I’ve had the good fortune to travel around Africa on my photo tours/workshops and see many camps, lodges, parks, hotels, conference centres and the like. There are only a handful that are memorable and make you want to return time and again. Not just the scenery, wildlife, facilities and peacefulness but what really makes the difference is the people. Seokama is one of those rare places where you can relax with family and friends and truly feel at home.
At the beginning of, and throughout the summer I visit Dave, Monika, Peter, Ryan, John and Tepa. The Waterberg is one of my favourite bush-veld getaways. Whilst there are dozens of lodge choices in the area, I occasionally need some escape from the pressure of only chasing the Big 5 for clients and not focussing on the other wild and birdlife, scenery that Africa has to offer.
Seokama Private Lodge is this escape.
Within walking distance from the lodge, 4 luxury canvas tents sleeping 8 on very comfy beds, each one with a covered verandah and an en-suite bathroom where the shower overlooks the bush at the back (just your head is visible!). A well appointed lodge with kitchen, lounge, bar and pool deck with views of the bush-veld savannah tucked amongst some beautiful mountains and landscape, a boma with Bush-Baby’s calling at night, has all one really needs to wind down. There is also a conference centre for hire, with facilities. Seokama has an abundance of bird life, especially around the summer rainfalls, as well as a good variety of game..
The N1 route from Midrand is about 230 km’s and normally takes 2.5 hours from Gauteng. (See Travel Advisory at end of article). There is a 14 km stretch of dirt road just after Rooiberg before you get to the camp gate and it’s better to do that in daylight. It is boomed at either end and you will see a lot of 60″+ Kudu and the odd majestic Sable on the way. Leave Gauteng early, before 10am preferably 9am after the city rush hour traffic has tapered off. Once at the lodge, you can sink a cold one and have ample time to wind down and unpack before the workshop starts at 2pm.
On arrival, you will be greeted by Monika and Dave, Seokama’s managing couple. After a quick re-acquaintance, gear is grabbed off the bakkie and whisked into the lodge where you will meet some of the other guests. At my last visit I met Thomas and Marcus from Germany. Both medical professionals, they had flown in to Cape Town but escaped the winter rains and winds there, up the coast via a wet Tsitsikamma and again dodged the rain there, then through Transkei where they were unimpressed by dirty cities, to a cold Durban, had enough and then high tailed it for sunny Seokama. They left the rains behind. Marcus can bake… His Tiramisu and Apfel Kuchen und Sahne were such a treat.
You have the choice of fully catered or self catering at Seokama. Whilst I self catered, it was a collective effort with everyone sharing what they had and trying a bit of each others dishes. Game wors, game burger patties, rump, chops, ribs, tasty Mediterranean style salads, home baked farm bread I bought from Toeka Se Dae roadside shop, good wines, krimmel pap en sous and other sides. Remind you of home right? Monika’s Rosemary sprinkled German Bratkartoffel and other dishes are delicious. You are welcome to bring your own alcohol, soft drinks, water etc.
Dave is a qualified game ranger and field guide, who’s tour of duty included many a well known lodge in Africa and who’s knowledge of the Fauna and Flora, their habits, especially pre-identifying birds by there call before seeing them is excellent and informative. Monika, an ever smiling and generous hostess, is also a qualified field guide and tracker involved in eco projects, conservation and has a love of the African bush and it’s bounty. Anecdotes, conservation and nature stories abound around the camp-fire boma at night.
So what is there to do and see?
Seokama is situated on 500ha of pristine savannah and bushveld nestled between two foothills running east/west. (Maps and directions at end of article.) Birds abound, and the opportunities to photograph them, without the impracticalities of vehicles and non photographer aware tourists getting in the way, or tour drivers with no knowledge of what photographers want, are endless. With an elevated hide that seats 8 comfortably over a pan and another dam surrounded by natural Tambotie Forest you will be rewarded with some fabulous sightings. The camp is also stocked with a variety of plains game. The obligatory and pretty Impala (Rooibok); soon to be foaling in summer, Oryx (Gemsbok), Gnu (Blue Wildebeest), Warthog (Vlakvark), Kudu, Brown Hyena and then rarer animals; Aardvark, Scrub Hare, Caracal, Civet and Genet have also been spotted (pardon the pun). Jackals are elusive but occasionally call at night when they think the resident Leopard is out of earshot. Baboons and Vervets abound but are wary.
