Delta Force - Wildlife Photography Tour
An early morning roar stirs you up from slumber. You step out of your tent and against the amber sky beyond the nebulous mist, see a burly male lion.
His thickset mane is combed by a zephyr and bound with a purl of fecund rays from the early sun. A tingle on your nape nudges you off your trance. You think it's the faint falling of dew. But it is in fact the bristling hair standing in unified testament of the bewitchment of Botswana.
It is the effect of Africa as it was meant to be.
How is it?
Low in human population and rich and varied in natural habitats, Botswana is a veritable oasis for all things wild and natural. And the Okavango Delta is its crowning wonder.
With just a two-metre variation in altitude across its 15,000 km2 expanse, the Delta is very flat but its wonders are anything but. And the waterways of the Okavango are not watered-down versions of anything. This is Africa in its pre-human edition – raw and pure, and wondrous and immense.
Drained by the Okavango River, an estimated 11 trillion litres of water floods the grassy plains during Botswana's dry months, forming one of the largest inland deltas on the planet and drawing thereby an exceptional density of wildlife to its vital folds.
And this is an enticing invitation to deep-dive into this untamed wilderness and experience the real Africa at three of Botswana's most exciting wildlife destinations:
CHOBE NATIONAL PARKUnlike most of Botswana, Savuti is not a totally flat landscape. In a habitat that has played venue for a number of wildlife documentaries, large outcrops of volcanic rock reach up out of the Kalahari sands, towering over the endless savannah and providing haven to a multitude of life. Here, extreme drama is an everyday event.
KHWAI COMMUNITY AREACentred on the Khwai River, which is really the eastern extremity of The Manuchira Channel, the Khwai Community Area features a water course with the track weaving from the riverside and the floodplains into the mopane veld and the woodlands – one of the most scenic areas of the Okavango. Here, the flavour of Wild Africa reaches its aesthetic zenith.
MOREMI GAME RESERVELying on the eastern extremity of the Okavango Delta, Moremi alluringly features nearly 5000km2 of floodplains, marshes, lagoons, papyrus-fringed channels, mopane woodlands, acacia forests and savannah goodness, and fittingly supports an amazing diversity of mammal and bird life. Here, fascination comes in all the colours of the rainbow.
How you will get around:
To merely 'see' a place, a television set is adequate. But, in order to feel it in your blood, you must explore the land in many ways, witness its many facets and be one with its many moods. This you will surely do on this Tour – by air, on the ground and in the water. You will peek down at the wildlife from light aircraft, look up at it from canoes, eyeball it in safari vehicles, and enjoy the holy grail of a wilderness experience by sharing floor-space with them on foot!
What you will see and photograph:
Watching animals in Botswana is a bit like zooming into an online map – the initial large-scale view of the scene below as you fly in a small aircraft over the land gradually resolves into large animals in the scrub, treading the open plains or wading through the waterways. And boarding a four-wheel-drive vehicle after landing affords earth-level views of the numerous other smaller animals that will transport you to an era you'd think far bygone.
Moremi's biggest draw is a rendezvous with that the extremely endangered and frightfully persecuted animal – the African painted dog. Africa's biggest canid and compulsive pack hunter, which once numbered 500,000 across Africa and is now down to a measly 5000, is consequently not easy to see...if you're not in Moremi.
Prides of lions may be seen flanking the herds of buffalos that roam the Xakanaxa area, and rather excitingly, elephants move between their browsing areas in the mopane forests and the fresh water of the Okavango. The red lechwe, a specialty of this region, is pleasingly common.
In the bird corner, eagles and hawk-eagles, goshawks and sparrowhawks, and hornbills and whydahs catch the eye instantly, while storks, skimmers and cranes make for a festive celebration of avian diversity.
In the western mopane veld of Khwai, breeding herds of elephants will sustain your love affair with pachyderms, while the highly approachable mature bulls cooling off in the river will let you discover what it is like to be in a giant's shadow. The river also supports an unusually high density of hippopotamus as well as some huge crocodiles, so you never feel lonely.
