Fulfilling a life-long dream I was recently fortunate enough to make a trip to Africa. I participated in a three week photography based tour in Botswana organized by Denis Glennon . We visited three different lodges in private game concessions in the Okavango delta and a fourth lodge on the edge of the Chobe National Park.
I will take a moment to thank Denis and the other members of the 'team' for the wonderfully organized trip. Everything went smoothly (at least as smoothly as things can go in africa) and I would have no hesitation in recommending anyone go on one of his tours. I certainly hope to do so again myself in the future (I have my eye on a tour to Namibia). The other members of the 'team' were: Shem Compion of C4 Images & Safari's and Jay Collier wildlife photographer and manager of Canon Professional Services Australia. All three photographers showed wonderful knowledge and experience of the local conditions and wildlife behaviour as well fantastic technical knowledge of photography and photographic equipment. Many thanks guys!
We stayed in Savuti for the first few days, then the Kwara, Lebala and Lagoon camps run by Kwando Safaris. All the accomodation was comfortable in the 'safari' style with tented or canvas covered huts some with outside showers. Without exception the local staff, drivers and trackers of all the camps were polite, friendly and helpful and contributed greatly to the enjoyment of the trip. The skill of the trackers in running down the whereabouts of cheetah or the like is amazing.
The main theme of the adventure for me at least turned out to be the predators. We had unprecedented good fortune to see a larger number of africa's amazing predators. The usually reclusive leopards seemed to be everywhere and I saw seven of them over the course of the trip and was able to spend good photography time with five of these. Not only that every single one of the sitings was on the ground not hidden up a tree as is so often the case. In fact the first major siting within twenty minutes of starting the first game drive at the first camp, was a young female leopard we were able to spend a whole hour with.
I also saw lions, a coalition of 3 male cheetah's, hyena's and amazingly was able to spend large amounts of time with two different packs of the rare and endangered African Wild Dogs. A glimpse of a Caracal topped off an incredible run of good fortune with the cats and dogs of Botswana.
The main thing that made the trip so rewarding in a photographic sense was the time of year we visited. The busiest time of year for the delta is the winter when the rivers and channels in the delta (swollen by rains in Angola) are at their highest but the surrounding country is very dry so that the animals are clustered around the water and easier to find. Visiting in December as we did - which is the start of the rainy season, meant the channels were lower and water was available elsewhere so the animals were a little harder to find at times (but still plentiful). The payoff though was 3 weeks of amazing cloudy skies which were great for sunsets and great backdrops for photography. There was also a fair bit of rain which meant that there was often plenty of green background for the animals to be set against instead of the dry dusty terrain usually associated with african wildlife photos. Some days there were completely overcast skies which meant much of the harsh contrasty sunlight could be avoided and animals could be photographed in more flattering even light.
The other advantage to the time of year was an abundance of baby impala and other ungulates as well as an occupied heronry/bird nursery in one of the water channels.
To make the experience even better I was joined by a great bunch of other like minded amateur photographers from around Australia (as well as an honorary Aussie from California).
I will make further posts about this trip in the coming weeks and months so please check back!