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
Peter & Elmar
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.
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:
Probably still in use:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Giraffes and Impala are abundant in Selous. And nearly every puddle has a
hippo. But you will not find Rhinos or Cheetahs.
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.
Elmar in action:
... to be continued ...
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