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Ngorongoro Crater Photo Safari
This one-week photo safari promises to deliver incredible and unique photographic results and it will leave you in absolute awe of Africa’s beauty. There is quite simply no place more beautiful anywhere in Africa than the Ngorongoro Crater. It’s one of those places that you just have to see at least once in your lifetime. It also happens to be one of the best photographic locations on the continent and photographers who use it as a stopover point to get to the Serengeti only, have largely overlooked the Ngorongoro Crater. This is a totally unique one-of-a-kind photo safari as it focuses specifically on the Ngorongoro Crater as a photographic destination in its own right. We have chosen a time of year when there is hardly anybody else in the crater so you will feel like you have it all to yourself. In just one week you will build a portfolio of work that most professional photographers do not have.
Day 1 - Arrival in Dar es Salaam
Your first night will be spent at the Southern Sun in Dar es Salaam. This hotel is clean, safe and has a delightful coffee shop and bar downstairs with free Wi-Fi so that you can notify loved ones of your safe arrival. Your host and guide, Greg du Toit, will meet you at the hotel.
Day 2 - Fly into Arusha and transfer to Ngorongoro Crater
Your safari kicks off in earnest today as you catch a scheduled charter flight from Dar es Salaam to Arusha. This is a photo safari for photographers so of course we have booked you extra luggage allowances so that you can bring all the gear that you need for the trip. A 500mm focal length, or there about, is perfect for the crater but also bring your macro lenses and your wide-angles. This is no ordinary photo safari, you are going to get unique and inspirational shots that will make even seasoned professional wildlife photographers blush. Its not just about location but also about timing. You will be visiting the crater at a time of year when no one else does and at a time of year when the weather is moody and the light spectacular. As a result this trip will yield photographs different to anything you have captured before. Imagine having the Ngorongoro Crater all to yourself!
The flight from Dar to Arusha is about 90 minutes long depending on how the schedule flight routes. Once we land in Arusha we will road transfer through the Great Rift Valley and into the beautiful Ngorongoro Highlands. This incredibly scenic drive will take you to the very edge of the crater before circumnavigating the rim to your very special camp, which enjoys views over the Serengeti and the crater highlands - quite possibly the finest 'out of Africa' view in all of Africa. The drive from Arusha to the crater will take about 3 hours excluding the time at the gate to the Ngorogoro Conservation Area.
After a scrumptious dinner and a thorough briefing and setting up of equipment, you will turn in for a well-deserved night's rest. Sleeping in the Ngorongoro Highlands you might have an elephant or buffalo walk through the camp or you might hear lions roar. All the wildlife is free ranging and you will experience as authentic a safari as Hemingway did. Our camp is a permanent tented camp consisting of walk-in tents built on wooden platforms with hot running water and flush loos. The high altitude chill is kept at bay with heating in your tent. With only 6 tents set in a quiet part of the Ngorongoro Highlands and on a high vantage point, our camp offers incredible breathtaking vistas. The crater is a UNESCO site and as such the camp’s footprint remains light and is the perfect blend between rustic and comfortable.
Sweet dreams or Lala Salama as we say in Swahili!
Day 3, 4, 5 and 6 – Ngorongoro Crater!
Your day begins with the finest traditional safari experience. There is no need for alarm clocks, you will be woken by your tent steward with a steaming cup of coffee or tea and biscuits, plus fruit if you so desire, brought to you in bed. We depart camp each morning at 05h50, in the dark. We will wind our way along the rim and then down the decent road and to the crater floor where we will capture sublimely moody and mysterious images.
