Botswana is a destination that has always been on Photographers on Safari’s radar. I have done a number of safaris to Botswana in the past. The highlight of Botswana, in my opinion, has always been the ability to photograph wildlife at close distances while actually being the river at a little above water level. Being able to photograph Elephants at sunset was what initially drew me to Botswana, but the birdlife here is equally impressive.
Huge numbers of Elephants visit Chobe River every afternoon/evening to quench their thirst from the Chobe River. They may well have travelled anything from 40 to 80 kilometres to find suitable food. They arrive at the riverside constantly from 4pm to sunset. Some drink and retreat from the water’s edge. Some smother themselves in water and then in sand. Some swim across the river, which is approximately half a kilometre wide. If you can catch these with the setting sun behind you, they appear an almost golden colour. Others graze the short grass on the water’s edge. They pull this up complete with roots. This leads to clouds of dust around their legs. For almost an hour these scenes have various backdrops as the sun sets. They start off various shades of yellow before becoming more and more red until finally becoming a soft purple. The colours are truly incredible. The Elephants are best exposed as silhouettes that will, in turn, enhance the beautiful pastel colours behind. The Elephants virtually ignore our boat and sometimes approach to within 10 feet of us. Wide-angle lenses to the ready for these occasions !!!!!!
Please note; The colours in my photographs of the Elephants at sunset are not enhanced in any way (other than shooting with minus compensation). The colours are real. Come and see for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
The Crocodiles are equally impressive. They tend to haul themselves out of the water and sit on banks about two feet above the water. The sides of our boat are less than two feet tall. You can rest your wide-angle lens on the side of the boat and photograph these killing machines from two to three metres away. Some will have their mouths wide open and will be directly facing you. You can focus on their tonsils with no trouble at all. You can also take close-up details of their legs or tail sections. And all this at their eye level – or even lower if you wish. Some of the Crocodiles are huge, and some no more than a foot long. There are almost as many Monitor Lizards as Crocodiles, so getting some great shots of those guys is also relatively easy.
Buffalos, Hippos & Antelopes
There are huge numbers of Buffalo here. One herd is more than 800 strong. You can photograph these in all sorts of poses. Egrets and Oxpeckers are always close by. The Buffalo will also cross the river at times. Hippos will never be far away. Usually in the water and sometimes grazing on the riverbanks. We witnessed a number of play-fights in the water, and they are very entertaining at times. There are several different types of Antelope here. The rare Puku is difficult to find elsewhere. The Sable Antelopes, Kudu and the Roan Antelopes are equally impressive. The best chance to find these is mid morning as the visit the river to drink. Impalas are plentiful. Waterbuck and Red Lechwe are always present. The Tsessebe is less frequently spotted.
Please note that the gallery shows pictures from a previous 15-day itinerary. You are unlikely to see Cheetahs, Caracals and Carmine Bee-Eaters on this 8-day Safari. All other species in the gallery were photographed during this 8-day itinerary.
I will list those that I photographed. There are others present that avoided me – Lions being the most obvious ones. The most notable animals that I saw were Leopard, Honey Badger (on two separate occasions) and a pack of 9 Wild Dogs. I also came across Otters, Wart Hogs, Baboons, Tree Squirrels, Giraffes, Slender Mongooses, Banded Mongooses, Zebra and Wildebeest. The animals spotted while on safaris in Chobe National Park can be quite sparse on occasions. For this reason I have only included one land safari for every 3 sessions on the river in our itinerary. We will request more riverboat sessions if they are available.
This is the first time I have come across these stunningly beautiful birds. I spent quite a lot of my recce photographing them. Getting good shots of the birds on the sand or taking off and landing is not too difficult. Actually getting a pin-sharp shot of them skimming is not as easy. Their bottom beak is an inch or so longer than their top beak. They fly a few inches above the water with their bottom beak actually in the water. When they make contact with a fish they snap shut and hopefully return to land with a fish. Their failure rate is quite high, as was mine, initially, when trying to capture this scenario. I finally got what I wanted. Persistence usually brings just rewards.
