Author Archives: Toft Photo Safaris

Recent Trip Report: 2015 Botswana March & April

Botswana Photography Tours & Safaris — March and April 2015: (Two safaris included)



My recent Botswana photog­raphy tours were some of the best wildlife viewing/photography events of my 20 years visiting this amazing country! The combi­na­tion of lodges/concessions provide the perfect mix of wildlife, habitat, and lodging.

Chitabe

Our first loca­tion is situ­ated on the far south eastern edge of the famed Okavango Delta. With a large percentage of the conces­sion having higher ground, which provides drier habitat for larger trees to grow, this is our “Leopard Spot”! In fact, our first day in Chitabe provided us with a large pack of Wild Hunting Dogs, Lions, and the elusive Leopard. And, all this was before lunch — need­less to say, a very nice way to start out our Botswana photo tour and safaris trip!

Botswana photography tours and safari with Roy Toft

Back to Leopards — we had a multi­tude of different Leopards in our time here, including Leopards in trees, mating Leopards, mother with large cubs at a kill, and possibly my favorite sighting, a huge male leopard feeding on a Zebra. One rarely sees this combi­na­tion of spots and stripes together because the large powerful Zebra rarely falls prey to the soli­tary Leopard. This was a case where the Zebra actu­ally died while giving birth and the Leopard was purely in the right spot, and the right time. Other large cats kept us busy at Chitabe as well, including the resi­dent pride of Lions and a single Cheetah.

Several of our drives were spent watching and following the always inter­esting Wild Hunting Dogs. These wide ranging endan­gered carni­vores are to me some of the most exciting animals to watch on a hunt. After rising from their mid-day nap and performing their highly ener­getic social greet­ings, the entire pack trots off through the vege­ta­tion in search of anything small enough for them to take down. Their main prey tends to be Impala or young Kudu — Trying to stay one step ahead of the dogs on a hunt is what sepa­rates a great guide/driver from the ordi­nary! — Some of my most exciting expe­ri­ences in Africa have been following these “painted wolves.” On one of our “dog” drives, the pack of 18 Wild Hunting Dogs wandered onto the bush airstrip where a small plane was parked. The dogs had obvi­ously not seen that many parked airplanes by the way they cautiously approached this strange beast! At one point, one of the pups from last season (10 months old), crept up to the plane and pulled a red flag from the wing; puppies will always be puppies! Another Canid that we spent time with was the larger and more powerful Hyena. Often despised for their scav­enging lifestyle, these capable hunters are also wonderful parents. We were fortu­nate to see the softer side of this carni­vore when a mother with three pups trotted out from their den and proceed to nurse right in front of us! This was really special. I always love it when my clients get to see the “whole picture” when it comes to animals and wildlife. All animals have a purpose and a reason for being; why does our affec­tion only go to the cute or majestic? Go Wild Dogs and Hyena!

Of course, we also spent a great deal of time with wonderful Elephants, Giraffe, Zebra, Warthogs, and a variety of Antelopes. Birds — what about birds? If people are not really “into” birds when they come on our Toft Photo Botswana photog­raphy tours and safaris, by the end of the trip they can easily point out the spec­tac­ular Lilac breasted Roller, Woodland Kingfisher, Saddle-billed Stork, Wattled Crane, African Fish Eagle, Ostrich, several Bee-eaters, and the list continues. It’s hard not to get excited for African birds! Snake lovers? I was able to play with a nice big Rock Python and this always makes me very happy!

Vumbura

This conces­sion in situ­ated in the heart of the Okavango Delta. The expe­ri­ence here at Vumbura is classic “Delta” with water covering a good chunk of the conces­sion. You might be thinking that the water would hamper our game viewing, — ohhhhh — on the contrary! Our formi­dable “Land Rovers” turn into very capable “Water Rovers.” It is truly amazing what these vehi­cles can traverse. The scenery here is completely different than Chitabe, being domi­nated by large flood planes with grasses and islands of dry ground with larger trees. Here we see our first groups of the water adapted ante­lope, called Red Lechwa.
Lion Silhouette Sunset in Botswana
The large resi­dent pride of Lions keep our shut­ters active throughout many of our outings. The antics of the ever playful young­sters provided hours of watching enjoy­ment. This pride of lions has two very impres­sive domi­nate males as their over­lords. Also with this pride is a 4–5 year old male, who is deter­mined to never leave and make a life for himself, much to the dismay of the two domi­nate males. When the two domi­nate males were with the pride, this younger male would be forced to keep his distance for fear of being attacked and possibly killed by the older males. But when the two males were off patrolling their large terri­tory and sepa­rated from the pride, then the younger male was back with his mother, aunts, and young brothers and sisters — living the good life! These species dynamics and indi­vidual stories add so much color/texture to all of our photo safari expe­ri­ences while in Africa. Our knowl­edge­able guides have been watching and following these cast of char­ac­ters in this drama for years upon years. One of my favorite images from this entire trip came from this pride as one of the lions moved to the water to quench her thirst, just as the sun was setting! Yes — thank you photo gods!

