home’ with the bush and its critters. When asked later how I had managed to drive backwards and avoid crashing at high speed, watch the road behind over my left shoulder, the elephant in front over my right shoulder and still manage to compose and shoot a whole series of great photos of the rampaging beastie with my right hand out the window……….well frankly I don’t know. But I do know I just wanted to go back and do it all again!!!!!! As long as we go in nature with the idea we are in charge we can never understand it so a good lesson in humility can bring about rapid enlightenment!!!

I had read Chris Mc Bride’s book ‘The white lions of Timbavati’ many years ago and followed his field research into the long fabled and almost mythical ‘White Lions’ which people had long talked about with great interest. The chance to meet several white lions from that naturally occurring bloodline at a private game park was too good to resist(not that I tried) and I spent time on two separate days meeting, cuddling and wrestling them……well the cubs at least!!……….the adults looked a little less cuddly to my eye …lol. I did take away some wonderful memories and not a few scars including nips on the bum and one on my left nipple which is still healing…hehehehehe. But all in the spirit of engaging with my subjects I felt it only proper to subject myself to the terrible mauling at their hands (should I say paws?) J

Of course for those in the know it’s important to note these white lions are NOT albino at all but simply the result of a recessive gene.

White Lion photograph by Steve Morvell

White Lion cub  Steve Morvell photograph

Cubs of both white and the usual tawny can be from the same litter and only when both parents carry that gene do the white cubs appear. Truly the males particularly are grand and impressive animals to see. These lions are now protected in reserves because (apparently) their white coats are just too tempting to poachers who would think nothing of killing them to sell the skins to unprincipled buyers from wealthy countries.

White Lion cub  Steve Morvell photograph

 

I also achieved a life long desire to visit the famous De Wildt Cheetah breeding centre and was awed by the amount of work, depth of vision and consistent effort put in by Anne and her wonderful team over so many years so that the world can continue to enjoy and learn about such beautiful creatures as the cheetahs, African painted dogs, Caracals and vultures and to naturally learn about their ecology as well as the desperate need to preserve them. Entering into the large bushland enclosures with the cheetahs and also the painted dogs is an experience I will long cherish.

Kudu photograph by Steve Morvell

 

Cheetah photograph by Steve Morvell

Of course Africa is not just about huge, ferocious and celebrated animals. It is also full of smaller but equally beautiful creatures such as the common ‘ Cape glossy starling’…. A bird of such startling beauty as to defy belief. When you realise there are several different forms of glossy starling and each equally lovely and add to it such subtle beauties as the Lilac breasted roller and dozens of other intriguing birds, mammals like Kudu and stunning insects…..well…..I’m there !!! lol

Cape glossy starling photograph by Steve Morvell Lilac breasted roller photograph by Steve Morvell

In the final analysis Africa is like a state of mind….. It is BIG in every way and even the sunsets never seem ‘usual’!! Everything feels larger, brighter, more colourful and more………….. …umm….. well….EVERYTHING. Can’t wait to get back…lol

Elephant photograph by Steve Morvell

I just have to be patient and have a lot of amazing material to work from first with a reservoir of memories which will hopefully never leave me :)))

African sunset photograph by Steve Morvell

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