Category Archives: Botswana Photo Tours

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!!!

New Photo Safari Tour to Botswana for 2015!

Lions seen during Botswana Photo Safari Tour with Roy Toft

Our Toft Photo Safari Tour to Botswana is always a popular photo tour every year. The reasons are many, but for the most part it all comes down to the wildlife and amount of photographic action we continually experience. This years 2014 photography tour to Botswana in March outdid last years tour…and 2013’s Botswana photo safari was AMAZING!!

Many of our previous photo tour participants sign on for Botswana year after year, which only leaves a few open spaces for other guests. So, due to incredible interest via our contact page, and a bunch of phone messages on our office phone, (ok…I hear you!!), I’m proud to announce “Ultimate Botswana Photo Safari Tour II” for 2015. I don’t have the exact dates yet, but it will be after March 21, 2015, and most likely follow the exact itinerary as the first tour.

So…don’t miss out on this safari tour! Seriously, I can’t expressed this enough, but if you are interested in an amazing experience photographing wildlife in Botswana next year, you will need to contact me now as this new trip will fill up fast.

Wild Hunting Dogs in Bostwana, photographed by Roy Toft

Ultimate Photo Safari to Botswana Sample Itinerary

  • Spend four days at Chitabe Camp, which is in the southeast corner of the Okavango Delta. The wildlife seen here is espe­cially diverse due to the copious vari­eties of habitats, and thus, an excellent location for wildlife photographers!
  • Spend four days at the luxurious Vumbura Plains Camp, which is in the northern part of Botswana’s world-renowned Okavango Delta. Because of the wetlands in this area, there’s spec­tacular bird viewing, both in variety and density…and popular among photographers are the antelope, elephants, buffalo, cheetah, lion and leopards!
  • Spend three days at Kings Pool Camp in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, which is in northern Botswana and on the western border of Chobe National Park. Wildlife viewing here is excellent; expect to see giraffe, lion, impala, cheetah, bushbuck, roan antelope, and the espe­cially abundant elephant popu­lation.

Photo Safari Registration

Interested in joining us in Botswana? To sign up for the 2015 Ultimate Botswana Photo Safari Tour II, please visit the Ultimate Botswana Photo Safari Tour I page, review the detailed itinerary (remember, Tour II might end up with a slightly different itinerary due to camp availability), and click on the registration button.

Questions or concerns? Please contact our office and we’ll get right back to you!

Toft Photo is…Heading Back to Botswana!

photograph of leopard in botswana by roy toftRight now (March, 2014), I’m at the San Diego airport on my way to paradise…Botswana! Ok, San Diego is somewhat close to paradise, so maybe it’s better to say I’m leaving one paradise for another! I’m very excited to be heading out on my annual ultimate Botswana photo safari tour and visiting some of the best locations I’ve found for animal viewing/photography in all the world.

Interested in joining me for a fantastic photography tour & safari in Botswana? There is one deluxe cabin still open for my 2015 Botswana photo tour, so come see nature at its best!
Ultimate Botswana Photo Safari Tour

Botswana Photo Tours & Wildlife Safari led by Roy Toft

Recent Trip Report – 2013 Botswana Photo Tours

Another Toft Photo Botswana Photo Tour under my belt (10th)
and oh what a trip it was!


View a Portfolio of 2013 Botswana Tour Images – © 2013 Roy Toft Photo Safaris

Several things were different for this year’s Toft Photo Wildlife Safaris & Botswana Photo Tours. For 2013 we teamed up with Piper & Heath, a local African travel company based in San Diego, CA. Chris Liebenberg, the owner of Piper & Heath, grew-up in Namibia and was just the right fit to arrange and handle the myriad of logistical gymnastics needed to pull off our seamless African photo adventure. Wildlife Photo Safari - Roy Toft Botswana Photo ToursThis year’s Toft Photo Safaris 2013 Botswana photo tours had brand new itineraries. We visited several new Wilderness Safari camps, which added a whole new level of excitement for a seasoned Botswana traveler like myself. The three camps on our planned route this year were Kings Pool in Linyanti, which is located in the northern part of Botswana; Duba Plains Island, which is located in the heart of the Okavango Delta; and Chitabe Camp, also in the Delta but further to the east. At the end of the main Botswana photo tour, some of our participants continued on for a three night photo tours extension to the Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa.

As is typical for this time of year, the vegetation at all our locations was lush green, which made for wonderfully scenic backgrounds. Big blue skies with fluffy white clouds was the norm with only 10 minutes of sprinkled rain. Normally, we can expect a bit more weather in the late afternoons, but it seems this year is going to be a very dry one for Botswana. At our first camp, Kings Pool, we spent a lot of time observing and photographing large breeding herds of Elephants. The Linyanti area seems to have the largest number of these breeding herds, which gives us plenty of exciting experiences and outstanding photo opportunities. During our several game drives we were fortunate to observe and photograph a very nice Wild Hunting Dogs - Botswana Wildlife Photo Tour Safaripride of Lions with a couple of small cubs. Our first Leopard was seen on the second day at Kings Pool and on our last day, on our way to the bush airport (in route to Duba Plains Island, our next camp) we saw a pack of 21 Wild Hunting Dogs!

