After nearly a month of travelling to some of southern Africa’s leading safari destinations we are now back home – catching up on paperwork and tending to the admin duties!
The adventure started in Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana where four of us joined wildlife photographer Greg du Toit on a 4-night photography workshop – a fantastic start to a safari with exceptional wildlife and photo opportunities. The Mashatu elephants were, as always, amazing – we spent many hours with several herds and had a charming encounter with an adventurous little calf sliding down the river bank.
We photographed a family of lion high up on a river bank in the beautiful early evening light, a huge herd of galloping (for no reason – other than, perhaps, fun?) giraffe – and a pair sparring, a trio of cheetah brothers considering impala prey, a statuesque eland and a hyena proudly marching off with a bone.
Birds always catch our eye and, amongst others, snapping a Lilac-breasted Roller in flight was a special request and Greg patiently helped us along through many lost chances until we finally cracked this one at our next destination.
The next stop was Mala Mala Game Reserve on the edge of Kruger Park in South Africa where we joined the rest of the group. White Rhino, a large herd of Buffalo crossing the Sand River and a lion kill in the evening started the excitement here. The next day a pride of lions crossing the same river provided more great photo opportunities. Side-striped Jackal is not seen on every visit to Mala Mala but this time we had several great views of this little carnivore. There were many elephant encounters here too.
The prolific birdlife provided more chances for photos including the Purple Roller, Red-billed Oxpecker and Marabou Stork pictured here.
Elephant Camp outside Victoria Falls was our next destination and it certainly felt good to be back on the Zimbabwean side again! Although the Zambezi was still very full a stiff breeze sent most of the spray back over the river into neighbouring Livingstone so raincoats and camera protection bags were not required!
Four nights on the stunning houseboat, The Pride of the Zambezi, based on the Namibian side of the Chobe River was the next stop. A heronry close to Kasane did provide more fantastic photo opportunities of breeding Yellow-billed Stork and others but getting away from the busy end of the river was amazing particularly at night with nothing but the wildlife night sounds to serenade us. During the day elephants came down to the river to drink in their hundreds. Large numbers of Buffalo, Hippos and Crocodiles as well as a Leopard strolling along the riverbank kept the cameras clicking continuously. The birdlife was superb including a family of Little Bee-eaters that went to roost in a tree next to the boat, and several young African Jacana paraded for us. And of course the magnificent Chobe sunsets…
While four members of the group flew home to the USA, the remaining six of us made our way up to our old home base in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia with several nights at Mfuwe Lodge plus a couple at Chindene Bush Camp deep in the south of the Park. A large male leopard that was feeding on a young hippo was on
e of the highlights here. Surprisingly a huge Verreaux’s Eagle Owl caught a Helmeted Guineafowl in the middle of the morning and was feeding on it as we passed by.
The Pink Jacaranda’s were in full flower and we made good use of the opportunity to photograph many of the small things throughout the trip – a pretty tiny water fern covering the pans in front of Chindene Camp, Water Lilies on the Chobe, and the attractive red berries of the Pink Medlar that dominated the vegetation around Chindene Camp.
Plus the pods of the toxic Thorn apple or Datura – although an exotic invader, still an interesting pod! The striking Geigaria – another toxic bush that affects sheep and goats and some wildlife, a hunting spider whose eye was caught in the spotlight on a night drive, and the fruits of the Monkey orange – used by both animals and humans.
It was a fabulous journey with an extraordinary array of wildlife often with interesting and sometimes unique behaviour that included mating lions in Mashatu, many elephant interactions and communications in all destinations, elephants feeding on the calcium-rich soil on the banks of the Chobe River, fishing behaviour of many different bird species from kingfishers to storks, cormorants and others, and finally the large male leopard feeding on a baby hippo in South Luangwa – the first time we have seen this.
Many people say we have the best job in the world and after a trip like this… we have to agree!
By Derek and Sarah Solomon
Date: 14 July 2013