Botswana Wildlife

From The Ground Up

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Download Trip DetailsBisected by the Tropic of Capricorn and located on the Southern African plateau, land-locked Botswana encompasses an area slightly larger than France.  This fascinating country enjoys an astounding richness of wildlife and represents the last hope for a vast wildlife refuge free from elephant poaching—today, massive elephant herds still roam free in its reserves!  On this unique photo safari we experience Botswana's vast expanses of uninhabited wilderness that stretch from horizon to horizon, feel the freedom of limitless space, and marvel at night skies littered with stars of unimaginable brilliance and stunning sunsets of extraordinary beauty.
Sunken wildlife blind

Wildlife Photography Taken To A Whole “New Level” From Boats And Waterhole Blinds

Botswana Wildlife From the Ground Up provides an exceptional and unique photography perspective at one of the greatest wildlife countries in Africa in two dramatic habitats—the wildlife-rich banks of the Chobe River and the famous private Mashatu Game Reserve.  On this exciting tour wildlife photography is taken to a whole “new level” using specialty photo boats and sunken photo blinds positioned next to waterholes with continual dry season activity.
 

Chobe National Park

Along the Chobe River we photograph from specially-designed photo boats with swivel seats, built-in lens mounts to facilitate "big glass," and trolling motors for stealth when approaching wildlife.  These boats bring photographers up close to the photography action as throngs of wildlife come to drink along the banks of the Chobe during the dry season. In many cases our view from the boat is below the animals on the riverbank—an angle that allows us to shoot up at them.
 
Photographing the Chobe National Park riverfront by boat is a fantastic experience as we get remarkably close to herds of hundreds of elephants as they drink and swim across the river.  Large groups of buffalos, impalas and kudus crowd the shore, lions come to the river to drink and hunt at the water’s edge, and hippos can be approached for (virtually) nose-to-nose encounters.  All breathtaking experiences from the boat!
 
Birds along the river are amazing, varied and usually unwary.  Along with lots of big mammals, this part of our safari focuses on the throngs of birds we can quietly approach from the water.  At the edges of the waterway and its islands, we see many species of herons, storks, ibis and waterfowl.  African fish eagles are numerous here, as are three species of photogenic kingfishers.  Alongside the high banks, the bright colors of bee-eaters betray their perch as dozens of species of songbirds flit in the riparian brush—avoiding stealthy predators as they quickly drink.
 
We reside in a fantastic upscale hotel (Photos: hotel exterior, hotel room)—built with photographers in mind—featuring a jetty on the river where we board our boats.  The hotel is the closest accommodation to the Chobe National Park gates.  This allows us to be among the first people into the park and the last out, every day. 
 

Mashatu Game Reserve

Mashatu Game Reserve, a private landholding as part of the 72,000-acre Northern Tuli Game Reserve, is situated on the eastern fringes of the Kalahari Desert.  Mashatu provides refuge to the largest elephant population on a private reserve on the African continent.  As a private reserve it carefully controls the number of visitors, creating a great nature photography experience and a sense of private wilderness.  Mashatu is a spectacular place to see big game such as elephants, lions, and leopards—all of which could appear at the reserve's amazing sunken photo blinds (hides) that are a wonderful part of our visit here.
 
COMBINE THIS TRIP
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This trip can be combined with our Kenya Wildlife photo tour Aug 9–24, 2020.
These unique blinds are built alongside waterholes to specifically maximize—for photographers—the photographic potential of the wildlife at the waterholes.  The blinds are sunk into the ground in prime elephant habitat.  During our stay—at the height of the dry season—many animals frequent the waterholes from the far reaches of the dry countryside.  Inside the blinds, you are seated so that your head is at ground level.  From your comfortably seated perspective everything you see is as if you are lying on the ground looking upwards.  Imagine being a mouse under an elephant!  The blinds are strong metal structures and totally elephant proof, so you can watch and photograph in total ease as the animals go about their business of drinking, bathing and wallowing.  The blinds have been carefully positioned to consider the angle of the sun and the background, as well as the optimum angle by which you are photographing the animals and birds.  As a photographer you will appreciate these features immediately.  The results of the stunning photos taken from these blinds have been published in many magazines, books and websites, and have produced many award-winning images.
 
