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Author Topic: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari  (Read 1469 times)

aebolzan

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Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« on: January 28, 2019, 10:47:25 am »

For the first time in my life I will be in Africa, more precisely in South Africa (=Durban) during the first week of August thanks to an invitation for a scientific meeting. I dreamed for being in Africa (particularly Serengeti, but..well...if I cannot go to Tanzania at least I will be in Africa!) and enjoying taking pictures of the wildlife...but I wonder were to go for, let's say,  a week. I see a lot of possible places (some local  told me for instance about the Pilanesberg reserve),  so it seems difficult to choose one or the other...I am not looking for luxury but for a place where one can approach animals and take the time to observe them and take pictures without the problem that the vehicle is full of tourists that only want to see the big five. Anyone has experience about being there and where to go for a safari?....I am not looking for luxury, just for pictures....so any suggestion would be welcome!...thanks in advance...

Agustin
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2019, 06:58:20 am »

A lot of game reserves in South Africa.

Pilansberg is a few hours drive north of Johannesburg. Durban is about 600km roughly south of Johannesburg so a long way. Durban is in KwaZulu Natal province. A small province but with many game reserves. They will be closer but non of them are huge. The really big parks are Kruger and Kgalagadi.

Let’s start with a few questions rather. How long do you have apart from the meeting you are attending? Are you going to hire a car? What type of landscape do you prefer, mountains, desert, dense Bush, savannah? How physically capable are you, can you drive a 4X4?
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aebolzan

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2019, 11:45:49 am »

Let’s start with a few questions rather. How long do you have apart from the meeting you are attending? Are you going to hire a car? What type of landscape do you prefer, mountains, desert, dense Bush, savannah? How physically capable are you, can you drive a 4X4?

Thank you very much for your response Martin..

To answer your questions:

I am thinking about being there for a week after the meeting...and I am going alone, so I am not thinking about renting a car and go into the bush, no previous experience there, so I find a little risky to drive alone looking for wildlife...physically I am OK considering that I am 62 and the type of landscape is not important to me as I am looking for wildlife in this occassion... all this means that what I am looking is a park or a reserve where I can go and stay a week going for safari in the morning and in the evening  with   a guide and a vehicle with a small group of people that really wants to observe the animals, not go there, take a picture with the iphone and ask to move for the next species....I know that ideally one should join a photo safari like the ones offered by some well-known leaders such as Tom Hogan, Andy Biggs, etc., but my dates are not their dates and my finances do not allow me, at least for the moment maybe in the future,  to spend the cost of a photo safari....

and by the way.....my flight will be to Durban with connection in Johannesburg...so there will be no problem to stop in Johannesburg when coming back from Durban...visit a park/reserve and then take the flight from Johannesburg to....Buenos Aires.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2019, 01:22:59 pm by aebolzan »
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2019, 02:01:06 pm »

Let me do a bit of digging. I have many friends in the photo industry some that specialize in game photography. Also Riaan on this forum lives near Durban and might have some ideas.

There are shuttles that run from the Johannesburg (OR Tambo airport) airport to Pilansberg. Lots of accommodation there. My girlfriends family were there in December and saw plenty of elephant, lion, cape hunting dogs and various antelope. You would be there in winter which is better for game viewing as animals are more visible in the drier conditions and tend to congregate at water. Also not so punishingly hot.

That’s just off the top of my head. I will find out more. Shouldn’t be a problem to arrange. It’s all available from self driving and camping to high end luxury.
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Tony Jay

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2019, 06:59:40 pm »

Hi Augustin,

There are plenty of options for game viewing in South Africa. In nearly every case (apart from Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and one or two others) they are accessible with normal road vehicles and good accomodation exists, either in the the park or just outside. There will be no off-road travel in these parks and even the unsealed roads that are present are quite navigable with even modern small passenger vehicles...

If commons sense is used then driving in these parks is much safer than general driving in South Africa. There would be no need to to join a group on a game drive. I would definitely recommend self-driving if you want to have any chance of achieving your stated goals.

My suggestion is to investigate the game reserves of northern KwaZulu-Natal such as Hluhluwe-Umfolozi or Mkuzi (and there are plenty of others). The game viewing here will be the equal of anything that Kruger or Pilansberg will offer and likely much less busy.

As a disclaimer you may be fooled into believing that an Australian opinion is not very helpful here, but I was born and grew up in South Africa and only left South Africa as an adult. However, I travel back to Southern Africa on a frequent basis and remote area travel is my great interest, along with the photography of course!

With a couple of exceptions none of the major game parks in South Africa qualify as remote area travel and can easily be visited with same vehicles one uses to travel to work in the cities. My great fear for you would be the travel TO the park, if done by road, and not the travel inside the park! To this end my suggestion would be to fly to the park or close and hire a vehicle from there. If you decide to go to one the parks in northern KwaZulu-Natal then flying to Richards Bay and hiring a vehicle from there would be an acceptable plan.

