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Day 1 - Arrive Johannesburg and on to
Mala Mala Game Reserve

You will be met at Johannesburg international airport by your host and guide Greg du Toit. A short one hour flight will take you to
Mala Mala, South Africa's original safari camp.

This was one of the first properties in South Africa to stop hunting, converting over to photographic safaris back in the sixties. The camp has been on the same location for the last 50 plus years and as a result the wildlife has relaxed, making this a photographers' mecca. The campgrounds are stunning, offering wide vistas of the African bush and many antelope wonder through the grounds unperturbed. You can enjoy Big Five sightings from the camp as you gaze across the Sand River.

The rooms all have air-conditioning and there is complimentary wireless internet connectivity (albeit a bit slow). Bottled water is supplied free of charge and there are bar fridges, which are stocked upon your request. Your accommodation comes complete with a his and hers bathroom and a lounge area. The lodge has a beautiful pool, gym and their is even room service, but this is not why you are here of course, keep reading...

Day 2, 3, 4 - Mala Mala Predator and Big 5 Photography

At Mala Mala we wake at 05h30am and depart camp in the dark at 06h00 (while all the other guests are still asleep). We then track down predators based on tracks and the sightings from the previous night. We will be deep in the African bush by the time the sun rises at 06h45 and we will enjoy sublime photography until the light becomes too harsh. The first part of the morning will be spent with the predators or other members of the BIG FIVE and once light levels are too high to create dramatic low light imagery, we will move onto trying to capture birds in flight. We will stop for a scrumptious bush breakfast picnic, before returning to camp at midday.

You will then have time to download your images. For those avid photographers with big memory cards, the aloe flowers in the camp are flowering this time of year, and their is wonderful bird photography to be down right in camp.

Lunch will commence at 13h00 and the lunch buffet really is the finest in Africa. After lunch, I will present a talk on various pertinent photographic topics (non photographing partners can enjoy some more downtime). I travel with an entire workshop on my macbook and depending on your needs and wants, I will present a course that is relevant to your personal photography. The subjects I will talk about, using my own imagery as examples, will range from camera settings (aperture, shutter, ISO, white balance, exposure comp, metering, histograms) through to how to use your flash skillfully and how to shoot wildlife action in low light. Topics I will address will also include 'elements of composition' and how to achieve correct focus on still or moving subjects. I will also process a few images for you so that you can glean from my post processing skills. There will of course be ample time for you to ask questions and to address areas of your own concern as well as to ask for a critic on a few of your own images. This way you can learn from your own experiences and develop your own unique style. This infield workshop will help you take your imagery to the next level. A masterclass on how to photograph leopards at night as well as an advanced auto focus lesson are a highlight of the workshop component of this trip. You can read guest testimonials here...

Our afternoon safari drives will commence each afternoon at 15h30 whereby we will meet at 15h00 before, for a cup of tea or coffee according to old safari tradition, and to set up our equipment and settings. Our safari drives will be conducted in the Land Rover Puma safari trucks. These vehicles offer the most comfortable safari drive with coiled suspension in the front and the rear. The vehicles are open with no roof, which allows for maximum photographic freedom and which also allows us to photograph leopards up in trees. Having a private vehicle all to ourselves, will ensure that you are able to exercise the freedom needed to obtain exceptional images. With only 3 photographers on the vehicle, you will have an entire row to yourself, enabling you to shoot out both the left and the right.

While our driver guide expertly tracks the predators, there will be time to double check your camera settings and to make sure that you are ready to expertly capture the predator action to follow. With your own professional wildlife photographer in the front of the vehicle, you will receive expert and personalized tuition. I will offer you exact settings as well as creative insights, and I will also ensure that you are best positioned to capitalize on each sighting, using my extensive experience in the field. You will of course be able to ask questions at will, as the whole purpose of the trip is to ensure that you expand your personal photographic portfolio and capture unique award winning imagery.

We will stop for a quick comfort break at around 6pm (depending on sightings), where you will stretch your legs and enjoy a sun-downer, another fine safari tradition. This will also facilitate an opportunity to check that your camera settings are all correct for the nocturnal predator action to follow. You will then enjoy a night safari whereby we follow leopards and other nocturnal African predators. There is a good chance of seeing a kill as lion and leopard do most of their hunting at night. I will share my secret recipe with you for photographing predators at night using a spotlight and some fill-flash. There is also an excellent hyena den site on Mala Mala.