We reside at the Mashatu Lodge Main Camp (Photos: hotel room, outside lounge area) in luxurious private air-conditioned suites situated in wonderfully private natural settings.
 

Wildlife Game Drives

Mashatu shares unfenced borders with Zimbabwean and South African national parks in the north and south, respectively.  Because of the exceptional diversity of habitats throughout the reserve, Mashatu enjoys an ecological biodiversity uncommon in other game reserves in the region.  Here, in addition to our daily sessions in the waterhole blinds, game drives across the reserve’s varied landscapes allow plenty of photo opportunities from open safari vehicles.  A hyena with its two pupsLeopards, lions and elephants are the stars of the reserve, while other intriguing species, including aardwolves, bat-eared foxes, African wildcats, honey badgers, spotted hyenas and black-backed jackals, are possible photo subjects.  More than 50 species of mammal are found here.  For visitors who are interested in bird life and bird photography, Mashatu is home to more than 350 bird species.  There is always something exciting to photograph!
 
Join us on an amazing and unique Photo Safari in this safe and thriving country and discover Africa as it existed during the days of Burton and Livingston!

Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Depart from home.

Day 2 (July 29)
Arrive O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. Meet the leader. Dinner and overnight accommodation at a convenient airport hotel are included in the tour fee. (D)

Day 3
After an early breakfast we return to the airport for a commercial flight to Kasane, Botswana. Upon arrival at Kasane International Airport we clear customs and head to our hotel on the Chobe River—a five-minute drive from the airport. This afternoon we are introduced to the boats that provide our photographers easy access to wildlife coming to the river’s edge. The boats are specially designed for photography, spaciously outfitted to accommodate 8 photographers. Hippo in the Chobe RiverCameras are mounted on custom-built stands attached to seats that rotate a full 360 degrees. At eight feet in width, the vessels have plenty of space for accessible storage for our camera gear. The 100-horsepower engines get our group to the best locations quickly, and are fitted with a rotational bass motor on the bow that allows an unprecedented silent approach to wildlife. The use of these boats allows for photos from a unique below-eye-level perspective and a close approach to some shy and seldom-photographed species that frequent the shoreline. Elephants coming down to the river to drink and (virtually) nose-to-nose encounters with hippos are breathtaking experiences from our boats!(BLD)

Days 4–6
We rise early and are out on the river for a morning cruise, followed by a midday break at our comfortable upscale hotel. Later, we enjoy a second photo cruise until dusk. Many animals come down to drink during the day, especially in the morning and late afternoon. Along the bank they must keep a watchful eye out for lurking Nile crocodiles—and so should we. Our images of eye-to-eye crocodiles could be amazing! We expect to shoot lots of birds that live along the river—ducks, geese, herons, bee-eaters, kingfishers and fish eagles—as well as those early migrants from Europe that are just starting to arrive in Botswana during our visit. (BLD)

Day 7
Our safari on the Chobe River ends with a final morning boat trip, after which we drive back to Kasane International Airport in time for our afternoon charter flight to Mashatu Game Reserve. Upon arrival at the Limpopo Valley Airfield, Mashatu Lodge vehicles will pick up our group for the hour-long drive to the lodge. If our travel plans run smoothly there will be time for a late afternoon game drive. We check in, get settled, and later have a relaxed dinner. (BLD)

Days 8–11
Four days of unique and amazing photography await our group as we venture out before dawn and head into the wilds of Mashatu. And what could be wilder than sitting three feet from a 15,000 pound bull elephant as it casually drinks from a waterhole?

