Sorry, now full!
Join us on a trip of a lifetime!
This will be the 5th Photo safari I've organised for POTN members and for 2013 we'll be travelling to the famous Kruger National Park, located in the far NE of South Africa, around 6 hours from Johannesburg International Airport.
My intention is to take two separate groups, each of five people, plus myself as organiser/general guide. I'm considering August 2013 and each trip will be 14 days, with probably 12 days actually in the park itself. I envisage that the first group will meet at the airport, we'll pick up our hire vehicles and then head to our JHB overnight guest house. Next morning will pick up supplies and then take the long drive to Kruger. From memory it's around 400km and roads most of the way very good, so we'll be in our camp around 4.00pm on the 2nd day. On the return we'll leave Kruger early and head straight for the airport. I'll then take a day or so break and then pick up the next group ... and repeat! Can't wait
The absolute focus of the trip is on wildlife photography, including birds and reptiles, and all levels of experience are welcome. I am also happy to take along non-shooting partners of photographers - viewing can as rewarding as photography in my opinion and, of course, you don't need to join us on every game drive. Just bring some binoculars.
Costs, inclusive everything apart from restaurant food and drink and your own air-fair from your home airport to JHB and back, will be around £130/day per person, i.e. around £1800. I'd expect to take 2-3 payments over the period August 2012 to around March/April 2013.
In the past usually the first payment has been mainly for accommodation, second mainly for vehicle hire and the third for everything else that will be paid for once we're there (food, fuel, tips, park entry, day fees and conservation fees, etc.) I'll also bring lots of essentials like tyre pump, medical kit, guide books, maps, gps, etc so no need to worry about that kinda stuff! The third payment will reflect more accurately the actual and projected expenditure, so may well be less than the £1820 above. It won't be more!
If you unfortunately decide you can't or don't want to go after paying some or all your money in then you need to find a replacement or you will lose much/all your money. This is because it's unfair other group members should have to fork out lots of extra cash to cover your change of mind.
Standards of accommodation we'll use in Kruger will vary from good to excellent, depending mainly on the age of the camp; we'll also overnight in JHB and make use of a local 4* guest house - very carefully chosen. I've only been disappointed with one camps accommodation and we aint going back there! I have more often been delighted.
We will mix self catering with camp restaurant eating. Some camps will be very well set up in that regard and you'll also have access to laundry, a well stocked shop, a cash point and even telephone. Other camps will be much more remote and we'll plan ahead for that and take the basics of what we need in with us. Self-catering is really nice, usually we have a braai/bbq and everyone does something towards the group meal. If you like wine then South Africa has some really nice options and very reasonably priced.
My experience of running these trips with very mixed groups of absolute strangers is that those that enjoy them most are fairly easy going, self-disciplined, good sense of humour, team-workers willing to muck in and help with whatever needs doing, have a sense of adventure (and self-preservation) and are not 'too anal' about their photography: remember, the group will likely be quite mixed so if you get easily irritated with yourself and others when you can't get the 'perfect shot' then best you join another trip. Similarly, those with a sometimes anxious or controlling personality might also prefer to source a trip via another organiser.
I try to encourage a relaxed, low key but focused vibe ... we can all be relaxed, have fun, go with the flow but still possess the self-discipline and concern for other group members, e.g. to get up and be fully ready in time for the 5.30am game drive! If you're comfy with that approach then you'll likely enjoy yourself.
During previous trips we've ventured To Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa. I love them all, but for wildlife numbers and variety there is no doubt Kruger in South Africa is supreme. Each time we've seen the Big Five and captured many truly beautiful images.
Generally the routine is the same each day: we sleep early, wake early, go for a game drive from around 6am to 10am, before the light gets too harsh, return to camp for breakfast, do some chores, for the group and ourselves, maybe have a snooze. We then go for a second game drive from around 3-5.30pm. You really become conscious of quality of light in Africa and these times are adhered to so we maximise chances of perfect light, the so called 'golden hours'.
In terms of gear I've usually taken two bodies, one with something like a 70-200 or 70-300 and the other with a 400mm - these are the ranges you'll use most. Something like a 70-300 or a 100-400 on a single body is also fine. Big 500 or 600mm's are a great idea but can sometimes be impractical and get in the way of other shooters. But there's no doubt greater range and quality can pay dividends. A walk-around lens is also handy ... I generally take a fast prime, or something on the wider side. A macro is nice if that's your kinda thing. You don't have to spend mega-bucks, just buy smart.
A laptop is very useful for viewing and storing images. On previous trips people have sometimes 'shared'. A backup drive is also really wise to have. With two bodies and a laptop you can easily manage with a couple of 4GB cards. I can offer a lot of advice about what to take ... but generally you can travel surprising light. Many people have brought way too much on previous trips - a PITA for all!
Anyway, several people have expressed keen interest already. There are a max of 10 places available. I will choose those who I feel are likely to be most compatible and help ensure a smooth, relaxed and enjoyable trip.
If you're interested then please ask questions here, or you can call me if you prefer, even visit if you're in the UK! I would like to get groups formed asap, take first payments and then book accommodation in the next 6-7 weeks ... often the best camps and accommodation go very quickly so we can't delay much beyond September.
In terms of flights I can only really talk about UK ... I have usually monitored prices and then booked around January for a July/August flight. Sometimes there's a great offer and so worth booking early. I'll fly from Heathrow direct to JHB. The one thing we need to do is arrive same day if AT ALL possible.
Over to you ...