We return to camp at 8pm where we will meet in the bar for pre-dinner drinks and banter. From there, we will move into the boma for dinner which is the original boma from the late sixties. We will enjoy dinner alfresco under the African stars and beneath a 700 year old African Ebony tree. There will of course be lots more talk about photography and equipment as we reminisce on the day's sightings. A cognac or after dinner tea will see you turn in for the night. For those not wanting to stay up late at dinner there is the option of room service.

This leg of the safari guarantees that you return home with exceptional images in the bag and Mala Mala offers you the BIG FIVE but in a non-touristy way as only Mala Mala vehicles traverse on the property. This means that on most of our sightings we will be the only vehicle there and at the very most, there will only be another two vehicles on a sighting with us. You will therefore not get the clutter of vehicles that you find in other parts of Africa. You will also enjoy spending time with Africa's other splendid animals like giraffe, zebra and warthog.

Day 5 - Transfer from Mala Mala to Mashatu Botswana

I will take you to one of my favourite places in Africa for a sunrise coffee and after your last safari drive and breakfast, you depart for Botswana. The travel time is approximately 90 minutes before arriving in
Mashatu, where you will be met by your Mashatu guide. A 30 minute transfer will take you into the heart of Botswana's Northern Tuli Game Reserve. This little known corner of Botswana is also her best kept secret!

 Once arriving at Mashatu Main Camp we will settle in before heading out on our first safari drive at 15h15 and photography will commence with immediate effect. This itinerary has been carefully designed so that you do not need to miss a safari drive on this transfer day. A pre-dinner drink in the camp's bar (aptly called 'the gin-trap'), a hearty dinner, campfire and a cosy bed will bring an end to your first day in Botswana.

Day 6, 7, 8 - On safari at Mashatu Game Reserve

Mashatu Game Reserve is an enchanting wilderness in south eastern Botswana. Situated at the confluence of Kipling's 'great grey green greasy' Limpopo and Shashe Rivers, this area is unlike any other in Africa. If you are looking for a different and exciting part of Africa to explore then look no further. The ample plains range from savannah, to riverine forests, marshland, and sandstone outcrops. Dubbed the ‘Land of Giants’ Mashatu takes its name from the locally-sacrosanct Mashatu tree and the giants that roam the terrain. As one of the largest private game reserves in Southern Africa Mashatu is a fitting setting for the world’s largest land mammal, the elephant. Mashatu is home to the largest herds of elephant on privately owned land on earth and it also provides sanctuary to the world’s tallest mammal (the giraffe); the world’s largest antelope (the eland); the world’s largest bird (the ostrich) and the world’s heaviest flying bird (the kori bustard). Add the lion, the king of the beasts and the iconic baobab as well as a thriving population of leopard and cheetah, and you have a spectacular location for wildlife photography!

This extraordinary place possesses an ecological diversity uncommon in other reserves. Mashatu is home to the more uncommon and smaller predators including the aardwolf, bat-eared fox, African wild cat, genet, honey badger and black-backed jackal. That's right, this predator safari does not just include Africa's large predators. Mashatu is also an ornithological paradise and plays host to more than 350 bird species. The avian photographic opportunities at the drying river pools are splendid. There is also a large breeding colony of bee-eaters that will challenge the reflexes of even the most experienced photographers.

Mashatu Main Camp is an oasis among the undulating and seemingly endless plains of the wild. Burning torches at the camp’s entrance beckon safari-goers home in the evening to the embodiment of warm hospitality. 14 luxury suites lie along the camp’s perimeter, and are designed to allow absolute privacy. In camp you can watch elephants splashing at the waterhole; listen to the African night sounds; smell the grassy scent of the bush; relax in the lounge in your room looking out into the bush and just enjoy being immersed in the great African wilderness.

Our safari routine takes the same shape and form as it did in Mala Mala, except that the scenery will be totally different as we explore the wilderness in our open Toyota safari truck. With the dry season starting to take effect, the colours of Mashatu have changed to red and yellow, interspersed with soft greens which all makes for excellent backgrounds. Along the rivers however, it remains very green and it is not uncommon to find a leopard reclining in one of the large Mashatu trees. This is an awesome photo to add to your portfolio! Predator viewing is at its best now; the soft sun-rays of the changing seasons make lion, leopard and cheetah really glow.

