Trip report: South Africa Photo Journey (Oct-Nov 2017) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Lisle Gwynn. This was a set-departure tour.

This year’s South Africa photo journey was a roaring success and arguably our greatest ever. With an altered itinerary making use of some new and spectacular photo locations we made our way across this spectacular and varied nation, shooting the absolute best that it had to offer.

We began in the sometimes chilly and stormy Cape, based in beautiful Cape Town, where we opened the tour in the spectacular grandeur of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, before moving on to shoot African Penguins, endemic cormorants, a bevy of waterbirds at a nearby filtration plant, and a whole host of birds endemic to the fynbos floral kingdom, including the curious Cape Sugarbird (left).

We also made forays up the coast to West Coast National Park, and out to the Kogelberg Biosphere, as well as all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope to give us maximum diversity in our photographs.

Traveling east, we then crossed the open and stark Overberg region toward the lush and humid subtropical forests of Wilderness and the Garden Route. Along the way we made an overnight stop to allow us to photograph iconic Blue Cranes, Denham’s Bustard, Secretarybird, Agulhas Long-billed and Clapper Larks, mousebirds, Fiscal Shrikes and a nice suite of mammals including Cape Mountain Zebra and the stunning Bontebok.

Once in Wilderness we shot at one of the ] best feeder set-ups in the country which attracts giant and gaudy Knysna Turaco as well as Greater Double-collared and Amethyst Sunbirds, Swee and Common Waxbills, Chorister and Cape Robin-Chats, Streaky-headed Seedeaters, Forest Canary, Lemon, Red-eyed and Cape Turtle Doves and a whole lot more. It also features one of the best breakfasts in the country, taken just a meter or two from a gang of turacos.

After our time in the Cape we travelled east further more, flying to Durban and driving to the relatively new and justifiably famous Zimanga Private Game Reserve where we spent 4 nights in luxury with our own vehicle, guide and lovely homestead.We spent time here divided between sessions in their state-of-the-art hides which afford opportunities unique in Africa, and on game drives where we are, almost uniquely, allowed on foot with the likes of Cheetah and African Wild Dog.

Once we were done in the heart of KwaZulu- Natal we took a drive north to the world famous Kruger National Park.With 5 nights in 3 areas of the park, with an open-sided safari vehicle, we took advantage of the bounty of bird and mammal photo opportunities. Highlights were many but both Black and White Rhino, incredible Saddle-billed Stork and a brief Leopard have to take podium places here. As always, there is never enough time to do this place justice, but we sure tried our best.

The whole premise of our ‘photojourney’ concept is to travel with cameras in hand, photographing in a variety of situations. This often means we, as experienced field naturalists, use our field skills to put you in a position to photograph a much wider variety of species than often encountered on a standard photography tour.

To show you the results of this kind of tour, peruse this gallery to see what I personally came home with from this tour. Bare in mind firstly that the guide always gets the least spectacular photos of anyone in the group. Our job is to put you in a position to get the best possible result from any situation. So, treat this as a bare minimum of what is achievable on this tour. And, secondly, give thought to the 1500 or so images still unchecked on my hard drive…

FULL 2017 South Africa Photo Journey trip report (16.5MB file)