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Photo Safari South Africa 2009 - shared costs

Discussion in 'Special Sessions, Events, and Tour Announcements' started by Sir Dave of Wessex, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. GAPS III 2009 is now full.

    I will be contacting people who applied this weekend.


    In 2007 I ran a 'not for profit/shared costs' photo safari to Namibia and Botswana - for those lucky enough to get a place it proved the trip of a life-time. I have just returned from the 2008 trip which took in Cape Town and the Richtersveld, Kgalagadi and Karoo National Parks. Wonderful! I love Africa and love sharing it with others ... these are not commercial ventures; they are for people who want to spend 3 weeks doing what they love and sharing with other carefully chosen individuals.

    These trips were previously run exclusively for members of the 'Photography on the Net' Canon users forum of which I am a long standing member. Both trips focused primarily on wildlife photography, included 6 people and using 2 hired full 4x4 off road vehicles for flexibility and security.

    Now I have switched to Nikon I want to also open out the 2009 opportunity to Nikon shooters, both here and at Nikonians. Here are initial details below, but note that each year I have revised routing a little based on the exact interests of the chosen group, eg. if mainly birders then I would alter the route/parks slightly to better meet interests. Note also that the trip will include keen Nikon and Canon shooters, so if you're someone who has 'serious issues' with alternative brands then you will likely not enjoy it and irritate others - of course, a little harmless 'banter' is a different thing entirely :wink:

    Both previous trips have been over-subscribed so I am asking for early serious expressions of interest so that the most compatible team can be selected and then deposits taken in good time to book accommodation.

    Clearly I am new here and so if anyone wants to check out experience of previous safari goers drop me a PM and I can pass on some contact details. Alternatively, check any of the related threads at POTN (search for GAPS and GAPS2 for images and views of each trip)

    Great African Photo Safari III 2009 (GAPS3)

    The trips are unique because costs are shared to maximise value and experiences, locations are carefully hand-picked rather than taking the usual tourist routes, we focus on photography so no need to worry about the very different needs and interests of non-photographers, we drive our own hired 4x4 off-road vehicles from location to location giving freedom, control and security in remote locations, we don't shelter from 'the real Africa' and hide behind fences in luxury AC chalets, we mix and engage, and we work together, carrying our own baggage being responsible for each other and mucking in with group chores to make the trips work.

    I've thought hard about what I loved about both previous GAPS and what I would change. I have built this latest trip around the few, simple answers I came up with to create what I consider to be our best route and opportunity for wildlife photography yet!

    First and foremost I love finding and watching animals and birds, and especially those that make me gasp in awe and smile in the joy of just being close to them. I like sitting in hides watching the action at waterholes. I love Elephant. I love Rhino. I love the big cats: Cheetah, Leopard, Lion. I love seeing the big herds. I love meal-times around a fire after a great day of spotting and shooting. I love the wilderness for sure ... but at my age I also love at least some comforts: a good bed, security, a hot shower, a laundry service and ... decent coffee every morning!

    So the challenge is how do you get the best blend of wildlife diversity and increase the opportunities of seeing the glamour species, whilst avoiding the crowds ... but without paying the inflated prices of the private safari venues? When you work that out then you need to figure out how to also mix adventure, because that is why we go too, with a few home comforts? Well, I think I've come up with the answer ... and it involves super-careful selection of wildlife locations and an astute blend of accommodation to balance value and comfort over the period.

    So, where are we going in 2009?

    Well, I kinda surprised myself this year because I'd been working on the assumption that we'd go back to Namibia for the core of the trip. But when I applied my criteria, especially value, diversity of wildlife and maximising access to the glamour species, it soon became clear that we'd be returning to South Africa.

    So this time we're heading over to the opposite side of the country and so covering primarily the North-East and South-East with our start and end point in Johannesburg! Based on how my routing and timings pan out we may also venture into Southern Mozambique or Swaziland.

    What are the key locations?

    First we have the Addo National Park, not only home to one of the densest African elephant populations on earth ... but the Big Seven, (Elephant, Rhino, Lion, Buffalo, Leopard, Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark)! It also protects the world's largest Cape Gannet breeding population on Bird Island!

    Then we're across to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi in the heart of Zululand via an overnight along the Wild Coast. Famed for its ground-breaking work bringing the Black Rhino back from the brink of extinction, it's also home to the White Rhino and the Big Five along with many other large and small species.

    Depending on preferences we then choose between the remote Mkhuze, renowned as a mecca for bird lovers with more than 420 bird species on record, or head to the coast at Kozi Bay, the most pristine lake system on the South African coast: great for snorkeling, Turtle and Hippo watching and birding.