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: January 30, 2019, 09:27:59 pm by Tony Jay »
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aebolzan

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2019, 06:03:52 pm »

Hi Augustin,

My suggestion is to investigate the game reserves of northern KwaZulu-Natal such as Hluhluwe-Umfolozi or Mkuzi (and there are plenty of others). The game viewing here will be the equal of anything that Kruger or Pilansberg will offer and likely much less busy.


Thank you Tony for this suggestion, I was not aware of these places....I will check them....you know, when it is the first time in Africa, one wants to see all and go everywhere, but this is obviously not possible. I want to see those fantastic dawns and dusks of Africa and the most significant animals...the big five and more...I find so exciting  the trip ...I am thinking about taking my D810 with the 200-500 f5.6, 70-200 f4 and 18-35 f3.5-4.5....I am still thinking about taking also my old D300 or try to buy a D500 as a second camera (or maybe a D7500, which is cheaper?)....I heard that tripods are not very usefull there, so an empty sandbag  will also come with me..I think that would be adequate for the photo safari

Agustin
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Tony Jay

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2019, 05:49:49 am »

Thank you Tony for this suggestion, I was not aware of these places....I will check them....you know, when it is the first time in Africa, one wants to see all and go everywhere, but this is obviously not possible. I want to see those fantastic dawns and dusks of Africa and the most significant animals...the big five and more...I find so exciting  the trip ...I am thinking about taking my D810 with the 200-500 f5.6, 70-200 f4 and 18-35 f3.5-4.5....I am still thinking about taking also my old D300 or try to buy a D500 as a second camera (or maybe a D7500, which is cheaper?)....I heard that tripods are not very usefull there, so an empty sandbag  will also come with me..I think that would be adequate for the photo safari

Agustin
The truth is that there are hundreds of good destinations - apart from the government parks, there are also many many private game reserves, and some of those are huge...

I made my suggestions based on your locality when in South Africa as well as a reasonable budget.

As far as tripods go, if you are after wildlife and birds in the game parks then all your shooting will done from within a vehicle - a tripod then becomes redundant. If one is shooting from a game viewing vehicle then a monopod will be helpful since there will, generally, be nothing to rest a camera and lens on. If you do hire a vehicle then opening the window provides a base to place a beanbag on which to seat a long lens.

Although good sunsets are possible anywhere, the best sunsets, again generally, will be got in the desert areas of Southern Africa. None of the places recommended to you qualify as desert (even during a drought).

Be aware that once you have drunk of the waters you may spend the rest of your life trying to get another taste....

Africa is funny this way!

Tony Jay
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2019, 06:28:00 am »

I think Tony is quite correct. Flying to Richards bay from Durban would be a bit odd though Perhaps a 15 minute flight to avoid a really beautiful two and three lane freeway and not a long drive at all, but your call.

Almost all parks have roads marked for 4x4 only. That is apart from the regular roads. These are often the quietest and most scenic roads. For example a lot of the Karoo National Park is only accessible by 4X4. These bigger vehicles also lift you above the grass a bit and giver a better view. Consider the option of a 4X4 if hiring a vehicle. As Tony says, certainly not necessary but it is useful.

Tony is also quite correct about the KZN parks. Very beautiful and close to where you will be based.

Tripods are of limited use in n the reserves. Getting out the vehicle other than in rest camps is not a good idea and against all the rules. It seems we lose a few visitors every year due to getting out the vehicle or hanging out the window for a better view. Bean bags for resting on the window are a good idea.

Ausgust is outside the school holidays and most visitors to the parks are locals so that will give you a quieter visit. Generally South Africans visit the parks in Southern Hemisphere winter.

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Miles

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2019, 10:14:15 am »

It has been 4 years since my visit thus things might have changed some.  We spent time driving in Kruger National Park and stayed in one of their cottages for a few nights.  While we enjoyed the park, getting close to animals is rather hit or miss as you are not allowed to leave the paved roads.  In addition, there are several tour operators in raised vehicles with radios.  As soon as a hard to find animal is spotted, you'll see numerous tour operators all headed to the same spot.  It doesn't take long for everyone else to figure this out and a caravan follows.  You end up with 30 vehicles jockeying for position to see a leopard 100 yards away. 

There are a number of private reserves that border Kruger National Park, particularly in the Sabi Sands area.  We chose Lion Sands (google it).  There are no fences, so the same animals in the park wander through these reserves as well.  The private reserves bill themselves out as luxury destinations and the price is steep but well worth it.  They have 4x4 range rover vehicles converted to take up to 6 passengers into the bush.  They can and do drive anywhere necessary to get you close with great views of the wildlife.  Each vehicle was equipped with a guide and tracker.  They know the area well and will cater to finding the animals you prefer.  Since this is private land, you rarely see another group and they limit their time in each area.  We even did a short safari walk one day which was very interesting and exciting (of course they knew the lions weren't in that area during the hike).  While we only spent a couple nights there, it was well worth the money spent and adds significantly to to the experience along with the other parks we visited.

