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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

An Alphonse story from Seychelles

The Seychelles is the ultimate island destination in the Indian Ocean – and it’s crowning glory are the remote and pristine Outer Islands. When we were invited by Machaba safaris to visit the remote island of Alphonse to capture and experience their Blue Safari, my underwater camera, land camera, video camera and drone packed themselves. Mahe, which is the capital of Seychelles, lies 4 hours from Johannesburg and 90 minutes from Nairobi. It was another 400 kilometres to the Atoll which includes the  impossibly blue and white-fringed islands of Alphonse, St Francois and Bijotoue (below).

alphonse

People have been living in and around these islands for 300 years and much of the indigenous vegetation was stripped and replaced by coconut plantations to make way for guano harvesters. There is  a team of ecologists based on the island, which has identified some of the indigenous trees and are working to rehabilitate them. Also on the team are marine biologists who are specializing in keeping track of turtle numbers and also the movement of manta rays in and out of these waters. Despite its location the Seychelles does not escape environmental impact and there are frequent clean ups of plastics that drift in from distant shores.

alphonse

Fishermen the world over come to Alphonse to catch bone fish, milkfish, giant Trevally, triggerfish and other species. Some of the best guides in the world area on hand to help them get it right and the only rule here is that it has to be caught on fly and released. Fishing is mostly done on the sandbars of St Francois island and a maximum of six rods are permitted per day. I was very fortunate to be able to go onto St Francois on my final day. What a strong and thrilling fish to catch. My son, Liam, caught bigger fry including a majestic sail fish. I am glad to say that both fish, big and small, were released and swam away no worse for wear.  Sustainability of these fishing waters is fiercely protected by the lodge management team.

 

 

 

 

alphonse

 

For me a highlight was scuba diving off the southwest point of the island where the reefs drop off sharply to 50 metres and beyond. We had 15 metre visibility which is pretty poor by Seychelles standards but even so we saw were delighted by the coral gardens and steep drop offs which were forested with large Gorgonian fans. Snappers, soldierfish, goldies and large schools of trevally and tuna were our constant companions.

A sign goes up daily offering walks, talks, boat trips and kids activities. Of course the spa is also a popular spot to relax. Parked outside each of the villas were bikes – the kind that you would expect on a shopping trip – with high handlebars, back pedal breaks and baskets on the front. The island is perfectly flat and it was the best way to get around. We were able to pedal our way to and from the dining area, dive centre and through coconut groves to remote beaches, usually by-passing the giant Aldabra tortoises peacefully eating on the paths. Peddling out to the beach bar for sundowner cocktails was a real highlight, and weaving back to dinner in the dark a fun adventure. Often meals started with just-caught-that-day fresh sashimi dipped in soy sauce and ginger and followed always with fresh salads from their vegetable garden, grilled fish and seafood and their sublime homemade mango ice-cream.

alphonse

 

alphonse

We visited in the first week in December and had cloudless weather and flat seas but it was  humid and it no effort to work up a sweat. We stayed in a very comfortable A-frame house, which had a luxury bathroom and deliciously cold air-conditioning. I had to remind myself not to keep my camera gear in my room or it would fog up immediately when I went into the humid tropical air. The small luxury beach villas brand new four bedroom private villas on the island all have private pools.

A  highlight of our stay and of the Alphonse agenda was a Flats Lunch. It was timed for low tide when a shallow sandbar poked above the brilliantly blue seas and the  staff put up a barbeque and tables beneath blue umbrellas. Sitting with our feet in the sand and eating freshly cooked fish and chicken in this amazing setting was a pinch yourself experience.

alphonse

On my final day on the island we pedaled to Sunset Point. Hundreds of frigate birds wheeled this way and that coming noisily to roost in the forest. A turtle made its way slowly up the beach to lay its eggs in the cover of vegetation above the high water mark. Slowly the blue sky softened to orange and the blue, then stars pricked at the blanket We felt so far removed from the rest of the world in this tiny piece of paradise out in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

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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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Goings on at Nsefu Stork colony

Nsefu in South Luangwa is a special place. From February to June it’s stork colony is a breeding ground for thousands of yellow billed storks which hoover up vast quantities of barbel and tilapia fishes found in the fertile lagoons and river.