For successful wildlife photography one needs great subjects but also great angles and backgrounds. There is no off road driving allowed in the crater which means that we are not, like on so many other safaris, parked on top of our subjects. This means that our angles are superior and that we can compose our subjects within our frames. But wait, there is more: Not only do we have better angles and room for composition but we have perfect backgrounds throughout the day. The steep crater walls offer magnificent green and blue backgrounds that eliminate the usual dynamic range issues and which allow you to create breathtakingly beautiful fine art imagery. But wait, there is even more: The word photography is Greek in origin, meaning to ‘paint with light’. It really is all about light and as the saying goes ‘amateurs worry about equipment, professionals worry about money and masters worry about light’. The high altitude combined with the time of year that you will be in the crater, means that there will be swirling mists, thundershowers and moody skies throughout the day. This means that photography on this Ngorongoro photo safari is not restricted to golden hours. As such we will stay out all day everyday photographing throughout the day and capturing mood filled images with gorgeous diffused light. The thundershowers bounce around the crater offering incredible vistas and images, making this the ultimate outdoor studio for any wildlife photographer.
Our 6 seater vehicle will have a pop hatch so that you can stay dry but still shoot throughout the day. Only closed vehicles are allowed in the crater for safety reasons but you of course can shoot out the top hatch or the side windows. We have limited the total number of people on this safari to just three so that you can shoot out the left and right and in the rain or the sun.
We will break for breakfast and lunch on the crater floor and the picnic sight is also one of the best photographic locations in the crater for photography. You will be able to photograph hippo at eye-level to your heart’s content and you will be able to get inflight shots of the extremely elegant Grey Crowned Cranes. Zebras come down to drink in close proximity of our picnic spot too!
For 4 full days you will photograph the crater filled with all its incredible creatures and vistas. The crater offers forests, plains and green rolling hills. It is God’s own game reserve and it offers the best chance of photographing large elephant bulls, colloquially called 'tuskers', as well as free-ranging black rhino. All the images in this itinerary were captured in just 1 week spent in the crater. For those of you who love all of Africa’s creatures, the general game on the crater floor is excellent with warthogs and large herds of zebra being the order of the day. There are resident lion prides (who often have cubs) and loads of smaller interesting creatures too, like golden jackals, mongooses and caracals. Leopards are around but as always, they are shy. Cheetah being free ranging move in and out of the crater. If you are specifically interested in cheetah, then don't miss the post trip extension to the southern Serengeti (details at the end of this itinerary). For those of you who enjoy birds, the crater offers incredible birdlife with water birds, eagles and a plethora of others. There are lots of macro opportunities as at this time of year the crater bursts forth with life, including fields of wild flowers.
With full memory cards, you will depart the crater each evening at 6pm, which is the latest that we can stay as there is a strict 'gate closing time' for all visitors. The scenic drive back up the wall and along the rim to your camp will leave you spellbound at Africa’s exceptional beauty and the incredible bounty of wildlife that you will have experienced each day.
Back in camp, a campfire and delicious dinner awaits, after which you turn in exhausted from the creative energy expelled during the 12 hours of photography. You will wake only to do it all again the following day! You will spend 4 full days in the crater, which is a total of 48 hours of safari driving and photography. Because of the light, angle, mood and subject material, in just 4 days you will build an incredible photographic portfolio that will really stand out. This is the only and first photo safari to make the crater its focus and it's the first specialised photo safari to visit the crater in the off-peak season. This means that it will yield photo results that are unique and different. Whether you are a seasoned photographer or just starting out, this safari will elevate your imagery and portfolio to a new level.
Day 7 – Return to Dar es Salaam
On this day, you enjoy breakfast in camp (for a change) before departing for Manyara Airstrip. The drive will give you the last glimpses of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Ngorongoro Crater before descending back down towards the rift valley. The drive takes about 2,5 hours after which you will catch a scheduled charter flight back to Dar es Salaam. Depending on how the flight is routed, this takes about 3 hours.
From here you can continue with onward travel home or you may have to spend one more night in Dar back at the Southern Sun. Of course all accommodation as well as meet and greets and transfers will be arranged for you.
