Wildlife Photos and the Stories Behind Them

If you know me or have read my blog before, then you will know that I adore wildlife. Nothing beats seeing an animal in the wild, but when I haven’t got this opportunity, I love to see other people’s wildlife photos. One of my favourite things about wildlife photography is reading the stories behind them. I like imagining what happened just before and after a photo and feeling like I am standing behind that camera. For these reasons, I asked other travel bloggers to join me in sharing their favourite wildlife photos and the stories behind them. Creating this post has been so much fun and I was amazed by the amount of bloggers who offered to contribute towards it. Thank you all for your mesmerising, heart-warming and thought-provoking photos. They have inspired me and made even more determined to book another wildlife trip next year.

Cheetah in the African Bush by Emily

Cheetahs in the African bush

In 2017 I finally fulfilled a lifetime’s dream to travel to South Africa to learn how to become a real life safari guide. For five months a group of students and I lived in a tent in the middle of the African bush, every day driving and walking out into the unknown to learn about everything around us; from plants and geology to animals and astronomy. It was on one such drive that I had an experience I’ll never forget. Our Instructor, Laz, picked up on some cheetah tracks. After explaining the track to us, we piled into the game vehicle to try to find them. To the other students and I, we seemed to be going in completely the wrong direction – but Laz had grown up here and he had this incredible instinct for the animals. We ducked and swerved around the many turns until he slowly began to lower his hands, palms down, in front of us. Slow down. “They’re close” he said as we still looked on, bewildered as to what sign he was picking up that we couldn’t. “Look on top of the termite mounds” he continued. Cheetah love to sit on these as the elevation gives them a view of any upcoming dinner. Just as he said it, he pointed and gasped excitedly. “There they are!” and, true to his word, there was a beautiful female cheetah and her 3 sub-adult cubs casually laid out on a termite mound to our left. For the next hour we sat with these amazing creatures as they groomed and played with each other and I can say, without a doubt, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Check out Emily’s Instagram to see more photos from her safari life.

Koalas in Australia by Cat

Koalas up a tree in Australia

One of the main reasons that anyone visits Kangaroo Island is for wildlife sightings. Koalas are sadly endangered and suffering from habitat destruction across Australia, but on Kangaroo Island they are thriving. You can see them all over the island but my favourite wildlife photo ever came from Hanson Bay. The koala population live on private land so, though they are wild, you do have to pay a small entrance fee to see them. We entered the reserve as soon as it opened and immediately spotted a cute female koala and her baby joey on a really low branch (koalas normally like to be really high up in the tree). At first the joey was completely curled up from sight but we waited patiently for half an hour and it paid off. Suddenly the joey got up, stretched and yawned. I put the camera on rapid fire and ended up catching what actually looks like a moment of surprise. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was, not just to spend some time with these gorgeous animals but also witness this incredibly cute moment. No wildlife photo I’ve ever taken makes me smile as much as this one!

Check out Cat’s Instagram to see if she achieves her dream of visiting every country in the world.

Rhinos in South Africa by Angie

Rhino in Africa

I decided to change my life. On a whim. Because I did not want to float around in every day life. I wanted more. I wanted adventure. I wanted to make a difference. “What? You want to fly to Africa?” “What? Rhinos? Why on earth would you want to save rhinos?”
“Can’t you take a photography course somewhere else?” “What in the world is Anti Poaching?”“But you know how to take pictures!” Yup. I do. But I wanted a challenge. Something unusual. Something that makes sense. I wanted to find my passion. I fell in love with South Africa, a country with an uniqueness that spans from the black rhino in Kruger National Park to the breaching whales along its endless coastline. I fell in love with the gentle giants and the diverse wildlife, roaming more types of terrain than your camera could handle. And I fell in love with the men and women who are custodians to the wild.
I decided to stay. To capture their stories. Stories that needed to be told. One of these stories begins in a small reserve about 20 kms outside of Port Elizabeth. It begins with an invitation by Aeysha Cantor, whose family runs that little gem on the coast, home to a small crash of rhino.  Throughout the years, their daily discussions around the dinner table, revolved around their gentle giants and how to protect them best. Decisions were made, horns were cut and friends, family and volunteers started patrolling. I was invited to tag along, to get a bit of an insight of the daily life these passionate, humble private rhino owners live and I was allowed to spent time with their beautiful animals. The little boy on this photo is named Tank. He is a little character, full of beans, always hungry and up to something. And he is alone. His beautiful mom was poached a few nights ago, for 1 cm of horn. Hearts are still breaking. I still have tears in my eyes, remembering Ayesha’s recording of her and Tank crying for his mom. Tank is getting better every day though, as his dad Chuck and his aunt started to look after him. The hole left by his mom will never close but the wounds will heal and the fight will continue.
Be sure to check out Angie’s Instagram for non-stop inspiring stories of wildlife.

