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Cape Town, Tanzania and Nairobi Pics and Brief Report

Cape Town, Tanzania and Nairobi Pics and Brief Report

Old Aug 24th, 2009, 05:53 AM
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Cape Town, Tanzania and Nairobi Pics and Brief Report

Hello fellow Fodorites,

I have been slaving away processing pictures since we returned home from Africa on July 11, and finally I have them finished. You can find them at http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/gallery/africa09. But if you don't want to wade through the approximately 250 pictures in the gallery, here are my "top dozen" picks:

1) Backlit Gray-headed Kingfisher, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408830/original
2) Cheetah on termite mound, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408849/original
3) Great White Shark, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409235/original
4) African Harrier-hawk, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408824/original
5) Feisty young elephant, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409005/original
6) Baboon play time, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409018/original
7) Nile Crocodile feeding, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408880/original
8) Hippo disagreement in the Mara River, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409047/original
9) Wildebeest in a hurry, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409143/original
10) Making baby lions, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409172/original
11) Elephant dust storm, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409208/original
12) Lioness in motion, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408920/original

And I guess, to make it a baker's dozen, here is a picture of two Dwarf Mongoose that I really liked: http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408847/original

As a word of warning, some of the images in my gallery (in particular the ones involving the crocodiles and zebras) are not for the faint-hearted. If you're sensitive to scenes of predation and feeding, you may not want to look at those. Some of the images came from a crocodile that attacked a zebra in the Grumeti River and simply held the zebra without killing it for almost 6 hours. Only at the end of the day did the crocodile finish the job and eat the zebra, but it was a wrenching experience watching that drama unfold, and I think the pictures convey some of that.

I don't really think a full trip report is necessary, since our itinerary was a pretty typical one and all of the elements of our trip have been the subject of many previous trip reports. Here was our itinerary:

-- Cape Town/Simon's Town, including great white shark cage diving with African Shark Eco-Charters; stayed at the Simon's Town Quayside Hotel (6 nights)
-- Tarangire National Park/Oliver's Camp (3 nights)
-- Ngorongoro Crater/Serena (1 night)
-- Northern Serengeti near Kogatende/Sayari Camp (3 nights)
-- Western Corridor/Tanzania Under Canvas (4 nights)
-- Nairobi to visit the Sheldrick Orphanage; Stanley Hotel (1 night)

The trip was arranged with our Africa travel agent, Marie at African Horizons, and the whole itinerary went very smoothly in terms of flights, pickups, and we enjoyed each of the camps we stayed at.

Although I am not going to write a full report, there are a couple of things I wanted to mention. First off, we discovered another excellent guide service in Cape Town, called Far Out Adventures. We did a day tour of the Cape Peninsula with them and the guides (Francois and Justin) were young ,energetic and a lot of fun. If you find yourself in Cape Town and want an active, lively and off-the-beaten path tour experience, look them up: http://www.faroutevents.co.za. Selwyn will always be our original and favorite Cape Town guide, but these guys are also really excellent and have a very different style.

I also wanted to write a quick note about the brand-new Sayari Camp, which had opened just two weeks before our arrival at the beginning of July 2009. This was a wonderful camp and was definitely our favorite of all the excellent places we stayed in Tanzania. The camp is permanently located in the northern Serengeti about 5 miles from the Kogatenda airstrip. It is set in a rocky, high area from which you can see all the way to the Kenya border. There are a variety of habitats close by, including the Lemai Wedge (an open, grassy plain), the Mara River, some forested areas to the south, and of course lots of rocky kopjes. The camp itself it gorgeous, with permanent, rigid-walled "tents" that are incredibly well-appointed an equipped with solar hot water heaters, showers, tubs, outdoor sofas, and the like. The camp has a swimming pool that uses some of the boulders as its floor, and agama lizards run around everywhere. And to top it all off, the camp's management and staff struck just the right balance between excellent service and allowing guests to relax undisturbed and enjoy the camp. Highly recommended!

Anyway, that's about it in terms of what I had planned to write about. The trip as a whole was excellent, and each of the camps in which we stayed was excellent and offered its own unique style, both with regard to habitat and wildlife and the camp experience itself. We were very fortunate to get into the Western Corridor just as the migration was there, and it certainly was a thrilling experience to be among such a large number of animals. The predators were very active too, as you'd expect with millions of food items running around for them to choose from. We saw some animals that were unexpected treats (bat-eared foxes, for example), but we still have never seen a leopard in the wild ... I guess we have a reason to go back to Africa again in a few years!

