BEST of BOTSWANA photo safari TRIP REPORT - June 2018
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 7th Jul 2018
Our June "Best of Botswana" photo safari for 2018 has just ended and the sightings and photography was fantastic. It was quite a bit colder than the May safari and the warmth of the campfire at night was much appreciated and enjoyed !
After flying into the delta from Maun, we were met by our guides, Nkosi and Lucas, at the Xakanaxa airstrip. Our camp in Moremi was in a great location, but our first night was spent together with a resident troop of Baboons who decided to shelter in the large Jackalberry trees above our tents - needless to say it was not easy to fall asleep !!. Some highlights in Moremi were sightings of Tsessebe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Waterbuck and the Red Lechwe, Jackal, Yellow Billed Storks, Lilac Breasted Rollers and two beautiful Male Lions.
We then headed off to the Khwai Concession, hoping to see the Owl eating Leopards that we had seen on our May safari. We camped at the same beautiful Sable Alley campsite and on our very first morning drive we did indeed bump into the same young Leopard, this time she was 50m outside our camp with a fresh male Steenbok Kill ! we could not have asked for a better start to our 4 days in Khwai. Over the next few days the young Leopard managed to keep her kill safe from scavengers and we saw her every morning. She even managed to escape from a pack of Wilddogs who actually came through our camp and chased her up into the safety of a Camel Thorn Tree. We also caught up with the young Leopards mother who had made an Impala kill.
The Cape Hunting dogs had set up a den site and although we did not see the puppies, one female had definietly given birth. A second female was also seen in the pack, heavily pregnant hersefl, so it will be interesteing to see how the pack and the two sets of uppies get on in the next few months. Other highlights in Khwai were a great sighting of the African Golden Oriole, Hammerkop, Baboon, Saddle Billed Stork, Reedbuck, Little Bee Eaters and a very rare sighting of a pair of Bathawks who are usually only seen at dusk and dawn. We also saw a young Elephant with half its trunk missing and part of its ear. We assumed it might have been attacked by a Crocodile when it was very young.
Our final stop on the mobile camping section was the semi arid region of the Chobe National Park called Savute. Our campsite was conveniently located close to the Hyaena den and we managed to see the clan one morning. We also enjoyed a fantastic Elephant sighting at Harvey's Pans, it was the most Elephant I have ever seen at the pans, we estimated that in all there might have been over 250 elephants lining up to drink. It was here that we saw yet another young elephant with a trunk injury, this time however the youngster had no trunk at all and was quite an odd sight.
One of the cutest sightings was of 3 baby Yellow Mongooses who came out of their burrow to suckle from their mother.
On our final full day we set out in search of the Marsh pride who were still located at the southern end of the Marsh near Jackal Island. Lucas spotted a Lioness from far off and we noticed that she had some cubs with her, 5 in total. We managed to follow them to a beautiful termite mound that the female climbed. This was perhaps the sighting of the trip. Whilst we were photographing them at a small pan we heard the rest of the pride roaring near Jackal Island. We headed there and found the rest of the pride including one of the big males, who decided to lie in the shade of our vehicle.
Savute offered some great bird photography too including Kori Bustard, Tawny Eagle, Southern White Crowned Shrikes and the Capped Wheatear.
Next stop was the Chobe River where the water level had dropped about 2 meters since our last trip. Getting through the channels was a bit tricky and we only got stuck once ! The river always offers up some great sightings and we enjoyed the usual Pied Kingfisher sigtings, Egyptian and Spur Winged Goose, African Darters, Hippos, African Fish Eagles, Elephants, Squacco Heron and Reed Cormorants. We did however have four special sightings, a Beautiful Giant Kingfisher, a very rare sighting of a Lesser Jacana, African Skimmers and the beautiful Carmine Bee Eaters whom I had expected to have migrated further north by this time.
The two day Victoria Falls extension followed and the lower water level did allow a slightly better view of the falls but the main falls was still very wet with heavy spray. We did manage to take the Lunar Rainbow photo from the Zambian side which is a much better place to do this compared with the Zimbabwean side as you are allowed to walk around on your own and not as part of a group.
A HUGE thank you 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 KK for the amazing food !!, and to Names and July for making sure every aspect of our camp life was taken care of so that we could enjoy our experience to the fullest.
Of course another huge thanks goes to our expert guides, Nkosi and Lucas, thanks so much once again for all your patience with positioning and your expert spotting & tracking skills. Guides like you are a what make a photo safari in Botswana a success !!
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 Elephants and the stunning Carmine Bee eaters.
A final huge thank you goes to a great group of clients, Larry, Debbie, Ross, Robert and Robert and Angela - it was fantastic to spend this safari with you - many thanks for joining us on this Best of Botswana adventure.
Enjoy some photos from the trip !
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This was simply an outstanding photographic safari all round – by far the best that I have been on! As a keen enthusiast photographer, looking to step up a level with view to entering 2 competitions later in the year, I could not have hoped for more. Excellent ! The family based Wild4 team is personable and friendly and went the extra mile all the way through. They are very well organized and their prompt and helpful responses to queries pre-trip ensured they were easy and a pleasure to deal with. Stu Porter can pitch his photographic tuition at any level and his attention to detail and enthusiasm was spot on throughout this trip. I was surprised by just how much I learn’t because I was quite comfortable with my photo technique on arrival. I have easily adopted his full-on manual approach, every bit of which he was able to justify - a revelation! I am quite picky, but I cannot praise these guys enough and I will be back. Very many thanks to the whole team.
I found Wild4 through an article in Popular Photography magazine about how to choose a photo safari. They were one of five recommended in the article. After checking them all out, I saw that Stu and Wild4 offered the kind of experience that I wanted: 1) Small groups of dedicated photographers 2) Variety in wildlife viewing 3) Tuition on photography and wildlife behavior 4) Good communication and organisation. I can say that Wild4 met and exceeded all expectations on all points (and then some). 1) We used one vehicle for three photographers. Stu is a trained photographer himself, so his goal was always to get us into the best position with the best light. Having only three on the tour meant plenty of room for equipment and the ability to shoot from either side of the vehicle when surrounded by a herd of elephants! It also gave us the flexibility to be patient and wait for the shot. 2) The three places we visited each provided a unique experience and wonderful variety in scenery and wildlife viewing. 3) Stu's tuition was excellent. It was there if we needed it but never pushed. Tips, reminders, anecdotes on wildlife behavior. All given with patience and good humor. 4) From the first email, the communication was timely & clear. Justyna was a joy to work with and handled the back-office part of the tour seamlessly. It can't be as easy as she makes it seem. Wild4 didn't provide the wildlife or the spectacular sunsets that we experienced, but they put us in position to enjoy and capture a little piece of it in our cameras and in our memories. Our Safari was amazing and I would not have changed a thing...well, maybe I would have eaten a little less. If you're looking for a Photo Safari, there is nothing to consider. Just go ahead and contact Wild4 Photographic Safaris. You will not be sorry.
Doug Croft, USA