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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Kruger North to South 16 days of photo safari gone off like a wink of an eye especially when it was fun and memorable. Like an aciton-packed movie, the opening scene at the Skukuza Airport reception by Wild4 Team : Stefan and Sandrine was delightful and the afternoon game drive was filled with excitements with shots of wildlife encountered as we travelled to our first camp in Satara. The numerous sightings we experienced over the next two weeks were nothing less than thrilling and of course capturing the Big 5 was fulfilling. The teamwork of Stefan and Sandrine was excellent giving the traveling photographers absolutely nothing to worry except to be trigger happy. Each day I shot approximately 1,500 images as each day bought new surprises. As a photographer I used the Sony A9 with the 2x teleconverter on the 100-400mm G Master zoom for distant & fast-moving subjects like eagles' flights, lions, leopards, rhinos and the smaller birds in flights while my Leica SL on a APO Vario Elmarit 90-280mm zoom for intermediate distance subjects like elephants, hippos, zebras, Impalas, Kudus and various animals within close quarters of the vehicle, and finally my Leica Q for the panoramic shots of landscape and daily point and shoot. A memorable trip ending with almost 4 TB of mobile hard disk storage. I will re-live my memories when I sort out the images and I look forward to my next trip with Stu on the Tanzania & Elephants of Amboseli and many other trips with Wild4.
Clifford Yap, Singapore
This was our second trip with Stu and our first in Tanzania, the sightings exceeded all our expectations including a selection of births, deaths, and marriages with a variety of wildlife. One of many highlights was seeing 22 lions drinking at a stream in the Ngorongoro crater . The accommodation was once again first class, even the tented camps. Stu, together with our African guides James and Jeremiah managed to always have the vehicle in exactly the right position for the best pictures. Can't wait to go again.
John & Lorraine Carnemolla, Australia