Voted as one of Wanderlust Magazine's best new trips for 2012, this safari combines specialist photographic guiding with expert canrivore insight and personal passion. There are two dates for this photographic safari running in South Africa and Botswana. The first trip runs from the 19th to the 25th of June 2012. The second trip runs from the 30th of June to the 6th of July 2012. I hope you will join us...
THE LIMPOPO VALLEY
Both Peter and I are passionate about the Limpopo River Valley and its wildlife. We have both travelled extensively throughout the valley, shared the magic of the area with guests and been involved in important conservation work there. Learn more about your guides here
Unlike regular safaris, by limiting this opportunity to just six people, each person will have more space to photograph and capture the action. It also allows Peter and I to interact with and work more freely with the group and with every individual. We will be working alongside specialist local guides that we know well. Their experience of the area coupled with our passion for the Limpopo Valley and my photographic guidance makes this a great combination for photographing Africa's iconic wildlife and this wonderful valley.
Highlights of the trip include the chance to photograph many of the natural world’s true giants all in one valley - big cats, great herds of elephant, huge baobab trees, large birds of prey, the striking kori bustard (the world's heaviest flying bird), the ostrich (the world's largest bird), the massive eland (the world's largest antelope) and the world's tallest mammal, the giraffe. On top of that, the valley boasts a bird list of around 400 species.
The sandstone hills and ridges that line the valley are not only home to leopards and black eagles, they also bear the evidence of the valley's rich bushman past through rock paintings and archaeological artifacts. We will be exploring these hills and working on elements of landscape photography while watching animals on the plains below. The African sun washes these sandstone rocks with a golden hue at sunrise and sunset and makes landscape photography a true pleasure at this time of year.
The Limpopo's riverine forest supports great herds of elephant and our final destination hosts the greatest concentration of African elephant on privately owned land. The chance of seeing and photographing rare and endangered animals like the African wild dog also makes this a particularly special place to visit.
We will have use of two camps during our time in the valley. Our first destination is Mopane Bush Lodge in northern South Africa. Accommodation here is in secluded thatched chalets, each situated in their own kraal with en-suite bathrooms, exclusive verandas and additional outdoor showers.
After crossing the Limpopo (which is an experience not to be missed) into Botswana’s famous Tuli block, we will be staying at Mashatu Game Reserve’s tented camp. Accommodation is in spacious and comfortable en-suite safari tents, including beds and bed linen. We believe that a safari camp affords the opportunity to experience the wilds of Africa on a unique level by being closer to the sounds of the African bush. That said, we make every effort to do this without compromising your comfort and all tents are insect-proofed. We also ensure that there are necessary facilities to charge camera batteries and laptops.
So what makes this safari so different from a regular safari? This safari is not only aimed at providing you with fantastic opportunities to photograph Africa’s wildlife and wild places, it is also tailored to include expert guidance to develop your knowledge and skills and to put those into practice during our excursions. All levels of photography skill and interest are welcome. You do not have to own more than one camera or a monstrous lens and every effort will be made to help you make the most from the equipment you are using.
Photography will mostly be from customised safari vehicles but we will be taking plenty of opportunities to shoot Africa from a different angle while on foot. Therefore, an element of physical fitness and good mobility is suggested.
While we will be photographing big game and birds and the best telephoto lens that you can afford to bring is recommended, it is important to remember that we will be spending quite a bit of time photographing elements of the landscape, particularly under the effects of the hallowed golden African sunlight. This means that wide-angle lenses are just as recommended as telephoto lenses.
Specific equipment recommendations can be discussed by contacting me directly. I work closely with a company based in South Africa through which equipment can be hired. Making use of this opportunity to hire lenses, cameras or even buy equipment means that you can forego the hassle of travelling internationally with heavy equipment and save the expense of buying new gear especially for the trip. View their current rental list here. We can provide beanbags for stable shooting from the vehicle. We just ask that you let us know in good time if you will need one.
I like to cover areas of photographic technique and theory in an informal way with example photographs over a few drinks in the evenings, allowing the group to try new things in the field the following day. While I try to work to a loose plan based on what we are likely to encounter in the following days, I am happy to tailor our discussions towards any areas that guests feel that they would like to improve. There may also be the opportunity for short one-on-one critique sessions if guests feel it would be beneficial.
Day 1: Johannesburg (OR TAMBO) Airport to the Limpopo Valley
We will meet at 10am at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport for our drive north. We will be stopping en-route for lunch and comfort breaks. We can also stop at South Africa’s leading camera hire specialist to pick up any pre-hired equipment or for last minute acquisitions of filters, batteries etc. After arriving at the lodge and settling in we will depart on a short evening drive to photograph the last light of the day and enjoy a sundowner drink before returning to the lodge for dinner.
Wildlife: En-route to the Limpopo region there is the chance to see a lot of birdlife from the vehicle, particularly birds of prey like snake eagles. On the evening game drive we will be looking for species such as zebra, warthog and kudu while keeping an eye out for emerging nocturnal predators. The valley is home to many different species of owl, which are both fun and challenging to photograph.
Accommodation: Mopane Bush Lodge
Activities: Drive to the Limpopo region; Evening game drive & sunset photography; Welcome drinks; Informal evening photo discussions
Day 2: Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve & Mapungubwe National Park
We will take an early morning drive onto Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve. Our destination will be the highest point on the reserve from which we will photograph the surrounding plains. On the way back to the lodge we will be looking out for wildlife to photograph in the soft morning light. We will return via one of the area’s many dams – a good spot for photographing the aerial acrobatics of the pied kingfisher. Our late afternoon excursion will take us into Mapungubwe National Park where we will get our first view of the Limpopo River and photograph the sun setting over the valley.