And if that isn't jolly-good enough, leopard, cheetah, serval and lion are common characters around here, ably backed up by giraffe, zebra and tessebe. The exotic roan and sable antelope are occasional features, while the winged nomads seen here bear the last names of snipe, sail, jacana and moorhen.
In the Savuti area, apart from the Big Four, the bird flag is kept flying high by waxbills, indigobirds, kestrels, korhaans, harriers, falcons and buzzards. But the prime allure here is the unparalleled interaction between the kings of the jungle and the lords of the bush – lions and elephants, keeping a respectful distance elsewhere, are mortal enemies here, with the cats, known to live in prides of up to 30, having somehow developed a tendency to prey on the earth's largest land animals and taking even young adults, usually at night.
During the grand climax in the Chobe area, you will witness large wildlife moving uninhibited by the boundaries of man, leopards plotting kills in the woodland, and flycatchers, petronias, sunbirds, weavers, owls and larks flitting about in a celebration of their inherent freedom.
And all this while staying in authentic tents, with nothing but thin canvas separating you from the glorious outdoors, providing you the kind of intimacy and sense of adventure that only an African camping trip can offer.
On this Tour, you will see Africa the way it was meant to be.
Behind Jayanth's awe-inspiring work are a fierce commitment to nail the composition in the field, an assiduous abstinence from digital manipulation, a nearly devotional love for quality, and zero appetite for compromise. Jayanth uses the strengths of his tools to his immense advantage, creating powerful vignettes of optical excellence designed to pamper the aesthetic corner of a nature lover.
Jayanth is one of the co-founders of Toehold and you can have a look at his work on his website www.wildlifetimes.com or keep a tab on him on his Facebook Page.
Read more about Jayanth here.
WHY GO ON A TOEHOLD PHOTO TOUR?At Toehold, we are passionate about photography just as you are, which lets us understand your travails and needs perfectly. And we use this insight to specially design our Photography Tours so they give you a toehold to excel at the art and set you up for success.
The Toehold team at your disposal will keep you tuned and geared, so you come in empty-handed but go out with bagful of images and tales of an experience that is better lived than heard.
- A clinically organized tour with utmost attention to your comfort and needs
- An open, informal environment that promotes interactive learning
- A team that will strategize and work to a plan to optimize opportunities and ensure a great tour
- Practical, hands-on assistance in photography from the tour Skippers both in the field and off it
- A wealth of subject matter knowledge
- Individual interaction with the Skippers over general or specific issues
- First-hand learning from the masters in the art and craft of photography
These exclusive, informative and interactive sessions are -
TESTIMONIALS BY OUR PREVIOUS TOUR PARTICIPANTSPhotography enthusiasts who were a part of a similar Tour previously said:
I had a great time on the Toehold tour. They took care of all the logistics so all I had to do was enjoy myself! The evening sessions were great fun and I got to interact with a lot of like-minded people. I'm already planning for my next trip with Toehold!
- Ritwick Sharma, Mumbai
I had never been on a photography trip before and so was apprehensive that I would feel out of place among photographers but I was proven totally wrong. The 'Skippers' made me totally comfortable and helped me with the most basic of my camera settings with a lot of patience, and the sightings made the experience even better and totally worth it!
- Sonali Sinha, Delhi
Going on this Toehold tour has been the most enriching experience in recent times. The amount of learning about photography that's possible just being around these guys is amazing. The best part was getting assistance from the Skippers in the field, to make the most of the opportunities we had. I'd greatly recommend Toehold tours to someone looking for a productive way to spend a few days!
- Dr. Ramesh Bhat, Bangalore
I went on a tour with Toehold to a destination I was so familiar with but ended up learning a lot more things than I already knew. Great bunch of young pros.
- Gopal Basu, Kolkatta
My young boys learnt so much about photography and wildlife that the dining table is full of stories and technical jargons of photography.
