Northern Escarpment 1-6 March 2021 | R27 500

Regular price R 27,500.00

Join Hougaard Malan for an immersive learning experience on the northern drakensberg escarpment in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. 

  • Limited to 6 participants

Blyde River Canyon - The lowveld escarpment is home to South Africa's famous Blyde River Canyon and unbeknown to most, our most beautiful indigenous forests. One would think that photographing Blyde River Canyon is simple and easy, but it is a landscape that does not give up it's treasures easily. It has a super specific seasonal window where the rains start to subside, but the canyon is still a lush green. The best part of the escarpment to photograph from is on private property and unless you know exactly where it is, you'll never find it. These are lessons that I learned the hard way over many years - I visited 7 times between the years of of 2008 to 2014 to figure out its secrets. 

Mariepskop - Very few people know that with the right knowledge, one can access the mountain top on the other side of the canyon. A gravity defying concrete pass was built onto the mountain to install a military radar station during the cold war era, in order to keep an eye on the communist-controlled skies beyond our eastern borders. With some local knowledge and a bit of luck, I first visited in 2009 and not much has changed - almost no one knows of it and the road is still horrible and unmarked. Mariepskop offers incredible views of the Canyon from the side that no one ever sees, along with an incredibly unique geology, flora and indigenous forests. 

Magoebaskloof - In 2012, I invested a mountain of time in finding South Africa's most beautiful indigenous forests. Magoebaskloof is where my journey led me and I spent over a month exploring the forested valleys and hills. Many of the incredible places I found are still on my "return-to-shoot" list and I'll be showing the participants of this group a few of those places. Much like Mariepskop, Magoebaskloof is not signposted and the best places for photos are not easy to find. Unless you spend a lot of time there, you won't find much other than Debengeni Falls and the odd lush section of forest along a road. I will show participants how to find simplicity in the chaos and and all the secrets of capturing the beauty of an Afromontane forest. 

Basic Itinerary

    • 1 March | Arrive Haenertsburg
    • 2 March | Photograph Magoebaskloof
    • 3 March | Travel to Blyde River Canyon
    • 4 March | Photograph Blyde River Canyon
    • 5 March | Travel to Mariepskop
    • 6 March | Photography Mariepkop
    • 7 March | End of Tour
Payment Terms
    • Full Price - R27 500.00
    • Deposit Payment | Due upon booking - R7 500.00
    • Balance Payment | Due 25 January 2021 - R20 000.00
    • Full Payment Due upon booking after 25 January 2021

    Included 

    • All Meals
    • All Accommodation
    • All Park/Entry Fees
    • Photographic Tuition by master landscape photographer
    • Image critique and editing lessons

    Not Included

    • Transport
    • Alcoholic Beverages
    • Anything not specified above

    The Northern
    Drakensberg

    Blyde River Canyon, Mariepskop & Magoebaskloof

    Photographic Highlights

    The Iconic

    Blyde River Canyon is one of South Africa's most iconic landscapes, but it doesn't give up it's beauty too easily. We know the right season, the best spots and the secret to sunrise escarpment access.

    The Unknown

    When I visited Mariepskop in 2009, almost no one knew of it or how to get there. More than a decade later, not much has changed. We'll be spending two days atop this incredible mountain, shooting sunsets over the canyon, sunrises in it's pristine forests and hopefully not running into one of its resident leopards. 

    Afromontane

    When you say "indigenous forest", everyone thinks Knysna, but SA's most beautiful forests are on the escarpment above the lowveld. The only way to find the best spots is to get lost on the endless forestry roads and that is exactly what I did almost a decade ago. We'll be returning to all those amazing spots deep in the Magoebaskloof forests. 

    Physical Requirements

    You do not need to be very fit for this workshop, as there is little hiking involved.
    Ideally, you shouldn’t have extreme vertigo as most of the shooting of the canyon happens on cliff edges.

    The major concern is at Magoebaskloof, where shooting of rivers and waterfalls is on slippery rock shelves. You have to be relatively agile and you cannot be of the health or age where a slip and fall might lead to serious injury.

    If this is the case, you do have the option to stick to shooting the forests rather than the streams and waterfalls. We will never force participants to do anything that they’re not comfortable with.

    If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us.

