BEST of BOTSWANA photo safari - June 2016
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 5th Jul 2016
Our second "Best of Botswana" 2016 photo safari has just ended and although only a few weeks since the last trip, the water level in the delta was up whilst the water level on the Chobe River was down - nearly 2 meters !! Once again this shows how unpredictable things are when dealing with mother nature. Regardless of the water level, the trip was a great success.
We first spent 4 nights in Moremi. Highlights in Moremi included a huge gathering of over 60 Fish Eagles around one big pan on Dead Tree Island, Side Striped Jackal, Pied Avocet, Banded Mongoose and a sighting of a lifetime - Lions bringing down an adult bull Cape Buffalo. When we arrived on the scene the struggle might have already been going on for a couple of hours based on how exhausted both the Lions and the Buffalo were. The Lions had also managed to bite through the Buffalo's tendons in both of its back legs, unfortunately this sealed the poor buffalo's fate and it was only a matter of time. Over 1hr 30mins later the Buffalo succumbed, and we were all relieved that his ordeal was finally over. I have never seen an animal put up such a fight and it was truly humbling to watch.
We went to sleep listening to the sounds of the bush wondering what we might find at the kill site in the morning. The Lions that had made the kill - two adult females and 3 sub adults were no where to be seen, instead we found 3 adult males and a female that must have chased the other lions off and stolen their hard fought prize.
We then spent the entire morning at the carcass, watching the feeding behaviour, dominance behaviour of the one male over the others and then when it got warm and the Lions were hot and full, we enjoyed watching the vultures doing their best to steal the kill. Despite each of the Lions taking their turn to defend the kill from the vultures, the need for shade and rest final won and the Lions left the kill. Known as "natures clean up crew" for good reason, the vultures frenzied feeding left very little of the carcass.
Next stop was the Khwai community area. Highlights here were a beautiful young male Leopard (the brother of the young female we saw in May), running Hartebeest, excellent Hippo and Elephant, saddle billed storks and a full morning spent with the Machaba female Leopard who attempted to stalk up on some Reedbuck out in the marsh.
On our final morning we left Khwai early and headed to the area of a reported Cape Hunting Dog Den site. Our luck was in today as the adults and the puppies were in full view and right next to the road, we had an incredible sighting of these endangered carnivores and very special indeed !!
Savuti was our third destination. Again there was a big difference in the water levels of the pans that support life in Savuti at this time of the year. The pans near the Marsh that we had visited and seen the Lions with their Buffalo Kill on the last trip had all dried out, so we concentrated our game drives on the area around Harvey's Pan where there was still quite a bit of water available. We caught up with the Lion Pride we saw on the last trip. All the small cubs were still accounted for, but I think thankfully the small cub we had seen with the broken leg had passed away. Great Elephants, Giraffe, a Male Greater Kudu covering his horns in the wet mud.
Our flight from Savuti to Kasane and the Chobe River was a quick 35 mins and after lunch we headed out on our first afternoon boat ride on the Chobe in the special Pangolin Photo Boat.
As mentioned before the water level was down by nearly 2 meters but this had no impact at all on our sightings.. on our first afternnon outing we notched up 25 different species, almost all of which oofered good photo opportunities. How better to start than with a beautiful Malachite Kingfisher less than 3 meters from us !!. Highlights included great African Jacanas with chicks, African Darter, Pied Kingfisher with fish, Bathing Fish Eagles, hunting Fish Eagles, hundreds of Elephants, Hippo, Chacma baboons, Kudu and Impala drinking, Lions, Purple Heron, African Skimmers, Pygmy Goose, Cape Buffalo, Crocodiles, Little Bee Eaters, Puku Antelope and a final morning visit to the yellow Billed Stork nesting colony which had a few visible chicks.
Thank you so much again to a great adventure with Letaka Safaris and our excellent guides, Nkosi and Shadrek as well as the amazing camp team - Mula, Banda and Dreams !!!
Many thanks also to Pangolin Photo Safaris and our boat captain Shuur !! thanks for yet another great stay at the river.
Finally thanks to all the participants for joining us on this Photo Safari, Denny, Vinny, Debbie, Don, Ken and Mike.. it was a pleasure to have travelled with you and shared some incredibly amazing sightings together.
Here are some photos from the trip - enjoy
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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
Many thanks to Wild 4 for a truly memorable trip . Stu’s guidance and photography skills provided excellent opportunities to get some great shots. His professionalism and commitment to the trip made the safari ‘special’. Having only 3 photographers per vehicle made an incredible difference. Committed time to ‘get the shot’ was very rewarding. Time to just observe animal behaviour was of great joy for me too. Watching the many elephant families in Kruger their social interactions and sometimes zany behaviour….those memories will stay forever. The accommodations and meals were excellent .Many thanks to Justyna for her wonderful help on the admin side making my booking a dream I have been on trips before but none quite so enjoyable as this one. Would I go again ? definitely yes…… spaces allowing ! Would I recommend to friends ? A big yes to that one….. in fact I already have ! Sincere thanks again to you all
Sue Green, UK