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“Before me, a pride of lions, the undisputed kings and queens of the wild, have chosen an unconventional resting place, and the road, usually a passageway for vehicles, has been temporarily transformed into a royal resting place for these majestic creatures.”

Of all the continents, Africa remains the most mysterious and unknown to me.

It’s a land of ancient secrets, where untamed landscapes, diverse cultures, and wildlife harmonize in a tapestry of enchantment. It’s the cradle of life, where 6 million years ago, the first hominids embarked on their journey to conquer the world. 

I have had the privilege of traveling to Africa four times, and this is my second visit to Kruger National Park. As the evening light begins to wane, I need to reach the camp’s gate before sunset.

But all of a sudden, right after a sharp corner on the gravel and dusty park roads, I must abruptly slam the brakes of the small car I’m driving. 

A pride of lions is blocking the road, slowly waking up in the fading sunset glow, patiently awaiting nightfall, to commence their hunt once again.


In Africa, you don’t need an alarm to wake up. When you are in the middle of the Savannah, far from crowded cities, you can do without man-made devices to tell you when you have to get up or go to sleep. In Africa, you only need to align your circadian rhythms with the nature that surrounds you. Before you know it, you get used to being woken by the early sun rays sneaking through the bamboo curtains and gently tickling your eyelids. It’s not a bad way to start the day.

A sunrise in Kruger National Park, South Africa, is a breathtaking and invigorating experience, filled with sights and sounds that awaken the senses. As the first light of dawn begins to pierce the velvety darkness, a soft, golden glow bathes the landscape in warm, ethereal light. The African Savannah awakens with a gentle chorus of bird songs, each species adding its unique melody to the symphony of the wild. The air is crisp and cool, carrying with it the earthy scent of the wilderness. As the sun climbs higher, the animals begin to stir.

And so do I.

GALLERY ABOVE: Neighbors at the campsite.
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

Game Drive

I am staying at the Skukuza Research Centre, where my friend, Dr. Lorenz Kruger, serves as the director. While I’ve visited Kruger National Park in the past, I still find it useful to have a map handy during a game drive, and it’s always wise to seek the advice of an expert before venturing into the wilderness.

I prepare my camera bag for the long day ahead, ready for the extended search for wildlife that awaits. Equipped with long lenses, fully charged batteries, and empty memory cards, once again I’m set to leave base camp in pursuit of the perfect shot I came for.

As soon as the park gates open, I find myself immersed in one of those incredible documentaries I grew up watching. It doesn’t take long before I start spotting the iconic wildlife that somehow represents the entire continent. Gazelles, zebras, buffalos, and wildebeest, these herbivores graze together in the soft morning light, maintaining a watchful eye on their surroundings. It’s a testament to the cooperative relationships that exist among various species.

They notice my car, but it doesn’t seem to bother them. In fact, there are animals out here that pose more of a threat to me than I do to them.

© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

Love Each Other

A family of elephants, with their majestic matriarch leading the way, emerges from the dense foliage, their silhouettes framed by the rising sun. It’s in this moment that I realize a herd of 20 elephants can make time stand still.

In sheer awe, I momentarily forget about my camera. The elephants amble gracefully to a waterhole, quenching their thirst and playfully splashing water on their immense bodies. Behind the adults, a young and playful elephant decides to do what he does best: annoy his older brother.

These playful interactions are not uncommon, and they bring back memories of a similar scene I witnessed a year ago during my first visit to Kruger National Park

IMAGE ABOVE: Portrait and detail of an African elefant.
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

Two young elephants frolic in their natural habitat, displaying an endearing scene of youthful exuberance. Their gray, wrinkled skin glistens in the sunlight as they engage in playful interactions.

The smaller elephant engages in a delightful game of tag, extending his trunk to gently touch the larger elephant’s side. The older, presumably a cousin, matches his enthusiasm. His ears flap with excitement, and his trunk curls upward in a joyous expression. Tiny tusks hide beneath his small trunk.

He responded to the playful advances with enthusiasm, sometimes chasing, sometimes evading, as they weaved through lush green grass, under the serious eyes of the adults.

These playful antics showcase the intelligence and early social bonds that elephants form. The dappled sunlight filtering through the trees creates a serene backdrop to this heartwarming spectacle of two young elephants relishing their carefree moments in the wild.

IMAGES ABOVE: Elefants playing in the lush African plains.
© Federico Facchin – 2020 – South Africa

I continue driving, savouring those cherished memories. As the sun steadily ascends in the sky, time becomes precious. In the heat of midday, animals seek refuge in the shade of the bush, and the harsh sunlight presents a challenge to the electronic eye of my camera.