    Magoebaskloof

    Indigenous African Forest & Waterfalls

    Mariepskop

    The other side of the famous Blyde River Canyon

    Blyde River Canyon

    Timeless Grandeur

    Getting There

    Meeting Point on Day 1 - Haenertsburg, Limpopo
    Departure Point on Day 7 - Kampersrus, Mpumalanga
    Total Distance Travelled - est. 1300km
    4x4 Required - Yes 
    Ride Along Opportunity - Read Below

    The vast majority of the road driven will be on good paved roads, with interdestination distances as below - 

    Gauteng to Magoebaskloof | 370km
    Magoebaskloof to Blyde River Canyon | 180km
    Blyde River Canyon to Mariepskop | 126km 
    Mariepskop to Gauteng | 480km

    The Magoebaskloof forestry roads are good if dry, but with a bit of rain it turns into a snotty mess that requires a 4x4 to navigate. 
    The road to Mariepskop is also primarily a forestry road that is poorly maintained and a nightmare if wet.
    An experienced driver with a 2WD with good clearance will probably be able to manage, but we strongly advise that you come prepared for wet conditions. 

    Ride Along Opportunity

    The guide will be flying from Cape Town and renting a 4x4 vehicle at OR Tambo. Anyone flying in or without a 4x4 vehicle is welcome to drive with the guide and split the cost of the rental car. Landscape Travel is not a registered transport operator and it is not a service provided. You will merely travel with the guide as a friend and pay your fair portion of the rental cost. 

    Accommodation

    As always, we try to strike the balance between comfort and price, while prioritising photographic access. Please read through the sections below to see what to expect. 

    Magoebaskloof

    Self Catering Comfort

    We will be staying at a privately owned guest farm that has several free standing chalets and houses. 

    Access First

    Location couldn't be better - this is as close as one can stay to the indigenous forests we intend to photograph. 

    Blyde River Canyon

    Access First

    The Forever Resorts' Blyde River Canyon property is perched on the canyon edge and they have several kilometers of prime photographic territory within their perimeter. That makes access easy and safe

    Luxury House

    The resort has a 5 bedroom house overlooking the canyon, where we'll be staying for our 2 nights. 

    Views for Days

    As this photo from the deck shows, we will be staying within minutes of the epic location. 

    Mariepskop - Compromise for Photography

    PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

    The accommodation at Mariepskop is very far from luxurious. 

    It is with good reason that no one ever visits Mariepskop. It is a 2-hour drive on a terrible, unmarked road and there has never been any accommodation, so shooting sunset there and driving back in the dark through Kudu country is dangerous. The department of forestry, who administrates the reserve, recently created two very basic self-catering chalets at the forestry station halfway up the mountain.

    We will be guided by a local tour operator from Hoedspruit who does frequent birding tours on Mariepskop and knows the area and its administrators well. They have assured us that although basic, the chalets are clean and the kitchens have all the basics.

    Each chalet has a bedroom with a double bed and another bedroom with multiple beds. We will allocate the double-bed rooms to couples and the singles will have to share the rooms with multiple beds, but we will divide people by gender. It might feel a bit like you’re back at a school camp, but this epic location is very well worth the compromise. These chalets are a 15-20 minute drive from the mountain top where we shoot, so in terms of location, it doesn’t get any better. If you are equipped for camping and you would prefer to camp next to the chalets and just use the bathrooms, we have absolutely no problem with that.

    Photography and Tutoring

    During this course we will focus on capturing the best possible images and our time and energy will be prioritised towards being out in the field as opposed to sitting indoors doing presentations. While shooting, Hougaard, will be looking over your shoulder to answer any questions and help you out, whether it is a simple issue like which filter to use or a complex one like how to compose the scene. The small group size allows a lot of in-depth tuition tailored for each person's needs and skill level.

    In spare time we will download, edit and review the images captured up until that point.

    Difficulty Level

    This is a photo tour, which means that our time and energy will be focused on shooting, exploring compositions and discussing the destination and images captured. You should have a decent amount of experience shooting landscapes and be 100% comfortable operating your camera in manual mode. 

    Do not expect presentations on technical basics like how to use manual mode or jpeg vs. RAW.

