Rob from 1ds.com takes us on Part I of his trip through Kuger Park. Photo safari's of this type are a huge experience for most of us and Rob helps by sharing valuable informationa and wonderful photographs.

 

 

 

Rob Rob is a good friend and a very serious amateur photographer with the resources to travel and vacation in some really exotic places.  He hails from New Zealand and has lived or traveled through much of Asia and wherever his extraordinary IT skills are required.  Nary a day off from work is wasted as Rob and his wife Sao pack up camera equipment and hit the road looking for new and rewarding locations to photograph.  He publishes www.1ds.com where you can always find lots of great photography and interesting blog entries.  If there is a great place to photograph in Thailand you can bet Rob and Sao have already been there and documented it.

 

Part 1 will contain a unique look at trip preparation for an African Photo Safari.  What kit to pack, cameras, clothes, bags, and all the little things you might not think of the first time out.  Part 1 will also contain the first three days of the trip.  I hope you enjoy Rob's contribution as much as I did.

 

Preparation:

 

Destination

Kruger Park, South Africa

 

Lower Sable Sunset

Lower Sable Sunset

 

The Gear

This time we have opted for simplicity.  Many times we travel to a Safari destination with too much gear. Sometimes you have to make do and let the creative juices flow.  So this time we’ve gone with a comprehensive but limited amount of gear to make sure we capture the moments and capture the close ups that we’ve always enjoyed.

We have our staple diet of Canon 500/4’s with 1D Mark 3’s which give us about 650mm of standard coverage and with the 1.4x teleconverter it becomes a pretty powerful and light alternative to a 600/4, for example.  Experience has proved that we also need alternative body and lens for those many instances where the action comes up really close and personal, without warning.  For these circumstances we’ve chosen the 1Ds Mark 3 and 5D Mark 2, both full frame bodies, with a 100-400/5.6-6.3 IS on one and a 70-200/2.8 IS on the other.

The “In camp” lenses are the 24-105/4 and the 24-70/2.8.  We use these for the candid pictures around the “brai” and landscapes etc.

We carry all this around in two “Kiboko” Bags purchased from Andy Biggs Safari’s bag manufacturing unit (www.guragear.com).  Also in the bags are a Flash, two 1.4x teleconverters and two 2x teleconverters.  Sounds like a bucket load, and it is.  My arms will be a little longer for sure but the end of the trip.  The Kiboko bags are standard size for carry on which make them perfect.  Andy’s looking to put wheels on them and this would make them nothing short of perfect in the camera bag arena for this much gear.  I also use the backpacking straps when I am lugging around the big guns. Makes life easier!!

Along with chargers for the 1D’s and 5D, we have a MacBook Air, 2 x Colorspace Data storage units (Each at 500GB) and a BGAN Satellite system for a daily Blog update.  The BGAN is wireless and will make using it so easy!!  We have a 1000W power inverter for charging the cameras and accessories on the road. On a “Self drive” Safari, most of the day is spend in the car, so it’s sensible to charge as you go.  We’ll load the pictures onto both Colorspace devices daily and on one of them I’ll check them with “Adobe Lightroom 2” (Which is our digital workflow of choice) to pick a shot and post it with a short blurb from the days events.

There’s some miscellaneous cables and things, like the Canon G9 for snapping in the airport and in the plane.  But in general this is a light load.  Oh yeah, there’s a Gitzo Tripod too.  We agonised over this, but decided we wanted more landscapes and night shots. Lets see if this works!!!

We omitted the Kirk Window mount and the Wimberley head this time.  Major weight savings.  I’ll use a bean bag in the front seat this time, similar to what we’ve been practicing in Australia for the last 4 months.  All spurious lenses like Macros and wider angles are left at home, as are spare flashes, flash extenders etc.  We’ve probably saved a complete bag of stuff this time.

 

Leopard on the  move

OMG! A leopard

 

The Trip


With Kruger park, it really pays to book well in advance.  The usual trick (According to our friend Janine who is the expert and who does it for us) is to pick a routing and set of lodges you’d like to stay at and the Kruger booking team will come back with a booking proposal that may or may not include your wishes.  There’s some back and forth action and an agreement is made.  This is then given a booking number and you’re ready to go.

Driving around Kruger, a 4WD is not required, so any type of car suffices and this can help with the budget.  Fully decked out units are expensive!  This time we’ve chosen a Toyota Hilux, with the others choosing the Hyundai Tucson.  We like the height of the 4WD’s and the extra Room we have when getting into shooting position.  Our modus when shooting is one person in the back seat and one in the front.  This means we can shoot side to side easily.  And unless the subject is high in a tree, the driver can get as many shots as the passenger

 

cute elephants

More Little Bubbles

 

Day Zero – BKK-JHB to Orpen.

Bangkok (Day Zero minus two)

The trip to JHB was eventful to say the least.  Our initial flight was canceled due to “technical” difficulties and at 3am, three hours after boarding, we were shunted to a Hotel for the rest of the night.  Not knowing the outcome of the technical issue, we were up after about four hours looking for answers. No answers came until around 11am stating we’d be picked up and delivered to the airport at 4pm for a 7:30 flight.

The time came and the seven of us lucky enough to be in the hotel (We learned much later the fate of the economy class passengers who were shunted way across town, an hour on a bus to a hotel near the old Don Muang Airport. They are probably still there) jumped the shuttle to the Airport to try and check in or get through immigration.  This was a hassle also and the staff finally showed  up, only to tell us the flight was again in doubt (technical error still not fixed) and that we should return to the hotel and await news.  We stood our collective grounds and hassled them until we were endorsed through Dubai to Nairobi to JHB.

 

 Hazyview to Orpen Gate

Hello?