At Mashatu there are two underground hides, designed and built especially for photographers. We will use these hides to get a low angle perspective on our subjects and, combined with our regular safari drives, these will ensure that you assemble a dynamic collection of incredible photographs on this leg of the safari. The hides offer the best elephant viewing and photography in Africa as well as a plethora of other photographic opportunities like one of the world's largest antelope, the eland, drinking at eye level. Of late, even leopard and giraffe are drinking at the hides! These eye level hides make this African photography workshop an even more unique and incredible photographic experience. Our subjects are of course all wild and free, so sightings at the hides are dependent on mother nature and this is what wildlife photography is all about, patience and being out in nature.

* We have added the option for you to spend a night (or two if you like) at Mashatu sleeping out beneath a huge Mashatu tree and in a remote part of the reserve. Portable beds, flush loos, hot outside showers and a scrumptious hot meal are all on offer. Sleeping out in the African wilderness is an incredible experience and will not only allow you to listen to the enchanting night sounds but sleeping out will also give you the opportunity to photograph the most incredible Baobab landscape. This baobab grows high up on a sandstone outcrop and is one of the best kept secrets in Africa. The view from up there will undoubtedly touch your soul. I also know where to find elephant shrews up there and just imagine photographing elephants and elephant shrews on the same safari. Please note that this activity is only booked on request so when making your booking, please enquire about it. This has proven to be a highlight on previous workshops.

Day 9 - Bid farewell to Mashatu

After a full morning safari drive and brunch, you will catch a short 90 minute flight back to Johannesburg International Airport for your onward travel home.

Special note: If you don't have all the equipment you need, you can rent equipment for your safari, just enquire when booking.

This is the end of the official tour but keep reading for exciting options to extend your stay...

*If you would like to photograph great white sharks, meerkats, aardvarks, pangolins or the wild flowers of Namaqualand, or even the sardine run, we now offer the following exciting extensions to this workshop:

- The predator workshop coincides with the time of year that the great white sharks breach off the Cape Coast. We can arrange an extension for you to go photograph great white sharks performing breaches. This is the only place in the world where natural breaches of sharks hunting seals occurs and a good time for this is from April - September. See images here

- Another option is to do a Wild Flowers of Namaqualand tour which is just a 5 hour drive from Cape Town. This is best timed as an extension to a spring predator workshop. This is one of the great natural phenomenons occurring on our our planet. Click here to see images of the great bloom.

- Our most popular to date is the Meerkat Extension: extend your workshop by three nights and head down to the Kalahari desert which is the best place in Africa to photograph the adorable and highly entertaining meerkats. The time of year is also perfect for this and the travel logistics are easy. Just imagine photographing big cats and meerkats all on one safari! This is also the best chance you have of seeing pangolins and aardvarks in Africa and it is not uncommon to see more than 3 aardvarks per extension during the winter months (May-August). In Nov the meerkats often have babies!

- Our last exciting extension is to head down to the East Coast of South Africa to photograph one of Nature's great events, the annual sardine run (best in June and July). Click here to see a video.

Please enquire when booking if you are interested in any of the above extensions.

Your Guide

Your expert photographer and host for this workshop was also the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013. Greg du Toit will be with you every step of the way on this workshop! He is an 8th generation African and this safari really is in his backyard. He trained as a safari guide and nature conservationist in the bush country that surrounds Mala Mala in the late nineties and he has lived in, and been visiting Mashatu, for the last 15 years. He has worked on an extensive leopard project in the area of Mala Mala whereby he set out to document the nocturnal lives of leopards. The results of this project formed the core of a solo exhibit titled 'Authentic Africa' hosted by the National Geographic Gallery in Singapore in 2012. He is passionate about this corner of Africa and both his bush knowledge and skills, combined with his astute in-camera techniques and secret recipe for low light photography, will ensure that your personal imagery breaks new ground.

Still got safari questions that you want answered, see my FAQ page...

Summary: This African photographic workshop is conducted in two of the finest private game reserves in Africa. Using our own exclusive safari vehicles, you will follow Africa's predators as they go about their daily business. With an expert professional African photographer as your guide, you will learn how to create unique, innovative and striking imagery. All the images used to compile this itinerary were shot in the locations you will be visiting.

To book your place on the Botswana and South Africa Predator Workshop contact Greg here...

Back to my upcoming Africa photo safari page here...

All images and text copyright Greg du Toit 2018

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