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Duma Tau

Folks,

 

Summary: I spent 8 wonderful days at the end of March 2013 (green season) at Wilderness’ Vumbura Plains (North and South) Camp in Botswana. I would highly recommend Vumbura Plains. The camp is amazing and the staff is beyond accommodating. My wife and I had several meals in the bush on white tablecloths. The managing team Roger and Annabelle were fabulous. They gave educational talks everyday at 3pm for about an hour. My guide was Brian from South Africa and he’s Wilderness’ Botswana guide trainer. We, or should I say he, found several leopards and wild dogs and he always put me in view for a great photograph. Another plus was that Dana Allen (http://www.photosafari-africa.net) was at the camp for 3 days and also provided a wealth of information.

 

Booking: I booked through Erika Wilson with Safari Specialists in Maun. She was fabulous. Do not worry about sending several thousand dollars through a wire transfer to her. She and her team are completely honest and will get you the best deal possible. I think the longest it took her to reply to one of my hundred emails was 24 hours and most of the time she got back by the next day. She was also very kind and was patient with some of my silly questions. Met us at the Maun airport and allowed me to store some extra luggage with her. She also saw me off. Did I also mention she snail mailed 40 postcards for me for free? Erika is an amazing lady that brought all the details together. Flying across the globe, you need someone like this.

 

Vumbura Plains Camp: Absolute luxury. Food was out of this world! This is my 4th safari with Wilderness and not for a minute have I been less than overly impressed. The staff was professional and helpful. Our tent was more like a luxury apartment. We stayed 8 days there and it was nice to stay at a place for so long because you get to know the staff and flow of the animals through the concession. Plus, it also made our stay seem quite long because you are not running to the airfield to switch camps wasting time flying. Having the same guide helped because he (Brian) knew what we saw so he wouldn’t waste time stopping for an animal we’d seen 100 times. Wilderness is a fabulous organization.

 

Game Viewing: Despite it being green season, I saw a lot of animals. I saw 4 different leopards and got some great shots of them in the tree looking down at us. 200-400 mm lens was perfect. Sable Antelope were plentiful as were lions, cape buffalos, wild dogs, and hyena puppies and big male kudu. Brian my guide knew exactly where to look and each day at sunset during the “golden hour” of photography we found wild dogs playing in water that came right up to the truck and posed for us, 2 leopards in a tree sprawled out looking right at us. We were so fortunate that we went with wilderness and Brian as our guide. God allowed us to really have a wonderful look into his animal creation.

 

I hope you enjoy my photos with the Nikon D800E and that they inspire you to also visit Vumbura Plains Camp. I'm a bit of a beginner photographer and the photos may not due Vumbura Plains justice. Without a doubt, if you go you'll also get great shots.

 

Kind Regards, glen weaver

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Edited by Duma Tau
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SafariChick

Fabulous pix! I was just at Vumbura Plains also in February and loved it as well, but the wild dogs were hiding when we were there - well, most of them were, I only got to see one there who seemed to have broken away from the rest of the pack. Was there any mention of that while you were there? I was lucky to see dogs at other camps though, so it's ok. I agree the food was great at Vumbura Plains, especially the desserts!

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graceland

Wow, so glad I stopped by tonight (longing for my next safari) and saw this TR....we loved our experience at VP (although we never were given such a treat --though we stayed out in the bush as long as we possibly could every day!)

 

Great place, great guides and obviously great game. I 'd go back there and recommend it in a minute. I am hoping to meet up with some folks we met there again. I was worried it'd be "over the top" for us; but being out amongst the "game" so much you really only notice the bed.....its' huge! oh and the shower, loved it.

 

Thanks for bringing back memories!

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks for the images!!! Loved them - the 3 vervets being the stand-out!

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Wonderful pictures. Erica is an excellent agent- we used her as well for our Okavango safari last year. Why did you only do one camp in the delta on your trip. Moving on to photography the D800E plus the 200-400 F4 is clearly a great combination. Why did you not go for the D800 -Did you find the lack of the AA filter in the E model an advantage compared to the D800?