Wildlife: Hyenas may still be active in the early morning. Elephant can be seen in good numbers on Venetia, especially from the high points. Pied Kingfishers, herons, spoonbills and other waterbirds are common at the dams. From the hilltops we would hope to have good sightings of birds of prey, particularly black eagles. Zebra, impala and wildebeest are all plentiful on the plains away from the thick riverine bush. Baobab trees are plentiful and can be seen towering over the surrounding mopane bush.
Accommodation: Mopane Bush Lodge
Activities: Game Drives; Landscape photography sessions; Informal evening photo discussions
Day 3: Mapungubwe National Park
The morning will be a chance to see just what makes the Limpopo Valley so special from a cultural perspective with a tour of the Mapungubwe Hill World Heritage Site. The Hill was once the centre of a great kingdom – the first of its kind in Southern Africa. There are stunning views from the summit of the hill, views that were once reserved for royalty! In the afternoon we will head to a hide in the western section of Mapungubwe and see out the day and wait with a coolerbox of drinks for the elephants to arrive.
Wildlife: Eland, the world’s largest antelope, can often be seen from the summit of Mapungubwe Hill. The open plains further west are a good spot to photograph warthog, black-backed jackal, kori bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird) and the internationally threatened ground hornbill. The waterhole in front of the hide is a very good spot for photographing elephant at close quarters. Waterbuck, wildebeest and baboon also make regular use of the water.
Accommodation: Mopane Bush Lodge
Activities: Game Drives; Tour of Mapungubwe Hill World Heritage Site; Photography from a wildlife hide; Informal evening photo discussions
Day 4: Den Staat Wetlands & Mashatu Game Reserve
The nearby Den Staat wetlands are one of South Africa’s little-known birding hotspots and we will spend the morning seeking out and photographing anything from eagles to kingfishers. Photographing birds mid-flight will be a specific challenge for this morning. We depart Mopane Bush Lodge late morning and transfer to Mashatu Game Reserve. This means crossing the Limpopo River and the border crossing at Pontdrift is the only cable-car border crossing in the world. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and allows a completely unique view of the Limpopo River. Once we have settled into Mashatu we will take an evening drive with Mashatu’s predator researcher looking for lions and leopards in particular.
Wildlife: Den Staat is home to hundreds of bird species and it is not uncommon to watch an osprey hunting the same water as a fish eagle. Striking purple gallinules clamber about in the reeds while tiny malachite kingfishers zip across the water’s surface. Larger birds like herons should provide plenty of practice for learning the skill of photographing birds in flight. Mashatu is home to an array of predators and we will be specifically looking for lions and leopards, although the end of the day could also bring out spotted hyenas.
Accommodation: Mashatu Tented Camp
Activities: Birding & bird photography; Cable-car border crossing; Predator Drive; Informal evening photo discussions
Day 5: Mashatu Game Reserve
We will head out with on an early morning drive with the intention of finding and photographing large herds of the Limpopo Valley’s biggest resident – the Africa elephant. The herds here are impressive – often well over 100 strong – and should provide some great opportunities for photography. As we go we will also be photographing whatever birds and game we come across and there is the chance to encounter herds of eland and the impressive kudu. The evening will again see us searching for predators. Heading out with Mashatu’s head predator researcher provides the opportunity to learn about the lives of Africa’s famous carnivores while we photograph them.
Wildlife: Although elephants, lions and leopards will be our primary focus, as we explore Mashatu there is the chance of coming across more of the valley’s giants, such as ostrich – the world’s largest bird – and herds of eland. Towards the beginning and end of the day, when we will be most active, Mashatu’s grasslands can be good for watching cheetah and black-backed jackals as they head out to hunt. Secretarybirds and ground hornbills are also to be found on these plains
Accommodation: Mashatu Tented Camp
Activities: Morning game & elephant drive; Predator drive; Informal evening photo discussions
Day 6: Mashatu Game Reserve
Leaving the vehicle behind, we will be heading out on foot to track, watch and photograph many of Mashatu’s species in a different way. While we will not get as close to big game on foot as in a vehicle, walking gives us the chance to see and photograph the smaller things that help to support all life on one of Africa’s largest private game reserves – so it’s more a morning of wide-angle and macro lenses than big telephoto’s. The afternoon will see us head out on a game drive where we will work with our guides to track and find more of Mashatu’s wild inhabitants before returning to camp for our final evening meal and hopefully a toast to a successful trip.
Wildlife: Exploring on foot opens up a world of landscapes, plants and insects, as well as the chance to track larger game. This is a day when we could see anything from lion to ant lion, from elephant to elephant shrew.
Accommodation: Mashatu Tented Camp
Activities: Morning game walk; Game drive; Final evening meal
Day 7: Mashatu Game Reserve & transfer back to Johannesburg
Following an early morning drive to photograph some of the area’s particularly impressive baobab trees and the game that we encounter along the way, we will return to camp for breakfast. We will then depart for Johannesburg, via the cable-car border crossing and the return of any hired camera equipment in Pretoria. We will aim to return to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport by 6pm, travel conditions depending.
Wildlife: Seeing baobab trees tower over the landscape in the early morning light will be our main goal but as we drive there will be the chance to see nocturnal specialists like leopard, lion and hyena still active. Our drive to the border crossing could give us the chance to photograph almost anything.
Activities: Morning drive; Baobab & landscape photography; Cable-car border crossing; Transfer back to Johannesburg
PLEASE NOTE: Although we make every effort to adhere to schedules and itineraries, these are subject to change subject to weather, roads, animal movements and availability. You will be notified of any changes.