BEST of BOTSWANA photo safari TRIP REPORT - May 2018
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 6th Jun 2018
Our first "Best of Botswana" photo safari for 2018 has just ended and it was very interesting to see how the water level in the delta was much lower than last year at the same time, but the water in the Chobe River was the highest I have ever seen it. This is a very interesting water system and never fails to offer something new.
We flew into the Okavango Delta from Maun and headed off to our campsite near third bridge. Moremi Game Reserve is a very big area and it always surprises us with some unusual sightings. One of the highlights from Moremi was watching the mating behaviour of the Impala. Although a very commonly seen antelope, mating behavior is seldom observed, but we were very lucky to watch this rarely seen behaviour a number of times. We also had great sightings of Tsessebe, Zebra, Wildebeest, Waterbuck and the Red Lechwe. Birds were great as usual, especially watching the African Darter with its Catfish which unfortunately it eventually lost !
We saw the single Lioness and her cub on Dead Tree Island and were treated to a wonderful sighting of a Leopard and her cub. Nkosi, managed to scratch out another male Leopard by listening to the alarm calls of Tree Squirrels and Spurfowl and mixing this with a lot of patience and persistence.
Next up was the Khwai concession and this was perhaps one of the best visits to Khwai I have ever experienced. We saw the Cape Hunting Dogs every day, the large Lion pride feeding on a Zebra, but perhaps the most special of all was getting to watch a young female Leopard go about "Leopard life" and we amazingly got to see her everyday doing something different. This included her stalking some Impala that she did not know were being chased by Cape Hunting Dogs, when she saw the dogs she bolted up the nearest tree. She then stalked right past our car trying to catch a young Impala, but was unsuccessful. She also provided us with the sighting of the trip when she met up with her mother and they both proceeded to climb up a tree and fish out a total of 8 Barn Owl Chicks from their nest in a tree cavity. Master spotter Lucas also found her one morning lying out on a fallen log which produced one of the best photos of the trip - thanks Lucas !!
There was also a great interaction between a big Bull Elephant and the pack of Cape Hunting dogs. The Elephant tried to pass by but the dogs chased him, in return the big Bull Elephant was having none of it and chased and trumpeted at the Dogs.
Our journey to Savute through the Mababe depression yielded a small group of rarely seen Roan Antelope and the largest Bull Roan I have seen.
Savute provided some great birds, Lions with small cubs, lots of Hyaena cubs at the den and on our final morning we had an amazing sighting of a Leopard in a large Rain tree with the remains of an Impala kill. This sighting ramped up a notch when two Lionesses noticed the Leopard and climbed up the tree to try and steal the Leopards kill. The Leopard must have sensed that the Lions would climb up after it and took its kill right to the top of the tree and remained safely out of reach of the Lions who found it quite difficult to climb down the tree. We were all quite amazed that both Lions managed to climb such a difficult tree - so to answer the age old question of "can Lions climb trees?" - yes they can and not just the easy ones !!
As mentioned, the Chobe River was the fullest I have ever seen it, it was spectacular to see from the air on our approach into Kasane.
Having more water means you can get closer to the river bank in more locations when on the boat rides. This certainly led to a lot of great mammal and bird sightings. The usual spectacluar opportunities with Kingfishers, Hippos, Elephants swimming, African Fish Eagles, Spur Winged Geese, Crocodiles and antelope drinking were enjoyed on all the boat rides. The highlight came on our final morning boat ride when we spotted a young Leopard displaying some unusual behaviour when she stalked up to a big Bull African Buffalo, and climbed up into the tree under which it was feeding. The Leopard looked down on the Buffalo for a while but managed to get out of the tree before the Buffalo even knew it was there. The Leopard then drank from the edge of the river. Next she honed in on a group of Impala that had just finished drinking and followed them away from the river, forcing us to return for breakfast with some very special memories, sightings and photographs from a fantastic trip.
The two day Victoria Falls extension followed and due to the very high water level of the river, the volume of water going over the falls was tremendous and caused large volumes of spray making it tricky to photograph the falls from most of the view points. We still enjoyed the sunrise shoot and the beautiful rainbows that are synonymous with the Victoria Falls.
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 Pula for the amazing food !!, and to SMS and Parker 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 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 beautiful female Leopard.
A final huge thank you goes to a fantastic group of clients, Rita, Murray, Diane, Bob and Jeanie - it was fantastic to see you all again and many thanks for joining us on this Best of Botswana adventure.
Enjoy some photos from the trip !
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We have a particular affinity for bird photography, but also enjoy the African game animals. I'm pleased to say we are all thrilled with the entire trip. Stu met us at the airport on day 1, and what was to have been a quick couple hour drive to camp, took all afternoon until sunset, we found so many things to shoot. Then we wanted to do something slightly off the itinerary on day 2, and Stu again accommodated us. It was like that throughout the entire trip, the Porter family was very accommodating. Even though we were in a big national park using public facilities, the Porter family made us feel like we were in our own private game reserve, and the animals were there just for us. Stu's local knowledge of the birds and game is just great, he's a walking guide book. And because he's in Kruger so often, he knows where the best spots are. Also he knows all the other guides, and they share information. And most importantly if you are considering a photo safari, Stu is an accomplished nature photographer himself. He knows the light and how to position and approach for the best shot. He knows what photographers want and how to get it. The experience might be quite different if just any guide were to drive you around. And having a spotting vehicle out searching for game really helped us see some extra animals we wouldn't have seen. The results were outstanding. We saw and photographed all the of the big five, and several seldom seen animals totaling 33 mammal species and 164 bird species. All in all, the trip was great!! highly recommended!
Con Foley, USA
We couldn’t have enjoyed our trip with Wild 4 more. We were made to feel extremely welcome right from our very first e-mail contact, something which continued throughout our trip and beyond. We’d like to thank Stu, Justyna, Ann, & John for being such wonderful and enthusiastic hosts. Being looked after by such a friendly and caring family was a delight and we were very reluctant to leave after two weeks. Stu is a very knowledgeable, hard-working and helpful guide, always on hand with useful pointers and offering us plenty of encouragement to experiment with our photography. Having a whole row each of a specially adapted safari vehicle was a real find, ensuring we didn’t miss out on any of the action. Being able to stay out in the bush all day was also a real bonus. While many other vehicles drove off after only a few minutes, we were able to spend hours observing groups of lions and other wildlife. As this was our first African safari, Stu suggested we spend the first few nights at the Big Cats reserve and this proved to be a magical experience, with some great close-up action that resulted in some beautiful shots. It is a great place to hone your existing skills & learn some new ones. Given the opportunity we would go again tomorrow without any hesitation. Simply perfect!
Arnoud & Lynsey Van Foreest, NETHERLANDS