DELTA EXPLORER August 2017 Trip Report
Participants : 4
Duration : 9 Days
Areas Covered : Gomoti Plains and the Khwai Concession
Lions : 20
Leopards : 5
Wild Dogs : 38
Guides : Elliot in Gomoti and Shaun in Machaba
Exploring the Okavango Delta in August usually means high levels of water. During our stay the levels were good but perhaps a little lower due to a mild earthquake that hit the area a couple of months ago and most likely caused the tectonic plates to move which has resulted in the waters beginning to recede earlier than usual. In any case the Delta has experienced some really heavy rains earlier in the year which has helped maintain a good amount of water so water photographic sessions and over the bonnet water crossings were part of our daily routine . . . A true OKAVANGO experience.
This safari started at Gomoti Plains, a wonderful area dotted with palm trees, criss crossed by water channels and teeming with wildlife. I have never seen such a large concentration of giraffes. As we got off the plane and started our drive to camp we were greeted by a pride of lions that had took down a fully grown giraffe . . . the airstrip was still in sight. And once again expectations were set very high which meant that Elliot our guide and I were going to have to work hard to keep the momentum. Some of the highlights were the Wild Cat, Wild Dogs, Leopards, low level photography from a motorized boat on the channels around camp and specially seeing elephants shake down palm trees to get all the nuts.
On Day 1 the highlights were the lion kill by the airstrip and plenty of giraffe everywhere topped of by a perfect sunset just before calling it a day.
Day 1 - A colorful sunset in Gomoti Plains
Day 2 started of really good with a fantastic sighting of a female Leopard and her two 7 months old cubs. The cubs were really relaxed around us which indicates that we will be seeing a lot more of these two spotted beauties. We also had a great photo opportunity with a hyena drinking on one of the pans before returning to camp for lunch. The real highlight of the day for me was a sighting of a Wild Cat in golden evening light that allowed us to capture some great shots. These cats are very elusive and hard to spot. Elephants, Baboons, Kudu and a variety of birds were also spotted and photographed today . . . . An AMAZING first full day !!
Day 2 - Leopard Cub in a tree looking into the camera
Day 2 - Hyena drinking at a pan
Day 2 - A Wild Cat posing in fabulous golden light
On Day 3 I decided to break the day into two different photographic activities. In the morning we went on game cruise to explore the water channels for low angle opportunities with birds, hippos, crocodiles and elephants. The evening would be a normal game drive. On our way to the channel we came across 3 Lionesses that we followed for a while until they settled and allowed for some camera action. Once on the channels we encountered Elephants, Red Lechwe and a very cooperative Pied Kingfisher. The highlight of the evening session was definitely a photographic sundowner by a lagoon filled with hippos, water birds and amazing golden light. After a day like this we were ready for gourmet dinner at Gomoti Plains Camp.
Day 3 - A lioness in warm morning light on a mound
Day 3 - A Red Lechwe on the flooded plains
Day 3 - A pied kingfisher taking off
Day 3 - Hippo sunset in a lagoon close to Gomoti Camp
Our fourth and final full day at Gomoti Plains turned out to be a fantastic photographic day even though the morning was a quite one. Photographing a large Elephant Bull on foot was an unforgettable moment for one of my guests and seeing another bull interact with a group of tourists was quite something. The evening was spent cruising up and down the Okavango channels allowing for some great opportunities with Elephants and Red Lechwe. However, the highlight was the night photography session capturing some amazing nightscapes in this amazing environment.
Day 4 - One of our guests in action capturing images on foot
Day 4 - An Elephant But crossing the channel at sunset
Day 4 - A Red Lechwe running over the flooded plains
Day 4 - Night photography in the Okavango Delta
Day 5 was the end of our stay in Gomoti and the start of a new leg of this safari in the Khwai Concession known to be excellent with the Big Cats. But before the next stage Gomoti still had a surprise for us . . . WILD DOGS made their appearance to finish off an amazing 4 nights in Gomoti. A short 25 minute flight took us to the much awaited Khwai Concession, the Big Cats and Shaun Malan who happens to be the best guide we could hope for on a photographic safari. Things were looking good for our 4 guests . . . After landing in Khwai, collecting our bags and meeting Shaun we head to camp before going out for our first photo session in this area. 10 minutes into our drive and there is Matsebe, a female leopard clearly stalking a herd of impalas. Could we have wished for a better start ? No way . . .
Day 5 - A Wild Dog in Gomoti Plains
Day 5 - A Lioness on the lookout
Day 5 - A mating couple at night
Today was Day 6 and our first full day in this part of the delta. Some amazing morning light in a flooded forest with Red Lechwe as the main subject presented my group of photographers with the first real opportunity to capture a special moment. As the morning progressed we bumped into a Kudu flying over one of the many channels and an impressive Elephant sighting . . . We calculated that there were over 200 giants by the Khwai River. They came and went and it went on for over an hour. Today's highlight was without any doubt finding Matsebe up in a tree at sunset. The challenge for Shaun and I was to decide where to position the vehicle in anticipation of what this old lady would do. The call was made and images were captured. What a fabulous ending to our sixth day in the Okavango Delta. Things were really happening . . .
Day 6 - Red Lechwe at sunrise
Day 6 - A male Kudu jumps over a small channel
Day 6 - Elephants on the move
Day 6 - Matsebe at sunset
Day 7 turned out to be Wild Dog and lion day. Wild Dogs were found at their den returning from a hunt. 12 members plus 12 pups all excited about the return of the pack was amazing to see but extremely difficult to photograph as their was so much going on and the light at this point was too harsh. Imagine black pups running around in the worst light possible . . . Very Challenging ! But we still managed to get a few keepers. With Lions we had all sorts of possibilities, in wonderful evening light and at night using a spotlight. It was a great day once again and must point out how hard Shaun works to get us to the sightings and position the vehicle in the best spot for the best shots.
Day 7 - A very cute Wild Dog
Day 7 - A pair of Lions at sunset
Day 7 - Lions at night
We are on our 8th and final full day and turns out it's going to be another day with Lions and Wild Dogs. We spent all morning looking for leopard tracks but ended up following 3 Lionesses for a good 2.5 hours. They stalked, they crossed the river and posed nicely for us so cameras were capturing images all morning. The evening on the other hand went slow until just before sunset we found the the pack of Wild Dogs on the move with 6 of the pups. Half the pack went on to take the pups back to the den while the other half stayed behind. Little did we know that out of the blue a steenbok would unfortunately cloth paths with the pack. I was total mayhem for a couple of minutes which is as long as it took this pack of 6 dogs to make the antelope disappear. It was raw and brutal but incredible to witness.
Day 8 - A Lioness crossing a channel
Day 8 - Two Lionesses on the lookout
Day 8 - Two Wild Dogs discussing ownership
Day 9 would be our last opportunity to find the elusive Leopard one more time before ending this photographic expedition. We went out with one goal . . . to pick up leopard tracks around camp where we are sure one of the leopards had spent the night. For over an hour we drove all the possible tracks without success. While doing so we came across a very relaxed Bateleur Eagle and as we were capturing images of this raptor from all possible angles the radio went off alerting us of a Leopard sighting close by. The eagle was immediately forgotten and rushed to the location where the cat had been spotted. To our surprise it was Matsebe's 2 year old son that had just killed a fully grown Kudu . . . Impressive to say the least. What a way to end this 9 day safari.
Day 9 - Portrait of a Bateleur Eagle
Day 9 - At a Leopard kill
All Images by Mario Moreno