Photo by Christian Sperka
Over the course of ten years I have spent more than 200 nights in South Africa. I like to take pictures of all kinds of animals, but my main focus has always been wild cats.
As a photographer, I am drawn to their beauty, their power, and their elegance. I like to observe how they behave in a pride, hunt, and move. How they can gently lift a claw to cuddle their young and how they can fixate their eyes on something. Never a dull moment.
Mziki Marsh must be one of my favorite places on earth. It is a natural extension of the Mkuze River floodplains and a highly productive game viewing area within Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal. On this particular July morning we made our way to the marsh very early, fully equipped, including my Canon EF 100-400mm telephoto zoom, which is great for wildlife photography.
When the eastern sky was dawning we were rewarded by the silhouette of the dominant North Pride male on top of Junction Dam. He was lying on the ground, yawning like mad. It was truly beautiful, but there was a problem: his tongue was hanging out, which made him look silly. I stayed with it, though, by continuing shooting photos and in the last picture of the series he pulled his tongue inside his mouth and I got my shot.
I saw this beautiful cat on many occasions between 2002 and 2009, but only once in this fabulous setting.