African safari – looking for oryx

Going on a photographic safari is for us at Nature Photo Tours one of our favourite things to do. Being out there in the bush trying to spot the animals. Every day is different, so going to the same park several times never gets boring. And you will never know what you will see.

There’s more than the Big 5

Most people want to see the Big 5, which are the most dangerous wildlife species to be hunted on foot; African elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. I hope some day people will stop hunting and that the only shots they make are with their photo cameras. While I’m always excited to see any of the Big 5, especially leopard since it’s so elusive, I’m equally excited to see other animal species, like antelopes.

Oryx or Gemsbok

The south african oryx is a beautiful antelope that can be found in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The oryx is often called gemsbok, which comes from Afrikaans, which in turn comes from the Dutch name for chamois, to which it is not related though, but the first Dutch arriving in Southern Africa thought it resembled the chamois, which lives in the European Alps.
You will find oryx fairly easy in the more arid parts of South Africa and Botswana. In Namibia it’s almost impossible not to see one, especially in Etosha or Sossusvlei. They are is almost like a national symbol, together with the Namib desert, after which the country was named.

This oryx stopped in his tracks when we drove past. The black and white painting on the face looks spectacular. (Karoo NP – South Africa)

True desert animals

The oryx has beautiful slightly curved horns and has a light brown colour with black lines and white patches. It’s simply beautiful. They have a long black tail, similar to a horse. They’re not very tall, but extraordinarily well adapted to arid environments, which is why they do well in the Namib desert and the Kalahari. They do not rely on drinking water, but find that in the grass or shrubs they eat from. They even survive in areas with hardly any shade. During the hottest hours they will position themselves in such a way that their exposure to the sun is minimised. In addition they can allow their body temperature to rise from 36 to 45 degrees Celsius.

This oryx decided we were getting too close and ran away further from the road. (Karoo NP – South Africa)

Photographing gemsbok

Spotting these beautiful animals is so nice. Sometimes they stop and watch you as much as we are watching them. Other times they just walk on, pretending you’re not there. Often there is enough time to take photos. If your focal length is not long enough for the portrait of an oryx, try to include some of the environment. Like the photo below where this herd was walking along the edge of one of the salt pans in Etosha, Namibia. The threatening clouds in the distance and the sun lighting up the pan made for great contrast, and give an idea where this herd is living.

This herd of oryx walked and grazed on the edge of a salt pan. (Etosha NP – Namibia)

When an oryx is walking in a direction, leave some space in the photo for the oryx to walk into. This will give your photo something dynamic. You can see this on the photo with the running oryx, where you can see where he’s going. Another example can be found below where there is more space to the right than to the left.

Oryx walking into the distance at the end of a hot day. (Etosha NP – Namibia)

I like to include other elements, apart from the wildlife, in a photo as well. I love landscape photography and if I can combine that with wildlife photography, I always will. I have tried that with the photo below where I have included the tree in the composition to add another element of interest to the photo.

Oryx giving us a stare near a tree. (Etosha NP – Namibia)

I hope you love wildlife and wildlife photography like we do. It’s always so interesting to see all these animals in the wild. Not just the big and famous animals, but any kind. You can join us on our photo tours to photograph landscapes and wildlife in Africa. Just being there is awesome, being there with a camera makes it really special.

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