Botswana is a destination I’ll be very happy to visit every year for the rest of my life! I was fortunate to have two groups of wonderful clients this past March, one for my usual Botswana Photo Safaris itinerary and the other with a special Bots/Namibia tour.
Looking through my select images from our first camp, Chitabe Lediba Camp, I find wonderful leopard images, a pair of majestic male lions, a larger pride of female lions and older cubs, Cheetahs stalking, large herds of Impalas running (captured as slow shutter blurs, which is my favorite!), Zebras in amazing morning rainbow-fog light, dwarf Mongoose pocking their heads out of a termite mound, and Hippos with hundreds of Egyptian Geese in the same small pool. Yes, it’s been another great start of another great Botswana adventure at Chitabe! Four days in Botswana feels like a year of experiences!
On to our next camp is in the heart of the Okavango Delta, which puts us closer to large water features that surround Vumbura Plains camp. The only large predator that we missed at Chitabe was Wild Dogs. We were actually on the trail of a pack on our last morning at Chitabe, but needed to leave before we caught up with them. So to everyone’s delight, we had our first pack of Wild Hunting Dogs on our first afternoon drive! After watching them sleep for about two hours (not so exciting), but when they get up, perform their greeting ceremony and trot off to hunt…now we are talking exciting! I’ve tried to describe following a pack of Wild Dogs as they hunt before and it never seems to convey the adrenaline rush and excitement of the real thing — go figure!
Anyway, imagine traveling 20 mph off-road through every kind of habitat (water, mud, mopani scrub…) and trying your best to keep your eye on a least one dog as they trot, split and run in and out of tall grass and bushes working on scaring up some likely prey animal (which is usually an Impala, Kudu, Stein Buck, Reedbuck, or other antelope). When the prey animals find out the dogs are on the hunt all chaos breaks out! Impalas start running and pronging (unusual running/jumping which shows their fitness to the predator) in all directions with the dogs quickly coming on and seen from all angles trying to bring down their prey — now this is just an amazing thing to witness. Keep in mind that this whole time you are also crashing through the bushes at 20 mph trying to stay up with this action! This hunt ends with the pack feeding on a young Common Waterbuck as the mother antelope watches from 20 meters away. Real nature isn’t cruel or nice — it just IS. Yes, it’s a tough scene to watch for some, but when you realize these predators are coming up on denning season (and Wild Dogs eat meat), something has to die for these guys and for the next generation of Wild Dogs to exist.
More tranquil and beautiful scenes also await us at camp Vumbura, like the herd of glorious elephants we see crossing the flooded channels as we head to camp on that first afternoon. Or, the Leopard we see head down the tree he has been resting in for the past 3 hours (yes, we waited!) right at the perfect last 5 minutes of sunset — glorious! We are in the right spot and at the perfect time! This is what being on a photo safari in Africa is all about — patience and knowledge giving us great luck!
A couple other notable sighting and photo ops include Kudu after Kudu jumping over a river, Red Letchwe running and jumping at full speed through the open water of the Delta, a Hammerkop bird catching and eating a large frog, large herds of the rare and elegant Sabal Antelope, and pairs of endangered Wattles Cranes feeding in the marshland. Ahhhhhh Botswana!
For our last stop we head north out of the Delta to our last camp Kings Pool in the Linyanti. This is another great location to spend time with my favorite African animal, the Painted Wolves or Wild Hunting Dog. And spend time with them we do — tons of time with more crazy hunts and terrific behavior from these highly endangered predators. We also slow down and spend quality time with pods of Hippos as they jostle each other and gap mouths wide in threat to the humans on the bank of their pools. Elephants and Giraffes also delight us with their parental care and unworldly proportions and shapes! The diversity of Africa never fails to delight me!
Ok…is it March 2017 yet? I want to go back to Botswana! Come join me!