IMAGES ABOVE: Zebra and Rhino portraits.
© Federico Facchin – 2020 – South Africa

Lunch with friends

The morning continues, and as the sun fully ascends, casting its warm embrace over the land, the animals grow less active and more elusive.

I decide to take a break to stretch my legs and recharge. I am in the wildest imaginable version of a gas station, with an abundance of birds gathering, hoping to snatch a morsel from weary tourists.

A family of mischievous monkeys also waits patiently, looking for the perfect moment to sneak behind a distracted photographer and run away with his lunch.

“Not today, my friends. Not today.”

IMAGES ABOVE: A Vervet monkey and a Southern Yellow-Billed hornbill keeping their eyes on my lunch.
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa


Some animals are inherently more conspicuous than others. It’s relatively easy to spot an elephant or a giraffe, given their size and stature. As for the abundant herbivores like gazelles and zebras, they become almost commonplace after a while.
However, my true quest lies in spotting the predators, the apex predators of the Savannah, the big cats—elusive and expertly concealed within the natural hues of the landscape. To find them, you must sometimes even look skyward.

It wouldn’t be the first time for me to spot a leopard perched high in a tree.

“I had the pleasure of joining Federico on a remarkable journey to South Africa in February 2020. This was the last adventure before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, but what an adventure it turned out to be!
In a matter of days at Kruger National Park, we saw numerous animals and wildlife. I spend 350 days a year in the urban jungle, so these experiences were incredibly special to me.
My favorite part of the adventure was when we waited below a tree where a leopard was sleeping on top. We patiently sat in our jeep for hours, hoping for the leopard to wake up and pose for us. As the day went on, and our legs grew numb, we almost gave up hope. But then, in a thrilling moment, the leopard stirred, gracefully stood up, and leaped from the branch. It was just a few seconds of action, but it created memories that will last a lifetime.
This adventure with Fede was truly unforgettable and reminded me of the incredible beauty of nature.”


Luca Bassi 

In the tranquil serenity of an African afternoon, a magnificent leopard rests atop a sturdy tree branch. Sunlight filters through the dense canopy, casting a soft, silvery glow on the scene below. The leopard embodies grace and power, its sleek, golden coat adorned with dark, rosette-shaped spots, perfect camouflage in the dappled shadows.

The leopard’s lithe body drapes languidly over the branch, long, muscular limbs dangling gracefully on either side. Though its eyes, normally alert and piercing, are now closed in deep slumber, they provide a brief respite from the demands of the wild. Beneath the silhouette of the leopard, the African wilderness comes alive in a symphony. The rustling of leaves and distant calls of creatures create a soothing lullaby, cradling the leopard in peaceful dreams. The leopard’s whiskers twitch ever so slightly, a testament to the vigilance of its senses even in slumber. Its powerful, spotted tail hangs down, gently swaying with the rhythm of its dreams. Perched high above the ground, the leopard enjoys the dual advantages of safety and a vantage point to survey its territory. In its tranquil repose, this feline exemplifies the majesty and mystery of the African wilderness, where beauty and danger coexist in perfect harmony.

IMAGES ABOVE: Leopard resting on a tree.
© Federico Facchin – 2020 – South Africa

Suddenly, the leopard’s nose twitches as it delicately raises its head, the tip of its pink nose catching the subtle currents of air. Its whiskers quiver as it processes the intricate olfactory information carried by the wind. The leopard looks at me, offering the chance I’ve waited for all afternoon.

After napping for hours the leopard awakens. Stretching its powerful muscles, this 50 kg cat leaps from a height of 5 meters and lands softly on the ground, ready to patrol its territory.

A ghostly sentinel of the African wilderness

IMAGE ABOVE: A leopard descends from its vantage point in the tree.
© Federico Facchin – 2020 – South Africa

Leopards possess an astonishing ability to scale trees, even when carrying a 40kg kill in their jaws. Today, not far from the main road that perfectly bisects the park, where nature’s patterns are often messy rather than symmetrical, a pair of leopards has hauled their recent catch (a young gazelle) high into a tree.

On the ground below, a group of hyenas has gathered, hoping for a leopard’s oversight. However, these leopards are seasoned hunters who know the value of the vantage point and are unwilling to relinquish their prey.

With the leopards in a challenging position for a clear shot, I decide to shadow the hyenas, curious to see where their scavenging adventure will lead me.

GALLERY ABOVE: while leopards are feeding on their kill up in a tree, hyenas patrol the grounds.
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa


With mottled, earth-toned coats adorned with spots and stripes that help them blend seamlessly into the dry grasslands, a group of hyenas becomes the focus of my attention.

