The Wild Riches of Botswana
I find it deeply freeing when flying in a bush plane to look out of the window and see the landscape change from human-occupied land to more wild, remote and untouched wilderness.
Nature has a way of instilling a peace that settles deep into your bones and opens your eyes to new attractions and experiences.
In October to November 2019 I led and hosted a private Botswana custom Photo Tour to 2 unbelievable wildlife photography travel destinations; Mashatu Game Reserve in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, and Wilderness Safaris’ Qorokwe Camp in the Okavango Delta.
Mashatu Game Reserve – Land of Giants
Oh, but is this a destination filled with wondrous treasures to seek! Having visited this reserve a month before, I could not wait to bring my guests here. It is quite simply an incredible area teeming with wildlife and sightings thereof.
The reserve is named after the Mashatu Tree, a beautiful tree with green-leaves and multi-textured bark. With its commanding width, it provides the perfect place to have your morning coffee stop under, and of course, to look at its branches and trunks for Leopard.
Mashatu offers a special activity to the discernible wildlife photographer and nature lover which a lot of reserves and camps do not. In addition to our daily game drive activities, we booked sessions in the Matebole Hide which is sunken into the ground and offers a water-level perspective of the beasts that come to the waterhole to drink. As first-time hide shooters and second-time Africa photo safari tour participants, my guests loved the pace that a hide offers, as well as the practice of photographing under different lighting situations and playing around with different settings at a more-often-than-not leisurely pace.
We had Elands in great numbers come to the waterhole, Warthog, Jackal, Banded Mongoose, Baboons, Impala, a lonesome Giraffe and Elephant bull, as well as a variety of birds (some new species that the hide’s guide hadn’t seen at the water before!).
While the guests enjoyed the experience, the game drives were what we loved the most as they always offered us the chance to see more of the land and to search for the creatures that didn’t visit the hide!
Each game drive gave us memories and images that we couldn’t wait to download and review on the best way to edit them. We were truly spoiled with what we saw; a total of 11 individual Cheetah, 5 Leopard, 5 Lion, many Elephant, Eland, Giraffe, Kudu, and the list goes on and on! What made this safari spellbinding and unreal for my guests was the type of sightings we had. These all left very memorable and deep-set connections within us all.
Mashatu couldn’t have given my guests a better introduction to this incredibly rewarding destination than on this Botswana private photo tour.
Saying farewell to an area, lodge, its team and the wildlife is never easy, but as this was not the last destination of our photography tour, we were also excited to see what else awaited us!
Qorokwe is one of Wilderness Safaris’ newer camps, having only recently opened its doors. Since October in Botswana is hot, let me just say that we were glad the camp provided complimentary laundry services! The heat didn’t sway us though, and we began our first afternoon game drive to part of the river only a few minutes drive from camp.
On one particular game drive, herds of Elephant were coming out of the forest on the opposite side of the bank towards the river, and we were lined up and ready for the beauty to unfold. Just before a young Elephant bull decided to cross and put on a show for us, a male and female Giraffe crossed the river just next to us. Smiles were seen and shutters were heard as we timed each click to coincide with the movement of these tall animals. Not a fan at all of focusing and just releasing your camera shutter and hoping for some images in the series to be good, we took notice of movement and timed each shot, insisting that my guests look at animal behavior and take control of when to click.
Looking to the other side of our vehicle from where the giants crossed, there was now also a Leopard! This was such a stunning surprise made even more special as all of these animals are free-roaming. No fences to contain them and their movements. This was wild; wild as wild should be.
The next few days saw us tracking a Lion pride, with our guide pointing out the tracks and telling us the story of what they meant. This meant that even though we did not find the lions, it was such a rewarding and informative experience, leaving the guests in awe of our guide’s knowledge and so appreciative of another experience he imparted to them.
We glimpsed a White Rhino and calf in the distance, came across a lot of different Lions and sightings of them, vast herds of Elephant, Cheetah who made a kill close to camp, African Wild Dog – a huge treat for us as my guests had never seen these endangered animals before – and ending our Botswana photo safari off with a wonderful and relaxing sighting of a female Leopard.
Botswana is one of the few last remaining, true wildlife destinations that provides so many different experiences and landscapes to explore. From desert to a combination of dry and wet, to pure water-based experiences, your dreams and desires will be met. The wildlife are truly wild with no borders containing them to certain areas, and still, many of the species are habituated which means that you can photography them comfortably at a respectable distance with them not even batting an eye at your presence.
Each season provides its own unique experiences and sightings which makes Botswana a true year-round travel destination.