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Chobe River Photo Safari

Chobe River Photo Safari: Idyllic, Peaceful Serondela …

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Brendon Reports from the Chobe River Safari aboard the Pangolin Voyager:

There was no problem getting up early, with all the anticipation about the experiences waiting for us on the river, and we set out again before early sun rays lit the river with the most beautiful colours.

We headed to the rapids again, and arrived in time for another spectacular sunrise. We were delighted to experience a morning similar in many ways to the day before. There were plenty of birds again, and lots of action around the heronries. Many of the herons were building nests, flying back and forth industriously, while others already had chicks and were equally busy flying back and forth to feed their brood.

Numerous hippos were particularly busy this morning around the rapids, snorting and blowing regularly, while crocodiles watched from the banks of the river or from where they floated, pretending to a harmless logs adrift in the water.

We saw African Skimmers again at the mouth of the Kasai Channel.

A couple of African skimmers, having a territorial dispute, captured on the Chobe River, Botswana

And once again Yellow-billed Storks, Spoonbills, Rock Pratincoles, Pygmy Geese, and Water Thick-knees kept us busy as the hours slipped by.

After we returned to the houseboat, we cruised upstream to anchor at Serondela where we are at present.

This afternoon we headed out on the photographic boats. On previous occasions (in fact, for the last eight years), we have seen a large python here and we decided to check out the tree where he has lived for all that time. And sure enough, there he was! And amazingly enough, we found another python later. Two pythons in one afternoon! The second one was somewhat smaller than the first, and he was in another tree, further up the river, but a great sighting for all …

There were some different bird species in the area, including Black-crowned Night Herons, White-backed Night Herons, and a very photogenic, colourful and cooperative Half-coloured Kingfisher.

Further up the river we photographed hippos again and then spent the remainder of our time with a large herd of elephants. About fifty or sixty came down to the river to drink and splash around the boat, and our wide-angle lenses were used again for those ultra closeup shots. The elephants were all around us as we parked up against the bank and we both remained there until sunset, when we needed to use our flashes for decent photographs.

So after another amazing day, relaxing on the boat, enjoying predinner drinks just has to be one of those indescribable life pleasures. And ahhh, there is more waiting for us tomorrow …


Chobe River Photo Safari: Birds, Birds, Birds … and Elephants Galore …

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Brendon Reports from the Chobe River Safari on the Pangolin Voyager:

We were up bright and early and after coffee and a snack we jumped into the photography boats and set out heading downstream. We wanted to arrive down at the rapids as early as possible to catch the sunrise. It was spectacular! We captured some really nice shots of African Skimmers that we saw at the mouth of the Kasai side channel. There were plenty of Spoonbills again, as well as a number of juvenile Yellow-billed Storks.

We arrived at the rapids where we spent almost the entire morning photographing all the rookeries and heronries that are found there. We photographed lots of Yellow-billed Storks, Black-headed Herons, Spoonbills, Reed Cormorants and White-breasted Cormorants.

Large crocodiles basked on the rocks or lurked in the water, while Rock Pratincoles could be seen in their groups. Water Thick-knees could also be seen on the rocks, making that area really well-populated with so many different species.

And of course there were different Kingfishers going about their busy mornings. Malachite Kingfishers hovered and fished, and not to be outdone, a number of Pied Kingfishers also added to the busy scene with their fishing activities.

We were very fortunate to find the Spotted-necked Otters – and that really was a special sighting! We spent quite a while with them, making the most of the opportunity.

On the way back to the Pangolin Voyager we stopped at a large Water Lily bank where African Jacanas trotted on the lily pads. Squacco Herons, Purple Herons, and Pygmy Geese could be seen close by, also increasing the total count of different bird species for the morning.

This afternoon we headed in the opposite direction – this time travelling upriver. We decided to concentrate on the animals on this trip. Good decision! There were herds of elephants everywhere, and I am sure that we saw thousands of them. If not, it certainly seemed that way! We again used our wide-angle lenses for those ultra close-up shots, – an eye here, the tip of a trunk, or just a tail. The elephants were standing in the water, feeding in the water or along the banks, they splashed, played, and bathed.

