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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Any aspiring photographer who has not yet been on a wildlife safari should join a WILD4 with Stu and Justyna Porter. You will be guided by a graduate professional photographer who is also a highly-qualified South African field guide. Stu's knowledge of photography and his understanding of African wildlife are exceptional. He is also blessed with an amazing spotter's eyesight. I often thought to myself, how on earth did he see that! As each day begins all these talents are passed on with sincerity and quiet enthusiasm to each photographer's needs. Nothing is ever too much trouble and his positioning of the vehicle for the best light and animal profile is always his first consideration. On our tour there were times for laughter and many times when action and adrenalin ran high. Any successful safari is only as good as its backup team. This family company is most ably supported by Stu's wife Justyna who is the drive behind the scenes and efficiently arranges the accommodation and all the logistics. Stu's mother, Ann Porter provides excellent food for the day in the park and around the campfire at night. Both are qualified field guides and their spotting abilities add greatly to each day's safari. This particular trip was most rewarding in both personal and photographic terms and one of the best we have ever enjoyed. Sincere thanks to you all.
Slim & Barbara Callaghan, UK
On arrival we were treated as part of the family by Stu Porter, his wife Justyna, and parents John and Ann. The conditions for finding and photographing everything from small birds to large game was perfect – a 500mm lens on hire from Stu, a specially equipped vehicle, which was referred to as a hide on wheels ( with only 3 photographers) , a dedicated and professional approach to photography and plenty of time. We would set off at sunrise, find a group of lions as they were beginning to yawn and stir from sleep, or a pair of saddle-billed storks building a nest, and quietly move our cameras into position. The initial sighting was accompanied by the rapid firing of shutters, but then we would wait as long as necessary in the hope of getting further shots. Stu was very sensitive to our needs and would only make suggestions about the best camera settings if he thought we needed his advice. His awareness of how animals behave was very useful in planning our shots. Stu’s knowledge of African Wildlife and skill as a wildlife photographer is second to none, and I have learned a lot from his expertise. I am delighted with my photos !! This was the trip of a lifetime, good accommodation, delicious food and great company. It was altogether a wonderful, challenging and thrilling experience and, if you are looking for a photo safari in Africa, I too recommend you contact Stu Porter at Wild4.
David Austwick, UK