Jackie Badenhorst is a wildlife photographer and photography guide from South Africa. She has a deep love for nature, wildlife and adventure. Having worked as a field guide in a number of private game reserves, she still enjoys the thrill of tracking big game. Her love and addiction for the wild drives her to get out into the wilderness areas of Africa, and abroad, as often as she can.
Wildlife photography is not only challenging and highly rewarding for her on a personal level but also a means of conveying the beauty of these wild places for others to see, in the hopes that they may be conserved for generations to come.
Below, Jackie shares with us the behind-the-scenes stories of some of her favorite shots, proving that wildlife photography requires planning, patience, persistence… and a bit of luck.
This image was taken during the annual sardine run along South Africa’s Wild Coast, said to be the largest migration of a species on earth. It’s amazing – there’s an influx of ocean mammals, fish and birds wherever you look, a total delight to the senses.
I took this shot in winter, when jumping in and out of the water can be a little tough – especially on days when the water is colder than usual! This was one of those days and, after photographing a pod of dolphin, I got back on the boat and tried my best to warm up in the sun.
One of the others on the boat jumped into the water shouting “Come on guys, it’s amazing down here with the fish”. Initially I thought there was no way would get back in there, and so I sat for a while. Eventually FOMO set in and I took the plunge, only to find the most beautiful sight around me.
Waves of sardines were moving in synchrony, touching the surface and racing back down again, the light dancing off their silver bodies. It was breathtaking and I quickly forgot about the temperature, spending the next hour in the ocean with them.
One of my favorite places on earth is Savuti in Botswana. It is wild and untouched, which is what gets me excited about a destination. We hadn’t seen lions for a few days and were starting to feel despondent when we heard from fellow campers they had seen lions that morning. We immediately set off to find them and were successful.
Once you know the movements and understand the behavior of lions, or any wild animal for that matter, it is easier to relocate them again and again. We set off the next morning and found them easily, the entire pride of females, cubs and males resting out on the marsh. We were alone, no other vehicles in sight and enjoyed our time with these amazing cats. They were unfortunately quite far from us on the marsh and no off-road driving is allowed in the park.
So we sat and waited for them to move, knowing it would eventually get too hot for the lions out in the open. There was a dense patch of trees on the one side of the marsh, as well as a small pool of water, so we decided to take our chances and go park there – even though we then had no visual of the lions.
Eventually our patience paid off –the lionesses and cubs came straight towards us to the water – playfully tackling each other as they walked. We had the best view of them drinking and eventually they moved off into the thicket. We knew the males would also come eventually so we waited.
And then it happened. These two majestic male lions got up and walked straight towards us – pausing for a drink and walking within touching distance of the car – it was incredible and my heart was racing with excitement. Every time I look at this series of images, it makes me happy.
There is a leopardess with a cub in the Sabi Sands game reserve in South Africa that I have come to know and care for. They are both very, very relaxed in the presence of humans and go on as if you aren’t there, sometimes even walking under your vehicle and sniffing your camera!
This overcast morning, we followed them for over 3 hours and it was magical. They would stalk and pounce each other, rub up against each other, lick each other – such fantastic interaction. The cub is becoming more curious the older she gets and soon will leave mom to fend for herself. The thought of them not being together is sad but that’s nature.
On this morning, the cub became particularly confident, ran from mom and jumped into this huge Leadwood tree. She kept on climbing until she reached the flimsy edges of the highest branches, where red-billed buffalo weaver birds had nested. The branches, more like twigs, were not strong enough to carry her weight for long and luckily she realized – quickly heading back to the main branches leaving the birds in peace. I captured this on her way down and I like the size comparison of the young leopard in the huge old leadwood tree. A priceless moment!
A piece of Jackie’s wall art, available in a wooden framed canvas or a fine art print, will add wonder and a touch of wild Africa to your home décor. She captures extraordinary and evocative moments from the wilderness and brings them to your home. We hope you will share in her, and our, amazement at what the wildest places have to offer.
All images courtesy of Jackie Wild Photography @jackiewildphoto