Edited by AKR1
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twaffle

Lovely photos, you obviously had a great time. Dana Allen is a seriously good photographer, IMHO. :)

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stokeygirl

I was at VP in Feb at the same time as @@SafariChick . As she said, we weren't so lucky with the dogs. I know we only just missed them, as I was at Duma Tau beforehand and guests there had come from VP and were showing me their awesome photos and videos of the Golden Pack, killing a buffalo calf and all sorts. But by the time I arrived the dogs had moved on, probably scared off by lions. Still, that's the way the safari cookie crumbles. We had some great leopard and lion sightings and lovely sable too. I thought the area was beautiful and I'd definitely go back, although realistically only if it's in the green season special again- their normal prices are a bit out of my league!

 

Do you know which pack of dogs you saw- they don't look light enough to be the Golden Pack? I know there's a second pack in the area.

 

I've also used Erica for 3 trips now, and agree she is a pleasure to work with and incredibly honest. When booking this last trip I paid for a transfer twice because both camps insisted I use their air charter company for the transfer so the only way seemed to be to pay for 2 transfers. In the end one of them didn't charge and Erica refunded me the money in cash when I arrived.

 

Lovely photos- the water and the greenery makes for a beautiful backdrop. Looks like you were lucky with the weather too.

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You wrote a very nice trip report and the photos are great!

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Jochen

Thank! Truly enjoyed this!

Stunning images!

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Duma Tau

Wonderful pictures. Erica is an excellent agent- we used her as well for our Okavango safari last year. Why did you only do one camp in the delta on your trip. Moving on to photography the D800E plus the 200-400 F4 is clearly a great combination. Why did you not go for the D800 -Did you find the lack of the AA filter in the E model an advantage compared to the D800?

Yes, Erica is a true professional. She does more than answer questions, but provides solutions to questions you'd never think to ask. I stayed at VP for the 8 days because I'd been to 3 other camps in the delta and knew I'd be back. Plus, I always saw people miss sightings because they were switching camps. There's no right or wrong way to do it. To be honest, I got a better deal on the D800E so that's why I bought it. There might be a bit of difference between the 800 and the E but very minor. I'm not experienced to tell the difference. Ideally I'd have brought the D4 with the D800E and D800 because there were a few instances that I needed the 11 fps. I also brought a 600mm lens that I hardly used. The D4 would have been great for birds, Lechwe, Marabou storks, African Fish eagles and king fishers diving for fish. However, getting a full frame photo out of the D800E of a leopard that is 20MB is pretty impressive and can be framed pretty big and still have the detail. If I zoom in on the photos I can usually see the truck's reflection in the animal's eye. Next time I'm bringing the D4 and D800E.

Edited by Duma Tau
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graceland

I'd have no problem staying 8 days at VP....we were scheming seriously how to add 2 more days to our 3....never enough when you fall in love with a place. VP's game sightings and guides; the landscape are incredibly amazing; I want to go back next November. (Playing Lotto daily)

And to think I tried to talk Erica out of booking me there!

 

She is a gem; I was met by her at the airport and pleaded with her to go on with us!

 

Lucky for us the dogs obeyed and stayed in the area for our visit.

 

Where next?

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Super pics and a great TR...... Yes you are a good photographer and have captured some stunning moments!!! This TR will be of great help as im planning right now to visit the Delta....Thanks once again and will send a mail asap to Erica...... Cheers !!!

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johnkok

What great photos, and informative report.

As an aside, I seem to find the auto-focus on the D800 (& D800E) to be rather finicky whenever the background was a little busy. It would pop in and out of focus rapidly (a lot of jitter). Did you face this at all?

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Atravelynn

I believe I am looking at a hyena so young it appears rodent-like. These little guys were tiny. Did you find their den?

 

Your photos do Vumbura Plains and your own skill every bit of justice!

 

How did you decide upon 8 nights in one place and what made you choose Vumbura?

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Duma Tau

I believe I am looking at a hyena so young it appears rodent-like. These little guys were tiny. Did you find their den?

 

Your photos do Vumbura Plains and your own skill every bit of justice!

 

How did you decide upon 8 nights in one place and what made you choose Vumbura?