August is a prime dry season month for photography from Mashatu's spectacular underground photo blinds. This is the time of year when wildlife activity—especially elephants—is at its peak. While we are safely in our photo bunker at water's edge, matriarchal families bring their inquisitive babies to drink and bathe. Then these newborns walk up to inspect you and mischievously fling water in your direction. It's a thrilling experience and an equally thrilling photo opportunity.

A wide variety of birds also come to the waterhole for their morning drink. They are accompanied by baboons, impalas, kudu, and a host of smaller mammals. All of this amazing parade of wildlife is photographed from a unique low-level angle that only these blinds can provide.

When we are not in the blinds, our safari vehicles transport us through remarkably diverse habitats that are packed with great possibilities for landscape photography. Dry mopane forest, riverine woodlands, and marshland are punctuated by towering sandstone cliffs, dramatic basalt formations, and unusually shaped kopjes. This is a region unlike any other in Botswana—drier than the Okavango Delta, yet with large river courses unlike anything in the Kalahari. Mashatu receives its life-sustaining water from the Shashe, Motloutse and Limpopo rivers, which serve as natural boundaries with Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Cheetahs in BotswanaIn August it is not uncommon to find a leopard draped in one of the massive Mashatu trees. The soft rays of southern Africa's low winter sun make lions, leopards and cheetahs practically glow at sunrise and sunset. Cheetahs are particularly common at Mashatu and the reserve is one of the best places in southern Africa to see them due to the open nature of the terrain.

In August, water is at a premium and it is not uncommon to find elephants digging in the riverbeds for water just below the surface. At the shrinking waterholes, doves and guinea fowl come to drink, attracting the birds of prey that hunt them. The cool weather has lions and leopards on the prowl and their kills are a magnet for a throng of charismatic scavengers, including black-backed jackals, spotted hyenas, and cape, white-backed and lappet-faced vultures. There is great wildlife action around every bend in the road!

Day 12 (Aug 8)
After an early morning game drive and breakfast, we transfer to the Limpopo Valley Airfield to meet our charter flight back to the international airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, and flights home. (B)

Day 13
Arrive home.
 
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Botswana Wildlife

Jul 28, 2020 - Aug 09, 2020


1. REGISTRATION
A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.

2. PAYMENTS, CANCELLATIONS AND REFUNDS

All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa,  MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.
 
A deposit of $5000 per person is required. Full payment of the trip fee is due 150 days prior to departure date. We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:
If Written Cancellation is Received:                                           Cancellation Fee:
122 days or prior:                                                                          100% of deposit
121 to 91 days prior:                                                                      50% of entire trip fee
90 or fewer days:                                                                           100% of entire trip fee
 
Emergency evacuation insurance is REQUIRED for this tour. As noted in Section 3 below, we send a brochure for trip insurance to US and Canadian residents. The policy offered includes the emergency evacuation coverage required for this trip. Participants purchasing trip insurance on their own—that is, not through our office—should confirm that emergency evacuation is included in their policy.


No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

3. TRIP INSURANCE
Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

4. HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

5. CONTACT SCHEDULE
Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to info@photosafaris.com.

6. PHOTO SAFARI COSTS
Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

7. LOGISTICS
Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

8. RESPONSIBILITY
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Highlights
  • Photograph in two incredibly productive wildlife areas of Botswana—the private Mashatu Game Reserve and wildlife-rich Chobe River system of Chobe National Park
  • Custom-built boats with swivelling built-in “big lens camera mounts”—specially designed for photographers—provide a unique eye-level river perspective to photograph animals in normally inaccessible locations
  • Exclusive access to spectacular waterhole photo blinds (hides) at Mashatu to photograph elephants and a host of other wildlife—up close and below eye level
  • Fly between shooting locations on small planes—with extra baggage weight allowance to accommodate personal luggage and photo gear
  • Fee includes internal  tour airfare
  • Luxurious accommodations throughout the tour
 
Jul 28 - Aug 09, 2020
Fee: $15,995
Deposit: $5,000
Limit: 12
 
Tour Leaders