Lindblad Expeditions / National Geographic
EXPLORATIONS – A Lindblad Expeditions Blog

Botswana by Private Air, Ralph Lee Hopkins

Our Director of Expedition Photography, Ralph Lee Hopkins, filed this story and slideshow from Africa where he’s on a Desert & Deltas Safari. In association with Bushtracks Adventures, Lindblad Expeditions has been helping adventurous travelers discover the thrill of Africa by private plane for many years. If you’re interested, visit us online.
Our Land Rover slows to a crawl as we look for animal tracks in the deep sand. Jack pot, leopard tracks! "They’re fresh, and heading off road into the tall grass along the wash," exclaims our guide.
Navigating off-road it’s not long before we spot this magnificent predator. The leopard is a young female following the wash coming in and out of view through the trees and long grass. We catch up with her just as she climbs a tree. Relaxed and seemingly ignoring our presence, it’s a great photo opportunity as she starts to groom herself. Each safari vehicle take turns getting in position for a clean shot.
A leopard sighting on our first morning is a great way to start our Desert & Deltas Safari by private air. During the next 10 days we’ll visit three different camps including Mashatu Game Reserve, the legendary Okavango Delta, and the mythical plains of the Kalahari. As a bonus, we’ll also visit Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side, yet another new country for all of us.
Flying between camps in charter planes is the best way to travel in Africa, essentially eliminating any down time between camps. On travel days we do a game drive in the morning, return to camp for brunch, then fly to our next camp and head again out on a late afternoon game drive. The schedule couldn’t be more perfect.
Life in the bush has a rhythm all its own. We get up at first light, when the animals are waking up and are more active. And we stay out for the late light, maybe with a sundowner cocktail in hand, or following a leopard calling for his companions. And of course, during the middle of the day when it’s hot and the animals are hiding in the shade, we nap in our luxurious tents.
But life on safari is also about learning patience, and spending time with the animals simply watching their behavior and experiencing that primordial feeling of being among predators in the wild. And with some of the close encounters during our adventures, it really doesn’t matter what camera you have to capture images of a lifetime.