Rusty and Donna Hayes took a Bushtracks custom safari in June 2016 spanning Greater Kruger, Victoria Falls, Lower Zambezi National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and the Masai Mara. Here they share their planning experience, and some stunning African wildlife photos.
"We originally started planning our Africa trip for the summer of 2017, but in April of 2016, Carolyn Tett asked if we would like to go a year earlier. We were flexible and, since there is no telling what the future may hold, we replied that we would like to explore that possibility. After a few phone calls to clarify our requirements and “nice-to-have” list, the Bushtracks team started working up proposals. We soon settled on a tentative itinerary and quickly had a firm proposal that stitched together the camps and hotels we wanted with air and ground transportation and all the hand-offs between the different agents. There were four countries in Africa, three bush camps, four hotels, a mountain lodge, gorilla trek permits and at least eight transfers by air or ground (or both)."
"Bushtracks provided very thorough guidance on preparing for the trip and what to expect once we got there. Everything went exactly as planned and there was not a single issue or even a nervous moment the entire trip. Kudos to a professionally-run organization!"
Scenes from the Hayes' June 2016 Custom Safari
Lioness photographed by Rusty Hayes
"This gal was perched on a small termite mound surveying the grasslands near Governor’s Il Moran Camp at Masai Mara. Soon after this shot, she was joined by two other females who snoozed at the base of the mound while this one remained on watch."
Elephants photographed by Rusty Hayes
"The plains of the Masai Mara only have the occasional acacia tree, so the elephants are usually grazing on the tall grass. However, near the river, the trees are much more prevalent and this female was doing some overhead grazing. You can see the “waterline” on their bodies where they were wading in water earlier."
Cheetah photographed by Rusty Hayes
"We found this male atop a 12-foot tall termite mound at Sabi Sabi Selati Camp. He was just resting and enjoying his view over the surrounding bush for quite a while, before starting to move. He rolled over and scratched his back a bit and then started to get up. Our ranger (Kyle) gave me a heads-up to be prepared for a big stretch and yawn when he stood up and the cheetah did not disappoint. Several of the Sabi Sabi rangers are accomplished photographers and more than willing to help their guests capture memorable shots."
Baby gorilla photographed by Rusty Hayes
"At Volcanos National Park in Rwanda, we did a relatively short trek up a mountain to visit with mountain gorillas. Guides lead groups of up to eight trekkers for an intimate visit with one of the “families” of gorillas in the park. The group spends an hour with the gorilla family and then treks back down the mountain. The family we visited had 27 members – a chief silverback, a few “lieutenant” silverbacks, black backs, females and several youngsters of varying ages. The trekkers are literally right in amongst the gorillas, but the guide keeps everyone appraised of what to do and where to go if the gorillas start to move. This little one never left mother’s side and put on quite a show."
Lilac Breasted Roller photographed by Rusty Hayes
"Just about every time we left Il Moran Camp for a game drive in Masai Mara, we encountered one or more Lilac Breasted Rollers. I caught this one on a tree branch with good lighting that shows off the vibrant colors."