My wife Angela and I went on a Wildlife Photographic Safari to Botswana in June 2018, en route to visiting our daughter and her family in Madagascar. Our safari was organized by Stu and Justyna Porter, Wild4 Photographic Safaris, Nelspruit, South Africa. Stu runs small group photographic safaris throughout southern and eastern Africa. We met Stu and the other four clients in Johannesburg Airport, where we boarded a plane to Maun, Botswana. From there we took a small plane to Xakanaxa, on the edge of the Okavango Delta, where we were met by our two local guides Nkosi and Lucas in two customized, open-sided Toyota Landcruisers, and did our first game drive on our way to our first camp at Moremi. We spent three nights at Moremi and then drove to the Khwai Concession, where we spent four nights, then on to Savuti for three nights, then we flew to Kasane and spent two nights in a Lodge on the Chobe River. Finally, Stu, one of the other clients, Ross, and we drove to Victoria Falls where we spent two days and nights photographing the falls.
Our camps at Moremi, Khwai and Savuti were true mobile camps operated by Letaka Safaris, with canvas tents, long-drop toilets, showers from buckets, and food cooked on open fires. Each morning we were awakened well before day break, had a quick breakfast, and then were off on a 4-5-hour game drive while it was still dark. We returned each day for lunch, and then had 3 hours for downloading photos, showering, washing clothes etc. before leaving on the evening game drive at 3:30 pm, usually returning after sunset for dinner.
Each vehicle had four rows of seats, with the guide / driver in the front, with Stu, our tour leader, alternating between vehicles and sitting next to the driver, then each client having a row to themselves, allowing us to quickly swap sides of the vehicle. Each side had height adjustable rests with sand bags to allow us to rest our cameras / lenses on. This maximized our opportunities for getting good photos.
At Chobe River, we had 3-hour boat trips up and down the Chobe River each morning and evening. The boats were special flat-bottomed boats with swivel seats and full Gimbal heads for each seat, operated by Pangolin Photo Safaris, Kasane, Botswana.
In terms of camera gear, I carried Olympus E-M1 and E-M1 Mk2 bodies with the main lenses being an Olympus 40-150 mm f2.8 PRO + 1.4 TC and the older 4/3rds Olympus ZD 300 mm f2.8 lens + EC14 converter. I also carried the Olympus 11-22 mm f2.8-3.5 wide angle lens and the Olympus 8 mm f1.8 PRO Fisheye lens. Angela carried an Olympus Pen-F equipped with Leica 15 mm f1.7, Olympus 25 mm f1.8 and 60 mm f2.8 macro lenses. In the early mornings and late evenings, I tended to use the lenses without TC, but during the middle part of the day when the light was good I would sometimes add the TCs, especially for small birds or animals at longer distances. The combination of lenses and bodies worked well.
In the early mornings and late evenings, when light levels were low, I used Aperture priority mode f2.8 and adjusted the ISO to give me the shutter speed I required. When the light was better, I tended to use one of my saved custom modes. I had the E-M1 Mk2 configured with C1 set up for flying birds / moving animals with S priority with shutter speed = 1/3200 s, electronic shutter L at 15 frames / sec, C-AF, centre 5 points, Auto ISO. From there I could quickly increase or decrease shutter speed and also change the centre 5 points to single small point or all points. I had C2 set up for stationary animals / birds, with Manual mode, shutter speed = 1/1000 sec, Aperture = f5.6, Auto ISO, C-AF, single centre small point, electronic shutter L at 15 frames / sec. I had C3 configured for Video, with S mode, shutter = 1/50 sec, ISO = Low (64 ISO), C-AF, single centre small point. I also made extensive use of the ProCapture mode (ProH) while using the 300 mm lens to photograph small birds leaving and/or returning to a perch. This worked well for birds such as Little Bee Eaters and Lilac Breasted Rollers.
Every day we experienced amazing wildlife sightings or had truly memorable experiences and felt wonderfully blessed. It felt as if our Heavenly Father was smiling on us. Some of the highlights were: having a troop of baboons sleep in trees above us on our first night at Moremi (very noisy); seeing the Milky Way most nights as we sat around the camp fire after dark; seeing two male lions at Moremi; watching some Marabou Storks fishing for catfish in a water hole; finding a young female leopard up a tree with a fresh Steenbok kill just 50 m from our camp site at Khwai, and then observing her every morning for the next 3 days until she had only the head left; following a pack of Cape Hunting Dogs on an evening hunt; finding some of the Cape Hunting Dogs with a Waterbuck kill and seeing the vultures coming in to finish off the carcass; seeing a Golden Oriole at Kwhai Concession; seeing a lioness with five cubs doing ‘photogenic things’ on a termite mound and at a water hole at Savuti Marsh; having a large male lion come and flop down in the shade of our vehicle at Savuti - so close we could have reached out and touched him; seeing maybe 250 elephants come to the water holes to drink in the late evening light at Harvey’s Pans at Savuti; having a frightening experience with a herd of elephants with babies when another vehicle drove past them causing them to get very stressed – we just had to sit quietly until they finally left us after about 20 minutes of trumpeting, bellowing and mock charges; having an angry hippo charge our boat while out on the Chobe River; seeing a small flock of Carmine Bee Eaters on the Chobe River; taking a helicopter ride over the Victoria Falls with the door off; photographing the Lunar Rainbow over the Victoria Falls from the Zambian side.
Thank-you very much to our tour leader Stu, our guides Nkosi and Lucas, our cook KK and our camp hands July and Names for looking after us so well. It was also great to meet and spend time with Ross, Robert, Debbie and Larry.
Here are some photos from the trip – Enjoy!