BEST of BOTSWANA photo safari - June 2015
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 30th Jun 2015
The second of our "Best of Botswana" Photo Safaris offered a totally different experience to the previous one, and that is what wildlife photography is all about, every day is different and the possible scenarios and opportunities are endless.
Moremi provided fantastic bird photo opportunities as well as a large pack of African Wilddogs. Our camp was in a stunning location on the edge of a pan where the sunrises were spectacular. Khwai was our next stop and again we were treated to great African Wilddog sightings, the den site with the two puppies was especially rewarding to see. Four magnificent Lionesses, Elephants everywhere, Hippos and the female Leopard who's cubs we had seen on the previous trip. Savuti was fantastic again, Leopards, Lions near camp, and on a Buffalo Kill in the Marsh. Big Bull Elephants crossing the Savuti Channel, Hyaenas and my personal favourite sighting of the trip, watching an African Wilddog chase an Impala at full speed right past the vehicle.
This June trip was a bit colder than the May one, but that was to be expected. The roaring campfires were even more inviting making it difficult to leave the fire and retreat to bed.
Moremi provided a great introduction to Botswana, there was plently of birdlife in and around the Lagoons to keep everyone busy. As it so often happens, on our way back to camp at the end of the day, we stumbled on a pack of 13 African Wilddogs in hunting mode. It is always such a priveledge to see these amazing endangered predators. We hoped to find them again the following morning but the vastness of the Botswana wilderness swallowed them up.
On our travel day to Khwai, master guide and spotter Gee saw Lions resting under a leadwood tree. It was a group of cubs, one of the was quite small. They had been left in hiding by the adults whilst they were out hunting.
Our Campsite in Khwai was very big and open with the tents strategically placed under very big and shady Camel Thorn Trees. We got some wonderful night shots of the camp and the Milkyway. Elephants are everywhere in Khwai, but we did have a focus on trying to find the African Wilddog den. On the previous trip we saw the adult Wilddogs demolishing a poor Impala and then head off towards their den. Nkosi knew where the den was and took us to a very thck part of Mopane, only to find the den site had been moved. Luckily we relocated the new den site with the help of another guide and spent some time watching the two remaining puppies. Wilddogs usually have a lot of puppies in a litter, it is unusual to have just two, so it is quite likely that a lot of the puppies had already died.
Khwai also offered us a great opportunity with a pride of 4 Lionesses, one was a sub adult, the other three are the largest Lionesses I have ever seen, it looked as if one might be pregnant.
We also had excellent Hippo photo opportunities,and we got to see the mother Leopard of the two cubs we had seen on the previous trip. One of her cubs was also seen literally right in our camp trying to catch some monkeys that had climbed to the very top of the trees in an attempt to get away from the predator.
After a short stop to repair a puncture on our way to Savuti, we arrived and photographed fighting Impalas and Giraffes. As we pulled into our new campsite on the banks of the Savuti Channel Gee noticed fresh Lion tracks which we followed. We found two Lionesses resting in the grass no more than 100m from our camp. We left them and hoped to pick them up in the morning. As everyone began settling in their tents for the night the Lions made a kill close to the camp, the Hyaenas were on to them in a flash and the ensuing fight between these two eternal enemies erupted into an unbelieveable audio experieince for everyone who were thankful of being in their tents at that moment. It sounded like the Hyaenas won the fight and most likely stole the kill from the Lions.
The following day offered an amazing experieince with a stalking Leopard. She was interested in a herd of Impalas and totally ignored the vehicles around her. She used the road to crouch down and approach her target and actually went underneath a safari vehicle and came out the other side as if it was not even there. Two Hyaenas pitched up and spoiled the hunt for her, but we got some great images of the stalk.
Our final morning in Savuti provided a wonderful experieince with another pack of Wilddogs, it is the first trip where we have seen different Wilddog packs at all three locations. This pack was hunting as Wilddogs often do in the early mornings. We first located them at Wilddog Vlei, but they headed towards the channel. Nkosi decided we should take a chance and head around to the channel to see if we could relocate them there - What a great move it was Nkosi !!. As we arrived in the channel an Impala was running full speed towards us with a look of terror on its face and this indicated that the Wilddogs might be close behind. Sure enough a single Wilddog was in pursuit and it was at least 400m behind the Impala. Lions and Leopards do not hunt in this fashion, Wilddogs rely on their amazing stamina and it was a real priveledge to witness this part of their behaviour. I will never forget the speed at which the Wilddog flew past us and the determination on its face as well as the confidence it had in its abilities as a predator. On this occasion the Impala got away.