    The Guide

    Hougaard Malan

    View Portfolio Site

    Food and Catering

    It’s always a fine balance between doing just the right amount of effort with the catering so that we have a good time, while not spending more time eating and cooking than we do shooting. All meals and groceries for the meals are included in the price of the workshop, but we always advise participants to supplement what we offer with some snacks of your choosing.

    Each person is responsible for their own beverages and water, including coffee, tea and alcoholic drinks.

    Magoebaskloof 

    Where there are decent restaurants, we will make use of them. Haenertsburg has great restaurants, so we will not be doing any cooking while in Magoebaskloof.

    Blyde River Canyon

    We will all be staying in a house with a well equipped kitchen, so here we will do an evening braai and a large brunch by ourselves. We will buy all the groceries, but ask everyone to take turns helping with some part of the cooking. Those who have been on one of our Arniston courses know the drill.

    Mariepskop

    Our kitchens at Mariepskop are extremely basic, so we will keep the cooking similar. En-route, we will stop for lunch and groceries in Hoedspruit. For dinners, we will do a basic tapas style braai of things one can eat without having to sit down at a set table. Breakfasts will be very basic – fruit, yoghurt, cereal, sandwiches. We will also make sure that we have everything required for lunch sandwiches for our full days there.

    Both chalets at Mariepskop have microwaves and a refrigerator.

    If you have any questions or allergies, please let us know.

    Detailed Itinerary

    Day 1 - Sunday 28 February: Meet and Greet

    We need everyone in Magoebaskloof no later 14:00. We’ll do an introductory talk and then go for our first shoot in the forests. After the shoot, we’ll go to a local restaurant and discuss the days to come.

    Day 2 + 3 – Shoot Magoebaskloof

    During our full two days at Magoebaskloof, the schedule will go roughly as follows, but we do chop and change things depending on what the weather is doing.

    Sunrise is at 05:50, which means that we will likely have coffee at 04:30 and make sure we’re on location by 05:30. After sunrise we’ll head back to the guesthouse, clean up, download, edit and then head to Haenertsburg for brunch, followed by an afternoon break. If it’s cloudy, we can start shooting the forests fairly early, so we will aim to head out at about 14:00-15:00 each afternoon. Sunset is at 18:20.

    After sunset We’ll go for dinner in Haenertsburg and make sure we’re in bed in time for a 04:30 wake up.

    Star Shooting – This workshop does not include any astro photography. This area is in the close vicinity of three very large towns/cities – Tzaneen, Polokwane and Nelspruit, so there is a lot of light pollution. We will focus on what makes this area special instead of wasting energy on mediocre images of the milkyway.

    Day 4 – Wednesday 3 March: Depart Magoebaskloof

    After sunrise, a shower and packing, we need to leave Magoebaskloof no later than 10:00. The 170km drive takes about 2 hours and we will stop in Tzaneen for groceries and brunch.

    Once checked in at Blyde River Canyon, we will go for an afternoon recce of our sunrise location to familiarize you with the escarpment edge where we'll be shooting the following morning. 

    After sunset, we’ll light the fire and pour a glass of wine, while making sure we get to bed in time for an early wake up.

    Day 5 – Thursday 4 March: Shoot Blyde River Canyon

    We want to make sure we're in position for sunrise by 05:00, which means coffee at 04:15. We will shoot sunrise overlooking the canyon, followed by download, edit and then brunch. After an afternoon break, we will spend the afternoon shooting some of the waterfall scenes along the panorama route. After sunset, we’ll do another braai and get to bed in time for sunrise.

    Day 6 – Friday 5 March: Depart Blyde River Canyon

    After sunrise and a light breakfast, we’ll try to leave no later than 09:00. The 250km drive to Mariepskop forestry station normally takes about 4 hours, but we have to stop in Hoedspruit for groceries and lunch.

    Once checked in at Mariepskop, we’ll head up the mountain and get ready for the sunset shoot. After sunset, we’ll do a dinner braai.

    Day 7 – Saturday 6 March: Shoot Mariepskop

    We will make sure we’re at the Mariepskop viewpoint in time for sunrise. If the light isn’t great, we’ll head into the forest trails in search of some forest photography.

    As the accommodation does not offer much in the way of an area to relax and it’s our last day, we’ll make the most of this hard to reach location and either explore the forests or shoot the unique flora and landscape of the mountain top.

    We will once again shoot sunset at the epic viewpoint.