Bears in Alaska by Sue

A bear spotted in Alaska

He was huge. Probably almost 10’ (3 meters) tall and 1500 pounds (680 KG). We were in a little cart—three of us. Reggie, our guide and me. The bear was about 50 meters away. No barbed wire. No fences. Nothing between us and the bear. He peeked his head out of the forest. Long enough for Reggie to take this picture. Then he turned our way and looked at us for a moment. We were enthralled. And a little scared. The bear seemed to be more scared then we were and a ducked back into the forest. We caught him later on peeking out at us again. Then he was gone.

This was part of a day at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge on the western Shore of Cook Inlet in Alaska. We took an hour prop plane into the Alaska wilderness and then spent the next day watching bear going about their lives. The guides don’t carry guns or bear spray. They are very familiar with the terrain and the bears.  Seeing the bears in their natural habitat was an experience we treasure.

Follow Sue’s Instagram for her off the beaten path and budget photos.

 

Penguine in Antarctica by Lisa

Penguins in Antarctica

Several years ago, I went on a Holiday cruise with my parents around the horn of South America and cruised (but didn’t get off the ship) along the Antarctic peninsula.  The biggest highlight was the wonderful day trip we did at Stanley, Falkland Islands.  We boarded a jeep and drove a couple hours across the bumpy peat bogs to one of the most beautiful white sand beaches I ever saw.  But this beach was special – it was home to 1000’s of penguins of three different species (King, Gentoo, and Magellanic).  The King Penguins we the most spectacular.  The second largest after Emperor Penguins, they look so regal in black and white and yellow necklines.  I especially like the juvenile penguins…  they look like big, brown fuzzy eggs.  Here is a photo of a juvenile, surrounded by adults.  Can you also see the penguin sitting on an egg?   This trip was so special, I’m returning to the area to realize my dream of stepping on Antarctica and visiting the 100,000’s of King Penguins in the South Georgia Islands in late 2019.

Check out Lisa’s beautiful photos of nature on her Instagram.

 

Lemurs in Madagascar by Jill

Ring-tailed lemur

Sometimes the best wildlife photos are the ones you take by accident, when the click of the shutter coincides with the perfect movement of the animal. I came across this little guy in ‎⁨Andringitra National Park⁩, ⁨Madagascar⁩. The ring-tailed lemur is the most famous of all Madagascar’s primates, but we had seen comparatively few of them in the previous week crossing the country. Many lemurs prefer to live high in the trees, out of reach of man, but the ring-tailed lemur likes life closer to ground level, scampering across the rocky outcrops and foraging for food in the shrubs and bushes. Having mainly explored the lofty Madagascan forests, we had seen many species of lemur, but not the celebrity attraction. ‎⁨Andringitra National Park⁩ in the centre of the island, however, is a great place to see ring-tails. We were quickly surrounded by them as they raced across the footpath and high in the neighbouring branches. Mothers nursed their babies in the forks of trees, staring inquisitively at us with our cameras. They were magical. Spotting this lemur close by among the branches, I clicked my shutter… just as its tongue came out. It seemed to be taunting me; lightning-quick, a lemur won’t hang around for long if you approach it, and this one seemed to be saying “you can’t catch me”! But I caught the photo, which is what matters.

Follow Jill’s Instagram to read her stories from around the world.

Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park by Erin

Elaphants in Addo Elephant Park

Our two days in Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa were an absolute dream. Spotting game is incredibly easy because well, elephants aren’t exactly hard to spot. We were always blessed with great game sightings, but one day we were particularly lucky. We drove up to a watering hole as hundreds of elephants mingled nearby. We’d seen animals drink and bathe in the watering holes before, but this was different. It was reminiscent of a city public pool, filled with children splashing about. One particularly shallow pool was filled with baby elephants paddling around and cleaning off. The deeper pools were filled with adolescent elephants play fighting and wrestling with their developing tusks. Young elephants slid down the mud embankment into the water, splashed and played, then struggled back up the mud to get out. Watching them struggle to get out reminded me of struggling to get out of the deep end of any swimming pool! The moms watched from the water’s edge, just in case they were needed. While I enjoyed every minute of our time on our Addo Elephant Park safari this was a real stand out experience. We watched until one by one, they crawled out of the pools. The hundreds of elephants left, one family at a time.

Follow Erin’s Instagram and enjoy her photos from around the world.

Lions in South Africa by Mona

Lions in South Africa

Going on a safari in Africa was one of the best wildlife experiences and travel experiences in general that I’ve ever had. I stayed on a private game reserve in Kruger National Park of South Africa, where we were taken on three-hour safaris twice a day: once for sunrise, and another for sunset. Within a few days, we were lucky enough to spot all of “the big 5” (rhino, hippo, lion, cheetah, and elephant). My favorite animal of the big 5 to witness was without a doubt the lion.  We watched in amazement as the sleepy lions awoke from their nap, stretched their legs, and slowly walked over to bathe in the river. The lions and their playful little lion cubs would walk right up to our open-top Jeep and rub their backs on the sides just as cats do. They seemed so docile in this state but we were well-aware that their next brutal catch for dinner could be just moments away. I will never forget this moment
with the lions, and I hope that every traveler will get to experience a safari in Africa at least once in their life because it is truly a unique and unforgettable opportunity.

Check out Mona’s Instagram to follow her luxurious travels.

Turtles in the Galapagos Islands by Retha

Turtle in the Galapagos Islands

Going to the Galapagos Islands was on my list of 40 things I want to do before I turn 40, so when I got the opportunity to go in September of 2017, I jumped at it. There are numerous amazing animals to be found on the Galapagos; sea lions, giant tortoises, Galapagos penguins, and of course the blue footed booby. But of all those animals my most amazing encounter was with a sea turtle.

I have been snorkeling all over the world. It’s one of my favorite water activities! The day I encountered this fella I took a boat from Isabela Island to Los Túneles; An area of the island with underwater tunnels formed by ancient lava flow. The tunnels provide a sanctuary for white tipped sharks and sea turtles away from the choppy open waters.

There were no sea turtles for a long time and then I swam around a large rock formation and there were 7 of them! The turtle pictured was chomping on plants at the bottom. I drove down several times and held on to rocks to get a really good look at him. He didn’t mind my presence one bit, so I kept visiting him. Each time I went down we gazed into each other’s eyes. I felt like he was just as taken by me as I was of him. Before we swam away he came right up to my face and gave me the look in the picture and I captured it at just the right second. I’ll never forget that moment.

Check out Retha’s  Instagram to follow along with her travels.

Cranes in Israel by Sari and Maya

Cranes flying in Israel  

Bird watching is not our thing. You won’t find us hiking in nature with binoculars and field guides, getting all excited by the sight of a rare bird. However, the visit to the magical Agmon HaHula (located in the North of Israel) took us by surprise and we will always remember our special experience there when we were able to take pictures of thousands of cranes, pelicans, cormorants and many more birds during the sunrise. Waking up in the wee hours of the night wasn’t fun, getting ourselves in pitch darkness during the coldest morning hours, on an open wagon wasn’t fun either but then, we started making our way through the paths of the Agmon, and the cranes that recognized the sound of the motorized wagon already started to get excited. Imagine sitting in an open wagon in the midst of thousands of cranes, feeding and flying all around you just as the first rays of sun colored the scene in golden hues and some early morning mist crept around us, enhancing the otherworldly feeling of the experience. Not to mention the deafening cries of the cranes all around us (who knew these birds could be so loud!). We couldn’t decide between clicking our cameras as fast as we could or just sitting there and enjoying this magical moment. Agmon HaHula is a great place that not many tourists get to experience, which is a shame. You can watch hundreds and even thousands of birds (depending on the season) that are migrating along this route.  We will certainly remember this once-in-a-life-time experience for the rest of our lives!