For some reason, even after many years of wildlife encounters, I always tend to take a position when animals are interacting. This time, I found myself rooting for the leopard, hoping they wouldn’t lose the prey they had captured with such difficulty.

However, a heartwarming scene unfolds before me, shifting my perspective entirely. A group of playful hyena cubs engages with their attentive mother. These youngsters are the embodiment of youthful energy and exuberance, their fluffy fur contrasting with their mother’s more robust appearance.

The mother, larger and more muscular, watches over her rambunctious offspring with a mix of affection and vigilance. Despite her weariness and hunger, she remains a loving mother, presiding over a bundle of joyous chaos. The cubs tumble over each other, as they wrestle and play. Their sharp teeth and keen jaws are still developing, used in playful nips and mock battles as they test their developing skills under their mother’s watchful eye.

Their tiny ears stand erect like radar dishes, capturing every sound from the surrounding environment. Inquisitive eyes gleam with intelligence, and their tails wag excitedly as they play in the dusty earth, leaving little puffs of dust in their wake.
The mother occasionally joins in, gently nuzzling her cubs, and providing valuable lessons about survival and social interaction. Her deep chuckles and occasional grunts fill the air as she communicates with her young ones, fostering an atmosphere of family bonding and affection.


IMAGES ABOVE: a family of hyenas. While the cubs are playing the mother tries to rest.  
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

This heartwarming scene portrays hyenas not as the fierce scavengers often depicted but as loving, caring mothers guiding their curious and spirited cubs through the early stages of life on the wild African plains.

Beyond the hyenas, a red-billed hornbill perches on a branch, observing the scene. Remember Zazu from “The Lion King”? The way Disney captured how it glides is truly remarkable.

As the sun approaches the horizon, and the park gates close promptly at 6, despite my deep connection with nature and immersion in the wild, the last thing I desire is to spend the night out in the wilderness.

IMAGES ABOVE:  A red-billed hornbill, a Vervet monkey  and a couple of Klipspringer waiting for the sun to set.

© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

Another Day

The morning in the Kruger heralds a time of renewal and promise, a moment when the circle of life commences anew. It’s a moment to savour the untamed beauty of the African wilderness, where nature unfolds its timeless drama against the backdrop of a new day.

Today, I make the decision to embark on the ‘hunt’ even earlier, becoming the first to exit the gates. The air is alive with the calls of francolins, hornbills, and the unmistakable laughter of hyenas echoing in the distance. My sole purpose here is clear: to capture an image of one of the most impressive creatures on Earth, a symbol of power, strength, and respect: the Lion King.


The arid plains of the Kruger haven’t seen rain in quite a few months now, and the gravel road that stretches ahead of me is dry, dusty, and somewhat disjointed, mirroring the rugged beauty of this untamed wilderness. As I navigate the rental car along this rugged path, it leaves a trail of fine dust particles billowing into the crisp morning air. Despite the slow pace I’ve adopted to maximize my chances of spotting wildlife, the thick and unforgiving Kruger bush poses a formidable challenge. It seems as though every tree, every thicket, and every tuft of grass conspires to hide the secrets of the wild from my prying eyes. In this sprawling wilderness, patience becomes both a virtue and a necessity, as you must scrutinize every corner, peer under the shade of each tree, and carefully examine the hidden recesses behind seemingly innocuous bushes. 

Yet, amidst this game of concealment and revelation, some animals stand as majestic exceptions. Standing tall above the dense vegetation, their impressive stature makes them conspicuous against the backdrop of the African bush, granting me a chance to photograph their beauty.

Giraffes, with their impossibly long necks and distinctive spotted coats, are grazing on the treetops next to the road, nibbling leaves with precision. 

These iconic animals are not typically known for playful behavior in the same way that some other animals, like young elephants or lions, engage in playful activities. However, they do exhibit some forms of social interaction and behavior that can be seen as playful in certain contexts. 
Giraffes crossing necks in Africa is a captivating and unique behavior that’s often observed among these gentle giants. While it may appear as if they are “playing” by crossing their necks, it’s actually a part of their social interaction and communication. 
In front of me, two adult giraffes engage in a fascinating display of social interaction. They approach each other, and with deliberate and unhurried movements, they begin to cross their necks. It’s a gentle and almost choreographed maneuver as if they are engaged in an intricate dance. They pause for a moment, their eyes meeting in a silent exchange, before continuing their synchronized movement.  This ballet is a reminder of the elegance and uniqueness of these towering creatures in the African landscape.

