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A family safari with Wilderness Safaris

Nature close to Camp Pell

My private passion is to photograph animals in they natural environment. In 2017 and 2019 I had the opportunity to visit several camps from Wilderness Safaris in Zimbabwe and Botswana. I learned that there is no better place to have a safari and photograph any kind of African wild animals. The experience to see those animals close and observe their behavior in their natural environment was so intense that I always wished to bring also my wife and son to Africa to give them the opportunity to experience this by themself. Finally this year I became 50 years and decided to invest my money for a trip to Botswana, instead of having a party with friends and family. Therefore we booked a lovely trip to the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti region.

A family safari with Wilderness Safaris

What is different when on a safari with your family?

Traveling with family is different to the experience I had on my first two trips. I was a bit nervous how my 13 year old son response that the day starts quite early. In addition in camps you have only limited access to the internet, which is nowadays essential for teenagers. Anyhow we had an unbelievable nice week in camps. My son was not complaining at all. Getting up early and having no access to the world wide web was not a problem at all. Real life experience you are getting in Africa on a Safari has incomparable more value. Also for a teenager. Let me share briefly our experience.

Camp Pelo

Pelo means heart. The name is related to the shape of the island which is located in the Jao concession. After a long 20 hour trip from Germany we finally arrived around 3 p.m. On the air strip and a guide picked us up bring us to the camp. The way to the camp was already mind blowing. We met some giraffes and buffalos. Shortly before we arrived the boat station we also saw painted dogs, one endangered animal. This happened only 15 minutes after we landed in the bush. What could you wish more, when you are on a safari? On our short boat drive to Pelo we already saw a lot of different birds.

Mokoro drive is one of the best way to discover nature on a safari

Arrival in Camp Pelo

Finally we arrived in the camp, where we were welcomed by Abo the camp manager. After a delicious welcome drink and a short camp rule introduction we went to our rooms. There we had a short time to refresh and relax before  a delicious dinner has been served. My son and my wide have been more than impressed about the location. Accommodation and the kindness o the camp stuff was mind blowing. 

Even though this is already my third time that I have been in Botswana the sunsets are still unbelievable beautiful. The colors you see when the sun is settings are so different to what you see in Europe. This alone is already worth the trip. But it doesn’t end here. Even the nights are so different. No light pollution, means that you also can see much more stars than in a country like Germany. In addition the sound at night is also an experience by itself. Frogs and hippos are quite active at night. My wife liked the frog sound so much, that we have recorded it. We use it now as ring tone on our phones. Anytime someone is calling us, we remember the lovely time we had here in Pelo.

Sunset in Camp Pelo

The second day in Pelo

The next day was a mixture between a game drives and a boat cruises. Unbelievable how many different species you see in this environment. As Pelo is a camp surrounded by water, it is a paradise for bird, hippos and crocodiles. In Germany you are lucky when you see a sea eagle once in your lifetime, but here in the Okavango delta we saw 5 African fish eagles within an hour. Not to forget my favorite bird the kingfisher. This species is of course also present in the Okavango delta. Beside the pied, striped and great kingfisher I have been lucky to photograph the malachite kingfisher as he was taking off from a reed branch. 

Kingfisher taken on Safari taking of reed

As we were already leaving Pelo the morning after, the camp prepared a surprise for us at dinner. Instead of having it at the common dinner space, we had it on a fire place with a traditional African barbecue and a lovely goodbye song presented by the camp employees. A very special time came to an end, but we had two more camps to experience.

Camp Tube Tree

 Our second camp was Tuba Tree, which is in the Wilderness Safaris classification a classic camp and therefore the camp and also the rooms are bigger. Flight time from Pelo to Tubu Tree is only 5 minutes.

However as water hasn’t reached the camp yet the vegetation was dryer. Tubu Tree is famous for its Leopards and we were looking forward to meet them. However on the first day we haven’t been lucky. Anyhow we had great sightings like elephants, bataleur eagles, zebras and a group of young male lions, who were relaxing in the shadow. The view from our rooms has been also fantastic as the balcony was directed in western direction and the wildlife was just passing the camp directly in front of you. Means we in the lunch breaks we were also able to watch the wildlife directly from our rooms. In case a refreshment is needed also from our outdoor shower.