Luangwa River Camp, Zambia, South Lungwa

Not only is the stork colony one of the largest stork in Southern Africa and a great place for bird photography,  it’s often a great place for predator action too. Last November, for example, we photographed the stork colony female showing her cubs how to hunt. This June, the youngsters had honed their skills and were picking off nestlings like bar snacks. The temperature in Luangwa is really comfortable for people and for cats in June and we were lucky enough to see them hunting and very active through the day. And the same was true for lions which we also saw cruising past the stork colony.

Lions at Nsefu Stork Colony

In the dry season at Nsefu

I will be back at Nsefu in November on a photo workshop and expect temperatures and action to have hotted up even further. Based on previous trips we can expect leopards, lions and glorious sightings of wild dogs, carmines and large concentrations of elephants. We will of course need to beat the heat and follow the predator’s examples by by getting up extra early and staying in the shade after dark. Nsefu’s Evening Breeze Air conditioners will thankfully keep us cool in the evenings.

A little history about Nsefu

Nsefustarted in 1951 when the late Norman Carr hammered out an ecoutourism deal with Chief Nsefu and set up made the first tourism camp in Zambia. It has been run by Robin Pope Safaris for the past 20 years and I’ve been there for 14 wonderful years of them running photo trips. Nsefu is a prime and remote slice of Luangwa and the only bit on the southeastern bank of the great river.

Critics might say that the rondavels are too close and that living rooms are too basic — but I say “pah”. Here you will find the critical balance between luxury and a true bush experience and some of the best guides in the world. It is a national monument and still retains the feeling of a time when pipe-smoking hunters used to sit here and watching elephants cross the river. Cudos to Robin Pope Safaris for keeping the magic alive.

The Emerald Season at Nsefu

We launched our Emerald Season trips to Luangwa in 2005. At that time we used to go up to Nsefu for the day but soon after the camp was opened up for us to stay overnight. Since then we’ve been drawn back to Nsefu again and again like bees to pollen exploring the lagoons and rivers and enjoying amazing scenes. In March we will be back by boat, heading up 40 kilometres up the swollen river to see what we can find..

Why don’t you join us as we head upstream and take the Crocodile River to see the storks building their nests and whatever else lies in store. We often see lions and leopards at this time of year and can practice our shooting skills like aerial gunners foll0wing the birds carrying in their thatching material.

 

Upcoming trips

 

 

All you need to know about visiting Victoria Falls

The worlds widest waterfall at 1.7km wide and one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.

Time of year: Heaviest flow is April/May when flood comes down. Expect to be completely wet when visting at that time. Rain coats can be hired, but cameras will need cover.

Which side is best: Don’t worry about what side of the falls ( Zim or Zam) is best – you can walk over the bridge and visit both sides. In fact it is recommended that you visit both sides as well as walk over the bridge to watch the mad folk bungi jumping.

Visas: At the time of writing ( 2019) the single entry visa costs were US$30 in Zimabwe and USD50 in Zambia. There is a KAZA univisa *50 US which allows you movement between Zimbabwe/Zambia and Botswana (day trip only and via Kazangula only)

Malaria: Victoria Falls used to have high incidents of malaria, but in the recent years the cases have dropped significantly and they are predicting the town and region to be free of malaria in the near future. Cover and spray and you will be fine.

Temperatures: Very hot in summer months ( Oct – March). Temperatures in April – August are milder, but rest of the year is extremely hot.

Cost to get in to the Falls National Park – both sides: ( cash only)
Zimbabwe: International tourists: 30 US / SADC passport holders: 20 USD
Zambia: International tourists: 30 USD / SADC passport holders: 20 USD
Opening times: 6:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m

Top activities:

1..Walk the falls: When you enter the falls gates, staff at the front gate will advise you to take a path to your left which is the start point of a self-guided tour encompassing 16 viewing points. The first view points is beyond the David Livingstone statue, and then you loop back to follow the path to the remain 14 viewing points. You can go as slow or as fast as you like with the average visit between one and two hours. Its well worth walking across the bridge too.

