Guest Blog: My Botswana Wilderness Safari Experience

Andrew Beck Guest Leave a Comment

I found my happy place through wildlife photography in the African wilderness and this trip was my fourth one with Wild Eye (including the seminar). It’s my first time in the Okavango Delta and oh boy did I look forward to this photographic safari booked a year ago.

Wild Eye’s excellence in wildlife guiding, photographic skills and knowledge, hospitality, and sincere interest in their guests are what made me join their safaris. And this one to the Okavango Delta in Botswana was no different with the 10-day safari between the three lodges; Chitabe, Pelo Camp and Little Vumbra

As we set off from Maun in a small aircraft (our mode of transport between the three lodges), I allowed myself to become receptive to the environment and getting a feel of what’s to come for the next 10 day. I sat with my nose almost to the window of the small aircraft flying us over the Okavango Delta, not taking my eyes for a moment off the scenery below.

At all the camps we were welcomed by friendly singing staff, looked after and spoiled with delicious meals, high teas, sundowner drinks and surprise brunches in the field or like Pelo camp in the water! And not to mention the hot water bottles to warm up the bed and early morning game drives, it’s the little things that count.

Cheetah in Sepia

We started off with a photographic bang at Chitabe with a cheetah in the long yellow grasses with beautiful low light, just what I wanted for my creative wildlife portfolio. As a creative photographer I idyllically prefer wildlife in a “clean” environment, meaning no obstructing branches, bushes or cluttered back or foregrounds, and the “photographic angels” did not disappoint.

Cheetah in Sepia

We had a number of opportunities like that, especially with the herd of breeding elephants we came upon on an afternoon drive with the sun behind them as they move slowly towards us through the long grasses.   Encouraged by Andrew’s voice in the background to check shutter speeds, exposure, and recommendations on composition etc. to ensure we get the best out of the experience photographically.

The Okavango Delta is a bird’s paradise; with the Fish Eagle’s call cutting through the air sending shivers of delight down my spine and a feeling of a good omen coming our way. We were not disappointed and I could tick many bird species off my list. At Pelo Camp we had numerous opportunities to practice photographing …

… birds in flight … the lesser African Jacana … (thanks to Andrew for helping me with my camera’s tracking sensitivity).

Lesser African Jacana

… birds on sticks … Malachite Kingfishers …

Malachite Kingfisher

… birds “walking on water”… the African Jacana … and the list goes on.

African Jacana

Sitting in a mokoro canoe as we glide silently through the narrow water channels brought a whole new dimension to the wildlife safari. A feeling of inner peace mingled with excitement and bit of anxiousness settled in my body, what if we run/glide into a hippo (a vision of me running on water came to mind), but soon that passed as I look over the water to where the others where, each one clearly as happy as I am as they sat photographing small frogs on reeds, water lilies or just enjoying the moment.

As I practice conscious photography it is my aim to make use of all my senses, especially intuitively to stay fully present in making an image, but have sadly neglected getting to know my camera’s extensive technical abilities and now that I’m fully in the swing of using photography as my creative expression, I’m paying the price of missed opportunities in the field. Andrew was brilliant with hands-on knowledge, education and advice out on the vehicle and back in camp with editing. This trip has really made me realize again how important it is to get the grips on basic photography and editing skills, especially with wildlife photography, you only get that moment once and then it’s gone. Fortunately on a lengthy 10-day trip like this there were plenty of opportunities to learn, practice and get that great shot.

On the third leg of our trip we stayed at Little Vumbura for four days, it was nice to settle in and be swept away along the water channels by boat and then taking those awesome game drives morning and afternoons, also knowing we don’t have to rush back to camp for meals if we come upon a great sighting or tracking lions through swamps.

Male Lion Portrait in Sepia

One of the highlights was indeed finding the paw prints of a female leopard and her two cubs. What an awesome moment when we got sight of them as she led her cubs through the long grasses to a kill she made. We followed her as she walked steadily and now and then slowing down for the cubs to catch up with her, even taking them through a water channels, they are indeed swamp cats.

The next day we find her again up in a tree, belly full getting ready to watch her cubs below, but soon she was alerted by something. As we follow her jumping out of the tree moving swiftly over open grassland, we saw a male leopard on the outskirts of a tree island.  What followed was a standoff between them as she fended for her kill and cubs. Visibility was poor, but the sound of growling and fighting was overpowering. As the other vehicles left for brunch, we decided to stay and were rewarded after what felt like forever as we saw her coming out of the swamp, visibly tired. She settled again in the tree where she groomed her dirty and tired body, a sighting imprinted in my memory that I’ll never forget.

Andrew’s knowledge and experience on how to position the vehicle for best viewing for all participants was truly appreciated throughout the safari

This photographic safari was a wild and life adventure like none other.

Portrait of a leopard in Black and White

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Find out more about our Botswana Wilderness Safari for SADC Residents by following the link below.

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

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