The weekend safari I did earlier this month with Olympus went off really well. We had 4 excellent game drives and we got to see 4 of the Big 5, with the only one missing being the typically elusive leopard. Unlike the safaris I do in the Sabi Sands with Fotozones/ where leopards are easier to find, Nambiti’s leopards are a lot shyer, plus because of the terrain it’s much harder to track animals than it is in the SabiSands. The roads on Nambiti are mostly laid down with crusher (see the shot above), whereas those in the Sabi Sands are, well, sand, which makes tracking much easier. :)

That said our ranger Rohan did a pretty good job of getting us to good sightings, including lions on two occasions. I personally only had a 100mm lens to use while my guests were using the longer lenses I supplied, so my shots of things further away are not quite as compelling as theirs. However, I did get some decent shots of the other animals and the Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0 is now a lens I am thinking seriously about taking on safari to Sabi Sands and Botswana in September where close encounters are always the order of the day. The only thing about that lens is the weight. At close to 2kg it’s going to be pretty difficult to travel with, whereas the smaller and much lighter 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO with its 1.4x teleconverter is a lens I am completely smitten with (as were the guests on this safari who got a chance to use it). As soon as I am able to afford one I will be adding it to my system.

I also used this opportunity to show my guests a bit about how Lightroom works and how I go about my typical workflow with it. Most of them weren’t users of the software, but they have now got a pretty good idea of how powerful it is and how it can be employed to keep track of your images, edit them and also export those edits for use on the web. Personally I think that if you aren’t spending $9.99 a month on the Adobe Photography package you’re selling yourself way short of where your photography can be.

After dinner on Saturday night I demonstrated how to photograph the milky way using settings I have found to be quite useful. Unfortunately doing this from within the lodge grounds we picked up a bit of light “pollution” from the lodge itself, so next time we are going to arrange to do night sky photos, including star trails from deeper in the reserve where we can also use some of the more interesting foliage and rocky ground to create frames for these types of celestial images. It’s great fun and a cool learning experience for photographers who don’t get the chance to leave the city lights behind all that much. When you look up at the night sky in places like Nambiti you get a deeper appreciation of just how miraculous our existence on this planet is.

Nambiti Private Game Reserve surprised me with its beauty. It’s not quite what I expected and it is very different aesthetically to the other reserves like Sabi Sands, Kruger Park and iMfolozi/Hluhluwe. It has a mixture of vast grass plains (once farmlands) and rocky, undulating hills, typical of the Kwa-Zulu Natal province. Going there in winter meant that the grasses were a beautiful rich mix of gold and ginger hues – a wonderful visual in the setting sun. There are also some crumbling remains of old farm houses found dotted along the way. These make for some very cool photography.

On our final morning drive Rohan took us to a gorge with a waterfall where we indulged in some hot chocolate and rusks while exploring the gorge on foot. It’s a very pretty reserve and I think that as more people discover its charms it will begin to pose a challenge to the much more established (and expensive) private reserves found in South Africa. For now it’s an affordable option for South Africans looking to escape the rat race for a few days (without re-mortgaging their homes) and I strongly urge those of you who are looking for an authentic Big 5 experience to give one of the 10 lodges there a try. You’ll be quite pleasantly surprised.

So, this brings me to the good news: I have booked another weekend at Ndaka Lodge for 30 October to 1 November this year. It will most definitely be warmer there at that time and it will also hopefully give us an opportunity to see some newborn animals. Once again Olympus will be supplying us with loaner OM-D camera bodies and lenses, so if you’d like to try out these wonderful mirrorless photographic tools, you won’t get a better opportunity than this. Plus of course I will be on hand to give advice on settings and this time I will also be looking to show participants some of the more advanced features that can be found in the OM-D range, such as Live Time, Live Composite and a few other things users may not be aware of. I will also throw in a bit more Lightroom tuition for those who would like to use the program to a greater potential.

Here are the details of the next Olympus Weekend Safari:

Dates: 30 October – 1 November

Place: Ndaka Lodge, Nambiti Private Game Reserve

Cost: R3,650 per person

Included: 4 guided game drives, photographic tuition, a loaner camera and lens (if you don’t bring your own), all meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), hot beverages and bottled water.

Excluded: gratuities, drinks, rhino conservation levy (R38.50 per person per night, which you settle at the lodge when checking out).

There are only spaces for 5 people on this mini safari and the first three confirmed bookings will get their own luxury tent, no single supplement will apply. The last two people booking will have to share a tent. We will have our own exclusive vehicle so our drives will be arranged around whatever we want to focus on photographically.

To book I will need a 50% deposit payable by no later than 25 August with the balance due on 1 October.

Here are some pics from the first Weekend Photo Safari. I hope they will inspire you to join me on the next one. :)

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