PJH, as only he can, describes an opportunity-rich recent trip to shoot the wildebeest calving season in Northern Tanzania. Our adventure got off to a cracking start with me and the two lads, Andrew (aka Scrivers) and Michael (aka Mike), who went for a wander around Arusha trying to find hats and flip flops. It rained and we failed. But all was rectified shortly with a quick beer in the hotel and a run through of the trip with Mel, who joined us there.
The first morning was the most gentle as we had time to meander towards Lake Manyara, west of Arusha and just to the north of Tarangire National Park. Lake Manyara is a beautiful little park at the foot of the Rift Valley escarpment, and we spent ages shooting baboons. Lots of great shots of grooming, eating and mucking about and mating, of course. There was one large male baboon who was clearly enjoying his grooming perhaps a little too much!
After Manyara we sped up the escarpment and around the Ngorongoro Crater rim, stopping to shoot the view. Quite spectacular, but we were there at a cold time of day and it was a bit cloudy so not the most earth shatteringly brilliant pics from any of us, but beautiful anyway. Scrivers dazzling us (and half of the Crater) with his smart Sony camera and auto panoramic doo dah thingy which takes, what seems like about a thousand images and stiches them together. Not sure who was more stitched up here….
That evening we grabbed cameras, tripods and beers and photographed the stunning view from the lodge we were staying at. It rained, of course, but there was no dampening of our spirits – alcoholic or otherwise! The rain storm and the sunset clashing to create a really dramatic landscape.
Next morning, up with the larks at 0530 and into the Crater. We were the first in! Hoorah and very important. It gave us that few minutes in the Crater which is so special, all on our own. We had a wonderful morning there; shooting buffalo, acacia silhouettes, and generally lapping up that early morning light. We also found many lion and a rhino about 5 kms away, but that of course didn’t stop us shooting it…”part of the landscape” or something like that! Mike worked out that his UV filter was messing with his 400mm lens, so took it off. A revelation and he got to start his trip all over again!
Our next few days were spent at the awesome Nomad Serengeti Safari Camp. The classic tented camp “nestled” (classic travel writer lingo) amongst the acacias. Our days were full of skidding around on slippery black cotton soil, never getting stuck and getting up early, and coming back late for an incredible full English brekka, the stuff legends are made of.
We saw honey badgers in the morning, which is very rare indeed as they are nocturnal (Scrivers – that means they come out at night!) we saw cheetahs left right and centre – cheetah hunting and failing, cheetah hunting and nailing a Thompson’s gazelle and we stayed with them for ages as they scoffed and scoffed on the open plains – beautiful to watch, we were very lucky. We also saw cheetah chasing a pair of bat-eared foxes, poor little things, but they got away down their den, phew but a pleasure to see.
We saw lions eating a wildebeest which had been dead a while, disease or old age probably. It was bloated and we were down wind of it on the other side of a small stream which we couldn’t cross – bad, bad, bad just soooo smelly, especially when the lioness tore into some part of the stomach and there was a hissing as air escaped. I thought Mel was going to pass out!
Following an awesome few days in Ndutu we drove across the plains of the southern Serengeti to an area just outside the park called Piyaya in Loliondo, where we stayed at the incomparable Nduara Loliondo camp, also of Nomad. Amazingly located on a plain next to a beautiful acacia with yurts as the mess and dining tents, stunning.
The next morning we walked directly from camp, which was a great opportunity to see the small stuff, the birds, the trees, the ant lions, Mike telling us about snakes, Scrivers having fun shooting dew laded spiders webs and Mel shooting beautiful butterflies and me wondering where that surprise bush breakfast was going to pitch up! And there it was, imagine an acacia tree (again) with table all laid and the incredible Nomad breakfast all for us in private, in the bush, outstanding!
Back to the camp where we spent time downloading pictures onto the computers, editing and then reviewing them together. This is so helpful for us all in getting some tips on composition and technique and also a wonderful encouragement as we can see our pictures improving as we go along, as well as being able to see how each of us shoot similar scenes differently.
Our grand finale was a trip to a local maasai boma – It is a wonderful and authentic experience, not a tourist cliché like some of these ‘cultural’ experiences can be. So we spent some time chatting with the maasai women and children and then the dancing started. Out on the plain, with the setting sun and a kopje in the background, it was brilliant. Of course ever so slightly helped by a small table with red cloth bearing giant G and Ts!
After the Maasai finished their dancing we sat around showing them the video clips and images, they were chuffed, although not entirely convinced by some of our ‘arty, impressionist’, style pictures!
Tired and exhilarated, we drove back in the dark, wind in our hair, tears in our eyes (from the wind I think, but of course they were going to miss me loads…) and had a fine last supper in camp.
What an adventure. We saw too many incredible things, took many photos and talked pictures the whole time. Our pictures got better and our excitement about taking pictures increased and we made new pals.
To find out more about joining one of our amazing African Photo Tours with Paul, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or for more inspirations and ideas on our other trips check out the website www.capturesafaris.com.