BEST of BOTSWANA photo safari - May 2015
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 6th Jun 2015
The May “Best of Botswana” photo safari has just ended and it provided us with an amazing diversity of photo opportunities. Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai concession and the famous Savuti revealed many unique and photo productive encounters with Leopards, Lions, Hyena's, Elephants, maginificent birds and even a pair of fighting Black Mambas ! The extension to Victoria Falls was also very successful, “the smoke that thunders” lived up to its name and rightly deserves to be one of the 7 “natural wonders of the world”.
We completed our journey from Johannesburg into the Okavango Delta with a short charter flight from Maun to Xakanaka where we were met by our two expert Letaka guides, Nkosi and Shadreck. Upon arrival at our private mobile expedition camp we were made to feel very welcome by our chef, Musa as well as KP and Open who had not only set up our entire camp for us, but had also prepared a very tasty dinner.
Spending the first night out in the real African wilderness is always exciting, the sounds of elephants, hippos and whooping hyenas take a bit of getting used to but they certainly remind you of where you are and what a beautiful place Botswana is.
Our first three nights were spent in the Moremi Game Reserve and on our very first game drive we were treated to a fantastic sighting of a beautiful young female Leopard, literally 100meters from our camp. Not only did we get some great photos of her, we actually ended up seeing her on another 3 occasions during our stay in Moremi.. this was the beginning of our “Leopard luck” as we continued to see a Leopard on every morning drive for the rest of the trip !!
Other highlights were seeing a newly born baby elephant, a number of Slaty Egrets, Bradfield's Hornbill, Giraffe and two Male Lions who tried to stalk some Impala late one afternoon. The Lagoons in the Moremi area are stunningly beautiful, especially at sunset which burned an unreal colour of red.
On our transit day from Moremi to Khwai we stopped to observe a number of Vultures gathered around in the Mopani trees, wondering if there might be a fresh kill close by, when we suddenly heard the unmistakeable yelping sounds of a pack of African Wilddogs. On closer inspection we found they had just killed an Impala and were feeding in their characteristic frenzied fashion. This was a real treat as the group really wanted to get some photos of these special and endangered carnivores.
Our Campsite in Khwai was in a spectacular setting beneath massive ancient Leadwood trees. The off-roading policy in Khwai enables one to get closer to the wildlife and for this reason we spent 4 nights here in this wildlife paradise on the eastern fringe of the Okavango Delta. Some highlights were Bull Elephants playing in the Khwai River, excellent sightings of Kudu, Zebra and Red Lechwe, a different pack of African Wilddogs with another Impala kill, two young Leopards that we found each morning and a myriad of different bird species which included the magnificent Saddle Billed Storks, Sacred Ibis, Lilac Breasted Rollers, Yellow Billed Storks and the unusual Hammerkop.
Our final stop on the mobile camping part of the safari was the famous Savuti. Highlights here were the interaction between a Hyena, Leopard with a kill and three Lionesses, a rare sighting of a pair of Black Mambas in courtship display and the small Lion cubs we saw on the very last morning. Savuti always has a surprise in store.
We left our Letaka family in Savuti and continued by plane to Kasane for our 2 nights at the Chobe River. We had 4 boat rides on the river with our expert boat driver Shuur and the incredible Pangolin photographic boat, complete with new Gimbal Heads. We enjoyed a feast of photographic opportunities at the river and these included the regular swimming elephants, Hippos, Cape Buffalo and the rare Puku Antelope. The birds were excellent too, White Fronted and Carmine Bee-eaters, plenty of African Fish Eagles, Malachite, Giant and Brown Hooded Kingfishers, Wattled Cranes, Collared Pratincoles and my personal favourite, a Black Heron displaying its very unusual “umbrella” hunting style. The sunsets over the river are some of the most spectacular I have ever seen.
The last leg of the trip took us on the optional extension to the famous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We covered the falls from all angles, from the air in a helicopter and on the ground where we visited the falls on three different occasions and at three different times of the day. It really is a spectacular sight to see and well worth the visit. At this time of year and with the amount of water flowing over the falls (70% of maximum), the Western side was the most photogenic. The eastern side was flowing too strongly and the mist and spray from the water prevented one from even seeing that section clearly, not to mention the fact that you and your equipment get very wet.
The final morning sunrise was beautiful and we worked a lot in HDR to try and capture the incredible atmosphere as best we could.
Thanks ever so much to all the folks who looked after us so well on the safari, especially to the Letaka team and our guides, Nkosi and Shadreck who found so many amazing photo opportunities for us and who tirelesly positioned and repositioned the vehicles to get us into the very best positions. Thanks also to Shuur, the incredible boat driver on the Chobe, and to Guts at Pangolin for another very successful outing on the most amazing photo boat !
Finally a huge thanks to the fantastic group of fellow photographers (and one expert bird watcher - yes that's you Sharon ! ) thank you to Keith, Dave, Phil, Steve, Kim and Barbara for coming on safari with us, it was an absolute pleasure to have shared such amazing experieinces and opportunities with such great people who really appreciate nature and all her complexities.. thanks once again.
Enjoy some photos from the trip !
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If anyone is contemplating a photo trip to Africa, then we would have absolutely no hesitation in recomending Stu Porter and Wild4 Photographic Safaris. It doesn't really matter what your level of skill is you will get as much or as little help and advice as you wish to receive. Nothing is thrust down your throat and Stu doesn't spend all his time taking his own photographs as some do. Stu has taken a huge amount of time and trouble in customising and setting up his safari vehicle and the effort he's put in makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable. Tethered bean bags are provided and secure plate mounts on the side of the vehicle will also take your tripod head ensuring a rock steady platform and Stu most certainly knows where the animals are. Particularly enjoyable was the time we spent at the Big Cat Reserve (part of the 4 night extension) which is an unbelieveable photographic experience. Many thanks WILD4 !
Rob & Sue Brookes, UK
For thirty-five years I had dreamed of going on a photographic safari in South Africa. This year I finally realized that dream and it is fair to say that my hopes and expectations were surpassed in every way. I had done extensive research on African photographic safaris on the Internet before settling on Wild 4 photo safaris. What an inspired choice that turned out to be! This family company run by Stu Porter and his wife, Justyna, and aided by Stu’s parents, John and Ann, provides the perfect safari experience for photographers of every skill level. Stu is one South Africa’s finest wild-life photographers and a first-class teacher into the bargain. His knowledge of the habitat and habits of the animals and birds to be found in Kruger National Park is simply encyclopaedic. I was accompanied on the trip by my 25 year-old daughter, Amy, and we eagerly adapted to the early morning wake-up call to go off into the wilds in one of Stu’s specially fitted jeeps to photograph animals at sunrise. Every day brought its special moments whether the spectacle of lions mating just a few metres from the jeep, or leopards lying lazily in the grass digesting a meal, or elephants and hippos frolicking in a river. The days sped by and we returned home with thousands of photographs of birds and animals to sort through and cherish for the memories they bring back. A safari with Wild 4 is more than a photographic experience with a master photographer: it is an initiation into the wonders of South Africa – its wild-life and spectacular landscapes - and, above all, an experience of friendship as everyone aboard the jeep bond in common purpose. Everything about Wild 4 is first class: organization is superb, accommodations excellent, choices of locale perfect. Our safari with Stu and Wild4 was truly the experience of a life-time.
Andrew Oliver, CANADA