We found three bull elephants and stopped for a while to photograph them as they went about their activities, after which we continued up the river where we saw herds of buffalo, and plenty of Puku, and herds of Impala. Then we spotted a huge crocodile. He was enormous and looked quite awesome as he baked in the afternoon sun and a small colony of African Skimmers flew around.

We enjoyed sundowners at Savannah Backwater where a herd of elephants looked most impressive against the vibrantly tinted sunset sky.

So, after another very successful day we all returned to our houseboat, ready for meal, chats, anecdotes, and jokes before heading for bed to be lulled by the night sounds of the surrounding area and the gentle lapping of the river against the boat. In the morning we may start by heading upriver again …


Chobe River Photo Safari: Return to the Beautiful Chobe …

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Brendon Reports from the Chobe River Safari on the Pangolin Voyager:

After everyone arrived at around in Kasane at midday on Monday, we boarded the tender boat for our transfer to the luxurious Pangolin Voyager – our houseboat home for the next few days …

After a delicious afternoon bite to eat we settled in and had a chance to look around. The river looks lush and picturesque, and we could hardly wait to head out for our first boat cruise.

We didn’t expect for a moment that there would be quite so much to see and to photograph.

There were plenty of elephants and most of them were close to our boat. They were feeding along the banks of the river and didn’t seem to mind that we approached with our large cameras.

A large herd of buffalo grazed peacefully while a number of them ambled down to the river to drink, and it was great to see quite a large number of Puku here and there.

Then of course one just has to mention the prolific bird life. Colourful Malachite Kingfishers nested along the banks and perched on the reeds and small branches over the river, creating a vivid blue splash of colour when they hovered over the water before diving to catch a fish. Pied Kingfishers were everywhere, with plenty of action as they fished along the river. Spoonbills could be seen in the shallows, while Spurwing Geese, Yellow-billed Storks, Black Herons, Woolly-necked Storks, and so many more (too many to list here) could be seen in abundance.

W stopped for sundowners close to a few venerable old ‘dagga boys’ (buffalo bulls) that were feeding along the banks. We waited for the sun to dip toward the horizon to get those iconic shots with the red-orange orb of the sun and the glowing sunset behind them. We used fill-in flash to illuminate the buffalo in the foreground.

So altogether we had a great start to the trip and everyone is looking forward to experiencing the river for the next few days …

Chobe River Photo Safari: Where Animals and Birds Abound …

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Ben’s News from the Chobe River Safari on the Pangolin Voyager:

Hello from Chobe, where I finally have a signal to share some of the wonder and beauty that abounds here.

To start, we are on the Pangolin Voyager – such a pleasure! And we have already been here for a few days, having a fabulous time on the Chobe River.

We leave the houseboat every morning and evening to go out on the photographic boats to explore the river and side channels. We have photographed a plethora of wildlife, as diverse as one can image – everything from the abundant bird life that includes Pygmy Geese, African Jacanas, Yellow-billed Storks, African Skimmers, Fish Eagles, and Kingfishers – to large herds of elephants that gather along the banks of the river. There has been plenty of action and interaction among the elephants. We have photographed them drinking, bathing in the water, sand-dusting, and swimming.

Troops of baboons have kept us entertained with their amusing antics, and we actually spent the whole of this morning capturing backlit and side-lit images of a troop of baboons.

The Yellow-billed Storks also kept us busy this morning as they fished, tossed their prey up into the air, and then caught the fish again half way along the length of the beak.

So the mixture of bird life and animals has been wonderful, and we have hardly had a moment for our cameras to rest. The river is so rich in the diversity it attracts.

We have only seen one big cat – a lioness, but she wasn’t close enough for good shots.

And one cannot end without mentioning the breathtaking sunrise and sunset scenes along the river. Capturing a bird, or herd of elephants against that vibrant backdrop creates photographs that are simply outstanding.