I hope you have a great trip.

Miles
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bassman51

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2019, 04:12:19 pm »

We did the private reserve thing in that area and found it excellent, if pricey.   The guides and trackers were excellent, as were the accommodations. 
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aebolzan

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2019, 01:51:36 pm »

I was following the advices given by all of you....some places seemed great but very expensive others had no place for my dates...but I am still working on it....the last offer I got was for a stay in a place called Rhino "Ridge Safari Lodge" in the  Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve...they are offering me two safaris per day...this reserve is precisely one of those reccomended by Tony...but I see in their web page that "To preserve our concession and in keeping with park rules no off-roading is practiced".  Would this limitation be  a problem for a good safari in that park? I saw that most people advice to go to private game reserves because the drivers go everywhere, so that the opportunities for pictures increase notably.

Agustin
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2019, 04:18:32 am »

It’s a stunning area.  I wouldn’t worry about staying on road thing. Driving “everywhere” is as destructive as you can expect. A basic rule of serious 4x4 enthusiasts in South Africa is never drive off a road or track. Yet private reserves do it all the time. Great food, luxury accommodation in what is frequently a large Zoo cleverly disguised as a wilderness experience is what many, but not all, private reserves have degenerated into.

Wildlife photography involves a lot of luck and patience. Don’t let the hunt for a trophy image detract from the experience of simply being there.
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aebolzan

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2019, 11:19:34 am »

Martin, thank you very much for your comment!...now I feel myself more confident about my decision on the offer from my travel agent....I got another from the Zulu Nyala Heritage Safari Lodge, but I was looking in the map and they are more luxury but not inside a game reserve or NP....so I rejected it...as this will be my first time in Africa, I am trying to do a lot in only few days...I know it is not realistic, but....
How many days you would advise to stay there?...I ask because I saw that some agencies offer, for instance, to be three days in one place and then  three or four days in another place because they say that it is better to move from one place to the other in order avoid the problem of seeing always the same....

thanks again!

Agustin
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2019, 02:40:45 pm »

Hard to say. You may fall in love with an area and not want to move or it may bore you. Three nights in a place gives you two full days. That should be good. I would be happy with that. KZN is a small province so travel times between places is not very big. I wouldn’t want to move every day that’s for sure.

I once met e retired couple that took two years to travel around South Africa. They were three weeks n one NP before they got asked to move on. I think there is a three week maximum stay limit in NP’s. Most I have ever stayed in one place on a NP was 6 days. Although I did spend 10 days in one reserve in Lesotho but that was a bit different.
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aebolzan

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2019, 03:20:26 pm »

well, my plans are, in principle, to stay there for 6-7 days, depending on the costs....so I can try to stay in one place or move to a second one in order to see more wildlife (or different...I don't know if you can see, for instance, hippos where you see the big 5...I would like to see aquatic wildlife as well)...I was planning to ask how much does it cost to stay part in SA and part in Botswana (Okavango, Chobe, seem to be a paradise...). But I don't know if I am asking too much for the first time...

Agustin
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Tony Jay

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #15 on: May 01, 2019, 06:43:43 pm »

6-7 days is a VERY short trip!

Honestly, I would stick to one general location.
Use as much time to shoot as possible - trying to travel all over Southern Africa will only mitigate against this...

Tony Jay
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aebolzan

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2019, 07:38:49 pm »

well, one week is more or less what well-known photo safaris leaders offers for the public....so I thought that one week was rather good....and unfortunately it is the free time I have in this occasion.....so, it seems that you advise me to stay all the time in the same place, i.e. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, and forget to move to other places...I didn't know if this was reasonable or not....you think it is quite advisable to spend the whole time there...thanks!.....one doubt less about my trip to SA!

Agustin
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Martin Kristiansen

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2019, 11:42:08 pm »

I absolutely agree with Tony. Lots to see. Lots to photograph.
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aebolzan

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2019, 02:29:55 pm »

thanks Martin and Tony....I am decided to stay one week in just one place as you both suggest....but before accepting the offer for the Rhino Ridge Lodge in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve,  I will ask for Mala Mala just in case: according to some information in the web, this place is even better than Hluhluwe for wildlife.....I don't know what you know or think about Mala Mala....

Agustin
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aebolzan

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Re: Suggestions for South Africa Photo Safari
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2019, 04:46:48 pm »

Ooops!....prices in Mala Mala are three times those of Hluhluwe!.....almost 1000 usd per night and 2 safaris per day...seems quite expensive....is Mala Mala three times better?..

Agustin
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