- Suchitra K, Kolkatta
Toehold injects a lot of interest in youngsters about photography and natural history. Wish them all the best!
- Pradeep Kenchappa, Bengaluru
Please note: 1. The Tour will commence at Maun on Thursday, 1 June 2017, and end at Kasane Airport on Saturday, 10 June. Assistance with flight travel, visa and vaccinations will be provided.
- DAY 1 1 June, Thursday: Arrival in Maun and Transfer to and Overnight in Xakanaxa (Moremi)
You arrive in Maun from your home country and will be met by the Tour Skipper at the airport. Once everybody has assembled, we are transferred by a 30-minute charter flight to the midst of the Moremi Game Reserve, hopefully sighting large animals like elephant, hippo, buffalo, lechwe. Over lunch the Skipper will brief the group on the natural history of the area, some critical photography-basics, and what we can expect for the rest of the Tour.
- DAYS 2 and 3 2 and 3 June, Friday and Saturday: Photography and Overnight in Moremi
Over the next two days, we enjoy safaris in the Moremi Game Reserve, looking to photograph the wealth of wildlife found here. The rides will be in 4WD vehicles with plenty of space for each participant so that photography is comfortable and unimpeded. Between or after the rides, we enjoy the ChaayaaChitraChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Tricksand CharchaalokaCharchaaloka: Presentations, Lectures, Discussionssessions from the Skipper, these insightful interactions leading to a wealth of natural history and photography learning.
Accommodation will be in luxury tents to help you enjoy an authentic experience, without sacrificing any of the essential comforts and amenities.
- DAY 4 4 June, Sunday: Transfer to and Overnight in Khwai
Following an early breakfast, we take a four-hour drive through Moremi to the Khwai Community Area.
After settling in and lunching, we take an afternoon ride exploring the region and discuss our initial foray in the evening.
- DAYS 5 and 6 5 and 6 June, Monday and Tuesday: Photography and Overnight in Khwai
Over the next two days, we enjoy a comprehensive exploration of the area around the Khwai River, which forms a boundary between the reserve and the community area. Accommodation will be at an exclusive campsite in the community area, where access to the Khwai floodplains is brilliant, and we make use of this advantage through game drives both during the day and at night. The bush comes alive in the cover of darkness, and exploring it after dark with spotlights offers not only a novel and highly sensual experience, but also an opportunity to sight animals rarely seen during the day.
Between the drives, the Skipper's insightful sessions will continue, also allowing you to have some of your images reviewed in the ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critiquesessions and putting the learning to practice at the next opportunity.
- DAY 7 7 June, Wednesday: Transfer to and Overnight in Savuti
We leave the Khwai Community concession after an early breakfast and the day's journey follows the water course of the Khwai River, with the track weaving from the riverside and floodplains into the mopane veld and the woodlands that make Khwai one of the most scenic areas of the Okavango. We pass the magnificent Dombo Hippo Pools in the morning stopping to enjoy the scenery and the antics of the resident hippo on our way to Savuti, where we'll be met by a naturalist and transferred to our delightful camp.
Later we embark on our first safari of the Tour in a 4WD vehicle, orienting ourselves to the topography of the region and finding and photographing any wildlife we encounter as we set out in pursuit of lions and elephants in the desert-like landscape. After an interesting initial foray, we return to the camp and spend the evening exchanging the day's observations and preparing for the exciting time ahead, and call it a day with a delicious supper.
- DAYS 8 and 9 8 and 9 June, Thursday and Friday: Photography and Overnight in Savuti
We spend two full fascinating days driving around the evidence of Lake Makgadikgadi that dried up some 10,000 years ago, taking in our stride the Magwikwe Sand-ridge that formed the shoreline for this massive inland sea. The old lake bed is now the Mababe Depression, whose dense clay floor results in high protein feed for wildlife and is consequently teeming with wildlife.
In the evenings you will be treated to highly insightful and interactive sessions called ChaayaaChitraChaayaaChitra: Photography Techniques, Tips, Tricksand ChitraTantraChitraTantra: Photo Principles, Reviews, Critiquefrom the Skipper, which are an important and integral part of the profound learning experience possible on Toehold's unique Photo Tours. The crucial natural history and photography technique nuggets picked up during these sessions can then be put to use during the next excursion, completing your experience with a real-time photography-improvement opportunity.
- DAY 10 10 June, Saturday: Checkout and Dispersal
Having enjoyed a fabulous time, we check out of our camp and are transferred to the airport for our international departures.
2. Although every effort will be made to adhere to the set schedule, the itinerary is subject to change depending on varying weather and road conditions, and wildlife movement. We will make every effort to notify you of any such changes in advance.
MOREMI GAME RESERVE
KHWAI COMMUNITY AREA
CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
OPTIONAL EXTENSION 1: CHOBE (TWO NIGHTS/THREE DAYS)
- DAYS 10 TO 12 10 to 12 June, Saturday to Monday: Chobe River
We leave Savuti early to travel along the Chobe River arriving in Kasane where we pause for a picnic lunch before taking an afternoon boat-cruise to end the safari, later camping overnight at Chobe, which is the same itinerary for the following day. We will be checking out and dispersing on Monday, 12 June.
OPTIONAL EXTENSION 2: VICTORIA FALLS (ONE NIGHT/TWO DAYS)
- DAYS 12 AND 13 12 and 13 June, Monday and Tuesday: Victoria Falls
If you're desirous of making even more out of your time in Botswana, we welcome you to join us for a one-night, two-day extension to see and photograph the breathtaking Victoria Falls, at extra cost. Please talk to us for details.
Exclusive of service tax
Exclusive of service tax
Exclusive of service tax
Optional Extension 1: USD 550/-per person
* Exchange rates listed here as on the date of payment will apply. Additional bank charges may be payable at actuals.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who should participate in this Tour? Are there any eligibility criteria?
Anybody interested in African or general wildlife and/or wildlife, landscape or bird photography and is above the age of 18 (unless accompanied by an adult) can participate in this Tour. There are no eligibility criteria.
I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour, we suggest you be familiar with at least the basics of photography. If you're not, please consider signing up for a Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.
I am not into photography. Would you still recommend this Tour?
Certainly! While photographers will probably derive maximum value from this Tour, non-photographers will enjoy the expedition equally.
By what mode will photography be done on this Tour?
Photography will be done from light aircraft during transits between destinations, by open safari vehicles, canoes and even on foot!
How many people can I expect to share the vehicle with on safaris?
Since the aim of the Tour is to allow you ample space for comfortable photography without excessively taxing your pocket, each open safari vehicle will seat a maximum of six participants — or five participants and the Skipper — apart from the driver-cum-naturalist. Each participant will therefore get an assured side-seat and adequate room to stow equipment.
Will vegetarian food be available on this Tour?
Vegetarians will certainly not feel out of place as the buffet menu in all the camps feature quite an elaborate variety of delicious vegetarian cuisine too. And special needs can be catered to as well.
Will you provide visa assistance?
Yes. While the Tour cost does not include visa expenses, all the assistance you require in procuring a visa will be duly provided.
How sure are you about photographing wildlife on this Tour?
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings of specific species are guaranteed.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
Botswana is a land of beautiful landscapes, so a wide-angle lens is a must. For wildlife, a lens with a focal length of at least 400mm is considered necessary, with longer focal lengths being welcome. Telephoto zooms such as 70-200mm lenses can allow you to include your subject's habitat in your frame. A bean bag as a support device is strongly recommended.
- How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven't experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focused.
- Date : 1 to 10 June 2017
- Tour Cost
Per person exclusive of service tax
Per couple exclusive of service tax
Per person exclusive of service tax
Optional Extension 1:
Per person exclusive of service tax
All fares excluding international flights
- Skipper: Jayanth Sharma