So all in all, we have had a stupendous time here on the river, and although we all return to civilisation tomorrow, plans are already forming to return …

Chobe Pangolin Voyager Safari: African Skimmer Hatchlings …

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Daily Bulletin from Villiers:

This morning we realised that we don’t have too many good African Skimmer shots and decided to correct this by returning close to the rapids – to the a sandbank near Kasane where we noticed some of the birds earlier in the week.

We stopped on the sandbank, and although the Skimmers weren’t skimming much this morning we did get wonderful midair fighting shots that always seem so dramatic when those beaks lock in battle.

A couple of African skimmers, having a territorial dispute, captured on the Chobe River, Botswana

A couple of African skimmers, having a territorial dispute, captured on the Chobe River, Botswana

We also photographed the birds feeding their tiny chicks … little hatchlings. The parents dig holes in the sand and the adorable little fluff balls creep in, from where they are not often visible. But we were lucky today because some of the parents called their little chicks out of the holes to feed fish to them. We managed some great shots as the parents fed the little ones small fishes.

We photographed crocodiles, …

Wild croc in water

… Thick-knees, more Fish Eagles and so many of the other birds. And before we returned to the houseboat for our farewells we were able to photograph a flock of beautiful Carmine Bee-eaters.


That was how how beautiful, exciting, tranquil, varied safari ended, with very full memory cards and plenty of wonderful photographs to enjoy at home – until next time …


Chobe Pangolin Voyager Safari: Lions Nearly Catch – a What?!

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Daily Bulletin from Villiers:

We decided to spend the morning photographing the different birds on the river as they fished. Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, Half-collared Kingfishers hovered, dipped and dived – some emerging with a fish which they took to the edge of the river to a tree stump to smash and eat.


A Fish Eagle caught such a large fish that it could almost not fly … it struggled and struggled, and finally made it to the edge of the river where it could catch its breath and start to eat that huge meal.

Eagle fishing

At Puku Flats we found about a thousand buffalo – with Oxpeckers busily doing their thing as they hopped and clambered around on backs, heads, noses, and in ears.

This afternoon the houseboat was moved slowly back to where we started on day one. We headed to the Savannah Backwater where around five hundred elephants kept us busy and entertained for ages. Dust-bathing, splashing in the water, squirting themselves and each other – they did it all. And the little ones were typical children as they chased each other, tried to push each other into the water and generally had a hilarious time.


Then, to cap it all, as the sun started to set, they came walking past us in single file, some throwing dust into the air in front of the fiery ball, and created image after image – after image! What a special treat!

If that were not enough for an amazing day – on the way back we spotted four lions on the bank. One female and three males were at the water’s edge and we had to use very slow shutter speeds in the dusky light.

Suddenly – what was that?

Sauntering along, totally unaware of the danger just ahead came a Brown Hyena. Closer and closer it came! We watched, hearts thudding as the gap closed …

But the lions saw him and started to stalk him … and in a flash they leaped after him – charging at full speed. He fled, running as fast as he could with the lions a meter behind him – and gaining.

How he got away is a mystery, but he did – and that was how our wonderful day ended, this time the wonderful tranquility was replaced with intense excitement! Who could ask for more?

Tomorrow morning we will enjoy our final excursion in this beautiful paradise, and we intend to relish every moment …


Chobe Pangolin Voyager Safari: Up Really Close with Elephants …

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Daily Bulletin from Villiers:

As planned we went straight to he backwater where we had enjoyed such a magnificent sunset last evening. There were so many Guinea Fowl simply everywhere there and the sheer numbers made the sight was quite marvellous as they dust – bathed, splashed in the water, and ate along the edges of the water. We captured images in the shining early light, including perfect reflections in the still surface of the water.

We drifted slowly back to the houseboat, and stopped again when we spotted the troop of baboons from yesterday. Some of the little ones were pretending to be tree ornaments as they dangled enticingly from branches while others teased them and tried to get them to fall.

Again the birdlife was spectacular – beyond mere words. Different types of Kingfishers – Malachite, Pied, and Half-collared hovered, dived, fished, and flitted around, while Herons searched in the shallows for a meal.


