Seeing a destination through different eyes.
Going on a safari is always a highlight for any person, to sit back and relax away from the city pressure. A few moments to take up the beauty of a destination.
Our trip to Kasane, on the border of the great Chobe Natural reserve and on the mighty Chobe river, was eagerly awaited with great anticipation not only for what we would see but also having booked a 3-night package with Pangolin photo safaris. Many people immediately think that too book your trip with Pangolin you should be a professional photographer, but this is so far from the truth. Firstly it’s the only company I have encountered that supplies you with your own cameras (Canon EOS) and a 600 mm lens. The camera is loaded with a clean SD card which is there for you to fill.
However, before I start with the amazing experience of taking pictures, our trip started with a 1 h 35 flight from Johannesburg to Kasane. The airport, which is newly completed, includes all the modern conveniences needed from an airport. We were met by Charl – who got us to Pangolin Lodge in 10 minutes. The lodge, recently completed in June 2018, is out of town away from the river on the hill overlooking the floodplains below. this view offers great views of the sunset, however, most visitors never see these sunsets as they are always either in the park on a land safari or on the water.
On arrival at the 14- room lodge, you are greeted by friendly staff who are at one’s beck and call with continual smiles. The lodge’s interior is designed to convey the feel of an art gallery, this includes displays of the photographer who assist Pangolin, alongside the professional photographers, for everyone to view. One is quickly aware of the persons behind the photos and that you are going to learn a huge amount about taking pictures. We were very fortunate as Charl was going to show us the ropes and share his expert knowledge.
The lodge has everything that is needed. Starting with a great infinity pool to a pub/lounge area overlooking the plains, to rooms that are unique in their designs. It has the added facilities that every photographer needs in having an editing room where, if you wish, you can look at your pictures and edit them to your style. If you do not have a laptop don’t worry, they will be installing laptops for those who are not traveling with laptops.
With a high tea at 3 pm, we were then taken down to the river for our very first river experience. The great expanse of water is amazing as it is like a true oasis in the middle of nowhere with the bush been so dry at this time of year (Oct) Giving the animals a haven with the abundance of water attracting animals and bird life from many miles.
While a person who is just going to cruise down the river would enjoy the splendor of the river and animals, for us it was different. Pangolin and our host Charl, led us to various sites, where you view everything differently, getting closer to the animals to get that close up or to positioning oneself so that the light is on the subject allowing you to seen the colours of the bird or animals better.By taking pictures with a professional, it allows you to look at each bird, animal, insect and plant differently and you consciously do not take anything for granted. Even for the complete novice, this is a great experience, as the camera with the lens allows one to see each aspect of the safari as an award-winning picture.One is acutely more aware of your surroundings and that with the assistance of Charl, who is continually monitoring the camera setting as the light changes, your picture could also look as good as those from National Geographic.
When you visit the Chobe National Park, you will never forget the first glimpse of the dazzling, deep-blue Chobe River, as it winds its way through sandy terrain, small towns, lush floodplains, dense forests of cathedral Mopane trees, and endless broad-leaf woodlands. The park is named after this majestic river that protects 10.700 km² of the northern Kalahari desert, providing ensuing wilderness and a game density that is steadily remarkable.
Famed for its massive elephant populations, big herds of buffalo (matched only by some large lion pride) and incredible birdlife, Chobe National Park will leave an everlasting memory. Where else can you find such an amazing riverfront, with bustling wildlife, undisturbed predators, heavenly landscapes and tranquil lodges? The most accessible area of the park is the Chobe Riverfront, this is also where you will find the largest concentration of wildlife. For a more predator-rich area head off to Linyanti Marshes. Or nourish your soul in the remote Savuti area. Wherever you go in this park, wildlife encounters are plentiful and all of Chobe feels like true wilderness. It is a place that can be enjoyed by everyone: couples, families and seasoned Africa travelers.
Whenever you are close to the Chobe river, you will notice a broad variety of lush green bushes and trees. Away from water sources, the bushes get thicker and thorny, with a few open areas. Although Chobe National Park is a wildlife paradise, trying to describe it as a whole would be a mistake. Chobe consists of many different smaller ecosystems, each with its own vibe, different vegetation and animal population.
You can encounter Chobe’s wildlife across the entire park. When the dry season begins, large herds of elephant and buffalo seek the permanent waters of the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers. Imagine thousands of them, coming sometimes all the way from Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. All year round, Chobe’s big game includes Zebra, Impala, Baboon, Blue wildebeest, Kudu, Giraffe, Warthog, and Vervet monkey. Lions and the spotted Hyena are very common; together they are the dominant predators, bringing you spectacular encounters with big Buffalo herds. The riverfront is the hotspot to see Hippo, Crocodile and the slightly odd river Leguaan (more commonly known as a monitor lizard. the second longest lizard of Africa). And, although seen less, the incredible Cheetah, Leopard and Africa’s rare Wild Dog roam the Chobe area frequently.
If there is one more thing that needs our special attention, it is the overwhelming birdlife in Chobe National Park. With over 450 bird species, there is no way we can list them all. So, here are a few highlights:
Hop on a boat for a river cruise and spot Kingfishers, a high density of Fish Eagles and African Skimmers. Stay on the lookout for Bee-eaters, Hamerkop, and wire-tailed Swallows. Also, the borders of the islands and Chobe floodplains are where you want to be: Storks, Geese, Herons, and many, many Plovers. Unusual, but definitely worth seeking are the Rufous-bellied and White-backed night Herons, with their long beaks and elegant crest.
Overall, even if you are not a birdwatcher, these frolicking feather bundles will steal your heart, right from the moment they appear in front of your binoculars.
Back to Pangolin Photo Safaris and an operation that works smoothly and very efficiently. For the photographers, all safari vehicles are kitted out with only two seats per row giving each person maximum space to move, with each seat having a camera rest for the lenses. The vehicles are even kitted out with additional plug points for the batteries that might run down due to all the pictures that get taken.
On the boats all the seats are strategically placed in the middle of the boat which can completely swivel around while the cameras are mounted on a stand that can be turned to accommodate any position the photographer would like to take his pictures with no stress to him/her when aiming at an animal for bird for a few minutes.
There is only one warning when going down the river on one of the Pangolin boats. Be prepared to be photographed yourself. Travelers on other boats find it quite entertaining when they see eight people with these massive lenses pointing out from the boat.
For a great experience and a part of Africa seen differently a trip to Chobe is a must. The trip up to Chobe can also be made even more enjoyable with a 3-night luxury train adventure on Rovos Rail to Victoria Falls and an evening at one of the natural wonders of the world.
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