Thanks Atravelynn!

 

The reason for 8 nights at VP was the rate that WS was offering during the green season. I also wanted to stay at a place long enough to see the movement of animals and have the same guide. I'd been to other camps in the Okavango and I know that I'll be back to photograph more so we just stayed put and it worked for us. But, if it's a once in a lifetime trip I'd spend only 3-4 nights and move around a bit.

 

Thanks, glen

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Duma Tau

What great photos, and informative report.

As an aside, I seem to find the auto-focus on the D800 (& D800E) to be rather finicky whenever the background was a little busy. It would pop in and out of focus rapidly (a lot of jitter). Did you face this at all?

Thanks Johnkok. I thought it was my inability to focus but you might be right. Every time I tried to focus it wasn't rapid or precise; the camera hesitated for 1-2 seconds. I had the D800 and the D800E so i don't think it was the camera but the design of the D800. Maybe it's just a limitation of the camera? But i don't know because the D4 has the same AF system and i don't think Nikon could sell a camera that hesitates so much on AF. I had issues especially when i was taking photos where the depth of field was 12". I took a photo of a leopard in the tree with a 200-400mm lens and getting the focus on the eyes wasn't as rapid as I'd expect. It's also highly possible that I could have had the AF settings improperly adjusted. I'm really confused on the AF on the D800. I need a good book or instructor to show me the ins and out of it. I'm going to try the D4 on my next trip.

 

Happy photographing, glen

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Duma Tau

I'd have no problem staying 8 days at VP....we were scheming seriously how to add 2 more days to our 3....never enough when you fall in love with a place. VP's game sightings and guides; the landscape are incredibly amazing; I want to go back next November. (Playing Lotto daily)

And to think I tried to talk Erica out of booking me there!

 

She is a gem; I was met by her at the airport and pleaded with her to go on with us!

 

Lucky for us the dogs obeyed and stayed in the area for our visit.

 

Where next?

Thanks Graceland. I'm going gorilla trekking in Rwanda in June. Trekking for 4 days. I talked to Dana Allen at VP and he said to not bring a lens longer than the 70-200mm. I'm going to bring my monopod as a walking stick and the D4 (for low light) with the 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Have you been? Do you have suggestions? I'm trekking for 4 days to get an opportunity for good shots.

 

Kind Regards, glen

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Marrduk24

We just came back from VP and absolutely loved it. Of the 3 camps we stayed at, chitabe, mombo and VP, VP was absolutely our favorite.

 

I should be able to post a TR by this weekend

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johnkok

Glen,

 

Thanks for responding to my question. I brought D4's and a D800 and a D800E to Zim last October. I had horrendous issues with both the 800's. When I got home, I sent them both in to Nikon to re-calibrate their focusing. I don't know how well the re-calibration is but at least the obvious focus errors are gone from both. Now I notice their jittery focusing. Yes, the D4 supposedly has the same focusing engine. But my field experience is that the D4 grabs focus significantly more reliably and without the same focus jitter issues. My wife just about gave up on the "finicky" 800's. As we both say, when the thing is in focus, the results are just magic. So it's a case of when it is good, it is very very good. But when it is bad, it is useless. I missed many shots with the 800's. You know the ones? The leopard finally turns and looks your way and the damn camera is going in and out of focus. When it has finally decides that it can settle down, the leopard has looked away.

 

And it is not a question of the lens either. I have used both 800's with my on-safari arsenal (400/2.8, 300/2.8, 200-400/f4, 70-200/2.8 and even a 200/f2). Same finicky behaviour as far as I can recall (obviously I have not conducted any proper testing so these remain my in-field impressions).

 

Two impressions stick in my mind - bolstering my "noisy background" conclusion. The positive one is waving one of the 800's (cannot remember whether it was the 800 or the 800E) and "chasing" a flying bird against a clear blue sky - a "clean" background". I cannot remember which lens it was - must have been either the 300/2.8 or the 70-200/2.8 as I was chasing it handheld. I was acquiring the bird starting from "zero". Saw it flying. Raised the cam and tried to get the bird in the frame firstly, and then trying to get the focus point to intersect the bird's flight path. And a moment of "wow" as the 800 grabbed focus on one of those intersections.