    We next enter the world-renowned Kruger National Park, arguably offering the very best wildlife viewing in Africa. Covering nearly 2 million hectares and containing 336 tree species, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals there should be something for everyone. Camps will be carefully chosen to maximise wildlife viewing while avoiding tourist crowds.

    Finally, the intention is to visit the remote, unspoilt and beautiful Marakele in the heart of the majestic Waterberg Mountains. Why visit here? Well besides containing Elephant, Rhino and the big Cats it is home to the largest colony of endangered Cape Vultures (more than 800 breeding pairs) in the world, as well as huge Cycads and Tree Ferns. A unique opportunity to visit wilderness at its very best and experience something quite different in eco-tourism.

    There is a lot to pack in but I want to take more time to breath the air and smell the flowers this time. The last two trips have involved a lot of travel, both 5000 KM's plus, and I want to spend less time behind the wheel and more time behind the shutter and relaxing! The route may evolve as I complete the necessary research and know the availability at different locations, but will follow the principles outlined and include all, or most, of the venues.

    Dates and Costs?

    At the moment I am looking at End August into September 2009, same as previous years, but this may shift depending on availability, school-holidays in South Africa and chosen participants. Again, I am looking at 21 days in Africa.

    Costs will be in the region of £1800 per person, plus flights, same as this year. Any surplus at the end of the trip will be shared equally amongst the team. Payment will be in three instalments and once the final payment is made all you need think about is your own personal expenditure, like souvenirs, snacks, etc. All accommodation, vehicle hire, entry fees and group activities, group meals, fuel, etc is paid for.

    Ok, how do I sign up?

    As with previous years I will select a group of people who I feel will make for a compatible team. Previously I have taken five others, making it three per vehicle. This year I may reduce it to three others and just one vehicle, stick with six, or increase to eight. Four or eight helps a lot with reducing costs, six helps with the photography side. I'll think about it more.

    Clearly, heading to Africa with a bunch of strangers is a risk and so personality types and group composition are the most important aspects of the whole trip in my opinion. At this very early stage I am just looking for initial interest. Once things firm up a little more then we will look at criteria for selection, same as last time, because that is when we know what the exact challenges will involve. Remember, any selection criteria are to ensure group compatibility and ease of organisation, nothing else.

    Couples and individuals are welcome, but individuals need to be prepared to share rooms for much of the trip. Couples should be 'team-players' rather than just sticking together and doing their own thing!

    Some snaps to give a flavour ...

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2008
  2. Got enough people to select from now via other forums. Shame no interest shown here ... maybe in 2010! Hoping to form a group this weekend for trip August 2009.
  3. Dave, based on your story it seems that you need to be a pro photographer to "make the cut" and that was the main reason I didn't react. Otherwise it looks like an amazing trip to me.
  4. Not at all. I select based on compatible personalities as best I can as it's really the only way to ensure a great trip. I actually shot very little this time, maybe max 800 images over the three weeks. I enjoy watching and travelling as much as shooting ... though I also have good shots of many animals and birds already from many past trips. The previous trips have involved very different levels of experience. Last trip we had two wives and neither that interested in photography, though one definitely developed an interest. I just love Africa and like to share it with others ...

    If anyone is interested then copy and complete the simple questionnaire found here: click and send it to me via PM here by Saturday morning. I will go through and try to form the best grouop I can. All levels welcome.

    I have also started a WIKI where I will post/update info for those going along. I do this each year so people know what is happening. Routing has evolved since the first post and can be found here ... trip now includes three days in Swaziland, which is a thrill for me.
  5. Thanks for the clarification Dave. I have looked at the wiki and it all looks promising so maybe I will fill out the questionnaire but I need to think about it some more.
  6. Sure, no problem. Add a 1.4x to that 300mm and with the 70-200mm you're sorted :wink:
  7. Route has been updated so now we have a less hectic first and last day and to accommodate some suggestions from trusted local experts about best Kruger camps for viewing specific animals click
  8. Everything now sorted and booked ... posted details here in the event anyone else is thinking of a similar trip as the routing might help. The primary focus larger mammals.

    Intend running a fourth 'Great African Photo Safari' to Namibia and Botswana in 2010. Any one interested let me know. Will be 21 days over Aug/Sept and costs shared equally between six - using 2x 4x4's likely to be around the £2500 mark inclusive out of London Heathrow. Other countries may be more or less cost flying into and out of Windhoek, Namibia.

    Planning will start around October '09 so have a think about it. Not first come first served, the group is selected on compatibility grounds, but doesn't harm your chances and you can start saving :cool: 
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