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Botswana Wildlife—From the Ground Up
2022 Trip Report

Every photo trip I lead, I can count on one question getting asked of me—and no, it isn’t where is the bathroom? I am usually asked, what is my favorite trip to lead? I almost inevitably answer, every trip I do. I am the type of person that is good at being in the here and now, so the trip I am working is the trip that is my favorite. I figure if it was a photo safari that wasn’t worth doing, I wouldn’t be working it.

That said, almost any day I am not in the field working a VO Photo Safari I would rather be in Botswana—and that’s pretty much anyplace in Botswana! A couple of years ago (pre-Covid) when we originally put this photo safari together, I knew the locations and the shooting situations, and I was sure we had the best possible Botswana photo tour anyone could offer. To have to hold-off this itinerary for two years was a tease and a torture. Now that I am home and have worked through the images, I am confident my earlier feelings about the quality of the itinerary were well reasoned—less travel and more photography.

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Whether you have been to Africa before, or not, I believe you will understand the best photography safaris spend much less time traveling from location to location and more time really delving into the wildlife that one or two locations can offer. Two locations, yes there are more locations to photograph in Botswana, but for two weeks keeping it to two of the best safari locations proved to be very productive.

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Wildlife at eye level. The two locations we chose enhanced the photography to a level very few get to experience in such a wildlife rich country. From our kickoff in South Africa, our unique trip took us from south to north in Botswana, with our first stop being along the remote Limpopo River. Game drives here are excellent for a chance to not only photograph big game of nearly all sorts but also includes many opportunities to photograph Africa’s iconic big cats. I know this location well and it has been excellent for elusive leopards in the past and this safari proved to be just as productive. Another reason to start here in the south was to spend time photographing from one of Africa’s premier waterhole hides.


The hide. Splash splash extremely close-up action, no sissies in the hide. If you want up close and eye level (sometimes below eye level) photography of wildlife this is the way to do it. Here elephants, zebras, giraffes as well as a myriad of the local antelope would visit, often just beyond arms reach. In an active photo location as this, it is well worth being alert for splashes from bathing elephants as the water sometimes makes its way into the small shooting window of our below ground blind.


After a rewarding week, we ventured north via a well-timed charter flight to the famous Chobe River. Here in Chobe National Park, life follows the pace of the river. On the water, we didn’t have to worry about crowds, and this is where most of our photography took place with specially designed boats designed for photographers. A single line of comfortable swivel seats running along the center of each boat ensures each of the eight photographers have a great position for all wildlife sightings. I don’t want to leave out the coolest part, each of these photo perches has an attached gimbal support that can keep your camera in place, eye level and ready for the next photo opportunity. All we had to do was aim, focus, and shoot.

A solid comfortable river boat is nothing without a skilled captain. Our boats were guided by drivers who know how to work with photographers. Knowing how to put the boats in the best location for wildlife action and light while anticipating our subject’s next move. These guides are also eager to place us in locations according to our suggested shots and maneuver the boats without hesitation.


From river level, we would go on to spend time safely photographing bathing and swimming elephants, crocodiles at eye level, and hippos fighting for breeding territories. If you have been to Botswana before, then you are aware that the bird life abounds. Using a river approach allows very close photography of birds that make the river home. With such easy access, kingfishers, bee-eaters, lilac breasted rollers, and African fish eagles were just a few of our quarry.

Nesting season was just beginning all along the river. There were times when we placed ourselves on one section of the waterway, with the sun to our back, and spent a couple of hours photographing the coming and going at a very active, yellow-billed stork colony. We then moved on down river to test our mettle with feeding African skimmers.


While we did spend more time working the images and animal activity along the Chobe, we also managed to do a couple of game drives in the National Park. It is here we caught up to some of the area’s lions and definitely more elephants.

Overall great photo safaris start by not rushing around trying to hit as many destinations as possible. Better wildlife photography begins by taking time to fully explore your surroundings, getting to know the wildlife and movements within that area so you know what to anticipate for the best lighting and subjects. One week at each of our selected locations was perfect for getting into the pace of nature and work on creating captivating images of some of Africa’s iconic wildlife.

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It’s always great to return from a photo trip with far too many images to process. With these two outstanding locations to photograph wildlife, the JVO Botswana photo safari provided more than enough stunning images along with a chance to get a good feel for the pace of life in the African bush.

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