    Day 8 – Sunday 7 March: End of Tour

    After a final sunrise overlooking the canyon, we’ll pack up, say our goodbyes and everyone will hit the road home.

    Packing List - Clothing and Accessories

    Clothing - Due to the weather on the escarpment and the fact that it's still summer, you need to pack for all 4 seasons. We could get a hot, humid sunny day, we could end up in a thunderstorm and we could also get a freezing misty day, so come prepared for all weather. Make sure you have a light rainproof layer that you can carry in your camera backpack. 

    Shoes - We will be walking on plenty of uneven terrain and in tall grass, so make sure you bring hiking boots with good ankle protection as well as comfortable hiking trousers. At Magoebaskloof there will definitely be oppourtunities where you'll want to get in the water to capture a "looking upstream" perspective. For these situations we find an old pair of takkies works best. You can also just take your hiking boots off. 

    TICKS/BOSLUISE - We will be spending lots of time in the heart of tick territory, particularly the tiny red pepper tick, which can hide away on your skin for days. The best preventative measure is wearing trousers instead of shorts, but you can also consider repellants. 

    Headlamp - This is extremely important. All our morning shoots will start out with a walk in complete darkness. Please make sure you bring a headlamp and a set of spare batteries. 

    Packing List - Camera Gear & Laptop

    Camera Body - There was a time when we could simply say you need a Nikon or Canon DSLR, but times have changed with the massive variety of cameras now in use. You need a camera, preferably digital, with manual mode. A full frame with good high ISO performance, Live View and Focus Peaking makes landscape photography much easier, but pretty much anything goes. 
    Lenses - The most important lens is a wide angle in the range of 16-35mm. A 24-70mm and 70-200mm (or similar) will be extremely useful for panoramas and more close-up scenes within the landscape.

    Backpack - We will be walking a lot, so it is critical to have a comfortable backpack to carry your gear in. We are big loyalists of f-stop gear, which is widely regarded as the world's best camera carry solution. 

    Tripod - Please make sure you have a solid tripod with an easy-to-operate head that reaches up to your eye height. We will be shooting amongst rocks and on slopes, where you will need some extra length. We recommend Leofoto.

    L-Bracket - An L-Bracket is the simplest, greatest tool out there for landscape photographers. It makes portrait and pano shooting a dream. Get in touch to find out which model you need. 

    Filters - The only filter you need at Magoebaskloof is a circular polariser. For Blyde River Canyon and Mariepskop, you will need 0.9 and 0.6 Soft and/or Medium Grads. A 10-stop will also be useful if we get the right clouds for long exposures. 

    Laptop and Editing - This course focuses on shooting, not on editing, but there is always some time in the morning to download and look at images as well as to play with some quick editing. A laptop is not a must, but we recommend you bring one along to review your images. 

    The Fine Print

    please read thoroughly

    Payment and Cancellation Terms

    Payment

    In order to secure your spot on this tour, a deposit of R7 500.00 is required. This deposit can be paid by EFT or using any VISA or MASTERCARD card via Payfast. Please note that your spot on the workshop is NOT confirmed until we have received the deposit payment. 


    Full Payment must be made 35 days prior to the start of the tour. We will send out a final invoice for the full amount to remind you of the due date in safe time. If we have not received your full payment 35 days prior to the start of the tour and you did not inform us of a valid reason for a late payment, Landscape Travel reserves the right to consider your booking as cancelled.

    You will need to complete and sign a standard liability disclaimer in order to participate in this tour. 


    When booking within 35 days of the start of the tour, immediate full payment will be required to 
secure your spot. 


    If you have a valid reason for a late payment like being out of telecommunication or waiting for 
investments to be cashed out, please inform us. 


    Medical & Camera Insurance

    We do not require participants to take out any insurance to participate in this tour/workshop. but we strongly recommend that you update your camera insurance and add all your filters under all-risk. Clifftop shooting and cold fingers are a recipe for disaster. 

    Cancellation

    The deposit is not refundable under any circumstance. When you book a spot on the tour, we make all the necessary bookings with all the third parties and pay their required deposit. Most of the deposits we pay are not refundable and thus we cannot refund your deposit. Whatever we still hold is used to defray the administrative work of changing all the bookings made on your behalf. The only exception will be if you can find a substitute to attend the workshop in your place. 