On our way to the airstrip we encountered another Leopard, which was a great way to end the mobile part of the photo safari. Huge thanks go out to our two expert and very professional guides, Nkosi and Gee, thank you for all your patieince and also the great campfire stories of your experiences in the wilds of Botswana. Thank you too for all the hard work put in by the Letaka Camp team of Life the "magic chef" and also to T-Man and KK for looking after us so well and making us feel so welcome and comfortable.
We then flew into Kasane and met up for our photo boat activites. This is always a wonderful way to end of the safari. The superb Pangolin Photographic Boat offers an amazing photographic expereince out on the Chobe River. Our four boat rides produced so many different opportunities with both birds and mammals, and some reptiles too.
Guts arranged a special visit for us to the Caracal Rhab centre where we met that most elusive of nocturnal creatures, the Aardvark. This guy had been brought in as a youngster after he had been bitten by some dogs. It was amazing to get so close to such an amazing creature and see the details on him like the massive claws they use for digging into termite mounds.
Thanks to Guts and Shuur for making our stay at Chobe on the Pangolin boat as amazing as always.
By the end of the safari we had a wonderful collection of African Wildlife Images, everything from Aardvark to Elephant, big Cats, amazing birds, Crocodiles, and oh yes I forgot about the Pangolin we saw on our travel day. Unfortunately it was quite hidden in the grass for a good photo, but just to see one of these amazing creatures was enough.
Many thanks to Justin and Geoff who continued on to the Victoria Falls, it was great to have had you on the safari. Thanks also to John and Jenny who stayed on at Kasane for a few extra boat rides and to David and Francoise for coming out on their second photo safari with us, it was a great pleasure to have had you all on the "Best of Botswana" Photo Safari with WILD4.
Enjoy some photos from the trip.
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My wife Joanie and I joined Wild4 for the Best of Kruger and Big Cats in August of 2014. It was our very first trip on an African safari. I’m a serious amateur photographer and my wife’s a non-photographer but both of us enjoyed the trip thoroughly ! To this day, we still regularly recall the highlights of sightings and events fondly. True to Wild4’s brand promise, Stu Porter delivers maximum photographic times spent chasing photo opportunities out in the field - out 6am as soon as the camp gate opens and back only 6pm when the gate closes. Having no more than three photographers on each of two jeeps allows every photographer immediate access to both sides of the vehicle. Stu always knows where to position the vehicle for the best vantage points. Every day has its highs – big cat chases and kills, grazers sparring, herds of elephants and buffaloes appearing from nowhere at water holes... Thanks to Stu and the enthusiasm and knowledge of experienced senior guide Mike Lentz. Camps in Kruger are basic (by first world standards) but hey this is a safari ! There’s the important benefit of being only a short drive away from dams, good spots to catch the first light when the sun rises. This is important as the gates do not open till 6am so there’s little margin for being late. I had the opportunity to experience first-hand, the Wild4 team’s dedication and commitment to a successful photo trip for guests, beyond the call of duty. The Wild4 team helped solved a major photographic equipment problem. Early afternoon on Day 5, the lens AF motor on my 400mm telephoto lens failed. This was really a disaster on a trip like this, as (like everyone else) I had a spare camera body but not a spare super telephoto lens ! The other lens I had was a medium telephoto zoom, hardly a lens to use with tele-converters. Murphy’s Law indeed ! This happened with seven more days to go ! I enquired with Stu about hiring a lens from the nearby towns. Stu sprang into action immediately whilst still on the afternoon game drive - got his back-office team to make enquiries back in Nelspruit town. This was something new to the Wild4 team as they never had to hire a lens but they found a lens on the same day, a 200-400mm that’s also ideal for safari. The lens had to be dispatched from almost 200 km away and Mr John Porter helped to drive south to collect the lens sooner. I had the use of this lens by the morning of Day 7, with one-and-half day “downtime” in a remote location. Service excellence lived by as a core value indeed. After eight nights I left Kruger National Park with the feeling that I was just warming up and was leaving too soon. I would have gladly extended a few more days if that was possible. But we were bound for the next destination. I notice Wild4 has not been static. More new trips were added. I see the enterprise is growing fast ! Joanie and I are now looking forward to a trip to Kenya, again with Stu and the Wild4 team.
Steve Seow, Singapore
Stu, Thank you for another wonderful safari. We were blown away by the sightings that we had. From the Lion kill to the tiny Lion Cubs, it was one great experience after another. The bird opportunities were also outstanding. I'm still sorting though the 1000's of images that we brought home. Also, thank you Justyna for setting up our 2 week private Kruger safari with Stefan. We spent over a month in Africa shooting every day except for a couple of travel days. It was our trip of a lifetime. The accommodations, food, and itinerary were as good as it gets. We can't wait to do another one!. Dick and Mary Wild Side Photographic Art
Dick Collins, USA