We drifted past the houseboat to photograph Fish Eagles perched on dead tree branches, and waited patiently to catch them as they took off to fly – wings spread out wide.

The Giant Kingfishers really tried our patience. We waited, hardly daring to breathe, knowing that at any moment they would take off – uh oh! Gone! They are just so quick and even though we thought we were ready time after time, getting that take – off shot proved to be really difficult as they are just so fast!


Then we stopped to enjoy the White-fronted Bee-eaters as they swooped in and out of their nests on the river bank. They had butterflies in their beaks to feed their nestlings, and looked really dazzling with their striking colours.


Of course there are hippo pods up and down the river. Today they seemed to be quite lazy, and content to doze, yawn a little, and blow from time to time.

Back on the houseboat we were surrounded by animals on the banks again – at least 300 impala, many Kudu, and a large herd of elephants all visible at one time.

This afternoon seemed to be all about elephants. We started at Puku Flats where a herd numbering at least 500 grazed, played, dust-bathed, drank, and played – all in the glorious golden afternoon light. We practiced some panorama shots which we will stitch together, and also zoomed in on babies, moms, – you name it, we probably did it!

Further on we found Kudu, impala, – and Fish Eagles drinking at the river. We waited to snap those wonderful take-off shots when the Fish Eagle had enough to drink. Then we returned to the elephants for magical sunset images, enjoying the tranquility as the sun changed from orange to red, and provided a vibrant, iridescent backdrop for the huge animals.


It was so peacful that we were able to drift right up to the bank, next to the elephants for some untra close-up work. The elephants did not even bother to look up as our boat nudged the bank. To say that it was magical is understating the reality.

Tomorrow we are hoping to see some of the predators that sometimes lurk around this area …

Chobe Pangolin Voyager Safari: Where to Point Cameras Next …?

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Daily Bulletin from Villiers:

We clambered aboard the photographic boats with haze all around us. The haze is caused by the lack of rain and resulting dryness in the area. But the wonderful thing is that the haze provides the most beautiful photographs, and we probably captured every minute of the morning’s sunrise as the bright red-orange orb tinted everything, including the river, with the most vibrant, beautiful colours that changed as the sun rose.

We found a herd of buffalos on a plain near the river, with the sun rising behind them and stopped to capture fabulous silhouette images.


From there we visited the rapids on the river – specifically to photograph the Rock Pratincoles that are found along this river and very few other places.

There were plenty of crocodiles basking in the sun and a few that lurked under the water, with just an eye or nose above the water line. We drifted to within about 2 meters of some of the crocs to get closeups of eyes, teeth, or even scales.

We parked the boat to spend some time with Black-headed Herons, Cormorants, and Yellow-billed Storks. The storks had chicks that squawked loudly to attract their parents that flew back and forth with food for them.


And just around the corner African Skimmers entertained us. The water was too rough for them to skim, but they were very busy flying up and down to engage in tussles in the air. Beaks locked as pairs of duelling birds tried hard to intimidate each other.

On the way back to the houseboat we stopped to watch the African Jacanas on the lily pads. It was fascinating to see how they pulled plants up out of the water to disturb the insects hiding there, and then gobbled the insects as they came out of their sheltered spots.


What else? Well, beautiful blue Half-collared and Malachite Kingfishers looked breathtakingly lovely as they flitted and hovered above the water. Finally, as we returned to the houseboat, a large herd of elephants decided to swim across the river close to the boat.

At around midday the houseboat started the 2.5 hour journey upstream to the haven that is Serondela. On the way we passed an unprecedented amount of game along the banks. There were Tsessebe, hundreds of elephants, uncountable buffalo, and thousands of impala. Actually, at one stage we could see nine different mammal species all at the river’s edge together.

At Serondela we set out to a backwater where we found about a hundred baboons – young, old, mischievous, docile, eating, playing, teasing, jumping – just being typical baboons. We positioned ourselves so that some had back lighting from the late afternoon sun, some had side lighting, and others were bathed in the golden rays of the sun. It was stupendous!

