Guests aboard National Geographic Explorer in Arctic Svalbard enjoyed a rare sighting yesterday: a polar bear feasting on a beluga whale. How did this bear manage to catch a whale nearly twice its weight? Perhaps the whale was killed by ice calving off the glacier, though the bear would still have to drag the dead beluga onto the ice—no small task. In any case, it is impossible to know since we arrived just in time to see the bear over its kill. It is indeed a rare sighting; in our 30+ years exploring Svalbard only one of our naturalists has ever seen a polar bear feasting on a beluga whale.
In honor of World Oceans Day, One World, One Ocean is sharing an exclusive sneak peek at their new IMAX film, shot among the islands of the South Pacific. This photo slideshow was shot at Raja Ampat, Indonesia. It is a string of islands home to staggering biodiversity. Over 450 species of reef-building coral live in the gin-clear waters surrounding the islands—by comparison, all of the Caribbean has about 70 species of coral.
See the photos, and if you’re inspired to explore it yourself, join us aboard National Geographic Orion in April 2014 for our expedition, Voyage To The Spice Islands & The Coral Triangle, which includes an exploration of Raja Ampat.
By Jack Swenson, Lindblad Expeditions photo instructor. This is a dispatch from one day in the Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa during a 2012 Lindblad Expeditions & Bushtracks photo safari by private air.
Leopard & Cub
We began another beautiful morning at MalaMala searching for lions that had been calling at dawn across the river from the Main Camp. Soon we got a radio call that Keith (the Main Camp Manager) had just sighted a leopard and cub from the camp’s deck. We turned and headed to the edge of the river in the vicinity where they had been seen. When we found the mother and cub, they were in the shade behind vegetation near a quiet pool. We waited patiently, and soon the mother got up and began walking south along the shore. Our guide, Sean, moved the vehicle beyond them to an area where he suspected they might come up the bank. As they ascended the embankment, they came right into the morning sunlight and walked straight towards our vehicle. It was a stunning moment, and the view of their faces captured the seriousness of the mother (who had had her kill stolen the night before) and her charmingly innocent looking cub. As we followed them, this inquisitive cub wanted to climb up everything it passed; rocks, trees, and nearly onto the bonnet of our vehicle too.
Lions Ambushing an Impala
In classic MalaMala fashion, after spending some quality time watching a leopard mother and cub, we let other vehicles have time with them as we headed off for our morning coffee and snacks. Afterwards, we started heading south to view the hippo pool, but got delayed by elephants clogging the road near the river. As we considered our options, a radio call said that lions were nearby, so we turned back northward. We found members of the Styx Pride, though it was now mid-to-late morning and the lions were alternately drinking at a pool and moving into the shade. As we were watching several adult females and large young, one female headed off into the bush, noticeably in stalking mode. We tried to follow, but lost her in the dense thorn bush. Our guide, Sean, circled back around to the other pride members who were still in the shade of a large tree where we had left them. They began moving, and occasionally looking interested in something farther ahead of them in the bush. We followed and when they paused, Sean slowed and parked us within view of them. As we watched, suddenly several lions jumped up and quickly headed away into the bush. An impala came careening past us, swiftly disappearing into the bush, and at that same moment the lions ambushed a second impala only about ten meters from our vehicle. I swung my camera, aiming at the thrashing impala, and began shooting as the lions swiftly pulled it to the ground. The impala made this last gasp with no chance of escape. I only got a few frames before the antelope was completely surrounded by the hungry pride. Within minutes, the impala was devoured.
Jack & Rikki Swenson sail aboard our ships as naturalists and certified photo instructors, and they’ll lead three Lindblad Expeditions & Bushtracks photo safaris in 2013. Two still have space available. You can see more of Jack & Rikki’s work online at Expedition Gallery.
Wildlife Paradise Photo Safari: South Africa & Botswana by Private Air (pdf) | September 26, 2013 | See full itinerary
SeaWeb’s Marine Photobank seeks to inspire people to care for and conserve our oceans in a unique way—by getting photographers to share their undersea photos.
As part of the effort to get photographers to donate their work to the Photobank, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic offers the top prize in SeaWeb’s annual Ocean in Focus Photo Contest: A Galápagos expedition aboard National Geographic Endeavour.
The grand prize winner of last year’s contest was Terry Goss. Last week he sailed aboard Endeavour, and he made the most of it by taking some great shots, including some excellent undersea photos. And it’s certain to be a trip he’ll never forget, especially since he and his fiancée decided to get married at sunset on the ship’s bow by the captain.
This year’s Ocean in Focus Photo Contest is still open. Photographers are asked to donate up to 10 photos by January 31, 2013 for a chance to win this year’s grand prize.
Last spring 148 guests embarked on a sweeping journey up the coast of West Africa, beginning in Cape Town and landing in 16 countries before saying their goodbyes to one another in Marrakesh. Before the trip ended they would each fill an entire passport with visas, be greeted by national press in Liberia, and pass among deserts, tropical islands, and cities that pulse with life. And nearly everywhere they stopped, they would be greeted by the people.
One guest, Paul Pitzer, snapped photos of the people they met along the way, and turned it into a photo book: People 4, West African Odyssey.
He said, “I’ve been taking pictures of people since the ‘60s when I was in the Peace Corps. I consider what I do taking pictures; Grace (his wife) is the photographer. My book is really an addendum to hers, covering a fascinating aspect of an amazing expedition.”
Grace Pitzer’s excellent photo book, West Africa Odyssey, South Africa to Morocco, does an extraordinary job documenting the wonder and scope of the voyage, and we are delighted to be able to share Grace and Paul Pitzer’s work with you.
SeaWeb’s Marine Photobank represents and effort to get photographers to share their shots of the oceans—whether they be inspiring or troubling. If the axiom “out of sight, out of mind” is true, then SeaWeb is doing everything they can to get images of the world’s oceans in front of people and at the top of their minds.
October 1st marked the launch of the fifth annual Ocean in Focus Conservation Photography Contest run by SeaWeb’s Marine Photobank program. The goal of the contest is to inspire photographers, from hobbyists to professionals, to care about the ocean and focus their lens on the true positive and negative human impacts on the marine environment.
Grand prize in this year’s contest is a Lindblad-National Geographic Galápagos expedition. The winner of last year’s contest is on his way to the islands right now, soon to embark National Geographic Endeavour…and we’re expecting to see some great photos being posted on SeaWeb’s Twitter feed!
On July 16th I had the privilege of spending a couple hours with cape hunting dogs on the Mala Mala reserve in South Africa. Their den site had been found that morning, and it was a remarkable sighting. I’d seen them before during my six years living in East Africa, but never this close, this calm, this playful. Under the watchful eye of an adult the cubs played relentlessly, probably developing skills that would, in adulthood, make them the most effective carnivores of Africa.
Once they start a hunt in a pack, they rarely fail. According to wildlife filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, when I asked: “It is correct that they are hugely efficient. Eighty-four percent was recorded by filmmaker Hugo van Lawick’s as the average success rate once they had identified prey.” By comparison, lions are about 30% efficient.
Patience, stamina, and extraordinary collaboration are their hallmarks.
One of our guests traveling aboard National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos sent in this photo they snapped while kayaking two days ago. Juvenile sea lions are plentiful at Punta Cormorant this time of year, and the playful animals often hop off the shore to come in for a closer look while our guests kayak and snorkel—one sea lion even leapt onto our glass-bottom boat nine months ago. Join us in Galápagos and experience their playful nature for yourself.