Check out Sara and Maya’s Instagram for inspiration to roam the world.

Yaks in Tibet by Ann

A Yak in Tibet

We met this black Tibetan yak while we were heading to the sacred lake of the Green Tara, a few kilometers from the main Ganden-Samye trekking route in Tibet. It is very common to see yaks in the wilderness of the Tibetan plateau. On the Ganden-Samye route it’s easier to meet the yaks than it is to meet the Tibetans!  We met less than 20 people in three days of trekking, but many, many yaks! In my imagination, I thought we could ride the yaks. After I had spent the first day near these creatures, I realised how far off my imagination had been. Yaks are fast and agile, and very free. They move easily on grass and rocks and spend the day grazing quietly all by themselves; it’s not an easy task to gather them in the morning after they have spent the night away from the nomads camp. They behave a bit like bulls, so it’s better to stay at a safe distance. Chatting with the nomads, I got to know how everything in their lives come from yaks: the material from which their snow-proof tents are made, the thick, resistant blankets fit for the Tibetan winters, and yak cheese and meat. In the centre of each tent, there is a stove fuelled by yak dung. All the products are sold at the markets and represent the major income for the nomads who raise these animals.

Follow Ann’s Instagram to see more from her travels.

Elephants in Sri Lanka by Ellis

Elephants in Sri Lanka

This picture is maybe not my best wildlife pictures if it comes to quality. Sri Lanka was heaven for wildlife lovers and I have seen plenty of elephants that allowed me to take great pictures of them. However, this picture comes with one of the most special elephant encounter that I had in Sri Lanka.

It was Valentine’s day when I was in Uda Walawe and got up at 4 AM for the morning safari that I booked. It didn’t take long for us to see our first female elephant. The elephant slowly walked towards us and stood still in front of our jeep. After 10 minutes our driver decided to move on, but as soon as we started our jeep the elephant got angry. We could do nothing else, but wait till the elephant moved.

The elephant did not move, instead another male elephant came to show his interest in her. Slowly touching her with his trunk they stood together for quite a while. The female clearly enjoyed all this attention, both from the male elephant and from us. When the male finally left, it seemed she made some goodbye picture poses for us before leaving in the direction of the male elephant.

Check out Ellis’ Instagram to see more from her backpacking around the world.

Prairie dogs in South Dakota by Ketki

Badlands Prarie Dogs
During our South Dakota road trip, I saw prairie dogs for the first time. These burrowing rodents live in large colonies called ‘towns’ and we saw many prairie dog towns at Custer State Park and in Badlands National Park. Most of the towns stretched far and wide and there were burrow holes in the ground as far as the eye could see. The prairie dogs were adorable little creatures with chubby paws and scurried around their burrows. The most distinctive thing about them was their shrill, barking warning call at the approach of a predator. While we were at the Roberts Prairie Dog Town in the Badlands, the silent town suddenly erupted into barks and whistles as a coyote started circling the area. I was able to capture the prairie dogs jumping up and down in warning and this remains my favorite wildlife encounter till date.
Check out Ketki’s Instagram to follow her colourful adventures.

Killer Whales in Vancouver, Canada by Greta

Killer Whales in Canada

As a kid I have always loved seeing wildlife photos and videos, the desire to one day see wild animals up close is one of the things that got me into photography and travelling in the first place. When I went to Vancouver in Canada I was lucky enough to see wild killer whales hunting.

I did a half-day whale watching tour from Granville Island and despite the tour company saying spotting whales is almost always guaranteed I was a bit suspicious. After about one hour of sailing we spotted a pod of killer whales, and we soon realised they were hunting.

