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Greg du Toit

  • Street: Witney Road, Bryanston, 2021
  • City: Johannesburg
  • Servicing Area: Nationwide
  • Email Address: speakers@eventsource.co.za
  • Additional Services: Speakers
  • Listed: June 5, 2012 1:04 pm
Greg du Toit
Greg du Toit - Image 1Greg du Toit - Image 2Greg du Toit - Image 3

Description

Greg du Toit
African Wildlife Photographer and Story Teller

Greg du Toit is a professional African wildlife photographer and 8th generation African. Born in South Africa in 1977, he has lived and worked in four different African countries. From a young age, he has engaged the wilds of Africa, and there was never any doubt as to what he would do with his life. It was therefore no surprise that after completing his tertiary education in Nature Conservation, he went to live permanently in the African bush…

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Greg du Toit for your next Event

Profile

Greg du Toit
African Wildlife Photographer and Story Teller

Greg du Toit is a professional African wildlife photographer and 8th generation African. Born in South Africa in 1977, he has lived and worked in four different African countries. From a young age, he has engaged the wilds of Africa, and there was never any doubt as to what he would do with his life. It was therefore no surprise that after completing his tertiary education in Nature Conservation, he went to live permanently in the African bush…

Highlights in his career include undertaking a three-month project that entailed camping in the remote north of Kenya, where he lived alongside local Samburu tribesman and got to experience their culture first hand. Another special time for him was the extensive undertaking to photograph the remote region of Kenya’s southern rift valley, home to the traditional Loodokilani clan of the Maasai tribe. It was during this sixteen month project, that Greg was able to spend much time on the remote shores of Lake Natron, not only the largest breeding ground for Lesser Flamingo in the world, but also one of Africa’s most inhospitable lakes. His time spent documenting from the shores of Lake Natron, led to an Africa Geographic cover story in February 2006 titled ‘Living on the Edge’.

While in Kenya, he also undertook to photograph nomadic free ranging lion, which eke out a precarious existence beyond formal park or reserve boundaries. Setting up hides and spending countless hours sweating it out on the floor of the Rift Valley (and being bitten by tsetse flies), he was finally able to capture images of these wild and elusive creatures. A fun and behind the scenes story titled ‘A Waiting Game’ appeared in the June 2009 issue of the BBC Wildlife magazine. He was also interviewed about this story on NBC’s Today Show as well as on BBC World Service. This story received wide media coverage the world over.

Greg’s Story:

Blood, Sweat and Photographic Tears
By Greg du Toit

The story of a wildlife photographer in pursuit of that one rare and fleeting frame:

My pursuit of that ever elusive frame, which became an obsession that lasted a total of sixteen months and took me along an eventful journey, during which I contracted numerous parasites (some quite possibly unknown to science), not to mention the thousands upon thousands of insect bites.

At first, the notion to photograph a truly wild lion drinking, seemed like a simple one, provided one knew where to find the lion and where to find water? Fortunately, living on the Western escarpment of the Gregorian Rift Valley in the South of Kenya, both the aforementioned luxuries were at my disposal. At the beginning of this year, I discovered a spring that wound its way down the Nguruman Hills, spilling onto the rift floor, where it formed a picturesque waterhole. At first glance, the tiny patch of water, which covered an area of about twenty square metres, seemed pretty quiet and was after all, only a mere five kilometers from the closest Maasai village.

Walking around the waterhole though, I noticed fresh lion tracks superbly imprinted in the fine volcanic dust. These prints were not left by habituated lion, but rather a rare and wild type of semi-nomadic lion. These free ranging lion carry out an existence beyond fences, outside of any formal game reserve or national park, and roam the floor of the Rift wild and free, just like all lion once did. Operating under the cover of darkness, these creatures are shy and elusive and just how shy, was a question I would soon try to answer…

Having the privilege of being able to construct my own private ‘photographic hide’, I went about the task with vigour and determination. After one week, I had completed digging a hole deep enough to conceal my entire body and had placed a rudimentary zinc roof with hessian sacking above it. Situated just two degrees south of the equator, I knew that the hide would not be overly comfortable, but I planned on getting my shot soon, and decided to dive in. The next couple of months involved profuse sweating and gave me a small taste of what trench warfare must have been like!

After spending countless more hours, days and a further three months cooped up in the nylon sauna, I had the opportunity to photograph the same herd of Zebra. The lion however, remained elusive, leaving only tracks under the cover of darkness, seemingly relentlessly bent on only drinking at night. Returning home each evening and hearing the tormenting roars of the pride in the valley below, seemed to antagonize me to the point of returning the next day until finally, one afternoon, the oppressive heat got the better of me. I leapt into the waterhole, only a few feet deep and wallowed about like a warthog in the putrid soup-like water. While wallowing, I began to ponder how wildlife would perceive a bobbing humanoid head? Lion in particular, recognize human beings almost exclusively by our upright posture, so my years of working as a Wilderness Trails Guide had taught me. The relative refreshing coolness of the water combined with an even better camera angle tempted me to change my strategy.

So down came the tent, and the pale green water itself became my new photographic hide. With my rear end ensconced in the muddy bottom, all that protruded above the water were my head, hands and camera. The following months facilitated the most excellent opportunity to enjoy some prime bird watching as I got to know a pair of Egyptian Geese especially well.

The days, weeks and months that followed were incredible in that the water masked my smell and sound, allowing me to view a plethora of life that existed in the area. My list of mammalian subjects grew tremendously, and now included Defassa Waterbuck, Impala, Bushbuck, Reedbuck, Warthog and my old sanitary friends – the baboons. The amount of unseen life that existed and survived on that one small patch of water astounded me, and having a frog’s eye view of the world, gave me a completely new sense of awe for the wonderful creatures that inhabit our splendid continent. I also especially enjoyed the White-throated Bee-eaters who would dip into the water just inches from my nose! The early mornings were a special time in that the Khori Bustards would come in for a drink, often times cocking their heads in their typically animated manner. In the afternoons, I more than once witnessed Lanner Falcons and African Hawk Eagles swooping in and snatching drinking doves just a few meters in front of me. The lion however, remained agonizingly and frustratingly absent!

After more than a year, my wife’s patience was wearing thin and my skin was covered not only in strange bites but persistent red bumpy rashes, the cause of which I finally put down to baboon urine! One particular week, the mercury in the camp’s thermometer soared way above forty, as I once again found myself firmly entrenched in my muddy quagmire. The heat wave persisted throughout the week until late that Friday afternoon, when it seemed to be reaching breaking point. Sitting in the water was no doubt the best place to be in terms of escaping the heat, but the light was about to fade and soon I would have to leave the waterhole and return to camp for another impatient night of torment. Just as I was about to pull my rear-end free from the muddy bottom and begin my trek back up the escarpment, my ever-faithful pair of Egyptian Geese leapt from the bank and hit the water with furious honking and hissing. Wondering what on earth had alarmed the geese, I quickly scanned the horizon, only to see two full-grown lionesses sauntering purposefully towards the water. This was it, I thought: more than a year of literal blood, sweat and tears and now finally, my chance to ‘get it right’?

 

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