My wife and I were recently privileged to go on not one safari, but two! The first was mid-September in Kruger NP, South Africa; the second was two weeks later in Chobe NP, Botswana. Both were "bucket list" type events.
One does not necessarily need a guide to go on safari but I would certainly recommend such, especially when one is on a strict time schedule. To say these guys know their business is an understatement. They find game that one might spend days finding, or never at all. And they are adept at putting one in the right position to capture that once in a lifetime photo.
Our day in Kruger was one such day. We not only saw a lot of wildlife but found ourselves unexpectedly in the midst of a hunt by a pride of lions. We had just seen a lone Cape Buffalo bull on a river bank perhaps 200 yards from our vehicle when suddenly we found ourselves flanked by five female lions casually strolling down the road; except they were'nt casually strolling down the road. They had spotted this bull before we had and were positioning themselves to take him down...which is exactly what happened right before our eyes. Before we even realized what was going down those cats were on that buffalo; he never had a chance. Our guide explained he was an old bull that had been separated from the herd. I can still hear that buff bellowing as those lions pulled him down. A flock of buzzards had already gathered awaiting their turn. A vivid example of life in the wild.
The second day of safari, in Chobe NP, came in combination with a visit to Victoria Falls (see separate blog entry) and was fully as productive as Kruger in terms of animals seen. We "hunted" by land rover in the morning, by boat on the Chobe River (which empties into the Zambezi) in the afternoon. Again, our guide spotted hard to see wildlife we would never have otherwise seen, especially birds. Here too, we came upon a fresh lion kill (this time a baby elephant) with the lions still present sleeping off full stomachs.
Viewing and photographing wildlife in their natural habitat is exciting. These animals are used to seeing humans so they go about their business as if we were'nt even there. But one needs to remember that this isn't the zoo. These animals are wild and not in a cage. That thought was foremost in my mind as we were flanked by the five hunting lion at Kruger. They were more interested in the buffalo than us, but still they were almost within touching distance from us in the land rover. It's been less than two months since a woman was killed by a lion while on safari in Africa. I kept a close eye on those cats. Exciting yes...without risk? Absolutely not.
With this posting I am beginning to put new photographs on my website. See them in the "Portraits in the Wild" portfolio.