There is a regulation in place in Canada that says you have to stay at least 100m away from wild whales. Our captain stopped the engine as soon as we sighted the whales and we were actually incredibly lucky because the whales swam in our direction. Since we weren’t able to turn on the engine we got to see two killer whales swim right under our boat, with a seal carcass in tow. I’m not a professional photographer but I managed to take some cool wildlife photos of the killer whales when they got close to our boat.

Follow Greta’s Instagram for gorgeous photos from around the world.

Lions in South Africa by Caitlyn

Lioness and her cubs in South Africa

My husband and I observed this pride of lions over the course of a few days while on a safari in Sabi Sands, South Africa. The pride consisted of a handful of female lions and a bunch of lion cubs. According to our safari guide, this pride originally included 2 adult male lions who left the pride. This makes the pride more vulnerable to invading males. If another male lion, or small group of male lions, were to invade the pride, they would kill all the cubs. They do this because the female lions don’t become fertile unless their cubs mature or die. It was also apparent that this pride hadn’t eaten in days. They were very thin and the cubs were desperately trying to nurse. We watched as the cubs played, nursed, and napped while the mothers patiently waited for a hunting opportunity. Apparently, the lionesses were able to catch a warthog after we had driven away, but that was not nearly enough to feed the entire pride. Luckily, lions can go for pretty long stretches without any food, which gives them plenty of time to catch a good meal.

Check out Caitlyn’s Instagram to be inspired by her outdoor travels.

Sea Turtles in Malaysia by Sarah

Scuba diving to find sea turtles

For as long as I’ve been traveling, I’ve been trying to find a sea turtle. These elusive and elegant animals have a strong pull on me. Perhaps it’s because my dad bought me a turtle puppet at the zoo when I was a kid, or because seeing the endangered turtles is so rare. Only 1 in 1000 live to sexual maturity, and I’m absolutely captivated by imagining what they go through in their young lives to survive to that point.
I’ve stayed up all night at turtle hatcheries in Australia, learned to scuba dive and researched the best places to find them. All my efforts were futile for years. Over the past year, however, I’ve been lucky enough to see several. I kept count up until my recent scuba diving trip in Sipadan, Malaysia. Known as one of the best scuba diving spots in the world, turtle sightings are almost guaranteed. Over the course of 4 days of diving, I saw at least 25. On my last night there, 51 baby sea turtles hatched from their eggs and made their first journey into the ocean. It was a beautifully heart-rending sight, especially knowing that statistically it would be lucky if even one survived to the size of the majestic sea turtle in this photo.
Check out Sarah’s Instagram to see photos from her  and her partner’s amazing round the world trip.

Ostrich in South Africa by Cydny

An ostrich in South Africa

Wildlife has always been my favorite attraction when visiting another country. What type of animals are prevalent in your area? We see deer, foxes, and even bears, so I’m always curious what is seen elsewhere. When arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, I was well aware I was staying in a city-like atmosphere. My chances of experiencing giraffes and lions are next to nothing unless I drove hours out into a proper safari. I was under the assumption that I wouldn’t see much wildlife here. Call me naive. As we took a ride towards the ocean, I pictured sandy beaches, blue water, the occasional seagull around the bend until witness something sprinting down the shoreline. Is that what I think it is? It looks prehistoric? Tell me that’s an ostrich? I couldn’t believe my eyes! One ostrich running on the beach, all by his lonesome. I have only seen these massive birds in zoos and I couldn’t help but think he was escaping a cage. I fumbled for my camera to snap him in action to later find out that this is just a common sighting. If you travel often, cities may begin to feel all the same, but this was a pleasant surprise that you just never know what you might spot. We have seagulls and pigeons, South Africa has Ostrich.

Check out Cydny’s Instagram to be inspired by her adventures.