 

The negative one was of shooting a Verreaux's Eagle Owl which was perched and hardly moving up in a high branch in the shade of a large tree. My wife had a D4 and 300/2.8 on a monopod. She was firing away. Perfectly focused shots. Me in the second row of the vehicle with a D800E + 400/2.8 (also on a monopod) and struggling to stabilise focus (it was a double whammy - in the shade plus all that foliage behind the owl). It kept jittering. Because the owl did not move away, I had the luxury then of leaning the whole camera combo against the side/vertical rail of the vehicle and bracing myself against the vehicle. I could hardly believe it when the AF kept on jittering.

 

I am now almost certain (almost), that I will leave one of the 800's at home on my next safari in Aug/Sep (planning for Kenya) and go with 3 D4's and 1 800. Apart from the finicky focusing, I was finding that on many evening drives I would prefer the low-light capabilities of the D4 over that of the 800's, and put the most likely useful lens on the D4 (& thus losing the range of the other lens, leaving it on the 800).

 

Anyway - agonising over equipment choices is something I do before all safaris. Knowing the vast open plains of the Serengeti, I expect that Kenya will be somewhat similar. Perhaps I will want the extra megapixels of the 800's in Kenya after all. And so it goes. Not quite end-of-the-world stuff after all. :-D

 

Thanks again,

John

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Atravelynn

A week plus in one place gives nice insight and you really get to know the staff, sometimes the animals too.

 

A word on your monopod for gorillas. Unless the rules have changed, no monopods or tripods are allowed while viewing the gorillas. No camera bags or backpacks either. Just your camera(s) that you carry with you. Nothing set down.

 

Four visits is a great strategy! Do you have your boots?

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  • 7 months later...

What great photos, and informative report.

As an aside, I seem to find the auto-focus on the D800 (& D800E) to be rather finicky whenever the background was a little busy. It would pop in and out of focus rapidly (a lot of jitter). Did you face this at all?

John, You've got some great photos. Yes, the AF on the D800 is hit or miss. An untrained eye would think the photos are great but when i really zoom in on them in Lr they are soft. I'm using the 200-400mm on it. I have used the 200-400 on the D4 and although not as much detail the photos seem more crisp. But, the D800 out of the box was great, now i don't know what happened. It's not as clear as it could be. Know what I mean? Where do you live? HK? I'm in DC on Capitol Hill and I know you and i could learn a lot from each other. Send me your telephone number and we can talk on Skype. johnglenweaver@gmail.com.

 

Kind Regards, glen

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Glen,

 

Thanks for responding to my question. I brought D4's and a D800 and a D800E to Zim last October. I had horrendous issues with both the 800's. When I got home, I sent them both in to Nikon to re-calibrate their focusing. I don't know how well the re-calibration is but at least the obvious focus errors are gone from both. Now I notice their jittery focusing. Yes, the D4 supposedly has the same focusing engine. But my field experience is that the D4 grabs focus significantly more reliably and without the same focus jitter issues. My wife just about gave up on the "finicky" 800's. As we both say, when the thing is in focus, the results are just magic. So it's a case of when it is good, it is very very good. But when it is bad, it is useless. I missed many shots with the 800's. You know the ones? The leopard finally turns and looks your way and the damn camera is going in and out of focus. When it has finally decides that it can settle down, the leopard has looked away.

 

And it is not a question of the lens either. I have used both 800's with my on-safari arsenal (400/2.8, 300/2.8, 200-400/f4, 70-200/2.8 and even a 200/f2). Same finicky behaviour as far as I can recall (obviously I have not conducted any proper testing so these remain my in-field impressions).

 

Two impressions stick in my mind - bolstering my "noisy background" conclusion. The positive one is waving one of the 800's (cannot remember whether it was the 800 or the 800E) and "chasing" a flying bird against a clear blue sky - a "clean" background". I cannot remember which lens it was - must have been either the 300/2.8 or the 70-200/2.8 as I was chasing it handheld. I was acquiring the bird starting from "zero". Saw it flying. Raised the cam and tried to get the bird in the frame firstly, and then trying to get the focus point to intersect the bird's flight path. And a moment of "wow" as the 800 grabbed focus on one of those intersections.