Greg du Toit will be your host and guide throughout this trip. There is only one car and only three people per trip (including non-photographing partners). This means that Greg will be on hand 12 hours per day in the field with you, where he can review your work in camera. Having authoured a book titled “Getting it right in camera” you will be in good hands. As an African-born wildlife photographer, Greg prides himself in extracting cutting edge and unique imagery from the African continent, including from its most iconic destinations where one would think it has all been done before. For the last 6 years he has been searching for a way to tap into the magic of the Ngorongoro Crater and he is now ready to share his secrets with you, so that you can assemble your very own incredible Ngorongoro Crater portfolio.
Back to Africa photo safari page 2 here...
Special note on packing for this unique safari:
Weather: Due to the high altitude of this safari we will experience rain, mud and damp conditions. Washing is therefore not as easily dried as on other safaris. Pack some extra clothes and underwear. We have booked extra luggage allowances to cater for this. Also bring warm clothes like trousers and fleeces. Beanies and gloves are not needed unless you are sensitive to the cold. A good waterproof outer shell (gortex or equivalent) is recommended. Layered clothing is the way to go. Please bring a raincoat for your camera. See here for a simple and effective raincoat that is light and easy to pack.
Camera support: Large molar-type beanbags are recommended. Bring them empty and we can fill them in camp. Also, please bring a monopod with a good ball or gimbal head for supporting your heaviest lens. Tripods are optional. Please bring wide angles and macro lenses if you have them. A Manfrotto super clamp often comes in handy on safari too.
Still got safari questions that you want answered, see my FAQ Page...
Back to Africa photo safari page 1 here...
For those of you wanting to lengthen your trip, we offer two very exciting extensions to this Ngorongoro photo safari. Both are booked on an adhoc bespoke basis. For exact details and a separate costing for either of the extensions please enquire when booking the main tour:
1. Ruaha pre-trip extension:
Ruaha National Park is known as the 'connoisseurs park' and not for no good reason. Ruaha offers pure unadulterated wild bush country. You will enjoy a mobile safari that will see you experiencing and seeing parts of Ruaha that few people ever get to see. A walking safari and mobile camping experience is what this extension is all about. Ruaha is regarded as one of Africa's wildest bush parks and it makes sense to visit it in April which is also the low tourist season. The park gets rain once a year, unlike the rest of east Africa, and by April the bush is drying out, making this a great time to explore the wild bush country. Ruaha has exceptional baobab trees, perfect for star trails. For this extension we have special permission to walk in Ruaha during the green season and we are guided by the best walking guide in East Africa. Sleeping in different locations, this is as wild and as real as Africa gets. This extension is aimed at those who enjoy walking, landscapes and a sense of wild adventure as apposed to a more conventional big game photographic experience. This Ruaha pre-trip extension is booked on a private request basis only, so please enquire to receive a costing and bespoke itinerary. The great thing about Ruaha is that it receives its rain from Dec through to March so unlike the rest of East Africa, April/May are dry months.
I was privileged enough to do a portfolio for Africa Geographic magazine titled 'Beneath the Radar'. It was a 22 month project and I was based in Ruaha. I would love the opportunity to share with you one of Africa's wildest corners. See the portfolio here...
2. Southern Serengeti post-trip extension:
We are offering an incredible extension to the Southern Serengeti, one which dovetails beautifully with the Ngorongoro Crater Photo Safari. You will transfer by road straight from the crater to the Serengeti where a wonderful photographic experience awaits. The southern Serengeti is also one of the absolute wildlife meccas for photographers and by visiting in April or May, you will benefit in the same way that you did in the crater, with hardly any other tourists around. The cheetah viewing and associated predation in this part of Africa is currently unrivaled. The Serengeti has been heralded as Africa's greatest national park and it is just a stone throw away from the crater. If your budget and time allows, then this extension is simply a must. Please note that this Southern Serengeti extension is booked on a private request basis only, so enquire about a bespoke itinerary when booking. This extension is geared at big game, plains game, cheetahs, other predators, and hunts.
Contact me here for more information about either of the above two extensions.
All images and text copyright Greg du Toit 2016
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