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▶︎ Let The Game Drives Begin!


Dallas

Here (finally) is episode 2 of the behind the scenes series of videos I am making of the Ultimate Big 5 Safari we did this past August/September. 

 

In this episode we head off on the first of our 12 game drives and we encounter Maxabeni, the dominant leopard of the area as he was finishing off a kill. It's not too long at 12 minutes, so please enjoy. Those of you who have been on safari with me will definitely enjoy this, and hopefully those of you wondering what it's like to be on a safari with us will get a really good idea. 

 

Don't forget, bookings for the 2018 edition are open. Full details, including dates and pricing can be found here

 

 

 

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    • By Dallas
      This year I am celebrating 10 years of hosting wildlife and cultural photographic safaris. In this thread I will take a look back on those 10 years and relive some of the stories and images that I made on safaris during that time.
       
      So where and how did this safari stuff all begin?
       
      The idea of putting on safaris was sparked way back in 2006, in the very early days of the Nikongear forum. A member named Jorge contacted me and asked me if it would be OK if he started a thread asking the rapidly growing NG membership if anyone would like to join him on an expedition to Patagonia in a Land Rover Defender he had recently bought and was going to drive from Chile through the Patagonia region.
       
      I was absolutely captivated by this idea, not just in the hope of joining such an expedition myself, but because it seemed like a perfectly logical thing for me to do myself here in Africa. I didn’t get to join Jorge on his trip and I am not sure if any of the NG members did either, but the seed of an idea had been planted firmly in my mind.
       
      The idea began to sprout in 2007 when a member named papa-g joined up on NG. Geoff Cronje was a very well travelled guy who just so happened to live about 30km from me. He had recently gotten into photography and after he bought a Nikon telephoto lens from me, a friendship grew and we began to discuss the possibility of hosting a photo safari for NG members here in South Africa. Geoff would design the tour and I would do the organising and marketing.
       
      At the time I was going through some very difficult personal circumstances. The company I had started a few years earlier was facing a bleak future (or lack of any future at all). Long story short, don’t build a business that is entirely dependent on one supplier, because when that supplier disappears, so do you. So at the beginning of 2008 I found myself in a bit of a tight spot, my company had closed and I was being hounded by debt collectors.
       
      However, in spite of the difficulties I was going through, I had my eye set on this safari seed. I was going to make it work, one way or another because I knew that if I could just get it going properly, everything else would fall into place. I met with Geoff a few months into 2008 and we started talking seriously about putting on our African photographic safari. Then tragedy struck.
       
      I was sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon in July when I got a call from a mutual friend telling me that Geoff had died. What? How? Apparently he had collapsed of a heart attack after having an altercation with a security guard over a parking space at his workplace during the Durban Airshow. It felt surreal. I felt as if God had set up a permanent raincloud above my head. In the meantime I was eking out a living doing odd photography jobs and helping people build websites. It wasn’t a great time for me at all.
       
      I was undeterred though. A few months after Geoff died I started earnestly looking for somebody in the travel industry who I could partner with and get the photo safari business off the ground. I needed somebody who not only knew the game and could put together itineraries based on what I wanted to do, but who would also meet all the requirements as far as South Africa’s tourism legalities were concerned. I didn’t want to start a new business myself after all the drama I had been through with the one I had just been forced to close. I wanted to stay a sole proprietor with as few administrative responsibilities as possible and get paid commissions from the suppliers involved in the safaris.
       
      So I placed an ad on a local tour guide portal outlining what I wanted to do and that’s when Pepe Jones (real name Penelope) popped up. She came up with a proposal that was much better than all the others I had been sent from other operators. I got Bjørn Rørslett to join us as a drawcard and the first Nikongear Photo Safari was born. We had 6 people sign up. The numbers were a bit short of the 9 I had been hoping for, but it was better than calling the whole thing off, so in August of 2009 the first NG photo safari finally happened.
       
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      \
      The infamous Kalahari Ferrari parked outside my house on day 1 of the safari. 
       

      Our first animal sighting was a giraffe in Hluhluwe Game Reserve. 
       

      One of my favourite zebra images. This was taken in Mkhuze Game Reserve, just north of Hluhluwe. 
       
       
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      Driving North towards the St. Lucia wetlands. 
       

      In the waters at Lake St. Lucia you will find loads of these malevolent creatures. 
       
       
      The scariest ever moment was when this elephant in musth charged us.                  Re-worked image of the mountains in Malolotja that form the border between Swaziland and South Africa. 
       

      A carver at the market in Manzini, Swaziland, working on a small drum I bought for my son (he still has it!).
       

      We got as far north as the Tropic Of Capricorn. Well, I suppose that would be far down south for most of you! This also gives you an idea of the sheer size of the Kruger Park. 
       
    • By Dallas
      Up on the border of Namibia and Angola on the Namibian side of the Kavango River lies the little town of Rundu. It’s not a particularly attractive looking town. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if Namibia has an armpit, you may as well slap the label on Rundu. It’s dirty, run down and it doesn’t have a whole lot of visual appeal, in spite of the presence of a very majestic river.
       
      We found ourselves passing through this little town twice on the Namibian leg of our 2013 feature safari. Fortunately we didn’t stay too long on the drive through to Botswana, stopping only for a light lunch, but on the way back we spent the night at a lodge just outside the town. As far as lodges go it wasn’t a place I will look back at with much fondness because the guide accommodation was appalling to say the least. They had just painted the two guide rooms Pepe and I were assigned, so they stank of paint fumes quite badly. The furnishings for each guide room were literally comprised of a single bed and in my case I was lucky enough to also have a single chair, but no bathroom mirror and no towel in the shower either. The glamorous life of a tour leader sometimes isn’t so glamorous at all. It wouldn’t have been so bad had the room not been infested with mosquitoes too, which with the absence of a mosquito net over the bed served to keep me awake just about the entire night.
       