Finally a leopard

At the second day in Tubu Tree we have been a bit luckier. As our guide Delta found some fresh leopard tracks and in addition other animals made a lot of warning signal to their companions, that we were sure a leopard must be somewhere. Even though it is not easy to find them. At this time of the year the gras is high and the animals camouflage is hiding them perfectly. After a while we have been successful and finally saw our first leopard on this trip. 

Leopard in high gras

Then it was time for the sundowner, which is the ending of each afternoon game drive. Means you are getting your favorite drink in the middle of nowhere to enjoy the African sunset. After a busy day with a lot of interesting sights we were heading back to the camp already in the dark and got a surprise as we were approaching our camp. We just passed the electric fence which should keep the elephants away from camp, as we met the mother of the leopard we met in the afternoon. She obviously was leaving the camp. We learned that she actually gave birth to the leopard we met in the afternoon in the public bathroom of Tubu Tree. My son, my wife and myself were very exited as she just past our vehicle so close that it would have been possible to touch her. 

Camp Duma Tau

Last stop of our week in Botswana was Duma Tau. This camp is classified as premium camp. Compared to the other two camps this is a complete different level. Not only in terms of rooms and available space, but also in terms of service. Anything is top level and unexpected in a location like this. However we missed the lu with a view, which was for us the highlight in the other camps. This is the toilet in the public area which gives you a direct view into the wild while being on the toilet. Never had such a relaxing time on a toilet before.

 Taking care about my son

Our guide See immediately caught our son, by asking him to be his assistant and sit beside him in the first row. Not that the other guide doesn’t cared about our son, but I immediately recognized that See has a special connection to children and especially our son. Maybe this come due to life experience he had so far. Grown up in a community in the bush, he was in a so called „Eco camp“ as he was 7 years old and decided to be a guide due to the experience he made in that camp. During our stay we always felt this passion and as said the special connection to children. He always involved my son in the thinks happening and even though my son had only three years English lessons in school he was motivated to communicate with See. 

Hippo relaxing in the sunset

Wildlife in Duma Tau

In terms of nature Duma Tau, which is in the Linyanti regions, is quite different to what you see in the Okavango Delta. The landscape is totally different and therefore wildlife behaviour is also different. Even though the types of wildlife you can see is very similar to what we have seen in Tubu Tree. Lions, leopards and elephants are the big one, but also bird life is tremendously impressive. 

Highlight in Duma Tau is that this camp is located directly on an elephant trail, which is used to cross the river. Therefore it is very likely that you can observe from your room elephants crossing the river and if you are lucky you can experience how those elegant animals are going through the camp. 

Conclusion

We had an unforgettable week, which we can remember our whole life. Everything went, thanks to the perfect organization from Wilderness Safaris, without any problem. Experiencing wildlife in their natural environment is only interesting for me as photographer, but also for my wife and my son. We learn so much about the wildlife and nature in Africa and will miss the friendly stuff and guide in camps. We recommend everybody to have this experience once in a lifetime.

My experience on my first trip

As said this was already my third trip to Botswana. In case you would like to know how it felt the first time you can read this in my Blogpost “Shot trip to the big five”.

Short trip to the big five / Botswana part 2

Luftbildaufnahme der Viktoriafalls

Botswana Moreni Game Resort

From the Hwange national park in Zimbabwe, we flew via Victoria Waterfalls to Kasane in Botswana. We were lucky as our pilot made an extra round over the Victoria Waterfalls, which is a very impressive view, even though the water level is not very high in November. From Kasane, we flew to the Moreni Game Resort. Where we could visit the Wilderness Safaris camp Mombo the second camp on this trip. The welcome in the room was with lovely arranged coffee beans very warm.

Welcome in Mombo with a nice image on the bed made with coffee beans

First game drive in Botswana

As in Zimbabwe, we haven’t much time to enjoy the room as we started immediately to a game drive. The Okavango Delta is even more impressive than the Hwange national park in Zimbabwe. Not only due to the animal variety but also scenic. As we have been there shortly before the rainy season, we were lucky to see also nice cloud formations. In the image below we even had the hope that we are getting a thunderstorm and I hoped I would be able to shoot some flashes with the Live Composite mode. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Botswana landscape with rain clouds

Despite the scenic, we concentrate on the wildlife. After a short time, we met a lion family which killed a zebra shortly before. Unfortunately, we missed the hunt, but anyway it was interesting to observe the family hierarchies and the behaviour of the animals.

