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Last Minute SADC workshop specials

 

Last minute workshop specials for SADC travellers

From today, 1 July, hotels and restaurants are opening to exclusive bookings and there are increasingly signs that local tourism will open up. Hoteliers everywhere are preparing their world to get back to business. Of course it wont be the same as pre-lockdown. Sanitary sprays will replace welcome towels and masks will cover the warm smiles of the wonderful hospitality staff. But, the great news is that, there is a chance to get back onto the open road, into the mountains and back to nature and in some cases at a fraction of the normal cost. It’s very unfortunate that international are not able to travel to South Africa at present but things will open up soon. Keeping our lodges busy, staff being paid and also conserving our natural resources are so vital. We urge people to get back into the wild as soon as possible and will be posting great offers on this page to keep you travelling.

Of course, there are risks in leaving your home and exposing yourself to the virus. But staying at home for many, including myself, is not viable in the longer term. But if we are careful, travel to places which are careful sanitised and do not have any comorbidity issues you are potentially more likely to be eaten by a lion in these places than than you are of falling victim to the virus! I am joking of course and urge people to be careful.

Of course, there is the chance that travel may lockdown so we will not be taking deposits on these bookings on the basis that they can be rolled over if there are any cancellation issues.


Mala mala 

Mala Mala SADC Specials

Mala Mala is the premier wildlife real estate in South Africa with a shared border onto Kruger National Park and tens of kilometres of unspoiled river frontage that is teeming with game and predators. The camp was one of the first safari camps in Africa with a somewhat nostalgic old school atmosphere and has exceptional standards of guiding, food and hospitality. The 6 night trip is R47 000 per person sharing. We are holding dates from 14 to 20 October 2020. I regret that this rate is only applicable to SADC passport holders.

 

Mountains, stars and flowers

The photo workshop will be held on 18 August at Mount Ceder in the Cederberg Wilderness area and we will take a maximum of 6 people. This property, which includes several self contained houses and a restaurant is set in rugged and dramatic mountains beside the Groot River on the edge of the Koue Bokkeveld at the Southern entrance of the Cederberg Conservancy. It is roughly three hours from Cape Town and reached on a spectacular drive through Ceres. The trip coincides with the new moon so there are options to photograph the Milky Way on both evenings.There amazingly clear skies with virtually no light pollution and the core of the Milky Way is perfectly positioned for photography at about 11 pm. We will have tutorials on long exposures, star stacking and time-lapse photography (link for an example) as well as intentional camera movement. We will photograph the amazing rock formations, river reflections, and go on a guided walk with the resident naturalist to see rock art and spectacular mountains. The private house has three bedrooms and a kitchen and is ours to enjoy. If anyone wishes to have further self-isolation there are plenty of other smaller houses on the property, which are available at an extra costs. We will have dinners and breakfasts in the restaurant, a braai, and enjoy excellent meals and wines. There is internet in the dining area only. If anyone is up to it the trip also has a 3-night extension to Namaqualand. I think that you will find Namaqualand’s rugged mountains, charming villages, and famous flower fields are a great place to unlock your creativity. Our tutorials will include various techniques including light box photography, macro, landscape and intentional camera movement. Each of the modules is R7250 per person and this includes all meals and accommodation and activities. You will need to cover your own transport and drinks. Let me know if you require further information. Our 2019 itinerary was a little different but you may enjoy the read

Travel tips and ideas as South Africa starts to open up tourism

From today, 1 July, travel in South Africa is opening and hoteliers from Plettenberg Bay to Poffadder are preparing to get back to business. Of course it wont be the same as pre-lockdown. Sanitary sprays will replace welcome towels and masks will cover the warm smiles of the wonderful hospitality staff. And for a time you will not be able to have a glass of wine with your fillet steak. But the fact is there is now  a chance to get back onto the open road, into the mountains and back to nature and in some cases at a fraction of the normal cost is hugely compelling. The easing of lockdowns comes at a time when infections are rising in South Africa but if you travel in your own car, with people you know and stay in self-contained places the chances are that you will be at now greater risk than staying at home. I can strongly support the idea of moving away from the city and exploring into the wild and have plucked out a few choice whole stay options which range in price from R800 to R2000 per person per night that may be of interest to travellers. Please note that currently only intra-provincial travel is allowed. This is a SADC offer