      So the next day I was feeling a bit crabby and being the 29th day of an arduous 32 day road trip, all I wanted to do was get back home to my family and hometown. Photography wasn’t as high a priority for me as staying awake behind the wheel was to the next stop on our tour - a road trip of some 850km to the Waterberg mountains. After breakfast that morning we decided to spend some time at a place called the Living Museum Of The Mbunza where we would be introduced to a kind of tourist’s perspective of what village life was like for the indigenous people of the region prior to colonisation by Europeans.
       
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      Click to enlarge.

       

       
      The Village Bard (something like Cacophonix in the Asterix comics)

      A carver. The people who run this village produce their own artworks that they sell in their curio shop.
       

      Basket weaver.
       

      A nut cracker.
       

      Ladies fishing on the banks of the Kavango River using traditional methods involving baskets.
    • By Dallas
      Up on the border of Namibia and Angola on the Namibian side of the Kavango River lies the little town of Rundu. It’s not a particularly attractive looking town. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if Namibia has an armpit, you may as well slap the label on Rundu. It’s dirty, run down and it doesn’t have a whole lot of visual appeal, in spite of the presence of a very majestic river.
       
      We found ourselves passing through this little town twice on the Namibian leg of our 2013 feature safari. Fortunately we didn’t stay too long on the drive through to Botswana, stopping only for a light lunch, but on the way back we spent the night at a lodge just outside the town. As far as lodges go it wasn’t a place I will look back at with much fondness because the guide accommodation was appalling to say the least. They had just painted the two guide rooms Pepe and I were assigned, so they stank of paint fumes quite badly. The furnishings for each guide room were literally comprised of a single bed and in my case I was lucky enough to also have a single chair, but no bathroom mirror and no towel in the shower either. The glamorous life of a tour leader sometimes isn’t so glamorous at all. It wouldn’t have been so bad had the room not been infested with mosquitoes too, which with the absence of a mosquito net over the bed served to keep me awake just about the entire night.
       
      So the next day I was feeling a bit crabby and being the 29th day of an arduous 32 day road trip, all I wanted to do was get back home to my family and hometown. Photography wasn’t as high a priority for me as staying awake behind the wheel was to the next stop on our tour - a road trip of some 850km to the Waterberg mountains. After breakfast that morning we decided to spend some time at a place called the Living Museum Of The Mbunza where we would be introduced to a kind of tourist’s perspective of what village life was like for the indigenous people of the region prior to colonisation by Europeans.
       
      It was a strange little place. When we arrived there was nobody at the reception area, so we had to go and find somebody in the little village to explain that we wanted just a short tour of the museum because we had a long trip ahead of us and didn’t have time for the full 90 minute experience. Finding somebody, and then finding somebody who could speak English and understand what we were looking for was challenging in its own right, but eventually we paid the entrance fee and were ushered into the various parts of the village to see how the Mbunza lived.
       
      I’ll admit to not being a massive fan of these kinds of contrived ethnic experiences, but I did manage to get some images that I only got around to editing over a year after this safari ended! Photographically it was quite difficult because much of the village was either in shadow or harsh sunlight, so what I did with these images in Lightroom was drop the exposure by -0.67 to make the surroundings look a little less washed out, then I painted up the exposure on the villagers by a little more than that to get them to stand out a little from the darkened surroundings. I used the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom with Auto Mask switched on. I like the results. The camera was the Olympus E-M5 and the lens was the Panasonic 14-45mm kit lens.
       
      Click to enlarge.

       

       
      The Village Bard (something like Cacophonix in the Asterix comics)

      A carver. The people who run this village produce their own artworks that they sell in their curio shop.
       

      Basket weaver.
       

      A nut cracker.
       

      Ladies fishing on the banks of the Kavango River using traditional methods involving baskets.

      View full article
    • By Dallas
      I spent some time this afternoon transferring my stills from my laptop external drive to my desktop drive. Also decided to rework a few images in my main Lr catalog using the much bigger iMac screen. I think I have improved them with some adjustment brushes in Lr, but you can let me know what you think. 
       
      I'll write up an article about this year's trip as soon as I can. 
       

       

       

       

       
      Maxabeni got into a fight with some other leopard before we got there, hence the nasty gash on his face. He shall hemceforth be known as Scarface.  
       

       

       
      As mentioned in my previous post, an elephant died not far from our camp and every day was just a mass of activity. On one morning, with beautiful light, we caught the Southern Pride feasting on this enormous carcass. These are some of the cubs we saw as 6 week olds last year. They are growing up nicely. 
    • By Dallas
      I spent some time this afternoon transferring my stills from my laptop external drive to my desktop drive. Also decided to rework a few images in my main Lr catalog using the much bigger iMac screen. I think I have improved them with some adjustment brushes in Lr, but you can let me know what you think. 
       
      I'll write up an article about this year's trip as soon as I can. 
       

       

       

       

       
      Maxabeni got into a fight with some other leopard before we got there, hence the nasty gash on his face. He shall hemceforth be known as Scarface.  
       

       

       
      As mentioned in my previous post, an elephant died not far from our camp and every day was just a mass of activity. On one morning, with beautiful light, we caught the Southern Pride feasting on this enormous carcass. These are some of the cubs we saw as 6 week olds last year. They are growing up nicely. 
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