IMAGES ABOVE: Giraffes socializing.
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa


Amidst the golden Savannah grass, a leopard’s spotted coat blends imperceptibly with the sun-drenched surroundings. With a keen sense of smell, he can detect scents carried by the breeze, where each whisper of the wind reveals secrets of the African plains.

He pauses, head held high, nostrils quivering, and inhales deeply. He must have sensed something. 

In this moment, the leopard embodies the very essence of the wild, a master of stealth and sensory acumen, seamlessly blending into its lush habitat as it assesses the world around it with a blend of curiosity and predatory instinct.

IMAGE ABOVE: A male leopard sniffing the air and studying the surroundings. 
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

Hidden behind the thick bush, a pride of lions feasts voraciously on their hard-earned prize, a massive buffalo. Their powerful jaws tear through flesh, and the scent of blood mingles with the earthy aroma of the Savannah. Eerie roars and the clinking of bones create a haunting symphony. Unfortunately, the entire scene remains concealed behind the dense Kruger bush, denying me a proper window for a good shot.

Alongside the road, a large male lion, always the first to feed, rests with his heavy head drooping in slumber. 

The harsh light and the lion’s repose make it challenging to capture a compelling portrait of power. With a whispered ‘Hakuna Matata,’ I continue to drive, holding onto hope for a last-minute miracle.

GALLERY ABOVE: A pride of lions feeding on a buffalo. 
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa


As the evening sun sinks low on the horizon, I know I must reach the camp’s gate before sunset. This small city car isn’t ideal for gravel roads, but I’m driving cautiously, hoping to maximize my chances of spotting whatever might be lurking in the bush.

Then, as if scripted by nature itself, a remarkable scene unfolds right after a sharp corner, forcing me to slam hard on the brakes.
Before me, a pride of lions, the undisputed kings and queens of the wild, have chosen an unconventional resting place, and the road, usually a passageway for vehicles, has been temporarily transformed into a royal resting place for these majestic creatures.

The pride consists of several lionesses, each possessing their unique beauty and power. Their golden coats shimmering like molten metal in the relentless sunlight, exude a fierce elegance. They are arranged in a relaxed yet organized manner. Some sprawl on their sides, their paws outstretched, their eyes partially closed in contentment. Others rest on their bellies, their heads held up by their massive paws, keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings.


IMAGES ABOVE: Lionesses resting at sunset.
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

As I come into view in front of them, some of them begin to stir. They stretch their muscular bodies and yawn, their powerful jaws opening wide. Some of them even rise to their feet, their regal presence on full display. Others keep sleeping.
This extraordinary sight is a testament to the power and resilience of these apex predators, who, even in their collective slumber, symbolize the enduring spirit of the African wilderness. In this moment, there’s nothing I can do but wait and observe. I’ve found the pride of lions I’ve been searching for, and the perfect sunset light bathes my models in a golden glow. However, this time, there is no sign of a big male in the vicinity.

IMAGE ABOVE: Three lionesses staring directly into my camera.
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

As the golden orb of the sun begins its descent toward the horizon, casting a warm, amber glow across the African Savannah, I spot a young male lion concealed amidst the tall grass. His unwavering gaze remains fixed on my presence.

Remarkably, lions can not recognize you as prey and seem to acknowledge no threat as long as you remain within your car. Finally, he abandons his ‘lurking’ mode and reveals his presence by standing up.”

His robust physique, still maturing, is adorned with the beginnings of a luxurious mane, gently illuminated by the setting sun. His eyes, like molten gold, reflect both curiosity and a hint of primal instinct as he closely observes your every move.

Although not fully grown, the lion’s powerful body exudes strength and grace. His large paws, equipped with retractable claws capable of swift, lethal strikes, pose majestically on the earth beneath him. Each sinewy muscle ripples beneath his tawny coat, evidence of the athleticism that is his birthright as a predator of the African plains.

IMAGE ABOVE: ” A Young King”
© Federico Facchin – 2021 – South Africa

Making eye contact with a wild lion in his environment may take you to a whole different dimension. They stare into your soul with such a powerful gaze that can freeze the blood in your veins, no matter how safe you think you are inside the car.

In this moment, I share a timeless connection with one of nature’s most majestic creatures. The lion’s silent stare in the enchanting embrace of the African sunset is a testament to the untamed beauty and primal allure of the animal kingdom, leaving an indelible memory of the encounter etched in my soul.

Lions are the apex predators of the Savannah, even if they spend between 16 and 20 hours each day resting and sleeping. Their presence on top of the food chain is fundamental for the balance of the entire ecosystem. 

Unfortunately, the lion population is declining precipitously.

Federico Facchin

Kruger National Park


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Love Each Other
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