2..Helicopter or microlight flip over the falls. Best done early morning when the mist-tower is highest and sky clear. Can be done both sides of the river. https://www.photosandafrica.com/photo-travel-workshops/photo-experiences/…

3.. Livingstone Island to swim in the devils pool. A wonderful trip – only done from the Zambian side and involves a boat ride to a tiny island on the lip of the falls. You are then walked to a couple of amazing view points on the very edge and can swim in the devil or angels pools. Arranged by Tongabezi and can be done for tea, lunch or sundowners.

4..Victoria Falls Hotel for high tea – from 3 to 5 every afternoon. Pull up a chair on the Stanley terrace of the hotel and enjoy the afternoon tea and cake stand tower, which is famous in the town and well worth the colonial experience with epic views of the falls

5..Lunch at the Lookout café: this was being rebuilt when writing this blog, but will be ready again in October 2019.

6.White water rafting – there are a few operators who do this. You are driven to a point on the Zimbabwe side of the river where you have a comprehensive briefing. We did this in June when the levels of the river are mid-level but it is most exciting when the river is lower between July and November.

7..Sundowner cruise. We find sunset is a busy time on the stretch of river above the falls and we suggest finding a smaller more exclusive experience with a boat the RAIKANE boat offers a great small cruise with meals or try the new Dhow experience by Jenman.

8..Game drive in to the Vic Falls National Park combined with a half day of canoeing. The park is 23Ha of wild bush and open to Hwange National Park creating a massive wilderness area.

9..Bungi jump/zipline/bridge swinging: There is a great multi-adrenalin activity package with Wild Horizons for the thrill seekers.

10..Shopping: Elephant Walk open market behind the Ilala hotel is great for wooden carvings and curios. Ignore the shops and visit teh markets to ensure your money gets where it should. Often jeans and sneakers can be traded for wooden carvings. There are markets near teh entrance to the falls as well as on the Zambian side.

Longer excursions:

  1. Hwange day trip. This is quite a long drive and we would recommend a fly in package and stay a couple of nights. It’s a long drive for a day trip and its a wonderful park to explore.
    2. Chobe Day tour: Many folk do this day trip and it can be done in a day, but tends to feel a bit commoditized. It usually involves the 1.5 hour drive to Kasane, a 3 hour game drive in Chobe National Park, Lunch at Mowana Hotel followed by a boat cruise on the river , and back to your hotel pretty late. We would recommend rather taking a few days to enjoy Chobe at leisure as it offers amazing river experience of the elephants and great birdlife. We love Chobe Game Lodge as it is INSIDE the park, and the house boats Zambezi Queen is a good way to experience the river.
    3. One of the best thing we have done is canoe above the falls on a multi-day fully-catered canoe trail: This can be arranged by wild Horizons – check out our video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYnFrNnYCDA&t=153s

Secret Activities:

  1. Lunar Rainbow:The Victoria Falls is one of the only places on earth where this natural phenomenon exists. Victoria Falls National Park remains open during evenings when a full moon is visible, and volunteers in Vic Falls can gaze upon the rainbow that is created even in the evening light.
    2. The Victoria Falls Rainforest, on the Zimbabwe side of the falls, is the only place on earth that experiences 365 days of rain! The spray emanating from the falls has created a unique, lush forest, which can be explored by visitors to the park
    3.Village tour: Visit Makuni Village in Livingstone. Same village where the Chief Makuni lived who showed Livingstone the falls. Trained guides will show you around the village.
    4. Vulture Culture Hide: Vultures at Vic Falls Safari Lodge. Join feeding time in the hide and listen to the lecture on these fasctinating animals. follow this with lunch at the Buffalo Bar and enjoy a buffalo burger while watching the hotel waterhole for visitors

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Accommodation options for :

Adventure and remoteness : Sindabezi Island, Stanleys Lodge
Luxury: Matetsi, Mpala Jena and Tongabezi
Accommodation with great Wildlife viewing: Elephant Camp and Matesti
History: Vic Falls Hotel
Walking distance to falls: ILodge
Great Value: Bayete

Places to eat:

Lookout cafe – best for views
boma finner at safari lodge – great evening event with dancing and show.
Sampan dinner at tongabezi – float on the Zambezi and get your food served by boat.
Steam train dinner – steam train chuffs out of the falls a way and serves an elegant dinner
Three monkeys – great for pizza and burgers right in town.
The elephant cafe – an experience where you share dinner with elephants.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]