Western Cape offers

Grootbos – from R2000 per person per night

Imagine staying in a own five-star private home overlooking the fynbos fields of the Overberg and Walker bay. Grootbos has two private villas and, according to owner Michael Lutzeyer some terrific wines that they cant wait to share. Private activities from flower photographer, to horse riding and mountain biking are on offer.

Morokuru — from R2000 per person per night

Morokuru

Situated in the heart of De Hoop Nature Reserve, Ocean House is one of the finest collections in our Villas portfolio and offers five star Relais&Chateau food and service right on the shore and great for whale watching, ocean walks and relaxation. The outdoor hot tub is wood fired and deliciously warm. This whole stay property is ideal for groups of up to 12 people. The team at Morokuru all live on site and so the chance of infections is very low. The house is absolutely fantastic.

Lekkerwater – from R1000 per person per night

This lodge is also De Hoop Nature Reserve is part of the Natural Selections Portfolio and is offering sole use of their lodge at R12000 during midweek. I have not yet visited this lodge personally but it has a great reputation and the location is fit for a king.

 

 

La Cle Lodge – Franschoek – from R1400 per person per night

Move in and make La Cle Lodge your home at a rate of R14290 per night until end of September. Special SADC offer.  The villa has 5 rooms and it includes bed and breakfast. Dinners by arrangment. Explore by mountain bike.

 

Mount Cedar – from R800 per person per night

A lovely set of self catering lodges deep in the Cedarberg with some of the clearest skies you can imagine. Canoes, hot tubs, fireside meals and great wines from nearby Cedarberg wineries. The restaurant has wonderful staff and serves some of the best lamb shank I have ever enjoyed. Guided activities, canoeing, walking, wine tasting, olive tours are also available on request.

Bushmanskloof – from R2500 per person per night

Game drives, flowers, amazing rock art is all to be found at the luxurious five-star Relais & Chateau Bushmanskloof. The self contained  Koro Lodge  is a private villa and has a rate of R20 0000 per night for four people using their stay 3 and pay 2 offer. The luxury home accommodates up to 8 people and is a great place to isolate.

Mpumalanga

Kirkmans Camp

Mala Mala

We are able to offer rates of R5900 a person a night to visitors to Mala Mala. This is the top wildlife real estate in the country and you can be assured of seeing great wildlife. Kick a tree here and a leopard falls out. Plus the scenery is spectacular. Please note that this rate applies to Main Lodge which is not a villa. But I did bump into Kenny Rogers there and if was good enough for him… well. 🙂 Also please see details of a workshop offer below.

uMsisi Lodge

uMsisi is a family run private house bordering Kruger National Park is offering amazing accommodation, wonderful breakfasts and incredible dinners for a very good rate for South Africans. The house is available to groups of 4 people and above for R40 000 for a four night stay. There is an extra cost for additional adults. The house is yours to enjoy and Kruger Park and the Panorama route are on your doorstep.

 

…. do have a look at our villasandafrica.com which has plenty more villas to choose from.

… and don’t forget about our very intimate photo workshops which have a maximum of 6 people per trip and a great way for individual travellers to join small groups of likeminded people.

We are planning a couple of photographic tours in August and September when things start to open up more fully to Mala Mala and also to the Cederberg. You can read more about them here. https://www.photosandafrica.com/blog/last-minute-sadc-workshop-specials/

 

 

Secrets of Sarara

The flamingos of Lake Logipi

In a helicopter, in remote northern Kenya, on track to photograph the flamingos of Lake Logipi, my excitement was sky high. For more than 90 minutes we buzzed along verdant rivers, over forested mountains and between canyons before, finally, we reached the Great Rift Valley where flamingos paint the waters of Lake Logipi pink.