I hold practical photographic workshops in the conference centre in the afternoon of your arrival and for the rest of your stay I am at your disposal, teaching, encouraging, advising. It’s an informal workshop centred on practical DSLR technique. This covers DSLR acquaintance, lenses, and real world application. If you are a keen amateur wildlife / bird photographer, or simply an enthusiast photographer who wants to get the best out of your gear, you will benefit from simple, easy to learn techniques that I use to get memorable wildlife, bird, landscape and night shots. From composition to timing, BiF (Bird in Flight) technique, anticipation, dos and don’ts, care, lens choice, body choice, accessories (filters, support, memory cards, etc), Post Processing, Printing, Social Networking, the Web, and so on. The workshops are held from September through January. It is not just about the gear but also advice on locations, where to look in the bush, where to travel and understanding your quarry to get the best shot.
The following morning, those that are so inclined and willing to get up at sparrows (05:30), can join Dave and I for a coffee, rusks and a brisk 15 minute walk to be treated to a bush-veld sunrise photographic session (weather permitting). Thereafter a quick breakfast and debrief looking at and discussing the images. We then leave the lodge at around 8:00 to the newly built bird hide overlooking a pan under a huge Camel Thorn (Acacia erioloba) to hopefully capture the morning rush of drinking animals. The pan is situated within a 1/2 hour walking distance of the lodge where on the way you might see the animals mentioned earlier or if your very lucky the resident Leopard stalking breakfast. The Waterberg is blessed with Chui (Swahili for Leopard) and whilst the cattle and sheep farmers are not keen on them, they manage to continue to survive despite our interfering presence. Monika would like to get a project off the ground to tag and monitor their range. Ryan estimates there are at least 6 in the greater area and they are naturally taking off a lot of expensive game every other day.
In the hide I’ll teach you long lens technique and what to watch for with birds so that you are ready for the arrival, the stoop to drink, the flight, the take-off.
Tripods with gimbals ( Manfrotto or Wimberley ) and/or bean bags are a must. If you don’t have one, a bean bag can be hired on request. You’ll be shown how to get the best out of your long lens. How to determine where it’s sweet spot is and what camera settings to use to get that perfect shot. On the birding menu common residents such as the Crimson Breasted Shrike, the rare Yellow formed Crimson Breasted Shrike, Arrow Marked Babbler, Grey Lourie, Red billed / Southern Yellow billed or African Grey Hornbill, Meyers Parrot and various Weavers, amongst others, may be seen. Assorted Kingfishers as well as Heron have been known to make an appearance. I had the rare fortune of photographing two African Scop’s Owls together. Pearl Spotted Owl, Eagle Owl and Barn Owls are also seen in summer. Blue Waxbill’s were common. Emerald Spotted Wood Doves can also be heard calling and photographed at the pan as are the other more common doves.
A comprehensive bird list that has been ticked by Dave and Monika can be downloaded here: Seokama Bird List-2-2011.pdf
Then a trip back to the lodge and for those inclined we can offload images to have a quick look and critique (I’ll be gentle I promise!). Lunch is then served around 1pm. The next few hours are at your leisure around the lodge for a cat nap, walk around and snap away, sit near the bird feeder table where you can practice your technique and pick Dave’s brain on LBJ’s (Littel Brown Jobs) and mine on photography. Monika can also take you on a guided walk identifying tracks, trees and more.
In the afternoon we head off to the other dam where there is a well concealed hide overlooking the water nestled amongst a Tambotie forest. The dam is teeming with fish and the odd Pied Kingfisher can be seen hovering and diving. Cormorants, Herons, Blacksmith Plovers, ducks and many other birds are attracted to the dam as are insects and other wildlife that arrive to slake their thirst. Tracks of Cerval, Civet, Genet abound in the soft sand.
Thereafter back to the lodge for some refreshments and to get cameras and lenses ready for a spectacular Waterberg sunset photo opportunity with sundowners before relaxing around the bar or boma, under a crystal clear unpolluted sky. You have not seen Cirrus so bright in your life. Seeing shooting stars is not uncommon. Owls and Bush Babies can be heard in the bush around you. If you have a snoot off camera flash hood, you can even catch a shot of one up a tree. I then do a practical workshop on star trail photography. Want to get a shot of the milky way without the light pollution? You can here! A very sturdy tripod is a must as is a shutter release cable/IR trigger and/or digital timer. If you wish to purchase a trigger or digital timer for your DSLR, I can bring some along and add them to the fee. They are not expensive and are a very useful addition to your bag. Just let me know the brand and model of camera you own.
Workshops run weekly every Friday from 2:00pm – 6:00pm and practicals through to Saturday Night. Other dates can be arranged, such as Tuesday to Thursday. 3 Meals a day with refreshments in between. If you wish to discuss dates and book a photographic break in the bush-veld please click on About/Contact and fill in the form. I will call you back to discuss.
