Meet Our Private Guides: Daniel Crous

Natural Selection
January 04, 2023

In the first of our Private Guide interview series, we chat to Danny Crous about growing up in the Okavango Delta and now photographing it.

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NS: You grew up in the Okavango, how has your upbring informed your affinity for nature?

DC: “When you are surrounded by such an incredible natural environment, how can you not find an affinity for it? For those that have travelled here and fallen in love with the Okavango, its an easy thing to understand even after only a 10 day safari. I had the privilege of spending my formative years here which have given me a deep-rooted passion for this area.”

NS: What’s your favourite childhood memory?

DC: “When I was 4 years old we lived at Xugana Camp. I’m sure health and safety would not approve nowadays but then we had a floating pontoon cage in the lagoon. This provided a somewhat safe swimming environment in the waters of the Okavango. Learning to swim here is a long lasting memory full of happiness.”

NS: Which one thing reminds you of the Delta when you’re away from it?

DC: “There is very little like it anywhere in the world, so there aren’t many memory triggers. Perhaps the call of a coucal, or the smell of sage in the evening, or more likely simply sitting around a camp fire. I compare it to every natural environment I travel to.”

NS: How has the Okavango and the safari experience it offers changed since you were a child?

DC: “The Okavango itself hasn’t changed very much, apart from natural shifting of channels. There is certainly more pressure and demand on it now though, more camps and more people wanting to see it. Finding truly exclusive wilderness is now not as easy, luckily there are still areas in the Okavango that are still wild. The experience of safari differs from country to region to area, it’s all different but it’s also all the same – as long as the ethos of full immersion in wild places stays the same, safari will remain the same beautiful journey it always has been.”

NS: What is it about photography that sparks your imagination?

DC: “It’s a true test of creativity, particularly in wildlife photography where you have no control over subject and light. The pursuit of something special that only my eye was able to identify inspires and drives me. Equally, no two wildlife images are the same, so even though I have thousands of lion images there is always room for improvement or something different.”

NS: Why does the Okavango Delta lend itself to photography and what’s your favourite subject within the landscape?

DC: “The Okavango is actually a tricky landscape to work within photography. We don’t have any real elevation and we have to contend with a lot of vegetation. Unlike the rolling vistas of the Serengeti you have to work harder here to get a good image. The challenge is very worthwhile when you have a leopard mother and cub frolicking around a leadwood tree. I suppose that gives away my favourite subject..?”

NS: What’s the best piece of photography advice you’ve ever been given?

DC: “Get low – most photographers that have travelled with me will be rolling their eyes, but also nodding agreement. We don’t work hard enough at getting low and it is so so important. I would prefer to get one good image of a tortoise while crawling around in the mud than a 100 shots of the top of a leopard’s head.”

NS: If you could photograph any extinct animal which would it be and why?

DC: “North America – A giant ground sloth being attacked by a sabre toothed cat… surely that would be an epic battle!”

NS: How do photography-focused trips differ from normal safaris in terms of experience?

DC: “They go deeper, we spend more time with good subjects and we search for behaviour and light. There is a lot less moving between sightings and more patience required to wait for the right moment. Overall, it is a normal safari but with a creative objective, this gives so much good energy and motivation to the trip.”

NS: Please tell us about the most memorable sighting you’ve ever had in the Okavango.

DC: “Not easy – as a favourite I would probably describe a moment in the delta when I was driving off road in an unexplored area. I found this beautiful large clearing the previous afternoon and really felt an energy in the place. When I returned the next day, we were slowly trundling through herds of impala when suddenly a golden blur and dust erupted from under a tree in front of us. I pulled the vehicle alongside a beautiful female leopard hanging on to the neck of a large impala, she had just dropped from the flowering sausage tree. We watched her use her weight over the next 7 minutes to wear the ram down before finally it dropped to the ground. We spent the next 3 days visiting her and felt that we formed a bit of a bond. It was a special moment in the safari, and it taught me a valuable lesson in following my gut that will not be easily forgotten.”

 

All photos by Danny Crous