Captures by Danny
26th August 2020
The Kalahari is one of those places that you are always thinking about visiting, whether you have been there or not, there is a certain allure to the vast plains of Southern Africa’s largest desert.
Part of that allure is that the range of experiences possible in the Kalahari is as vast as its grasslands. I am a wildlife photographer from Botswana and finding unique photographic opportunities in my own backyard is one of the most rewarding outings for me.
Through an accidental set of events I became aware of a special piece of animal behavior taking place at a special property in the Kalahari. So, together with a pair of equally keen photographers, we set off to experience a few very cold mornings in underground bunker at Ker & Downey Botswana’s Dinaka camp in the northern Kalahari. With covid-19 demolishing tourism in Botswana for 2020, we had the whole place to ourselves!
At 5AM on the very first morning we on our way to the hide, sleepy eyes and hugging mugs of coffee, when out of the pre-dawn gloom strolled a Cheetah! What a beautiful welcome!
We got to the hide, set up our camera gear and settled down to wait for sunrise and the hopeful action it would bring. We weren’t disappointed – just as the suns rays touched the desert floor a Black Backed Jackal came sauntering into the clearing and curled up under the single tree next to the waterhole.
All the while the area got busier, Guinea Fowl chattering their way down to drink, Kudu bulls stepping through the foliage and most importantly for us – massing flocks of Turtle Doves coming down for their morning water.
The first attack happened very quickly – the Jackal went from motionless fur-ball to flying predator in split seconds. He ran low and fast at the flock of drinking doves, leaping in to the air with snapping jaws the moment they flushed. The first round was unsuccessful and was rewarded by a mere mouthful of tail feathers. This was clearly a common setback though, as the Jackal continued his circling run to attack the flock drinking on the other end of the pool. The rest of the morning was beautiful chaos punctuated by excited yelps from the photographers in the blind!
The photographic opportunities were epic and sometimes plentiful but also very very difficult to get a well composed and focused shot. Being so close to the action meant that the speed of the Jackal was exemplified and we were hard pressed to simply keep him in frame! Over the next 3 days a family group of 6 Jackals kept us very entertained with their hunts and family politics. Every morning was spent in the hide and from sunrise until about 11AM we hardly moved our eyes from our viewfinders, let alone had time for a cup of coffee!
The entire experience is about as good as it can get for a wildlife photographer and I cannot wait to return. Sometimes, as a photographer, you can feel immensely satisfied with a shoot and feel that you have “conquered” it. This is not the case here, despite the 5000 images I took, I still feel that there are some intense moments at Dinaka that haven’t been captured yet. Again, I cannot wait to return!
By Daniel Crous @captures.by.danny