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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The Wild 4 team made my trip to South Africa a truly memorable experience. Photographing some of the orphaned captive animals at the private game reserve on the extension was a great way to start the holiday, and Stu's tuition on techniques, composition and familiarity with your gear was the foundation for the rest of the trip. In Kruger we had some wonderful sightings - including the 'Big 5' all in one day on two consecutive days! The highlights were spending 20 minutes with a leopard cub in a tree no more than 30 metres away, and on the last day watching a pride of 14 lions stalking a herd of zebra for more than an hour - just wonderful experiences! I'm sure the quality of the shots I took was infinitely better than if I'd gone on a regular safari, as the whole focus of the experience is expertly designed to maximise photographic opportunities - including only 3 photographers in the specially designed vehicle. Stu's knowledge, enthusiasm and patience were boundless, and Ann's spotting and catering skills were also priceless! I hope to visit Africa again soon, and without doubt Wild 4 will be my first option.
Greg Morgan, UK
I recently did a trip with Wild4 which far outweighed any expectations that I had! Wow what a trip. There was a great variety of animals, Stu has extensive knowledge of the animals and their habitat and was always mindful of us getting the best shots possible. My friend and I had our own bench seats in all the vehicles, which was great as we both had 2 DSLRs with numerous lenses, each vehicle is equipped with beanbags to steady your camera / lens, pockets and enough room to take a camera bag. We had fantastic opportunities to watch the cats for a good period of time and learn a little bit about their life, rather than taking a photo and moving on. I loved that we could sit and watch the lions at Mala Mala play in the Sand River, it was a fantastic opportunity. Stu provided us with some great tuition, I certainly learnt a lot of new photo techniques which I look forward to using back home. I hired a Canon 500mm lens from Stu which was great, I think I used that about 85% of the time and used a 70-200mm for the rest. We had many opportunities for night photography, silhouettes, time lapse, low light etc At the end of our trip we did the reptile extension at Khamai Reptile Centre. We went behind the scenes at the centre and had one of Africa's leading reptile specialist spend the day talking about the reptiles, spiders, scorpions we were about to take pictures of. Donald and his team certainly made for a very safe photo shoot, they were extremely patient positioning some of the reptiles for better light or different background. I learnt a lot from Donald, living in Australia we do have some venomous snakes, the day certainly gave me a renewed appreciation for the reptiles. I would highly recommend the Wild4 team for your next photographic safari you will not be disappointed.
Linda Cappello, AUSTRALIA