After a week doing the Argus Cycle Tour, reuniting with family, catching up with clients in Cape Town, photographing a wedding and putting the finishing touches to my new title on Classic Safari Camps, I headed back — for the second time in March — to the Luangwa Valley. What an amazing opportunity for me to catch up on my favorite place in the green and to meet up with some more old friends. Siddarth and Swati from Singapore, who I met in Botswana in 2011, had invited their friends Preeti and Pressanth from Durban, and the final member was Tourgay — a Turkish/American engineering professor whose wit and dry humor kept us in very good spirits through the whole trip. I must say that meeting and being with interesting people is a real highlight of being a photographic guide.
Our trip got off to a rocking start from day one. Near Two Baobabs en route to Chichele a female leopard was crouching in the undergrowth. Jacob Shawa did some deft maneuvers of the vehicle and we were all soon getting some great shots despite the gloomy conditions.
A photo tip: When shooting in low light do not be afraid to push up your ISO to 2000 or more to record the action and get a fast shutter speed. The ability to shoot in low light with no flash is the real bonus of modern day digital cameras cameras. Also remember to use spot metering and also to slightly underexpose bright animals in dark conditions.
We returned to the leopard the following morning. After two hours of patient observation we watched her carry an impala carcass up onto a fallen tree — the opportunities were outstanding and we all got some great shots and were happy to leave her in peace to finish her meal.
The remaining three days at Nkwali were excellent with elephants and lions providing us with great opportunities – and it was great to see Preeti’s grin grew wider and wider with every game drive.
On day four we met with Daudi Ndlovu who is the manager at Nsefu Camp and headed upstream by boat with him to the remote Nsefu sector. For the next three nights we did not see any other people aside from the team that run the camp and our small group! What bliss.
At this time of year its not possible to go on game drives at Nsefu (the cotton soil is very sticky when wet) and activities were by boat and also on foot. At this time of year the stork colony is very productive and we headed off on our first morning to watch them. There had been some heavy rain the previous night and we all ended up pretty muddied up. But even so it was well worth the effort.
On the river we spent most afternoons along the Mwamba River — a narrow river that feeds the Luangwa. We had yawning hippos, zebra against grey skies and a staggering double rainbow that arched right across the sky…. Our hearts were in our mouths.
“It could not get better,” I thought as we made our way back up the Mwamba River one evening as giant clouds ballooned in the sky. But it did. As large drops of rain started to pepper the stream we caught sight of a large male leopard taking refuge from the rain and superbly draped over an old fig that hung right over the river. What a sight.
After three exceptional nights at Nsefu we returned to Luangwa House and our final game drive with Jacob. “Should we watch sunset from Chichele Hill, or should we visit the lions near Luangwa Wafwa?” we pondered. We decided on the latter and what a good decision it was. Not only did we get some good mating action with lions but we saw yet another leopard.
Photo tip. When photographing animals at night try shooting with the light of the spotlight. If there are more than two vehicles at the sighting then switch off your own lights try and get side lighting from the other vehicle spotlight. It creates much more atmospheric images than front on lighting. You will of course need very high ISO.
The next photo workshop is scheduled for October 2012 and there are still places for March 2013. This is no longer the secret season, so its best to book early to get a spot.