    If you need to cancel your participation once you have made full payment, a 75% refund (excluding deposit) will be given up to 30 days prior to the start of the tour. 


    Landscape Travel reserves the right to cancel the tour if it is necessary or advisable due to events such as outbreak of conflict, government intervention, expiry of concessions or access right or insufficient booking numbers being available. The operation of the tour is at the sole discretion of Landscape Travel, having in mind the welfare of all participants and the safe and prudent operation of the itinerary and program. In such a case all monies paid by participants for the tour, in holding by Landscape Travel, will be refunded to the participants. This excludes deposits or full payments made to 3rd parties involved in the tour like lodges, charter companies or travel agents. 
 

    Terms and Conditions

    1. The client who signifies his acceptance of a booking does so on behalf of himself and persons under his authority, which means that all are bound by the terms and conditions of Landscape Travel as if they had made the application themselves.

    2. Landscape Travel - HM Landscape Photography (PTY) LTD trading as Landscape Travel is a company registered in South Africa with sole director CH Malan. Landscape Travel  participants on the tour advertised in this document only in a photographic capacity. 

    3. Payment Terms

    This tour will start on the date stipulated in the product title and again repeated under the section 'Itinerary', listed below the introductory paragraph for the product. The cost is R27 500.00 per person on a single or sharing occupancy basis.

    The cost for a non-photographic participant/friend/spouse is R15 000.00 and such a person has to share a room with a photographic participant.

    This tour is costed in RAND and that is thus the only constant price. 

    As stipulated in the payment and cancellation terms, a non-refundable deposit of R7 500.00 is payable when booking.

    A final payment of R20 000.00 will be payable 35 days prior to the start of the tour and we will send you a reminder several days before the deadline.

     

    4. Included in the Tour

    Single Occupancy Accommodation at Kuhestan Organic Guest Farm and Forever Resorts Blyde River Canyon. Shared occupancy as explained and shown under the accommodation section at the Mariepskop forestry station.

    Meals and Drinks as stipulated under 'Food and Catering'

    Continuous assistance with your photography and image processing by the guide.

    A highly experienced tour leader with great knowledge and experience of landscape photography and the destination.

    5. Not Included in the Tour

    Transport to and from the destinations visited.

    Transport at the destinations visited.

    Non-meal-time snacks and drinks

    Optional activities not indicated as included above.

    Alcoholic beverages

    Travel visas and associated costs, if applicable.

    Expenses of a personal nature, not specifically included above.

    Guarantee of any specific weather conditions. We always do our absolute best to make sure we visit a destination in the ideal season and this tour is planned in hope of dramatic summer sunsets, lush green foliage, water in forest streams and the occassional misty morning. 

    6. Health Considerations

    This photo tour is designed to be within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of the time participants may be required to walk over uneven terrain or trails and occasionally hiking short distances of max. 1km. All with a load of sometimes heavy camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to this photo tour, please contact us to clarify any uncertainties.

    By paying the initial non-refundable deposit, you warrant that, to the best of your knowledge you do not have any physical or other disability that would create a risk for you or other participants.

    Landscape Travel assumes no responsibility for medical care. We will advise the lodges/hotels of any dietary requirements or restrictions for individual participants, if sufficient notice is provided, but we do not assume responsibility for the delivery of such special dietary requirements.

    If you sustain an injury or become ill on the photo tour, Landscape Travel reserves the right to continue the photo tour for the benefit of other participants. Landscape Travel will make every effort to assist you while at the same time trying to minimize interruption to the photo tour.

    Landscape Travel reserves the absolute discretion, in the event of behaviour detrimental to other participants, to decline any person’s participation at any time during the photo tour and cancel that person’s participation in the photo tour, in which case any refund will be on a recoverable cost basis only.

    7. Liability

    Landscape Travel does not accept any liability of whatever nature, whether in contract, tort or otherwise, for the acts, omissions or default, whether negligent or otherwise, of third party providers. To the fullest extent permitted by law, Landscape Travel disclaims liability in contract, tort or otherwise for any injury, damage, loss (including consequential loss), delay, additional expense or inconvenience caused directly or indirectly by force majeure or any other event which is not preventable by reasonable diligence on the part of Landscape Travel.