Other notable sighting here include another large pack of Wild Hunting Dogs, Leopard, Elephants, Hippos, Zebras, Giraffe, and birds galore! Many of us also spent an amazing hour photographing this area from the air in a heli­copter!

Kings Pool

This conces­sion is located north of the Okavango Delta in the Linyanti. Another change in habitat with Mopane wood­lands and Riparian (Riverfront) domi­nating. This is a great area for large herds of Elephants and they certainly didn’t disap­point. Images of Wild Dogs and Lions also filled our hard drives from our daily drives along the river and further afield. One morning a contact call, from a Wild Hunting Dog, was heard by our guide deep in the Mopane forest. When we went to inves­ti­gate, we found a group of seven Hyena who had displaced a pack of 14 Dogs from their recent kill. The Hyena were just finishing the kill and the Dogs were trying to regroup as a pair of large male Lions came into the mix to see if they could get break­fast as well! This was very exciting! When the Lions arrived, all the Hyenas started to disperse and the Dogs looked on. Seeing three of Africa’s top preda­tors together in one spot is some­thing to behold!

Wild Hunting Dogs

We had another exciting predator inter­ac­tion here which started off as a quick sighting of a lone Hyena running away from the trail into the Mopane. This made us think, “what is he running to/or from?” We made a plan to circle around and head into the Mopane and try and see what was causing the excite­ment. As we made our way through the thick Mopane wood­land, we heard the alarm call of an Impala about 100 meters from our loca­tion. Changing direc­tion and heading toward the alarm call, we roll up to the Impala and following his gaze, we see a lone leopard smelling the blood soaked ground just as a Hyena runs away with an entire Impala hanging from his mouth! Yes, this is the drama of Africa!

Do you want to hear more? Of course you do! So, we follow the Leopard as he trails the Hyena who has just stolen his fresh Impala kill. We lose sight of both the Hyena and Leopard as we navi­gate through the thick stunted trees of the Mopane. After 10 minute without a visual, we round a corner and see the Hyena and the Leopard pulling on both sides of the kill! The Leopard wins the brief inter­ac­tion and runs off with the Impala to the closest tree and climbs it (Impala in mouth). Not 30 seconds after the Leopard has secured his prize in the 15 foot tall Mopane tree, we see three more Hyena come running into the area with sali­vating mouths and tails curled up with excite­ment! It just doesn’t get better than this! The Hyena actu­ally try and climb the tree, without success, and decide to just camp at the base of the tree as the Leopard with prize sit patiently above. This was one of those moments where getting an “image” that conveyed this drama was impos­sible. It can’t always be about getting the image. We all have this drama captured in the best hard drive — our brain.

Toft Photo Safari guides for our Botswana photography safari tours 2015

I must write some­thing about our wonderful lodges/food/guides/service. Our three lodges are simply the best that Botswana, Africa can offer! Pure rustic elegance in the middle of paradise. We are treated to the best food and service that you could find anywhere in the world! I’m serious…anywhere in the world!! Our guides in Botswana are some of the very best, they are extremely knowl­edge­able and they truly care about this place they call “their office.” Did I mention the wines… the great South African wines?!

March 2016 Botswana Photo Safaris Tours to be back in this wildlife rich gem of Africa!!!

Meet Roy Toft, the…

MOST INTERESTING NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER IN THE WORLD

About eight months ago I was asked to emcee the upcoming 2015 North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) summit being held February 19–22, 2015 in San Diego, California. I imme­di­ately started brain­storming videos and skits I might do to liven up the event. None of the short videos from the summit came from my initial scheming. It took my good friends Morgan Heim, Krista Schyler, Clay Bolt, and the NANPA pres­i­dent herself, Gabby Salazar, arriving at my house four days before the summit for things to take shape. When you gather a creative and hilar­ious group of people together…like this one, good things were bound to happen.

After two full days of shooting, we had nearly all the raw footage needed for our light­hearted videos. The final day of shooting we lost most of our group to NANPA board meet­ings, but gained Karine Aigner to help during our last shoot…..tortoise day. Krista and Karine watched as I was trans­formed into a tortoise after 5 hours of make-up for the finale skit! That was a ton of work for 10 seconds of video — I hope you liked it!

