Waterholes are a good bet if you want to see a variety of wildlife interactions. Capturing these special moments between various bird and mammal species may not always be as easy as it sounds. By Samuel Cox

I was lucky to spend a few days in Addo Elephant National Park and was stunned by its variety in wildlife. This was all the more evident at the waterholes where you would easily find three to four different species of animals all interacting as they come together to drink. Warthogs in their abundance, zebras, buffaloes and, of course, the majestic elephants would all dance around each other hoping to quench their thirst.

Here are a few handy tips to make the most of waterhole photo opportunities:

Carol’s Rest Waterhole

Where: Situated some 6km from Zuurkop Lookout Point on Gorah Loop.

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Tip: Change your position

This zebra was acting erratically, probably due to the elephants hogging the waterhole in front of it. I knew if I waited long enough, I might be able to capture an odd look or expression. I love taking side-on profile shots. Luckily the zebra wasn’t far from the road so I was easily able to park myself parallel. I kept focused and sure enough this expression popped out. I was quick to photograph it.

Camera specs: Canon 7DMKii + Canon EF 100-400 Mkii, shot at 400mm, f5.6, ISO 400, 1/2000

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Tip: Focus on patterns

For quite some time the waterhole itself was impossible to photograph. I decided to concentrate on the activities around it which is when I captured this moment. It was all about blending their stripes and portraying the intimacy between mom and foal. Nature is full of fantastic patterns – to create abstract and artistic pictures is always a fun challenge and very rewarding.

Camera specs: Canon 7DMKii + Canon EF 100-400 Mkii, shot at 400mm, f5.6, ISO 400, 1/2000

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Tip: Look for interactions

To a lot of people this picture might not say much, but for me it’s a lovely moment of what I saw so often in Addo – two completely different animals sharing a drink, perfectly at ease. Waterholes can be areas of high stress and aggression, so to see and capture this meant a great deal to me.

Camera specs: Canon 7DMKii + Canon EF 100-400 Mkii, shot at 400mm, f5.6, ISO 1250, 1/2000

Nyati Waterhole

Where: A stone’s throw away from Addo’s Main Camp. From here you can easily visit Gwarrie Pan and Rooidam.

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Tip: Keep an eye on the bigger picture

As everybody was focused on the buffaloes drinking, no one seemed to notice the elephants charging in. Be diverse in your approach. I’m usually a sucker for zooming in tight, but I kept a wide angle to capture the sudden action as the elephants startled everything in their way. It was a short-lived moment and a good reminder to be on the lookout for any sudden changes. Had I anticipated this sooner, I would have swapped lenses but was lucky that the widest setting on my lens covered the action.

Camera specs: Canon 7DMKii + Canon EF 100-400 Mkii, shot at 100mm, f4.5, ISO 640, 1/2000

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Tip: Zoom in on details

I was chasing this calf in my viewfinder for ages. My positioning was ideal – now it was a game of patience and quick fingers when the calf appeared from behind its mother’s legs. No matter how hot, tedious or frustrating things may get, be patient! That one shot makes the entire day worthwhile. Keep your eyes on the smaller details – it’s easy to lose focus when you’re photographing crowds of animals. Pick out certain characters and emphasise specifics, like this endearing baby ellie.

Camera specs: Canon 7DMKii + Canon EF 100-400 Mkii, shot at 400mm, f5.6, ISO 1250, 1/2000

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Tip: Frame it right

Same vantage point, but this time focusing on another animal. I was fascinated by this warthog’s struggle to get to the waterhole. That facial expression speaks volumes!

Camera specs: Canon 7DMKii + Canon EF 100-400 Mkii, shot at 400mm, f5.6, ISO 1250, 1/2000

Don’t get lost – download a map of Addo.

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