When I’d asked how many flamingos we should expect, the pilot said “thousands”, but now, looking down at the red and white carpet of birds that furled and unfurled in waves above the algae green lakes, tens of thousands, or even millions of lesser and greater flamingos were dotted in the brine filled lakes.

“The lake’s split in two… I’ve never seen quite so many birds in one place,”  our pilot said, above the rattle of the blades.

I half expected David Attenborough to lean over and whisper in his soft and singing tones … “and here is an event like none other, an amazing congregation akin to the great wildebeest migration, the fruit bats of Kasanka or the humbacked whales of the Indian Ocean.” We felt as if we were on the set of National Geographic and Planet Earth and after we touched down on the shores of Lake Turkana and dipped our feet in the salty waters we joked that the chopper would not get off the ground with all the images we’d taken.

Sarara
Our journey began at Sarara, an eco-lodge on the steeply-sided and densely-forested Mathews Range in the 850 000 acre Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy of Northern Kenya. It’s joint project between the Bastard family and the local Samburu and its strong focus on sustainable community tourism has captured world attention. We stayed in a private villa – and relished the fact that members of the British Royal family had been previous guests at our private dinner table. Inside the lodge there was a guitar, which had been played by musician Dave Mathews who has raised awareness for Reteti elephant sanctuary wildlife orphanage or RESCUE.This is an amazing initiative which is unique in that it helps sick and abandoned baby elephants back to health and then attempts to reunite them with their own herds.

During the dry season when Northern Kenya is dry, wild dog, lion and leopards crowd the waterhole in front of the lodge and the same “singing wells” where the Samburu collect water each day for their cattle and bathe. Even in the wet Sarara showed its magic easily and we were never disappointed. There were purple flowers and yellow and white butterflies everywhere and the bush was thick and lush. We were rewarded with great sightings of the dramatically patterned reticulated giraffe and also elephants, which stood proud against the wonderful backdrop of the Mathews range. We watched delicate dik-dik and curious gerenuk, which stook on their hind legs like an impala and giraffe cross. And in many places we came across Samburu  warriors tending their goats, cattle and camels.

 

The Samburu are proud Niolotic people who tend goats and cattle as they have done since making their way down the Great Rift Valley from the Sudan centuries ago. They decorate themselves with using all manner of things from bobby socks to plastic flowers and are truly spectacular people. Its taboo and bad luck to photograph them, but the lodge arranged for us to photograph a traditional dance in a riverbed. I smiled a little noticing one of the villages taking a small pink mirror out of his pocket before the shoot and figured that photography was fine as long as it was on their terms. I would also like a little time to prepare if someone was going to take my pictures. Even so, such was the mystery of seeing the young men and women dancing round the fire, that photographers in our group decided not to photograph the dancers at all, while others chose slow shutter speeds and to add mystery to the event with the blurred shapes.

 

One of the most surprising finds at Sarara was on our last day when the four year old son of one of the managers lifted a trapdoor in the lounge and revealed a family of porcupines living under a trapdoor in the living room. Such were the secrets of Sarara. Why not visit there with us?

A flower safari to South Africa’s Namaqualand

 

 

Just returned from a fantastic flower photography workshop with my two friends Kathy and David Richardson.  We travelled 3000 kilometres from Cape Town to Kamieskroon and had the most amazing creative opportunities.

Kamieskroon Hotel and Namaqua National Park

We spent our first nights at the legendary Kamieskroon Hotel. The hotel is something of a mecca for photographers as it was here that  Freeman Patterson and Colla Swart ran many workshops in the 1980s and 90s.  Freeman Patterson is probably the father of flower photography workshops and his book Garden of the Gods (1984) remains the standout work about this fascinating region.  The hotel is now run by Maryna and Helmut Kohrs (Colla’s daughter and son-in-law).

