A.F.X. Images

Tanzania 2007 1 of 4

My first trip to Tanzania came about as a result of asking Peter, a German pro sports shooter that I met through the German Nikon forum about alternatives to South Africa. He is a seasoned Africa traveler (actually with a ZA wildlife guide license) and recommended the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania where there was a reasonably priced camp that he had visited before.

Selous is one of the less well known game reserves and is not a national park. Apart from a small strip in the north (the photographic area), it is mostly a hunting area. This sounded quite interesting to me, having been only to the big parks in South Africa and Namibia before. In addition, prices for hotels and camps in Tanzania were usually based on USD, so we could take advantage of the strong Euro. After some planning, the itinerary was to fly to Dar es Salaam, stay for two nights (and pick up another member of our party who would fly in on a different route) and then head over to the eastern gate of the Selous. We would stay there for 7 nights and then head to Zanzibar to hang out a few more days. In total we where four: Peter, the action shooter, Elmar, who is a keen amateur who had already been to our destination camp the year before, my partner Birgit and me. Birgit was the only non photographer on the trip. Due to Peter's schedule we went mid October instead of late September which brought us close to the small rainy season.

Dar es Salaam / Maua Beach

Birgit, Peter and I arrived via Zürich in the evening (fortunately Swissair and Lufthansa did not make a fuss about our rather heavy photo backpacks, in contrast to the personnel in Dar on the flight back). Two ladies from the Maua Beach hotel greeted us and after exchanging some money, we proceeded through Dar es Salaam at night. That was an interesting experience with all the smells, the slightly crazy traffic on roads of varying quality and the many mini markets on the side of the road illuminated with candle light. Birgit enjoyed her trip on the back of the pickup, fully immersed in the experience.

Smaller wreck:
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A pleasant surprise at breakfast was the availability of real coffee, real cheese and home made whole grain bread (Peter had warned us in advance that coffee in Tanzania is usually instant). We made a quick trip to Dar in the morning, but apart from the food stalls at the beach it was rather uninteresting. As I am someone who does not easily connect with strangers, I refrained from even bringing the camera, although the food place presented some interesting opportunities for a street shooter. I guess next time I'll hand the camera to Birgit ;-) The evening at the hotel provided a shooting opportunity with beached boat hulls in the light of the setting sun. They only let us out to the beach once they had called a security guard to accompany us. Probably overcautious, but better safe than sorry.

Big 'ol boat:
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While I was lazy the next morning, Elmar, who had arrived the evening before, and Peter, went to do some fun shots at the pool. There was a rock crocodile that invited fun photos. Peter managed to get his foot stuck in a drain and did not treat it properly, which lead to some interesting complications during the remainder of the trip. His use of one of my shower sandals for his bloated foot was a fun sight during the remainder of the trip.

In the afternoon we transferred to the national airport and had had some fun squeezing us and the luggage into a small Cessna It had only three passenger seats and two pilot seats). After 50 minutes we were over the Rufiji river where some elephants were crossing, a nice start already.

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The bar of the Mbega camp sits over the river and on the day of arrival, the sun was setting nicely behind a palm on the other bank. We enjoyed the sunset with beer and popcorn.

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Accommodation is in permanent tents with individual bathrooms. Electricity is only available in the morning and evening, the generator (220V) is cut off at 22:00. There is not always pressure on the water supply.

After Peter's advance warning, I brought a travel-presspot and pre-ground coffee from my favorite roaster so we actually had real coffee every morning instead of instant.

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The Mbega camp is not in the Selous, but is outside. The main advantage of staying in Mbega camp is price, accommodation in the park is easily $100 more per day. The disadvantage is that there is no access to the early morning light in the park and we had to be out of the gate by sunset.

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This was offset by Peter already knowing our driver Ramadani and him knowing that we are after images and not the standard tourist drive around. So after breakfast we headed out at 8 in the morning for our first full day game drive. I played a bit with the white balance to offset the rather glaring light, but in the end I went back to Auto-1 on the cam and sunny/cloudy setting in Bibble when needed to fix my initial in camera playing. Generally it was sunny and cloudy, always changing.

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Giraffes and Impala are abundant in Selous. And nearly every puddle has a hippo. But you will not find Rhinos or Cheetahs.

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I was shooting mainly with the 300 on the monopod, I often used the 1.4x and sometimes even the 2x converter. Occasionally when we where close enough, the 80-200 was used and occasionally even the 28-70.

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... to be continued ...

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