We regularly photographed three species of Kingfishers. Pied Kingfishers are everywhere. We usually start about 10 metres away and let the boat drift towards them. We sometimes end up filling the frame with a 300mm lens. They are often incredibly tolerant of our boat and almost refuse to fly. Of course they always do at some stage, and you should easily capture a Kingfisher in flight during your safari. The Giant Kingfishers and the Malachite Kingfishers are both really stunning subjects. Both of these species were found at Kasane on most days. The Giant Kingfisher is quite plain when perched, but really colourful when in flight. The Malachite is always colourful -whatever position you find it in.
African Darters, Egrets, Cormorants, Herons
I have grouped these together as they are all present in large numbers along the riverbanks. They are all found either perched or standing like statues while waiting for an unsuspecting fish to pass by. Most of these are quite tolerant towards our boats and will offer quality static shots as well as the inevitable in flight photograph. The Darters have amazing colours first thing in the morning when that special first light hits them. We regularly saw two types of Cormorant –the White Chested Cormorant and the Reed Cormorant. We photographed Little Egret, Great Egret, Slaty Egret and Cattle Egret. Heron species included the Grey Heron, Squacco Heron, Green Backed Heron, Goliath Heron, Black Heron, Black Capped Night Heron and the Purple Heron.
Other Bird Species Photographed
Some of the most enjoyable birds were the Fish Eagles. These were photographed on the riverbanks, in trees, on tree stumps, flying and catching fish. You would also find then eating the heads of huge Catfish and I even shot a Marsh Harrier waiting for his turn once the Fish Eagle had finished. The heads were obviously the leftovers from a Crocodile’s breakfast. I also photographed Yellow Billed Kites catching smaller fish in the river. Other species included Ground Hornbills, Sandpipers, Long Toed Plovers, Blue Waxbills, Open Billed Storks, Jacanas, Spoonbills, Long Crowned Eagle, Black Winged Stilts, Kori Bustard, Tawny Eagle, White Crowned Plovers, Egyptian Geese, Barn Swallows, Coppery Tailed Coucal, Green Wood Hoopoe, Sacred Ibis, Blacksmith Lapwing, Laughing Dove, Saddle Billed Stork, Marabou Stork, Black Crake, Guinea Fowl, Thick-knees, Spur Winged Goose, Spur Winged Lapwing, Yellow Billed Stork, African Wattled Plover and a Three-banded Plover. Many more species were seen but they did not provide me with good photographic opportunities.
Specialist Photography Boats
Our provider in Kasane has the only vessel currently in that area that has been specifically designed for photographers. It has an almost flat bottom, enabling it to navigate extremely shallow waters. It has half a ton of lead in the bow so that it is really stable and sits level. It is possible to photograph with a mounted camera in all but the windiest of conditions. It has fully revolving seats, each one equipped with an adjustable Wimberley-type head. There is just one row of swiveling seats down the middle of the boat, so you can rotate and face either side without anybody in front of you. The boat’s captain is extremely experienced in getting you into the best positions and making the best use of all lighting conditions. He will also follow any reasonable instruction from myself, so you know you will be regularly placed in positions that will give you the opportunity to take some stunning pictures. And just to reassure those of you who may be worried about getting sea-sick. The Chobe River is very wide, calm and flat. No waves at all.
Voted Africa’s Leading New Hotel at the World Travel Awards in 2019 the Pangolin Chobe Hotel is unique and captivating in its design combined with the homeliness you only experience in an owner-managed establishment. With only 14 rooms the hotel it’s small enough to be intimate but spacious enough to feel exclusive at the same time. The hotel is booked on an all-inclusive basis including all meals, drinks and wildlife experiences They pride themselves on offering the most unique and exclusive wildlife experiences in the Chobe National Park. They have specially designed boats and vehicles operated by some of the best guides in the region. Every drive and cruise is hosted by a field guide and a photographic host to help you get amazing photographs. No camera? No problem. Free camera rental is included during your stay with them. All rooms are on a twin share basis throughout this safari.
