Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 7th May 2017
An unusually heavy rainy season has resulted in a lot of the Okavangao Delta being underwater. Moremi Game Reserve and the Khwai concession were very wet indeed and this meant that a lot of the the regular roads were unpassable which restricted our game drives to certain areas. However regardless of how wet the delta was, we still managed to find an abundance of photo opportunties with birds featuring high on the list. Water bird activity was of course very busy and we spent a lot fo time with Fish Eagles, Saddle Billed storks, Squacco herons, Cormoroants and King fishers. Our first three nights were spent in the Xini area of Moremi which has a real sense of wilderness, we hardly bumped into a single car during our 3 days here.
Next up was our 4 night stay in the Khwai Concession area. By far the highlight from Khwai was spending a number of hours on our own with a beautiful young male Leopard. The ability to follow animals off road in Khwai offers a great opportunitiy to get a bit closer to the wildlife. Apart from the Leopard, we were entertained by a troop of Baboons near our camp, a great sighting of the big Verreaux's Eagle Owl, the stunning Crimson Breasted Shrike, Greater Kudu, Cape Hunting dogs, Little Bee eaters and a Great Spotted Cuckoo being fed by its host mother, a Burchell's Starling.
Our third land based stop was three nights in the Savuti area of the Chobe National Park. Savuti was teeming with birds of prey and I have never seen so many Tawny Eages before. HIghlights here were two juvenile Secretary Birds still at their nest (although seemingly independant). We watched as an adult arrived and fed one of the large "chicks" with 3 or 4 baby birds, most likely, Francolin chicks. We also spent time with Dwarf and Yellow Mongoose, watched a Hornbill chick being fed by the adult at the nest, which was a dead tree lying on the ground !, saw a second pack of Cape Hunting Dogs, a Barn Owl in a tree cavity, Elephants at Harvey's pan, a Greater Painted Snipe !, Cape Buffalo, Giraffe and two Lionesses.
From Savuti we set off for the magnificent Chobe River for our final 2 nights. The river was the fullest I have ever seen it at this time of year and it did allow us to get closer to the edge of the river and photograph some of the animals coming down to drink. It also opened up some new channels which we were happy to explore. Birdlife is alway excellent at the Chobe River and we completed 4 boat rides on the special Pangolin Photo Boat with its custom designed swivel chairs and gimbal mounts, this is the best and only way to enjoy photography on the Chobe River !!
We had sightings of and photo opportunties with, Pied Kingfishers, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Black Crake, Malachite Kingfishers, Giant Kingfisher, African Jacana, Allen's Gallinule (a first for me), Long toed Lapwing, Elephants, Hippo and African Fish Eagle building a nest.
But the highlight of the stay at the river and perhaps of the whole trip was spending time photographing a pride of lions (3 females and 2 males) who walked along the river front and were at times no more than 10m from us in the boat. One female then charged in on a Nile Monitor Lizard that had been warming up in the sun on the river bank. She chased and caught the lizard just before it reached the safety of the river. A really rare and very specdial sighting indeed !
So even though the conditions in the Delta were quite different to usual, it just goes to show that one never really knows what mother nature has in store for you.
A HUGE thanks goes to the Letaka Camp Staff team who looked after us so well for the first 10 nights of our trip, it is still a mystery as to how these guys manage to do all that they do and still have the energy to look after us with so much care and attention to detail. Thank you Musa for the amazing food !!, and to KP and KG for making sure every aspect of our camp life experieince was taken care of so that we could enjoy our experience to the fullest.
Of course without a master guide, we would not have achieved the photos that we did, and on this occasion our master was Nkosi !!, thanks so much for all your patience with positioning, and re-positioning the vehicle and finding that Leopard for us was an incredible piece of intuition, only achieved after decades of time guiding in the African wilderness, thanks Nkosi !!
Mr Shuur, our boat captiain on the Chobe, thank you so much for getting us in and out of sightings on the river and for those magical moments with the Lion pride.
And a final huge thanks to Guy, Cat and Richard for joining us on this Botswana adventure, it was a pleasure to meet you Richard and to travel once again with Guy & Cat, until the next time and another box of Jammy Dodgers !
Enjoy some photos from the trip !
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This was the best photo adventure I have ever experienced. My travel partners were great, the food and lodging were wonderful and most of all I learned a tremendous amount about a variety of photography techinques from the amazing Stu Porter. www.imagesbyaggie.com
Aggie Pagnillo, USA
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