male lion with cups enjoying a zebra meal
Lion zebra lunch

The family also had offspring who nibbled at the zebra rather clumsily and tried to secure a piece. We spent an hour here and the time flew by. Can’t imagine anything more exciting than observing nature. Some of my friends asked if it was disgusting, but being in the wild and seeing animals in their natural habitat is more than normal. On the contrary, it was exciting to watch.

small lion cup, try to eat zebra the first time

Birds in Botswana

After we had seen enough we went on a search to find more wildlife. As said, we were in Botswana at the beginning of the rainy season and therefore there was almost no water in the Okavango Delta. The few remains of water were very popular not only with water dwellers but of course also with their predators, the kingfishers. One of my favourite animals in Africa. So far I only know the European kingfisher. In Africa, however, I learned to love the kingfisher genus as such and in the places where the fish are trapped in a puddle, it was of course very easy to find this species of animal and could observe its behaviour very well.

kingfisher sitting at the water
Pied Kingfisher

The bird biodiversity in the Okavango delta is phenomenal and a perfect area to use one of my favourite Olympus OM-D functions. Pro Capture is very helpful to capture the exact moment when birds take off. One of the most beautiful birds species is in my eyes, beside the kingfishers, the bee-eaters.

starting bee eater
bee-eater take off
starting bee eater

Short trip to the big five / Zimbabwe part 1

Zimbabwe Hwange national park

When you like to take images a safari to Africa is an interesting challenge, even though you are not specialised in wildlife photography. When you are additionally invited by Wilderness Safaris is this an opportunity, which you should not let slip away. Therefore I flew in autumn 2017 to Africa for a short trip to the big five and visit Zimbabwe and Botswana. The trip went from Hamburg via Frankfurt and Johannesburg to the Victoria waterfalls. Arrived there we were welcomed by Wilderness Safaris.

Airplane to fly into the bush Cessna C208
propeller machine for 12 passengers

From the Viktoria waterfalls, we flew with a small propeller machine Cessna C208 from Wilderness Air into the bush. Compared to the huge jets you get a more direct flying experience. But not only the flying experience compare to the huge jets is different but also the available space. This means, that the total weight of your luggage should not exceed 8 kg. In case you have photo equipment with you this is a challenge. Fortunately, the Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus are small and light. Directly after arrival, we started to a so-called game drive. This means driving with an offroad car to explore landscape and wildlife.

Sunset with African trees
sunset in Africa

Hwange national park

Our first destination was Linkwasha in the Hwange national park Zimbabwe. Besides breathtaking wildlife, this location has also breathtaking landscapes. Shortly after touch down, if I remember correctly it was less than 10 minutes, we saw the first elephants. Proceed to a so-called pan to observe several elephants herds while drinking. An unforgettable experience, especially as the light was different to what we are used to in Europe.

Elephant herd in Zimbabwe
Elephant herd on the way to a water hole

When you are in camp, the daily routine is full of game drives. As the animals are not very active in the noon sun, you start the day before sunrise, to observe the animal activities in the early cool morning hours. During noon you make a siesta and two hours before sunset you start again with a game drive. Besides the game drive, I enjoyed most being away from the busy world, as neither telephone nor mail or other modern communication possibilities is available in the bush.

Almbach Gorge the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens?

Bild der Kugelmühle der Almbachtalklamm

In my article “My experience with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO” I showed you already the 8-25mm lens and how flexible you can utilise it. In my holidays I have been in the Alps and visited the Almbachklamm nearby Berchtesgaden. I planned to use the E-M1 Mark III only with one lens. As the Almbach Gorge (Almbackklamm) is very narrow I decided to go with the 8-25mm F4 lens.

Almbach Gorge the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens?

The Almbach Gorge

The Gorge is not far away from Berchtesgaden and close to the B305 in the direction of Salzburg. It belongs to the little village Marktschellenberg. At the entrance is the last working pebble mill, which is still producing marble balls with water power (title image). The gorge is 3km long and ends with the Theresienklause, a dam which was utilised to transport wood through it. The way back is again through the gorge or via the Etterberg and the church of pilgrimage “Maria Heimsuchung”. We left the gorge at half of the way and went directly to the Ettenberg. In case you would like to know more about the route you will find it here.