Chobe National Park
The Chobe is one of Africa’s great national park occupying over 11,000 square kilometers of Botswana with the most varied and diverse animal and bird populations in the country. The Chobe River is the northern boundary of the park and the natural border with Namibia’s Caprivi region. The river is the only permanent water source and this leads to it having the huge elephant populations who rely on this life giving force throughout the year but especially in the drier cooler months between April and October. It is a fantastic safari destination throughout the year. It has the largest elephant populations in Africa with a population in excess of 100,000 animals. Other permanent residents include buffalo, giraffe, hippo, various antelope species as well as a healthy population of lion and leopard which prey upon them. The larger mammals in The Chobe tend to be some of the most relaxed in the region which is even more conducive to great wildlife photography. During the warmer summer months (Nov to April) it is a birder’s paradise. The Chobe has around 450 different species recorded each year including some very special seasonal migratory visitors such as Carmine Bee Eaters and African Skimmers. Fish Eagles are super abundant along the river.
The Itinerary has been Designed as a Standalone Safari, or as an Extension to either of the Two South Africa Hide Safaris in August 2021. This Extension will begin and end in Johannesburg in order to enable you to easily reconnect with your main flights.
The Itinerary – August 2021
For those clients who are spending 8 nights at Zimanga 14th August to 21st August and departing from Zimanga on 22nd August, we will stay overnight in Johannesburg on August 22nd. Hotel not included.
Day 1; Monday 23rd August. Depart Johannesburg. Fly to Kasane in Botswana. Flight not included. Approx £337 return. South African Airlink 4Z306. Non-stop. Depart JNB 11.45. Arrive BBK 13.30. Afternoon activities on Chobe River. Overnight Pangolin Chobe Hotel.
Day 2; Tuesday 24th August. Morning Safari in Chobe National Park. Afternoon activities on Chobe River. Overnight Pangolin Chobe Hotel. Full Board.
Day 3; Wednesday 25th August. Morning and Afternoon activities on Chobe River. Overnight Pangolin Chobe Hotel. Full Board.
Day 4; Thursday 26th August. Morning Safari in Chobe National Park. Afternoon activities on Chobe River. Overnight Pangolin Chobe Hotel. Full Board.
Day 5; Friday 27th August. Morning and Afternoon activities on Chobe River. Overnight Pangolin Chobe Hotel. Full Board.
Day 6; Saturday 28th August. Morning Safari in Chobe National Park. Afternoon activities on Chobe River. Overnight Pangolin Chobe Hotel. Full Board.
Day 7; Sunday 29th August. Morning and Afternoon activities on Chobe River. Overnight Pangolin Chobe Hotel. Full Board.
Day 8; Monday 30th August. Morning Safari in Chobe National Park. Breakfast. Depart Kasane. Fly to Johannesburg. South African Airlink 4Z307. Non-stop. Depart BBK 14.00. Arrive JNB 15.45.
For those clients who are spending 8 nights at Zimanga 1st September to 8th September and departing from Zimanga on 9th September, we will fly from JNB to DBN and stay overnight in Durban on August 30th. There are British Airways flights departing JNB for DUR at 17.35 and at 18.40. Flight time 1hr 5 mins. £35.00. Flight not included. Overnight in Durban at inexpensive hotel not included. Main group arrive from UK 05.00 on 31st August.
Trip Cost; £3995.00
Meals where indicated on the Itinerary above. Airport transfers to and from the Chobe Hotel. All Safari & Boat Activities. All food and drinks while at the Chobe Hotel. All rooms are sold on a twin-share basis. A limited number of single rooms may be available at extra cost if reserved when paying your deposit.
Meals where NOT indicated on the Itinerary above. Flights. One night’s accommodation in either Johannesburg or Durban – depending on your arrival date into South Africa. Tips and items of a personal nature. Visas.
Can be combined with South Africa Hides and Big 5 Safari.
Your trip to Botswana can be seamlessly combined with 8 nights in South Africa. Contact Photographers on Safari for details.
Contact us to book….