Wildlife Photography in BotswanaWith Thom Hogan August 18 to 31, 2014
Wilderness Travel 1102 Ninth Street Berkeley, CA 94710 800-368-2794
Photography in BotswanaOur destinations on this mostly tent-based photography workshop and safari are all wildlife-related. Werehere to learn about and photograph the African animals, with lions and elephants being the most abundant,but also everything from monitor lizards to cheetah for us to pursue with our lenses.
Well start our trip with a two-day workshop taught by photography instructor Thom Hogan and his assistantAnthony Medici. This workshop takes place just outside Maun, at a small lodge that also has some captivegame. During the workshop portion our goal is to get you ready for the challenges that happen with wildlifephotography. Well help you understand how to keep a stable platform, when and when not to useconverters, how to select focus (and optimize it), how to best expose when the animals can be light or darkcolored, and much more. Well also get you thinking about how to capture the African environment in yourphotos; after all, if all you want is a close up photo of an exotic animal, you could just go to your local zoo.
While there are no prerequisites for this workshop and tour, we think that it will be of most interest tophotographers who are already comfortable with their basic equipment and wish to get some specializededucation in wildlife photography. That said, we welcome students at all skill levels on either trip.
After completing our orientation and getting individual feedback on our techniques, well head into theOkavango Delta and begin our primary pursuit: multiple daily wildlife safari sessions in a variety of terrainsand seeking a wide variety of animals. Most of our trip will feature accommodations in a very comfortabletent camp that we move with us as we sample the Botswana parks.
Because Botswana is so flat, so large, and so hot, the river flowing into it never makes it to the sea. Instead, itpans out into a delta that eventually peters out into a near-desert. This unique environment is even moreexciting because the deltas floods are seasonal, so the land itself is changing constantly. This forces theanimals to move within the area as the water levels change. Botswana protected much of the land well betraveling through with National Parks (and in some cases, private parks), so well be entering an ecosystemthat is relatively healthy, and, while not the site of the huge masses of animals you see in the Masai Mara orSerengeti, it is still home to very large groups of the African mammals you came to see and photograph,most notably elephants.
If you havent looked at Frans Lantings book, Okavango, its worthwhile to take a look at it to get an ideafor what to expect. Frans captured the uniqueness of Botswana in a way that few have managed since, eventraveling to some of the same places we will. Botswana may be one of the most scenic flat countries in theworld, and the animal population is healthy, easily found, and very diverse. Likewise, you can look at theblog from my last workshop in Botswana, which youll find at this Web page:www.bythom.com/photographic-travel/africa/botswana-2013-workshop-blog
Your primary goal on this tour should be to experience a wild and remote place, and to photograph wildanimals of all kinds on an intensely personal level. A key secondary goal that will be emphasized in theworkshop that begins the trip is to improve your photographic ability when faced with challenging sceneryand elusive animals. Youll certainly come back from this trip with shots of exotic places and wild animalsthat youll want to show off to your friends and colleagues.
Spouses are quite welcome on this trip, however it should be noted that this trip is not a casual, relaxingvacation at five-star resorts with pools and room service. Spouses should expect to participate in multipledaily game drives that are focused on finding and photographing animals in their natural settings. Aphotography group like ours can and will detour, spending long periods of time at one location whenconditions are right. The vehicles we use on safari can and do get quite dusty at times, and there will be dayswhen the only way to get that dust off is with a quick trip to the tent shower. Still, the sensory rewards arehigh, and we try to make the living arrangements as comfortable as youll ever find in such a remote place.
Finally, Botswana covers a large area and access is mostly via poorly maintained dirt roads. Actually, someof the roads seem like nothing other than long mounds of sand placed between ubiquitous bushes. And whenwere after wildlife, we sometimes simply abandon the roads and go cross-country. You need to be capableof handling as much as six hours a day of travel on winding, bumpy, dusty roads. Fortunately, theres usuallysomething just outside the window that will divert your attention. We have a maximum of threephotographers (plus instructors) per vehicle on this trip, so everyone should have plenty of space for theirequipment and to shoot in any direction when necessary.