The gorge, the natural territory for the E-M1 Mark III and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO lens

As mentioned earlier the E-M1 Mark III and the 8-25mm lens is the perfect combination for such a trip. The gorge is at least up to the half very narrow and a wide-angle lens is needed. In addition, there are a lot of motifs, which are a bit farer away. Means that the zoom area of the lens will be completely used. Right at the beginning, there is a small ravine. You can reach via a little bridge and therefore a nice easy motif.

Almbach Gorge waterfall
8mm F11, 1,6 sec
Almbach Gorge waterfall
22mm F11, 1,6 sec

The images already show how useful the zoom range of the lens is. It shows how it can be utilised to create your image. Also the E-M1 Mark III is the fitting camera for such a hike. With the built-in LiveND filter you can make long time exposures. A physical ND filter is not needed. Thanks to the image stabilization you can realize these images without a tripod. You. can leave it at home and save weight.

Almbach Gorge waterfall
25mm, F13, 2 sec

Many claims that zoom lenses are only used in their extreme focal lengths. In this case 8mm or 25mm. However, this hike showed something else. I also used the focal lengths between the extremes, depending on how the composition of the picture required it. The picture of the church, for example, was made with 18mm. The picture of the watercourse was taken with 14mm.

Conclusion

As already indicated in the headline, the decision to take the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4 PRO with me on the hike was, in retrospect, exactly the right one. The lens covered exactly what was needed with the focal length range. But the E-M1 Mark III was also able to show its strengths to the full. In particular, the image stabilization in combination with the built-in LiveND filters was very helpful in realizing images that would normally only have been possible with a tripod and physical filters. So I only had one camera with one lens with me. I could leave the tripod and ND filter at home. This saved a lot of weight, which would otherwise have burdened me on the hike.

More information also at “My experience with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO”

Utilise Tough TG-6 as GPS Tracker

Only a view system camera, like the Olympus E-M1X for example, do have a built-in GPS. Those cameras can either write the position directly into the EXIF data or record your route. In case you don’t have a system camera with built-in GPS there are several possibilities to record GPS data and write them into EXIF or record your route.
The easiest is for sure the smartphone together with the appropriate App, like OI.track from Olympus. The disadvantage is that a smartphone doesn’t survive the whole day in case you have GPS activated. As I anyhow own a TG-6, which has also a built-in GPS, as a second camera, I’m using it as a GPS tracker.

Advantages

In opposite to the smartphone, the TG-6 can be used over several days without recharging in case you only use GPS recording. Also, you could be sure, that your smartphone is used for other things. As with the smartphone, you can send GPS data to your camera and save them as EXIF data into your image.

Preparations

First, you should connect your TG to your smartphone. As soon as you have done it the time in the TG-6 will be synchronised with the time of your smartphone. When you do the same with your OM-D the time of all three devices are synchronised. This is especially important in case you would like to save the GPS data into your image EXIF data. Base on time the camera decides which GPS data is written to the fitting image.
Also, I recommend installing A-GPS data into your TG-6, then the TG-6 can find the GPS signal when you switch it on. How to do this I described in my article “….”

How to

The TG-6 (by the way the same switch is available on TG Tracker as well) has a switch to activate GPS constantly, even if the camera is switched off. In case you are using older TG cameras, you can activate GPS constantly on the menu. Once you have activated your GPS you only have to have the camera with you.

Screenshot of OI.track
Select those tracks, which you would like to use, and wipe to the left.
Screenshot of OI.track
Select more.
Screenshot of OI.track
Select “share” to send track per mail or to your computer.

As soon as you finished you can download with WiFi the GPS recording with OI.share to your smartphone. OI.share is available for free on Apple App Store or Google Play. From the App, you can send them via mail or store it on your computer (in case you are using Apple devices the easiest way is AirDrop). Or you send it to your OM-D camera to save the position data in the EXIF data of each image.

Use GPS data

GPS data can be saved in different formats. The data of TG-& are .log files, which are not usable for all programs. Therefore in some cases, you have to convert them. For example, in case you would like to save it on Google maps. You can do that on the free website GPS Visualizer.

Screenshot of GPS Visualisier

Select “Convert to GPX” and upload your TG file to the website to convert it. In case you have recorded several files, you have the possibility to select all of them. Those files will be converted into one file. Here one example on Google maps.

Google map showing the recording of my vacation in the baltic states