 

This trip begun on Bangkok “Day Zero minus one” at 9pm. We were now off on a new A380 (“wow!!!”) to Dubai, a short stop and then to Nairobi and then finally Johannesburg, South Africa.  Little of consequence happened on the trip apart from some stretched arms carrying the carry on bags from Terminal three to Terminal one in Dubai’s huge airport!

It’s day zero, we’re quickly through immigration and we are waiting for our bags, knowing nothing else could go wrong.  Bag one is through quickly and we’re pumped.  There’s a pause in the off loading and we wait patiently.  We’re called about 15 minutes later..  “Nairobi bags finished, come over here!!”.  Yes, you guessed it, our main bag had not arrived, It was in Dubai!!  Well, we fill in the  forms, get our Dual Cab Hilux and join up with Ian, Janine and Struan and head for Hazyview where we are going to stay the night (should have been a day also!!)

The little lodge is awesome and we settle in for some well need sleep after the five hour drive. We had purchased some new clothes in JHB so were looking forward to the shower and rest after basically no sleep or rest for the last 48 hours.  (Although two of the flights had not bad lay flat beds). We were finally here!!  Beautiful skies, coolish yet pleasant and the Kruger National Park (KNP) is only 100kms away!!

 

 Hazyview to Orpen Gate

Small Lodge

 

Day One –

We’re not in a hurry to get up and a good sleep is had.  Breakfast of Toast and Vegemite (Imported from Australia) is well received, and a few cups of tea have us rearing to go.  Orpen next stop.  I must add here, that the country driving style of South Africa is akin to lunacy.  We take it easy and navigate our way safely as chaos reigned around us.

Orpen gate has been shifted from the camp and is a wonderful design, Africa style, with thatched roof and wooden uprights.  Really nice.  There’s a day visitor area next door for breakfast and lunch for day visitors.  We used this the next day to wait for our bags…

At this stage there’s just two vehicles in the safari.  A third is arriving later today, but we decide to head out and see what there is on offer.  We had a great afternoon photographing birds, buck and various other flora and fauna.  It’s sooooo good to be in Kruger again!  Our bag is due at 5:30 so we head in early to see if it  has arrived.

Alas, no, the bag is not here.  But a flurry of phone calls assures us that it’ll be in camp at 10am.  No t assured, we had back to the cabins for our first Brai (Barbeque) of the trip.  A Meat fest it will be!!  The Third group arrives and we all introduce, grab some beers and prepare to begin the journey (albeit without one bag) in earnest the next morning, sweet and early at 6:15am.

 

Orpen Gate to Olifants Camp

Fly With The Catch

 

Day Two – Orpen Gate to Olifants Camp

6:20am, we gather and hit the road.  Three car loads of keen safari goers.  We plan to be back around 9am to wait for the bag, then head out to Olifants camp.  A nice mornings viewing is had, with plenty of wildlife about, warming in the early sun.  It’s cold out, and the animals will be enjoying the sun (with us) and readying for the day. It was a great morning.  We head back into camp.

Yes, you guessed it, there’s no bag!!  We again call the baggage guy and he agrees to send it on to Olifants so we can leave and get going.  Our clothes are getting a little gamey at this point, but we’re here to shoot photos and have fun, so off we go.  Before we do, we have a hearty cooked breakfast at the day visitors area.  They provide gas and facilities for a smallish fee, and clean up afterwards. Sated, we head out on the 100kms Journey through KNP to Olifants camp.

It’s an eventful afternoon.  We get our first taste of Lion and Rhino, along with Buffalo, Elephant and scores of birds and buck.  We’re in camp in time to check for our bag…..  Alas, not here!!  We call again and are informed it’s there.  Between the walk to and fro form the reception to our Chalet it had arrived, well molested by customs, in Olifants reception!!  A happy day!!

After a great feed, we head over to the view area overlooking the Olifants river.  The KNP staff have a light setup that allows you to see way down there.  Ollie and I have a Cigar and share a beer with Paul and Shari.  We totter back to the Chalets and collapse into a blissful sleep!!!  Sao has beaten me to it and is snoring (he he) peacefully when I get back.

 

7

Hummphhh!

 

Day Three – Olifants

Our second “Full day” in the Kruger.  As usual we’re up at 05:31 and at the gate around 06:21.  The mornings seem to be getting lighter.  On the 1st of August, the Gates will close later at 6pm!  (18:00) rather than the current, rather pedestrian 5:30pm.  We need more time to get the elusive animals!!

 

This camp has the Elephant Museum with many examples of the huge tusks from some of Krugers’ legendary “Tuskers”.

Brunch Buffet.

 

Our typical modus operandi is to head out on the morning drive with a breakfast destination in mind.  This dictates our route and we change it daily.  This mornings breakfast is at Letaba Camp.  This camp has the Elephant Museum with many examples of the huge tusks from some of Krugers’ legendary “Tuskers”.  We’ve done it a few times, so we breeze through it after another hearty breakfast.  The rest of the crew is heading back to camp and we’re thinking about heading up to some other places to check them out.

 

From Letaba we head north and almost to the Mozambique border.

Rhino

 

From Letaba we head north and almost to the Mozambique border.  There’s a breakfast /day camp there and we’d heard there might be Wild Dog there.  So Sao and I head out for what was to be a “rest of the day” excursion and a six hour trawl around all sorts of roads and tracks in and around Letaba and Olifants.  We scored some great shots and generally had a pleasant afternoon.

 

Vultures Lamet

Vultures Lamet

 

The night ended, as usual, with a Brai and some great food cooked and prepared by Ollie and Janine.  Sleep is getting deeper as we kick in to our full on 16 hour days.