The flower fields at nearby Skilpad were spectacular. We also had rewarding experiences on lesser-known areas inside the Namaqua National Park and on mountain drives between Kamiesberg and Garies. The flowers were somewhat patchy due to the lack of rain so we had to travel fairly widely to find the colour and diversity we were after. But find flowers we did.

From Kamieskroon we headed to the Beach Camp. It’s a pop up camp that is set up for the flower season. It had a spectacular position at Groen Rivier with very good food and hospitality. It was into 4×4 mode as we explored the sandy tracks that run up and down this coastline. Some of the most colourful flower fields in this area and would find fascinating plants that survive in this harsh and salty environment.

Niewoudtville and the Hantam Botanical Gardens

The highest concentration of bulbs in the world is found in the area around Nieuwoudtville and we spent three nights in the town exploring the exceptional Hantam Botanical Gardens as well as the flower fields of Papkuilsfontein. Flowers were in fields beneath the Gifberg Pass and we poked our way around the quartz fields of the Knersvlakte finding many stone plants which are  fragile desert adapted  jewels of this dryland.

 

Nedersetting Restaurant is run by the extremely capable Wessie can der Westerhuizen and my question of whether lamb would be on the menu was met with. “Is there sand in the desert!” We shared meals and conversation with my school friend Christopher Willis who is now head of the National Botanical Gardens and offered additional insights into the bulbs of this fascinating area.

Bushmanskloof

We headed next to Bushmanskloof in the Cedarberg. This five-star Relais & Chateau hotel serves meals  as good as would be expected in a top city restaurant. The reserve covers several thousand hectares and has 100s of kilometres of roads to explore. In addition to great flower photography we found wonderful scenery, reflections, sunrises, ostriches, springboks, baboons. We would have been happy to have had an extra night or two at this magnificent lodge but we had places to visit and things to see.

Kersefontein

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Kersefontein

Our next stop was Kersefontein, This farm dates back to 1742 and our host Julian Melck is the eighth-generation owner. He has several guest rooms at the farm and opens up his wonderful house for dinners. His nephew Andrew Bance and his wife Chane arranged a special flower safari for us that include meals beside the river, a boat trip and fascinating tours with botanist Helene Preston and bird expert Dr Gisele Murison. Our time with Helene also gave us the opportunity to put our flower photography field studio to the test and create some wonderful montage images. What an experience staying in this historic farm with Julian as our host.

Paternoster and West Coast National Park

We headed next to Paternoster for a night at the excellent Linhof Guest House where we enjoyed wonderful hospitality and waves that crashed right outside our rooms. Where else can you enjoy crayfish with eggs benedict for breakfast. Thank you Mariana. Next day we visited the Posberg in the West Coast National Park where the combination of flowers, seascapes and granite boulders had our cameras in a full blur.

For me this was an extra special flower photography trip as it was the 8th trip that I have guided David and Kathy Richardson. They are truly special people and have done workshops round the world with the likes of Frans Lanting and many other top photographers. Kathy is a truly talented photographer and we spent a lot of time practicing blur, multiple exposure and field studio techniques that she has learned with photographer Niall Benvie.

 

Out with the daisies

The flowers were probably best described as patchy and we worked hard to get ourselves in the right place at the right times. We got stuck once, lost once, and took upward of 4000 images on our 3000 kilometre adventure. Its impossible to view any work in isolation and my grateful thanks to Kathy for her creative ideas and those inherited from the books and works of talented photographers such as Freeman Patterson, Colla Swart, Frans Lanting and Neil Benvie. Here are some of my keepers with some tips about how they were created.

This multiple exposure was created in camera from 9 images. Minimal postproduction.

Another 9 exposure shot in camera.

Multiple exposures with a very small hand movement.

Multiple exposures with a twist.

 

Join a guided trip to see the flowers

We will be back in August 2020 and plan a 11 day trip back to some of our special places. Its a wonderful change of pace from typical safaris and there are lots of techniques to learn. We intend to run the trip for a minimum of 2 people and will accommodate 3 at the most.

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