The Duba Plains camp is in the center of the Okavango Delta. This area is well known for its Lions who hunt Cape Buffalo and its water saturated landscape. Immediately we started locating the three different groups of Lions found on the Island. We were drawn into the complex and amazing relationship these predators have with their main prey…the Cape Buffalo. After several days watching and following the Lions (with literally thousands of images being made at any one time) the drama climaxed with the Lions making a heart stopping attack that claimed an adult cow Buffalo. In our days with the Lions, we saw water crossings, spectacular reflections, early morning mist, sunrise with Lions, territorial fights at dawn between groups of Lions, Lions jumping over 15 foot stretches of river…let’s just say they gave us photographers everything we could ever ask for. Thank you Duba Lions! I must not leave the Duba Plains section without mentioning our other wonderful photo opportunities, such as the Bat Eared Fox in early morning butter light, frame filling Malachite Kingfishers, Wattled Cranes, Kudus at every turn, a Leopard with a vervet monkey in its mouth, running Lechwe, hundreds of Elephant..the list goes on and on.

Chitabe camp, in the eastern Okavango Delta, offered a wonderful diversity of habitat and wildlife. Our first morning game drive produced a wonderful female Leopard that gave us some really incredible photo opportunities (backlit in the morning…one of my favorite images from trip) as well as allowing us to hear her raspy serenade as she called for a male suitor. One of our vehicles also saw two more Leopards the same morning as seeing a male following a female! It is important to note that Leopards in Botswana are never easy to find…so this was a terrific start to our stay at Chitabe. Another huge find was a pack of Wild Hunting Dogs. Leopard with a kill - Botswana Photo ToursWe heard that two dogs had been seen taking down an adult male Impala and as we arrived on the scene, we saw a beautiful Leopard with the kill! Apparently the two dogs ate a bit before leaving to retrieve the rest of their pack…and that’s when the Leopard commandeered the Impala! I have never seen a Leopard on a fresh kill in open territory in my 15 years photographing Africa. Usually they already have their kill stashed in a bush or up a tree by the time you find them. The prize was short lived however as the pack of a dozen or more dogs came back in a short time to reclaim their meal. We followed the dogs the next morning as well as another hunting attempt later in the evening. The morning session with the dogs provided a wonderful photo op when they moved into shallow water and we were able to position our vehicles to get the pack with reflections…very nice! Other terrific sighting and photo ops at Chitabe included several sessions at “fish traps,” where hundreds of birds gather at a shrinking pond to feed on the fish, and a fun session of night photography capturing the amazing African starry sky.African starry night - Botswana Photo Tours

Chitable concluded the main Botswana photo tours safari but some of us continued on to the next tour on our itinerary, the Mala Mala photo tour extension in South Africa. The Mala Mala location is best known for its Leopards and Rhinos, which was proven very quickly to be a true. During the three days we saw 4 different Leopards and a dozen or so White Rhino! One morning was just spectacular. Our small photo tour came upon a group of five White Rhino and as we proceeded to photograph them, 30 minutes later we got the call that a female leopard had been seen not five minutes from our location. Needless to say – off we went. We found a beautiful, relaxed female Leopard on a rock ledge grooming herself. After 15 minutes with our Leopard and we get the call that a pack of Wild Dogs had been seen running through the bush about three miles from our location. Yes, we were off again at high speed! We found the Wild Dogs and I thought to myself…Ok, it is not even 8:30 in the morning yet and we had already spent time photographing endangered Rhinos, an amazingly beautiful and elusive Leopard, and now the second most endangered carnivore in Africa…Wild Hunting Dogs. This is too much!

The Botswana Wildlife Safari Photo Tours come through once again and two days after returning home, I am already planning and finalizing the dates for 2014’s Toft Photo Safari Botswana Photo Tours and wildlife adventure in this spectacular country!

Come join me in Botswana!

— Roy

Botswana Photo Safari Tour – Mar/Apr 2012


Toft Photo 2012 Botswana Photo Tour Safari – Images by Roy Toft Photo Safaris

Why go to Botswana in March? Look at these green backgrounds and beautiful clouds! I just returned home from a month in one of my favorite shooting locations on the planet…Botswana. This year on our Botswana Photo Safari Tour was another amazing adventure full of amazing wildlife, beautiful weather and scenery, and unlimited photography opportunities.

My trip started with a 4 day stay at Jack’s Camp in the Kalahari Desert. Our main focus here was the “star power” of those little lovable creatures know as Meerkats. Jack’s camp has several habituated families of these photographic little animals which allowed us to basically get right inside their family groups and photograph all their behavior with a wide angle lens! It is so fun to work with animals who are not afraid of you and who allow such intimate photography.

Then we were off to the jewel of Botswana….the Okavango Delta. Here we spent are beautiful days photographing Lions, Leopard, Elephants, Zebra, Giraffe, Birds, Warthogs, Hippos, Impala, etc…etc. One of the most memorable experiences we had was watching and photographing our three Cheetah brothers. I have been watching this coalition of male Cheetahs for the last 8 years! They are amazing.

We also had a great thrill with Wild Hunting dogs throughout the trip. Between my two groups, we had three different packs of Wild Dogs. These endangered canines are the reason I started coming to Botswana, which is one of the last strongholds for this amazing predator. We were lucky enough to see a lot of interesting behavior including their complex greeting antics as well as witnessing several kills.

We ended this year’s trip at a place I have been wanting to visit for 7 years…Duba Plains. This area is the location where photographer/film maker couple Beverly and Dereck Joubert  worked on their amazing project documenting the Lions who kill Cape Buffalos. The thought of seeing Lions hunting Cape Buffalo has been in my mind ever since seeing their amazing photographs and film footage. Well…I finally made it to Duba, and it didn’t disappoint!  We were lucky enough to witness this epic struggle between predator and huge herbivore (Lion and Buffalo) first hand when nearly a dozen lions hunted and killed an adult Cape Buffalo!!! This was probably the most amazing thing I had ever seen in all my many years of watching wildlife. Anyway….next year is surely going to be another great year for wildlife viewing and photography….Take a little time off and join me in Botswana!