Trip Report: Chobe Photo Safari, March 2014 (part 2)

Morkel Erasmus All Authors, Morkel 1 Comment

Well, let’s carry on with the trip report of my recently completed Chobe photo safari. If you missed Part 1, then you’ll need to click HERE first to catch up…

Day 3: March 14th

We wake up before sunrise and make sure we enjoy a cup of coffee as we watch the light creeping over the horizon and bounce off the tranquil waters of the Chobe river. Man, we could get used to this! Across the water, Elephant Bay lies peaceful and quiet, and we relish in the thought of having this stretch of the river for ourselves for the better part of the next hour or two. As soon as our coffee is finished, we hop into the photographic boat and slowly cruise towards the bay. A troop of Chacma Baboons are waking up and playing around, and provide loads of photographic opportunities in sweet golden light.

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After brief sightings of Pygmy Geese and a Giant Kingfisher, we head out further upriver towards the Serondela section. The plan is to move the houseboat that way later today, pending our group decision based on where the action is centered – another plus for this package: flexibility of location based on the group’s preference.

Having sighted a herd of Red Lechwe briefly on the first afternoon in the long reeds of Sidudu island, we are lucky to come across a small group on the Puku flats who oblige to pose for some photos.

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We move further upriver and come across the usual customers – Fish Eagles and Pied Kingfishers…

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Close to the old Serondela campsite we come across a young Nile Crocodile basking in the sun, right on the edge of the river. We move in closer for some photos of this chap. The sky is nice with some whispy clouds and the light is soft and diffused, which makes it easy for all my guests to try a variety of focal lengths and perspectives with this cooperative subject.

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Reaching the Serondela site, we find another colony of Whitefronted Bee-eaters and spend some time trying to photograph their elegant but unpredictable movements with the use of slow shutter techniques.

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Eventually we turn around, hoping to at least make it back to the houseboat for lunch before we carry on our photographic mission of the day. On the way back we come across another crocodile, sunning itself with an open mouth in a spot where we could look right down his throat…and of course we move closer for the shot.

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As we move back downriver, we spot movement on the Botswana bank, and see a small pod of hippopotamus moving towards the water. There are some little ones, and wouldn’t you know it – they all pose obligingly at the edge of the water for us to take some lovely portraits…

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A large herd of Cape Buffalo stare us down as we round the bend at the Puku flats, going back towards our houseboat moored at Elephant Bay…and the guests enjoy using a variety of focal lengths and perspectives to capture this African scene.

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By this time we were a hungry bunch of photographers on the boat – but every time we started to head towards our intended lunch on the houseboat, some more photographic opportunities jumped up. We wouldn’t complain – cause if there’s one thing we were hungry for more than food, it was to photograph the magic of the Chobe…

As we get close to Elephant Bay, there were just herds of elephants popping out everywhere for a drink (the day was heating up). One particular herd allowed us to get nice and close for some wide-angle photography, and the sky played along nicely too!

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This herd didn’t give us a lot of time before they were finished with their quick drink, so we head on towards Elephant Bay where we can see bigger herds milling about in the water. Lunch will have to wait a bit longer – after all, we didn’t come all the way out here for the food (although the meals were top class!)…

We watch and photograph 3 young bulls who are just having a ball in the water. One of them ventured quite deep into the river and performed some nice “marketing shots” with the Ichobezi houseboat as background.

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As he emerges, we get a real “crazy eyes” look!

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Eventually making it back to the houseboat for lunch, we have a lot to discuss from an eventful morning. Everyone is happy with the photographic opportunities that presented themselves to us, and we can’t wait to get back on the water for more! This is the tantalising view from the deck of our houseboat (note the perspective is weird as I used the panorama function on my iPhone and this is more than 180 degrees of view)…

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It isn’t long before we put action to our words and head out again – weary of a storm building in the distance. Another guest would join us this afternoon (who could only make half the trip), and we decide to take it easy and explore around the immediate area in case the storm catches up with us.

Guess what? We found more elephants…

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The low angles made possible in these situations by the Wild Eye photographic boat are sublime…

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At the risk of boring you with elephant photos, I’ll move on to our next quarry – a beautiful African Fish Eagle sitting right on the edge of the river on the Namibian side. We coax the boat in slowly and eventually come to a stop close enough for everyone to get some stunning detail portraits of the king of the African skies.

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The approaching storm soon dissipates, and we spend the rest of the afternoon doing some quality bird photography along the river. Some of the highlights include African Jacana, Pied Kingfishers, Pygmy Gees and a very cooperative Brown-hooded Kingfisher.

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We end up at the backwater between Savannah lodge and Puku flats again at sunset, this time with the aim of capturing moody photos of the local hippo pod against the setting sun. This is a tough ask, as there really is only a sliver between the clouds where the sun can throw it’s last golden light for a few minutes before it is gone for the day.

As we approach the scene, one of the hippos raises out of the water and gives a classic gape for about 2 seconds…

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How cool is the effect of those mosquitos back-lit by the sun? I only noticed that when I opened up the image on the computer back at home!

Since we opted not to move the houseboat over to Serondela for the night, we head back to our spot across from Elephant Bay and soak in another glorious evening of solitude on the Chobe river. Great food, great mood and great company all come together!

PS: I was planning on doing 2 days’ worth of sightings in this episode, but it would really get long-winded, so I’ve decided to dedicate another episode to Day 4…watch this space!

Morkel Erasmus

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Comments 1

  1. Linda Montantes-Martin

    Love your photographs! And enjoy immensely reading your adventures, I can feel like I’m there. Thank you for sharing.

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