Then suddenly, behind the baboons about 30 elephants arrived to dust bathe and have a final drink before nightfall. So we photographed them against the purples, blues, oranges and reds of the sky.

On the way back to the houseboat we saw Black-crowned Night Herons and Pied Kingfishers in addition to many other species mentioned earlier.

In the morning we would like to return to the backwater …




Chobe Pangolin Voyager Safari: The Dryness Brings A Profusion of Wildlife to the River …

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Daily Bulletin from Villiers:

Everyone arrived at Kasane a little late due to flight delays,but as soon as we all gathered we were onto our tender boat for the short trip to our luxurious houseboat – and then we went straight out on the river for our first adventure.

Well, well, well, this place is always a paradise – but with the dryness affecting huge areas around the river, hundreds of animals have arrived to be close to a water source. In fact, even right now, from the deck of the Pangolin Voyager Houseboat we can see at least 80 elephants and more than 100 buffalo right there on the banks of the river.

When we went out for our first excursion on the river we could not believe the birdlife. Yes, birds have migrated to the river in their thousands, also in search of water. There are too many species to mention … Open – billed Storks fishing along the banks, and White Egrets that repeatedly stabbed the water with their beaks, hoping to spear a fish or two.

We watched and photographed an African Skimmer as he flew back and forth, back and forth, …


…while hippos cavorted in the water.


Just as we set out on our upriver trip a whole herd of elephants came swimming across right in front of us. It was fabulous to watch …


And as I said, back on the houseboat we can still see all the activity around us in the gathering darkness. Wow, tomorrow ??? …


Chobe Pangolin Voyager Safari: Lions!

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Chobe Pangolin Voyager Safari: Lions!

Brendon Reports:

(Photos from Brendon’s Camera Screen)

Being our last full day in this beyond description, sublime area, we set out early, determined to make the most of every moment.

We started with a trip to the Savannah Backwaters. Along the way we photographed a number of the awesome birds that abound along the river. Lesser-striped Swallows flitted around fussily close to their nests while beautiful Wire-tailed Swallows looked stunning against the golden colours of the early morning.

We spent some quality time with White-fronted Bee-eaters at their nesting colonies on the banks of the river.

And while not concentrating on other birds, there were always plenty of Malachite Kingfishers and Pied Kingfishers absolutely everywhere. In fact the Malachites are doing exceptionally well – I have never seen such an abundance of them anywhere or at any time before! If you want fishing, diving images, just point your camera!

6 Pangolin Brendon August 2016 4

In addition there were a few elephant bulls that arrived at the waters edge for a splash and a drink. They always look so wonderful! And in the river we encountered a number of hippo pods.

6 Pangolin Brendon August 2016 3

We returned to the Houseboat at Serondela for nourishment, to relax – and to gloat over our morning’s photographic haul.

This afternoon we headed slowly back towards the Savannah Backwaters … our favourite spot to catch a dramatic sunset and to enjoy sundowners – with plenty of wildlife to add to the pleasure. Again we photographed many pods of hippos, –

6 Pangolin Brendon August 2016 5

– smallish herds of elephants, and of course the ever-present Malachite Kingfishers and Pied Kingfishers. I sometimes forget to mention the beautiful Fish Eagles – they are here, and are always a pleasure to see, hear – and they make a fabulous photographic subject – like one this afternoon that perched on a stump to preen his immaculate feathers.

At Savannah Backwaters we spent time with the resident pod of hippos, –

6 Pangolin Brendon August 2016 1

– plus crocodiles that lay inert on the banks or drifted silently in the water – and loads of water birds busily feeding in the shallows. There were Yellow-billed Storks, Sacred Ibis, Spoonbills, different Gull Species.

Just as the sun dipped toward the horizon we spotted a pride of six lions. .They were all lionesses and rocked up at Savannah Backwaters. They lay a short distance from the water’s edge, watching the local activities. It is always so very special to see lions from the river.

6 Pangolin Brendon August 2016 2

Another amazing sunset kept our cameras busy all the way back to our floating lodgings – our final evening here was perfection.

In the morning, then, we may return to the Backwater to see if the lions spend the night there …