NANPA is an orga­ni­za­tion full of passionate, hard working, nature photog­ra­phers. They are teachers, scien­tists, doctors, accoun­tants, home makers, and full time profes­sional photog­ra­phers. The couple things we all share is our love of nature and our sense of humor. These short videos were made to poke fun at our unique­ness as nature photographers…..and to make me, Roy Toft, the “Most Interesting Nature Photographer in the World,” look as foolish as possible!!!

We all had a blast being together, brain­storming, and finally producing a laugh or two. A huge thanks to all the people mentioned above, as well as Kathy Adams Clark (programs director) who gave us the freedom to have a little fun!

Thank you to everyone for helping make these videos amazing, and also Morgan Heim for video post produc­tion!

Toft Photo Costa Rica Photo Workshop Video

Every year Toft Photo hosts “Rainforests of Costa Rica Photo Workshop,” an exciting 5-day wildlife photog­raphy work­shop held deep in Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula rain­forest. On this last trip to the South Pacific region of Costa Rica, at the breath­taking Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge, our small group had the oppor­tu­nity to see many of the rainforest’s wildlife extremely up close.

Besides photographing all the monkeys, scarlet macaws, toucans, red-eyed tree frogs, and so much more, our expe­ri­ence photographing one partic­ular three-toed sloth was spec­tac­ular as it lasted a little over 2 hours! This little guy is a sloth, so of course he moves very slow, but when he’s ground level, thinks your tripod is a tree, and allows you plenty of time to photo­graph from about a foot away, well.…this is when you get an unplanned and extra special wildlife photog­raphy session right in front of you!

From the moment the work­shop begins in San Jose, Costa Rica, to the last minute before we trek back to Puerto Jimenez, my assis­tant, Andres Garcia Lachner, and I spend as much time possible teaching the basics of wildlife photog­raphy to all levels of photog­ra­phers that partic­i­pate in our work­shop. Be sure to watch our latest video of our 2014 Rainforests of Costa Rica Photo Workshop in Costa Rica to get a better idea what all the excite­ment is about!

Roy’s Back in the Pantanal!

Wednesday…on my way to Brazil to lead two groups of adven­turous photog­ra­phers for my yearly photo tour in the Pantanal. Even though it is World Cup time in Brazil and slightly chal­lenge getting in and out of the city, on Thursday we success­fully made it into the Pantanal wetlands to offi­cially begin my Wild Jaguars photo tour. AND…it’s so good to be back!

Day #1 started out perfect. We had a morning on the river with excel­lent shots of caiman and around the SouthWild Lodge, we are able to photo­graph some really beau­tiful and magical birds. My Jaguar photog­raphy tour in Brazil is always a high­light of the year for me as the Pantanal is such a photo rich envi­ron­ment! Currently, we are staying at a lodge where around 350 species of birds have been recorded, so if you are into bird photog­raphy I like am, this area is an amazing place to visit.

This is a nine day photo tour and we have eight more days to go. Be sure to stay tuned in as I’ll try and post some images while in the field.

Wild Caiman - Roy Toft

Black-capped Donacobius - Roy Toft

Toco Toucan - Roy Toft

Boat-billed Heron - Roy Toft

Rufescent Tiger Heron - Roy Toft

2015 Pantanal Photo Tours

My Toft Photo trips to the Pantanal always sell out so if you are inter­ested in photographing wild jaguars and other wildlife in the world’s largest trop­ical wetland area, please sign up for our 2015 Pantanal jaguar photo tour as soon as possible (like today). As of this morning, we have 4 spots open for our 2015 Brazil Tour. It always sells out, so don’t miss out!

2015 Alaska Photo Tour Registration

Welcome to the Toft Photo 2015 Alaska Photo Tour Registration page. This page is to register for the 2015 tour on August, 23–31, 2015. If you have any ques­tions regarding the 2015 Alaska Eagles & Bears Photography Tour, please read our tour descrip­tion page, or contact the Toft Photo office directly.

Spend a 9-day Eagles and Bears Photo Tour in Alaska with profes­sional wildlife photog­ra­pher Roy Toft. Alaska is full of beau­tiful scenic areas that are outstanding loca­tions for nature, land­scape and wildlife photog­ra­phers.

Every year on Roy Toft Photo small group Alaska photo tours, our guests have an amazing oppor­tunity to get excep­tionally close to the eagles and bears. This is an Alaskan photo tour you will always remember!

2015 Eagles & Bears Alaska Photo Tour Registration is OPEN — Sign up today!

Note: tour regis­tra­tion form below is for paying with a credit card and includes a 2.9% handling fee. If you prefer to pay via cash or check, please contact Toft Photo before completing regis­tra­tion!