Rates for weekend 2 nights Friday/Saturday inc. accommodation and meals, excluding alcohol and excluding transportation to the lodge are as follows:
R2900-00 pps / Minimum 2 Maximum 8 Photographers. A full booking of 8 photographers will receive a 10% discount if paid in full. (Includes>Workshops, Dinner, Bed and Breakfast, light lunch, beverages for your own account)
If you wish to merely tag along with your spouse but not attend lectures:
R 1600-00 pps as a lodge guest only. (Includes>Dinner, Bed and Breakfast, light lunch, no beverages, no Workshops)
R 1300-00 pp additional charge if you change your mind and wish to attend a lecture. There is often a spare camera and lens in my bag for you to hire for a small daily charge.
R50-00 pp per game drive/trail guides (payable in cash at the lodge)
R40-00 pp per game walks and tracking expertise (payable in cash at the lodge)
For those that do not have their own DSLR or have one but with a small lens, say 18-55mm, camera and lens hire can be arranged. Please let me know what DSLR you have and I will quote you on lens rental for 3 days. This is a good chance also to try out a number of cameras and lenses, either ours or our workshop guests, before you make a rush (rash?) purchase and an expensive mistake!
We look forward to hosting you for an unforgettable stay!
Payment Terms: 50% on booking – balance of 50% at least 2 weeks prior to arrival
Online Lodge Booking and Lodge Enquiries Here: This is a direct link to Seokama’s online booking and payment gateway.
DSLR: Any brand Full (FX) or Small frame (APS-C). (Other digital cameras such as bridge or point and shoot are welcome but the workshops are focused around DSLR bodies with interchangeable lenses.)
Lenses: Your largest glass. Anything up to 500mm i.e: the Canon 100-400mm IS USM L , the Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR or the Sigma 150-500mm (or 170-500mm) f/5-6.3 APO OS
Zoom: A 70-300mm f/4-5.6 kit lens is sufficient. Do not rush out and buy a TC! (Tele-Converter)
Prime: 300mm, 400mm, 500mm, 600mm prime lens if you have
Tele-converters: 1.4x or 2.x are useful but only when used on f/2.8 or f/4 zooms/primes.
WA / UWA: Any wide angle or ultra wide angle. 10-20mm, 11-16mm, 12-24mm, 24/28-70mm. Kit lenses 18-55mm, 18-135mm, 18-250mm etc. perfectly usable.
Support: Tripod. Heads (3 Way pan and tilt is ok for most situations EXCEPT BiF). Bean Bag. Gimbal. Clamps.
Laptop: Win or Mac. Memory Cards, reader, chargers, data cables etc.
Cleaning gear: Blowers, lint free cloths, sensor cleaners.
Other Accessories: Digital Timer, spare batteries, off camera flash, snoot, UV, Grad filters etc.
I carry a small selection of camera accessories for sale at each workshop. Memory cards, cleaning gear, white balance cards etc. If you are battling to get an accessory for your camera I can source almost anything and bring it along but only on proof of payment at least one week prior to the workshop. Just mail me for a quote/invoice. I am only too happy to help!
Kitchen has a Stove/Oven, Microwave, Fridge/Freezer, cutlery, crockery, pots and pans, kettle, cupboards. Cleaned twice daily by the beaming and friendly Tepa. Water is from a borehole and perfectly safe to drink.
Luxury Tents have two single beds, with fitted sheets, electric blankets, duvets, spare blanket, 2 pillows per bed. Towels are supplied, both bath and hand towels. An en suite bathroom has toilet, basin, shower. A free standing drawer for clothing but no hanging cupboard. There is electric lighting and a plug for electrical appliances but no hair dryer for the ladies. A table and four chairs outside on the stoep. Soaps and shampoos and hand/body creams are not supplied. There is space in each tent for your own cot for junior. Please bring your own bedding. There is a small daily fee for children. POA.
I normally head up on a Friday morning. I suggest you leave early, preferably before 09:00. In 5 years of travelling to the other “Berg” I’ve experienced the odd midday delay on the N1. the most recent due a large contingency of police and road blocks. Mostly buses and our ubiquitous taxis but occasionally normal passenger vehicles are also flagged down. Due to rubber necking, this has a knock on effect and delays can be as bad as 1 hour per obstruction, especially in and out of the toll plazas. You can take the Brits route toward Thabazimbi. It’s shorter but may take a full 1/2 hour longer, all things being equal. The last stretch of road is dirt, relatively flat and may be quite corrugated after rains or in winter. Normal sedans can manage it but a bakkie, SUV or double cab is advisable, especially in wet weather. The Waterberg is a Malaria free area.
I am investigating the feasibility of a collection/drop off service from Midrand and will advise on cost and availability.
Directions via N1:
Directions via Brits: