While staying a couple of nights at Pangolin Photo Safaris lodge on the edge of the Chobe Park in Botswana last September, as well as 3 outings on their wonderful photo-boats (see other posts) I went on one entertaining morning game drive. Pangolin have several large, modern Landcruisers, adapted in the usual way with 4 rows of seats so there’s plenty of photographic elbow room for 5 guests aboard.
I was fortunate to be in a small group of friendly, experienced photographers, and since we all knew our equipment pretty well, our guide Hoosain could concentrate on talking about the animals in our sightings. This worked well, and the group was very supportive, sharing composition ideas and technical suggestions.
We started off visiting the site of an impala kill made the previous day by the local pride of lions: a very ‘fragrant’ locality by now, the individuals dozed in the rising sun, periodically returning to the carcass to sate themselves.
Cuddly cubs, encrusted with gore…
We enjoyed some fine, relaxed elephant sightings, and I tried to concentrate on details and also on showing how protective the herd is of their young.
It’s wonderful to be with a group of fellow photographers and a photo-focussed guide who aren’t interested in ticking off the Big Five, but rather in experiencing and illustrating natural animal behaviour. If one of the group was trying to capture a particular moment we were all happy to sit and wait - in fact, the density of wildlife in Chobe is such that there was always something to engage us all.
We came across a pleasant young South African couple who were self-driving through the park, but they had become stranded in soft sand.
We’ve met a number of people doing this over the years in several parks - some just drive between safari lodges and take lodge vehicles and guides for game drives (which is fine in my view, especially in countries like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia with excellent road systems, even the unsurfaced ones), but others swear by doing it entirely themselves.
Our guide told us that it was not at all rare for people to get stranded for hours on Chobe’s sandy roads, and then to have to be towed out by park rangers as it got dark at the end of the day. Not a good way to spend ones holiday no matter how cheap an experience it is…
Apparently most lodge vehicles will not stop to help and their guests are unsympathetic, but we told our guide we were happy to give aid as long as it didn’t take too long, and this is a shot of our brilliant female driver CD lending her considerable strength to the task. They were quickly released and we went on our way, with Hoosain being given some stick for being a wimp and staying in our vehicle!
CD was a great character, and her photo boat driving skills were essential to successful navigation of the rapids we had to pass in order to reach the Yellow-billed stork roost the following day.
One more Chobe post to come, featuring mainly elephant and baboons shot from the photo boats.