Detailed ItineraryWe strongly encourage you to arrive a day or two early to rest up from the long flight from the States andenjoy at least an extra relaxing afternoon and evening in Johannesburg, South Africa, or perhaps Maun,Botswana. This not only allows you to start the workshop and tour rested, but also gives you a buffer in caseyou have flight delays. Optional tours of other nearby exotic African destinations can be arranged for theperiod prior to the start or at the end of the photo tour. In general, youll spend a great deal of time andmoney just getting to and from Africa, so it often pays to piggyback other destinations onto a trip like this.
Leave the US no later than the afternoon of August 17th as your flight needs to arrive by 7:00 am inJohannesburg (airport code JNB) on August 18th. This gives you at least at 3-4 hours connection time for theAir Botswana or South African Airways flight to Maun (airport code MUB). Otherwise, due to internationalflight schedules, an overnight in Johannesburg may be required. You should book the Air Botswana or SAAflight that departs Johannesburg in the morning at approximately 11:45 am (time subject to change), witharrival in Maun at 1:00 pm on Day 1. A complimentary transfer from the Maun airport to the group hotel willbe provided for trip members arriving on Day 1. There is a welcome dinner and orientation in the evening inMaun. If you have booked extra services for early arrival, a voucher for your transfer and extra hotel nightswill be sent with your final documents.
Days 1-2 (Aug 18-19) Photo Workshop at Tree LodgeUpon arrival in Maun, we are met by the Trip Leader and transferred to Tree Lodge, a game farm wherewell hold our short skills workshop. We have our workshop orientation meeting in the late afternoonfollowed by a welcome dinner the first evening. There will also be lectures and demonstrations by ourPhotographic Leader, Thom Hogan, and his assistant, Anthony Medici. This continues the next day, and wecan have some easy walks around the game farm to supplement the instruction with some basic practice.Overnight at Tree Lodge...D, Day 1; BLD, Day 2 with evening ending photo session on Day 2.
Day 3 (Aug 20) Drive to Khwai River camp Off we go into the wilds, heading toward the southeastern portion of the Moremi reserve. This is an excellentbird-photography area, as there are abundant, permanent water pools in this area that have good vehicleaccess. Overnight in our comfortable moving tent camp...BLD
Our Moving Tent Camp offers relaxing solitude and an authentic bush atmosphere that no safari lodge orpermanent tented camp can offer. The camp crew, complete with chefs and waiters, goes ahead in a 4x4supply truck and sets up the camp at each new site before our arrival, then takes camp down after we leave,always working towards minimal impact on the fragile environment. We sleep in high-roofed canvas tents(two to a tent), approximately 10 by 14 feet, furnished with beds, duvets, pillows, and a small bedside table.At each tent's rear door are a separate warm-water shower and toilet tent, and at the front is a small verandawith two wooden chairs, a small table, and a washbasin. Solar charged battery-powered lights provideillumination. The entire tent is covered by an extended nylon rainfly to provide protection from sun and rain.Laundry service is available at most locations (except for womens undergarments, due to cultural reasons).Our camp is fully catered, with three-course meals, including wine and soft drinks, freshly prepared daily byour camp chef. We have an AC generator with us, but we only run it for a limited time each day to chargebatteries and do image review with our projector.
Day 4-5 (Aug 21-22) Khwai River camp We continue with our exploration of the area with multiple daily safari rides. Our expert local guides willhelp us find the right animals and help position us for the best shots. Overnight in our comfortable movingtent campBLD each day
Days 6-7 (Aug 23-24) Xugana Lodge We arrive at Xugana Lodge, where we spend two nights. Xugana is the perfect base for exploration ofOkavangos water side. We have two very active days of exploration, with both motorboat and mokoroexcursions. This deluxe lodge features comfortable en suite chalets and a beautiful bar and dining areaoverlooking the Xugana lagoon. Its the perfect base for exploring the Okavango on foot and by motorboatand mokoro. The emphasis here is on birdlife and exploring this quintessential delta setting. During ourmokoro and walking excursions, we should see bushbuck, a plethora of birds, lechwe (a semi-aquaticantelo