Seals in Iceland by Lindsay

A seal popping it's head out the water in Iceland

My husband and I traveled to Iceland in February 2017 where we took an amazing 3-day tour with Extreme Iceland that took us around the golden circle and along the southern part of the island. Sadly, an abnormally rainy season flooded the ice caves. It also caused the skies to me too overcast to see more than a sliver of the northern lights. However, we still managed to have an awesome trip because there is just so much pretty scenery in Iceland with the glaciers and waterfalls. One of our favorite pictures from the trip is this one of a seal’s head peeking out of the water at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. The first day, we tried and tried to catch a picture of the seals playing in the water but they are so fast and elusive. We also watched several professional photographers set up tripods and try to catch them on camera, so we figured we were out of luck with only our little point and shoot camera. Honestly, all of the other pictures we took are so terrible, you can’t even tell that they are seals! But surprisingly, I managed to catch this perfect snap on the second day when one poked his head out of the water for a brief second and looked right at me!

Check out Lindsay’s Instagram to follow along with her and her family’s adventures.

Deer in Canada by Monica

Baby deer in Canada

As a Canadian living in a sprawling suburban city, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by lots of nature. While it’s not uncommon for us to see wildlife like deer during our morning commute, we don’t typically meet face-to-face. A short drive from my hometown is an amazing Canadian safari experience, where we can get up close and personal with our native animals. From bison, to elks and deer, you can have the opportunity to share some love (and carrots). It wasn’t until we caught sight of something rustling in the snow, that we saw something so adorable, we stopped right in our tracks. There it was, we locked eyes with the sweetest little fawn. As we sat there stunned for a moment, she fearlessly approached the car and gave us the faintest cry. She came for the carrots, but she left having melted a piece of our hearts.

See more from Monica’s travels by following her Instagram.

 

Sea horses in New Caledonia by Eloise

Nelson Bay Sea horse (c) My Favourite Escapes

Some animals are harder to spot than others. Not because they are rare, but because they hide in plain sight. Did you know seahorses could mimic their environment for a perfect camouflage? I saw my first seahorse in New Caledonia. Well, supposedly. I knew it was there but couldn’t differentiate it from the coral branch it was holding on. I finally managed to see one clearly during a night dive in South Australia. But I was still learning the tricks of underwater photography and had no luck capturing a good shot. It took a while for me to manage to take my first photo of a seahorse. But the wait makes me appreciate it even more. We did a shore dive from Nelson Bay, and my expectations were high. In this area reputed for macro photography, they have a site called “Seahorse Garden.” And our guide was nicknamed “the Seahorse Whisperer.” Nelson Bay didn’t disappoint. I hadn’t reached the bottom yet when our guide spotted a seahorse. We explored more of the dive site, but I would have been happy staying in that one place filling up my SD card with this shot I had wanted for so long!

Check out Eloise’ gorgeous wildlife and other travel photos on her Instagram

And Finally, one extra from me… Orangutans in Borneo

A mother and baby orangutan in the trees

 I am so in love with this adorable pair and this photo was from my favourite day in Borneo. Orangutans are my favourite animals (alongside cheetahs) so it’s no surprise that my favourite wildlife photo is of this species. I saw this gorgeous semi-wild mother and baby in Borneo a couple of weeks ago at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. We were previously told that we were unlikely to see any orangutans due to the fact that it was fruiting season so the animals are more likely to be finding food in the wild. However, we actually managed to see nine orangutans overall! It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life. Watching their expressions was mesmerising and so entertaining. It’s no surprise that we share 96.4% of our DNA with orangutans. We saw three baby orangutans overall, some were swinging from the trees below their mother which was adorable; they’re such playful animals. As cute as orangutans are, it’s important never to hold or use an orangutan as a photo prop; it’s not natural and it’s far better to see them in their natural habitat.

I’ll be sharing many stories from Borneo and the rescued orangutans on my Instagram so please follow along with my adventure.

 

What’s your favourite wildlife photo? Let me know in the comments below.

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Collage of wildlife photos    Photo of penguins with the title text

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2 Comments

  1. Cat
    August 30, 2018 / 9:42 pm

    Aww such a gorgeous collection of photos! Makes me want to see all of them in the wild 🙂

  2. September 1, 2018 / 9:16 am

    This is such a beautiful post. I loved reading through these wildlife photo stories 🙂

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