Hope you enjoy the pictures, and if anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

Chris
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 06:19 AM
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What brilliant pictures, well worth the 'wade'!
Glad you had such a great trip, doesn't matter about that elusive leopard - as you say, good excuse to go back!
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 07:43 AM
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These pictures are fantastic. Excellent!
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 08:24 AM
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Amazing, amazing, amazing! As I am looking for a new camera could you tell me what you used to take such wonderful pictures.
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 08:55 AM
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Thank you all for the comments! Raelong, each picture page tells you the equipment that was used right under the picture, but in general the wildlife pictures were taken with a Canon 1D Mark III and 500mm f/4 lens (and usually a 1.4x teleconverter), or with a Canon 50D and 100-400mm zoom lens. For the landscapes we used a 24-105mm zoom lens. It was a lot of gear to carry around, but we definitely thought it was worth it. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Chris
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 10:14 AM
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Absolutely stunning pics!

Thanks for sharing!

SV
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 10:31 AM
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Hi, Chris. I haven't looked at your pictures yet. I'll have more time and a better monitor to see them this evening. I'm looking forward to it! . As you know, I'm headed to Mikuma, Ruaha, Katavi, Mahale and Kenya next month and I still haven't decided which lenses to take. Is the 100-400 and the 500 f/4 the way to go?
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 10:49 AM
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Cindy, the answer to your question is definitely, "yes." I would say for 80% of our shots, I needed all the reach I could get, so that meant using the 500 and a 1.4x TC. Then there were 20% of the situations where that was too long and we needed the flexibility of the zoom, so the 100-400 came in very handy for those situations. We had a third body with a 24-105 for landscapes just to avoid the hassle of lens changes. We didn't use our 70-200 on the safari at all, and I did not carry my 300/2.8, and there would have been no reason to take it because I used the 500 so much.

I hope you have a great trip, those are some places I would really like to go in the future.

Chris

P.S. be sure to take an Arctic Butterfly or something like that to get dust off the sensors. Even with no lens changes that was a near-daily occurrence for us.
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 12:32 PM
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Chris, your photos are excellent, as usual, especially the birds.
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 01:03 PM
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Your photos are amazing. I agree that the birds, which can be hard to photograph, are especially good. You can even show the hadada ibis in good light. Your really excelled in your time at the Cape. Those ostrich and the waves a beautiful. That poor zebra. Some very ferious croc action and some very agressive hippos. Definitely worth carrying all that gear!
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 03:58 PM
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Lynn, Michael, thank you so much for your comments. I love birds, so I spent a lot of time photographing them. Tarangire was especially good for that -- the park was well-populated with all kinds of birds.
The crocs were definitely very active at Grumeti -- but since they only get once chance at the migration per year, that is no surprise. The interesting thing was that the attacks did not occur with crocs coming out of the water -- rather the zebras would wade in and the crocs came in under the surface and just grabbed their legs in a very un-spectacular fashion. I didn't expect that.
Chris
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 05:49 PM
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Chris, I haven't gone through all of them (squeamish before dinner), but what I have seen so far is fantastic! Thanks much. Your photos are always beautiful. What was the water level like in the Grumeti?

sundowner, safari njema soon.
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 06:23 PM
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Thanks, Leely.

Chris, you have so many great images. Love all of the birds, especially the ground hornbill. And the cheetahs, wow, such great shots. The croc kill - amazing. How much time did you spend there? Bat eared fox - lucky you! I can't believe you haven't seen leopard. I also can't believe all of the hippos you saw. I left some comments in your gallery. Congratulations on your wonderful images.
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 07:55 PM
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Your photos are amazing!! I don't know that I have ever seen an upside down hippo (was it alive?). Your use of light makes your images stunning. I have been toying with the idea of renting a 500mm for my trip in Dec., it was good to read that you left your 70-200 at home....I may have to take the rental plunge and then take the 70-400 as well. I love the warthogs, they are one of my favorites, nice tusks.
I have not seen a leopard (that I could get a decent photo of anyway), maybe in Dec. I have not used the Arctic Butterfly (or equivalent), is it difficult? I have always just paid to have my cameras cleaned, but there have been trips where I got the random dust spot on images, so it would be nice to be able to do it myself.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful images.
Pat
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Old Aug 25th, 2009, 08:41 AM
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Thank you all for your comments!

Leely, the Grumeti was not flowing -- parts of it were completely dry but there were still big pools everywhere.

Scruffy -- the arctic butterfly is very easy and fast to use -- takes only a few seconds. I always take mine when I travel.

Chris
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Old Aug 25th, 2009, 10:48 AM
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Oh, and that hippo was alive, it was just rolling over in the water!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2010, 04:46 PM
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Hi Chris,

Would you recommend the shark diving operator in Cape Town? I've also heard that Shark Alley, from Gansbaai, is the best place to go cage diving with great whites--did you do that one or the one in Simon's Town? Can you tell me more about your experience?

Many thanks!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2010, 07:33 PM
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I didn't realise this was from last year till I saw the dates on the pics. Just as wonderful to view them the second time around.
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Old Aug 24th, 2010, 06:50 AM
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The photos are from last year, but it was delightful to go through them again. I must be turning into a bird nerd - the photos I enjoyed the most were of the birds, especially the kingfishers. Robin
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Old Aug 24th, 2010, 05:40 PM
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A one year anniversary trip down memory lane!
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