African Photo Safari

by Bruce Turnbull
April 14, 2012


Early morning at Deadvlei, Sossusvlei, Namibia by Bruce Turnbull ©

Early morning at Deadvlei, Sossusvlei, Namibia

My wife and I visited East Africa in late 2009 and found the trip absolutely amazing. On our return home I was convinced that I needed to go back, but this time I wanted to go on a photography safari where I would be with like minded people and learn more about nature photography and in particular wildlife photography. I began doing my home work, but found that most photo safaris were very expensive. I needed to find an alternative. I continued searching the internet and various publications. After a few months of research I settled on a company out of New Zealand called Wildlight Safaris. They offered a Botswana photography package lasting 10 days touring through the Okavanga Delta. There would be a maximum of three people per vehicle with each person getting a complete row of seats. The trip would be camping where each person would get their own tent with an attached canvas area offering a drop toilet and a bucket shower. Each vehicle would have a driver-guide, with the guide being a professional wildlife photographer. I checked the company out and was impressed with what I saw and I was also very impressed with the communications between myself and them. I booked a September t trip but added a twist. I also wanted to visit Namibia, but their package was for Botswana only. Not to worry though as they went to work and booked a fantastic package that got me to Namibia and its wonderful places.

Female Elephant, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavaga Delta, Botswana by Bruce Turnbull ©

Female Elephant, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavaga Delta, Botswana

September arrived and after a very long flight I arrived in Maun, Botswana, the gateway to the Okavanga Delta. I was met the next morning and we flew into a gravel airstrip called Xakanaka where we met Dean Fitzpatrick, owner of Wildlight and Grant Reed owner of Letaka Safaris, our ground operator and another pro photographer, Des Pretorious. There would be two vehicles with three tourists per vehicle and a driver guide. The third guide was always Dean and he floated from one vehicle to the next on a daily basis.

African Elephant by Bruce Turnbull ©

Female Elephant, Savuti, Chobe Nationaal Park, Okavanga Delta, Botswana

We would camp for three nights in three different locations within the Okavanga. Three nights at Xakanaka (Moremi Park) and then three nights at  the community run Khwai Concession, with the final three nights at Savuti before flying to Kasane Botswana for an overnight stay on the Chobe River and a river cruise. The following morning it was off to the Botswana-Zimbabwe border where we met up with a guide who took us to Victoria Falls for a visit and then later that day to the Vic Falls airport for the flight to Windhoex Namibia.

Namibia by Bruce Turnbull ©

Early morning, Deadvlei, Sossusvlei, Namibia

It was an overnight stay in Windhoek and then it was an all day journey over gravel roads to Sesriem, the gateway to the Namib Naukluft Park and the world’s oldest desert. Three nights were spent here visiting deep into the park to Sossusvlei, home of the highest red sand dunes in the world and Deadvlei, a dry lake bed famous for its stark contrasts. From the desert we headed to the coast to Swakopmund, for an overnight stay and then along the Skeleton Coast to Cape Cross, home to a very large seal colony. We then headed inland through an area called Damaraland where we once again over-nighted after a long day of driving, stopping, and photographing. The following morning came with an early departure and we reached Etosha, the jewel of Namibia’s National Parks, by 9 am. We would have four nights in this park with three of them at Halali in the central part of the park and the last night at Okaukuejo, located at the south western edge of the park before heading back south to Windhoek and the journey home. In all a month had past with not one day without excitement.

Leopard by Bruce Turnbull ©

Female Leopard, Khwai Concession, Okavanga Delta, Botswana

The entire trip was fantastic. I came away learning a tremendous amount about photography, a tremendous amount about the areas visited and, made a number of really remarkable friends. The camping was great and very comfortable despite bucket showers and a camp cot to sleep on. We experienced animals coming through the camp most nights. Our days began near 5 am with a wake-up call and hot water to wash up in. Breakfast was assorted cereals, fruit, yogurt, coffee, tea, juice etc. We were usually away by 6 am in order to capture the morning light. Occasionally, a late lunch back at camp before heading out for the afternoon but, mostly, we stayed out all day.

Wild Dog at a kill, Khwai Concession, Okavanga Delta, Botswana by Bruce Turnbill ©

Wild Dog at a kill, Khwai Concession, Okavanga Delta, Botswana

It was not uncommon to be heading back to camp well after dark with a few stops to photograph lions as they became more active in the evening, and also to enjoy what they called a “Sundowner”. The evening dinner was tremendous with a well prepared meal of several courses with beer and wine also available. After dinner we took time to review the day’s events and the photography accomplished. The guides/photographers were fantastic with loads of help during the day as well as when the day was over. They continue to offer help by email, months after.

Lions by Bruce Turnbull ©

Cub peering over it's Mother, Moremi, Okavaga Delta, Botswana

In Botswana we saw all of the animals one needed to see and experienced some amazing sights. Five male lions playing along the Savuti River. Wild Dogs crossing the Khwai River and then a Wild Dog Impala hunt with remarkable shots. There were Elephants by the hundreds, many different birds, and even the smaller animals such as Honey Badgers and Mongoose were seen. A Leopard with a kill that we visited a couple of times over a few days, only to have her bring out her two little Cubs for us to see.

Cape Buffalo, Moremi, Okavanga Delta, Botswana by Bruce Turnbull ©

Cape Buffalo, Moremi, Okavanga Delta, Botswana

We crossed many water courses with the water flowing well into the vehicles and travelled many tracks and non tracks in order to get the photos the guides were determined to put us on to, and they did. In Namibia it was more landscape photography in the desert and then back to the animals when we got to Etosha. In the desert temperatures reached 45 degrees Celsius during the day and 6 degrees at night. Blowing sand and intense heat, but fantastic scenery. The seal colony with its odors and sounds, and then Etosha and its Rhinos, Elephants, and mating Lions, to name just a few.

Wild Dogs, Moremi, Okavanga delta, Botswana by Bruce Turnbull ©

Wild Dogs, Moremi, Okavanga delta, Botswana

I managed to take close to 5400 shots, all in RAW and continue to this day to wade through them for the few jewels that define the entire trip. I have included a few here and hope that you enjoy them. I’m already planning another return trip for hopefully the very near future.

Hippo with Oxpeckers, Moremi, Okavanga Delta, Botswana by Bruce Turnbull ©

Hippo with Oxpeckers, Moremi, Okavanga Delta, Botswana

Gear used was all Canon. A 7D, an XSi, 24-55 F2.8, a 55-250 F4-5.6 Zoom, a 100-400 F4.5-5.6 Zoom, and a 500mm F4. I packed a Manfrotto monopod but did not use it as they supplied a fantastic Molar Bean Bag with the V2 plate for my Wimberley gimbal head. Lots of SD and Compac Flash cards, and a lap top to review the day’s photos. Normal day began with the 500 on the 7D and the 100-400 on the XSi.

Bee Eater by Bruce Turnbull ©

Malachite Kingfisher, Savuti, Chobe National Park, Okavanga Delta, Botswana


Bruce Turnbull


Bio: I am an amateur photographer recently retired and enjoying spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors. I have been fortunate to have travelled to many places and continue to explore. If interested in my photos or places visited, please drop me an email at I am currently working on a web site and will post the address once completed.

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