Van Os Photo Safaris logo
Worldwide Photography Tours since 1980

Botswana Wildlife

From The Ground Up

Bisected 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.

180912 SCO 9792 - botswana

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

8102321 - botswana

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.

8102218 - botswana

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!

8098503 - botswana

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 —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

121002 SCO 4473 - botswana

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. 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.

8173174 - botswana

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 in luxurious private air-conditioned suites situated in wonderfully private natural settings.

161012 SCO 1304 - botswana

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. Leopards, 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 (August 7)
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 breakfast we will transfer to the International Airport for our commercial flight to Kasane International Airport. Upon arrival at Kasane 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. Cameras 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 excursion, after which we return to the airport for a charter flight to the Limpopo Valley Airfield. Mashatu Lodge vehicles meet us for the hour-long drive to the lodge. If our travel plans run smoothly, we will have time to have lunch and settle in before heading out on a late afternoon game drive. The evening will conclude with 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 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.

In 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! (BLD)

Day 12 (August 17)
After an early morning session in the hide and breakfast we will transfer to the airfield for our charter flight to O.R. International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, and flights home.

Day 13
Arrive home.

Tour Details

Aug 06 2025 – Aug 18 2025
Register Now
Fee: $19,395 from Johannesburg, South Africa
Deposit: $5,000
Limit: 12 participants
Activity Level: Easy
Single Supplement: $3,495
» Terms and Conditions

Special Terms and Conditions Apply

Tour 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 in small planes—with extra baggage weight allowance to accommodate personal luggage and photo gear
  • Luxurious accommodations throughout the tour
  • Trip includes all meals, lodging, ground and boat transportation, internal tour airfare, park fees, photo guides and instruction

Testimonials

Outstanding tour – I don’t know what you could do to improve the tour. Eric Rock was first rate! Everything about this tour was great! The accommodations at the lodges along with the food just could not have been better. The vehicles and boats were the best I have experienced in Africa.
— Joel R.

Tour Details

Aug 06 2025 – Aug 18 2025
Register Now
Fee: $19,395 from Johannesburg, South Africa
Deposit: $5,000
Limit: 12 participants
Activity Level: Easy
Single Supplement: $3,495
» Terms and Conditions

Special Terms and Conditions Apply

Bisected 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.

180912 SCO 9792 - botswana

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

8102321 - botswana

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.

8102218 - botswana

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!

8098503 - botswana

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 —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

121002 SCO 4473 - botswana

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. 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.

8173174 - botswana

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 in luxurious private air-conditioned suites situated in wonderfully private natural settings.

161012 SCO 1304 - botswana

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. Leopards, 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 (August 7)
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 breakfast we will transfer to the International Airport for our commercial flight to Kasane International Airport. Upon arrival at Kasane 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. Cameras 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 excursion, after which we return to the airport for a charter flight to the Limpopo Valley Airfield. Mashatu Lodge vehicles meet us for the hour-long drive to the lodge. If our travel plans run smoothly, we will have time to have lunch and settle in before heading out on a late afternoon game drive. The evening will conclude with 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 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.

In 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! (BLD)

Day 12 (August 17)
After an early morning session in the hide and breakfast we will transfer to the airfield for our charter flight to O.R. International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, and flights home.

Day 13
Arrive home.

Tour 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 in small planes—with extra baggage weight allowance to accommodate personal luggage and photo gear
  • Luxurious accommodations throughout the tour
  • Trip includes all meals, lodging, ground and boat transportation, internal tour airfare, park fees, photo guides and instruction

Testimonials

Outstanding tour – I don’t know what you could do to improve the tour. Eric Rock was first rate! Everything about this tour was great! The accommodations at the lodges along with the food just could not have been better. The vehicles and boats were the best I have experienced in Africa.
— Joel R.

Get Your Free Ebook
A Guide To Organizing And Finding Your Images
By John Shaw

Lightroom Ebook

Van Os Photo Safaris uses the information you provide to contact you about our upcoming tours, special offers, and trip reports. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time.
For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.

Get Your Free Ebook
Panorama by John Shaw

Panorama Ebook

Van Os Photo Safaris uses the information you provide to contact you about our upcoming tours, special offers, and trip reports. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time.
For more information, check out our Privacy Policy.