 

The negative one was of shooting a Verreaux's Eagle Owl which was perched and hardly moving up in a high branch in the shade of a large tree. My wife had a D4 and 300/2.8 on a monopod. She was firing away. Perfectly focused shots. Me in the second row of the vehicle with a D800E + 400/2.8 (also on a monopod) and struggling to stabilise focus (it was a double whammy - in the shade plus all that foliage behind the owl). It kept jittering. Because the owl did not move away, I had the luxury then of leaning the whole camera combo against the side/vertical rail of the vehicle and bracing myself against the vehicle. I could hardly believe it when the AF kept on jittering.

 

I am now almost certain (almost), that I will leave one of the 800's at home on my next safari in Aug/Sep (planning for Kenya) and go with 3 D4's and 1 800. Apart from the finicky focusing, I was finding that on many evening drives I would prefer the low-light capabilities of the D4 over that of the 800's, and put the most likely useful lens on the D4 (& thus losing the range of the other lens, leaving it on the 800).

 

Anyway - agonising over equipment choices is something I do before all safaris. Knowing the vast open plains of the Serengeti, I expect that Kenya will be somewhat similar. Perhaps I will want the extra megapixels of the 800's in Kenya after all. And so it goes. Not quite end-of-the-world stuff after all. :-D

 

Thanks again,

John

This is the most accurate assessment of the D800 that I've seen. I agree with all of this and have had the same issue. Problem is that on those special shots you can't take the gamble of "hoping" the D800 will work.

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Atravelynn

Looking at these shots again I am struck by the element of interaction you were able to capture. Even a single lion is shown with his...reflection.

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  • 9 months later...

I was at VP in Feb at the same time as @@SafariChick . As she said, we weren't so lucky with the dogs. I know we only just missed them, as I was at Duma Tau beforehand and guests there had come from VP and were showing me their awesome photos and videos of the Golden Pack, killing a buffalo calf and all sorts. But by the time I arrived the dogs had moved on, probably scared off by lions. Still, that's the way the safari cookie crumbles. We had some great leopard and lion sightings and lovely sable too. I thought the area was beautiful and I'd definitely go back, although realistically only if it's in the green season special again- their normal prices are a bit out of my league!

 

Do you know which pack of dogs you saw- they don't look light enough to be the Golden Pack? I know there's a second pack in the area.

 

I've also used Erica for 3 trips now, and agree she is a pleasure to work with and incredibly honest. When booking this last trip I paid for a transfer twice because both camps insisted I use their air charter company for the transfer so the only way seemed to be to pay for 2 transfers. In the end one of them didn't charge and Erica refunded me the money in cash when I arrived.

 

Lovely photos- the water and the greenery makes for a beautiful backdrop. Looks like you were lucky with the weather too.

Stokeygirl, I am not sure if this is the "Golden Pack". I am also sorry you didn't see the dogs. Maybe the next time you go to VP or Linyante you can stay longer at each camp. If you have the time and $$ I'd highly recommend staying at one camp for 10-14 days. That way you'll be sure to see anmials that come into the area. I had a lot of sigtings I'd have never had if i were staying only 2-3 nights. I am headed to Abu for 7 days and Kings Pool for 14 days and I'll let you know how it goes.

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Looking at these shots again I am struck by the element of interaction you were able to capture. Even a single lion is shown with his...reflection.

Thank you Atravelynn. The best photos are the ones that show interaction and seeing them in their natural habitat; to allow the viewer that's never been to Africa to have seen the dogs can feel just a little bit of the safari experience. If you've seen the wild dogs they are very hard to photograph because they move so quick and they never sit still. I struggle to figure out how to best photo the dogs. Ideally I'd like to get out of the truck and photograph them from ground level. I am considering a walking safari in Zim or Zambia to photo the dogs, but it's highly unlikely I'd get close enough. I'm leading a small photography group to Abu and Kings Pool for 3 weeks and am going to try some new photography techniques and will let you know how it goes.

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