SOUTH AFRICA: THE ROAD TO MOUNT CAMDEBOO

My favorite photography expedition was Mount Camdeboo, a private game reserve in the Eastern Cape.

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The Plains of Camdeboo

The drive from Mossel Bay to Camdeboo is spectacular. We were greeted with an amazing sunrise, which we counted as a good omen for our trip.

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We made a stop in Graaff-Reinet, a town close to Mount Camdeboo. Taking pictures of the colorful block of houses here is a must.

One interaction I won’t forget was a 10-year-old boy named George. I was taking pictures of a church, and he was standing nearby begging for money.

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He told me that he can’t always go home because his mom works during the week and his older sister doesn’t like him, so he sleeps across the street from the church under an angel statue because he believes it will protect him. I asked to take his picture, and he immediately struck a pose that would rival any professional model – smoldering smile, hood up, hand at his mouth. He’s a master of the art of “smizing.”

He followed me around and watched me take pictures for a few minutes – I even let him snap a few – and then we had to go. All I could give him was some spare cash that I had and kind words; I hope he’s safe.

We had one more stop to make on the road to Mount Camdeboo.

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The Valley of Desolation

The Valley of Desolation gives a stunning view of Graaff-Reinet and surrounding areas.

It was ridiculously windy at the top, which made from some hilarious moments trying to get shots and not get blown off the mountain or whipped in the eye by a ponytail, but we still managed to get some very serious modeling shots at the top!

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Upside Down

Finally, we made it to Mount Camdeboo. I can’t even describe the beauty of this reserve, and the lodge where we stayed.

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One of my most emotional moments here was watching this young cheetah feed. He was so ferocious, but still graceful, and I was overwhelmed to be close to something so beautiful. This is my favorite shot of him, and after we were done I literally had tears in my eyes.

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Another cheetah that was truly historic to see was Tandeka. Her name means “beloved.”

IMG_4922.jpgTandeka is truly iconic. She was released into the reserve in 2007 and had three litters of cubs, helping to pull cheetahs back from the brink of extinction. Her face may seem a bit off, and here’s why: she was gravely injured while hunting back in 2015. She’d been kicked in the face and her back leg was shattered. Against all odds, she fully recovered, continues to hunt, and even gave birth to another litter. Many of the cheetahs in reserves all over Africa have Tandeka’s blood flowing through them. Because of her time in rehabilitation, she allowed us to get very close to her, capturing some stunning photos.

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It was also my first time seeing giraffes; they were so big and cute, and seemed to move in slow motion.

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If you truly want to experience the majesty of Africa, go to Mount Camdeboo. It’s a spiritual place where you can literally feel the magic in the air.

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