Kenya-based photographers of Big Cat Diary fame, Jonathan and Angie Scott reveal their top 5 places in the world – and recount a memorable encounter with a special leopard.
“One morning while filming Big Cat Diary I left Angie to keep an eye on Half-Tail the leopard. When I returned many hours later Angie was still sitting in her Land Cruiser, but there was no sign of Half-Tail. “What happened?” I asked. Angie smiled and pointed under her car. There was our favourite leopard curled up fast asleep. No other animal has brought us quite so much pleasure – not even Kike the cheetah sitting on the roof of our vehicle (and peeing on us!) could match having a wild leopard accept our company so completely. At one point Half-Tail looked up and made eye contact with Angie – no sense of fear or aggression, just a look of mild curiosity. Bliss!”
1. Masai Mara, Kenya
If I only had one day in Africa I would spend it in the Masai Mara. We have a permanent base at Governor’s Camp which borders the Musiara Marsh, home to the lions of the Marsh Pride which we have been following for several decades. The Mara in a nutshell: There’s no better place to see all three big cats, a stunning variety of wildlife and superb birding. Add to this the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra criss-crossing the Mara’s rolling plains in the dry season from June to the end of October and you simply could not ask for more.
2. South Georgia, Antarctica
The Serengeti of the Southern Ocean. What better place to provide a contrast to the magic of Africa, with equally spectacular scenery and mind-boggling numbers of animals and birds. The whites, greens and blues of Antarctica paint a picture of a land beyond reality. A visit to Antarctica is a journey of the soul as much as the body!
3. Okavango Delta, Botswana
I had my first taste of living among Africa’s wild animals in the Jewel of the Kalahari (I lived on a houseboat called the Sitatunga at Shakawe for a few weeks in 1975). The Delta is one of the best places to view wild dogs – another of our favourite animals. It is worth finding out where wild dog packs are likely to be denning and then plan accordingly, based on advice from lodge managers. The Delta is also good for big cats, especially during September and October – the height of the dry season. Mombo and Chiefs Camp are top spots for all round game viewing.
4. Ranthambhore National Park, India
The combination of beautiful scenery, abundant lakes and water birds, combined with the chance of seeing a tiger, make this one of our favourite destinations for viewing Indian wildlife. We also love Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh, which is undoubtedly the easiest place to see tigers in India – but we prefer the scenery and wildlife experience that Kanha and Ranthambhore offer.
5. Katmai National Park, Alaska
We filmed Big Bear Diary in Katmai. Here is what our friends at Hallo Bay Bear Camp had to say about timing: ‘The best time to visit for photography depends on what you would like to observe the bears doing. The salmon run is always a pretty exciting time frame, but our other favourite period is mid-June to mid-July when you can see the bears in the lovely green sedge grass meadows. The photos are much more colourful and you have a better chance to see cubs when they are very small. You also get to watch the bears clamming on the tidal flats during this time. For the salmon runs, visit between mid-August and the start of September. The bears will be busy fishing up and down the creek and hopefully the foxes and wolves will make an appearance at the creek as well.’