Pangolin Safari's boat

Feel like a pro photographer with Pangolin Safaris

Eager to take your wildlife photography to the next level? A bespoke photo safari through Africa’s most scenic spots will catapult you from amateur to pro status in no time. By T4A coowner Johann Groenewald

The wildlife photographers I know all had to start from the bottom. Often they could not afford the best equipment and what they lacked in lens size they had to make up for in proximity to their subject matter.

To get that perfect shot means spending a lot of time in the field. The more successful photographers often go and live in the bush, giving up all the comforts of home just to capture that perfect moment.

A shot of a lion
A lion spotted along the banks of the Chobe River. Wildlife pictures by Johann’s 12-year-old daughter.

And then most people who go down this path never make a dime back either. So, it’s not all as glamourous as it seems, but for those who love nature and are willing to persist, it can be a very fulfilling lifestyle.

If you are just another regular guy like me with a house and kids in school, then this is not feasible. But I found a way to feel like a pro for a day or seven. It all depends on your budget.

A photo safari for everyone

My visit to Kasane was spiced up with a stay at the newly opened Pangolin Chobe Hotel, which is situated on the hill as you enter Kasane from the Chobe side. The hotel lobby pays tribute to the wildlife photographer with beautiful images from all the professional guides working at Pangolin. It feels like walking through a high-street gallery and you immediately know you’ve come to the right place for photography. There is even a dedicated editing room with all the facilities you could want.

Photography equipment
With a pro on hand to offer guidance and support, Pangolin Safaris offers a personalised photo safari experience like none other.

Pangolin offers the complete novice the opportunity to go on a photo safari using their equipment. Yes, that’s right, you arrive with your hat and sunscreen and they put you in a specially designed chair which swivels 360 degrees and has a top of the range gimbal fitted to it. On the gimbal, you can either fit your own camera or make use of theirs. Their ‘house’ cameras are actually Canon 80Ds paired with Sigma 150-600mm lenses. That is more than what most amateurs would have in their bag already.

The best part is that a professional photographer joins you on the boat. We were accompanied by Guts Swanepoel, one of the founders of Pangolin Safaris. He had us taking pictures in manual mode from the word go. He made us feel completely at ease with the equipment and encouraged us to experiment with different settings, all while the most incredible scenery passed us by along the banks of the Chobe River.

Safari on the Chobe River
Situated between Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta, the Chobe river is one of the best year-round wildlife photography destinations in Africa.

Also read: How to photograph wild Africa at night

Even my 12-year-old daughter, who had no previous experience with or interest in photography, emerged with some amazing pictures and developed a keen interest in both wildlife and photography. I am convinced that this trip has left a lasting impression on her.

The popularity of boat safaris on the Chobe River sometimes leads to a bit of a traffic jam at certain places as the boats jostle for position. But the Pangolin boat comes with an experienced skipper who pre-empts what animals will do and where they might move to next. Coupled with the knowledge of the professional photographer, they ensure that you have the best position on the river with the sun at your back, so you’re all set up for that perfect shot. Now, if that kingfisher would just dive and emerge with a fish, then I could have one for the office wall.

Hippo in the Chobe
A photo safari gives guests the chance to walk away with high quality, hard-to-get shots.

At the end of the day, the SD card from your camera is yours to take home.

We also had more experienced photographers on our boat, and they took full advantage of the safari’s focus on what photographers want as opposed to just doing the round trip on the river. Each person had a lot of space on the boat and there was no leaning over someone’s shoulder to get a shot. So, this is something for the novice and experienced photographer alike.

Also on offer from Pangolin

A quick scan of the Pangolin website will give you a better idea of what else they offer. They have a houseboat and a camp in the Khwai area and they offer mobile safaris. All of their trips are completely focused on photography and the guides are all professional photographers. They also offer skills development safaris where you can grow your knowledge of photography and of wildlife as subject matter.

Bird in the reeds
Being on the river means having endless opportunities to capture Botswana’s birds in action.

You have the option to join their boat safari without staying at the hotel, but preference is given to guests on the boat. The stay at the hotel includes two activities so you could do the boat safari in the afternoon and then a game drive in the morning. Their game drives take a maximum of four people, so you have plenty of space for taking pictures.

The Botswana Self-Drive Guidebook Edition 2 is the quintessential guidebook for overlanders who love to go off the beaten track. Filled with detailed maps, travel advice and useful contact details, it’s got everything you need to plan the perfect road trip. Buy it online here.

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