Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 1st Aug 2014
I first visited the Kruger National Park with my family in 1983 - since then a lot of things have changed as far as the tourist elements are concerned, but the park still remains the flagship of the South African National Parks and a conservation success story. Set aside to conserve ALL the species found within the park, we often complain that we cannot drive off road, there are not enough tourist roads in some areas and the congestion at Cat sightings can be annoying.
However we quickly forget that this park was set up to preserve the different habitats and the animals that call it home. We are visitors to their world and they really can and do what they want to do when they want to. If the animals have enough of the tourist vehicles they simply walk away from the road for some peace and quiet - I am sure a lot of animals in other parks would love to move to the Kruger and get away from the constant hassle from tourists.
Despite the seemingly strict rules and regulations of the park, it still produces amazing sightings and photo opportunities. You sometimes have to share these with a number of other people, but on many occasions we have been alone at some wonderful sightings. It also depends on where you stay in the park. The southern section is busier, but if you stay on the eastern side at Lower Sabie Camp for example then the early mornings are usually rather quiet.
I have always said that the Kruger National Park is not the greatest place to photograph the cats as you are not able to follow them off road as you can in some of the well controlled private game reserves. However it is not all about the cats !! there are plenty of other animals in the park to keep your camera happy.
A favourite time for me is when the animals are drawn to water during the dry months - from June to October. Sitting at a waterhole and waiting for the animals to come to you is most enjoyable.
Nkaya pan south of Satara Camp in central Kruger is one of the best places to wait for animals during the dry months. Encircled by a forest of Many-stemmed Albizia, this pan offers a surprise factor second to none. On one occasion we sat at the pan enjoying our breakfast with nothing in sight when suddenly we saw a few Cape Buffalo break out from the bush into the open. They were the pathfinders of a mega herd of around 500 animals all hoping to quench their thirst at Nkaya ! Before we knew it we were surrounded and the Buffalo took over the pan like ants on a honey sandwich !
Within a space of a couple of hours we photographed Cape Buffalo, White Rhino, Elephant, Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala, Crocodiles Warthog, Giraffe and a number of water birds.
The light at the pan is very good in both the morning and the afternoon. It is always worth stopping at the pan at anytime.
If the conditions are right and there is still water in the pan during late July, August and September then this place is a mecca for thirsty animals.
Here are a few photos taken at Nkaya Pan - Kruger's best in my opinion...
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If anyone is contemplating a photo trip to Africa, then we would have absolutely no hesitation in recomending Stu Porter and Wild4 Photographic Safaris. It doesn't really matter what your level of skill is you will get as much or as little help and advice as you wish to receive. Nothing is thrust down your throat and Stu doesn't spend all his time taking his own photographs as some do. Stu has taken a huge amount of time and trouble in customising and setting up his safari vehicle and the effort he's put in makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable. Tethered bean bags are provided and secure plate mounts on the side of the vehicle will also take your tripod head ensuring a rock steady platform and Stu most certainly knows where the animals are. Particularly enjoyable was the time we spent at the Big Cat Reserve (part of the 4 night extension) which is an unbelieveable photographic experience. Many thanks WILD4 !
Rob & Sue Brookes, UK
I was fortunate to be on Wild4's "Best of Botswana" trip in May 2014. It could well be the Best of Africa. This trip featured two expert guides (Stu Porter himself and Nkosi from Letaka Safaris) and the abundant wildlife of four different Botswanan hot spots, with relatively few other vehicles around. Those features alone are worth the price of admission, particularly since they include Stu's vehicle modifications that ensure the best possible photographic experience. But if that isn't enough, we spent the first ten nights in expedition style mobile camps, roughing it with bucket showers and drop toilets, and listening to the leopards, elephants and hyenas wandering in and around the camps at night. But don't worry about the "roughing it" part. The expert staff prepares perfect meals, including fresh baked breads and cakes, and ensures that the camp is safe and clean. We finished the 12-night trip in a luxury lodge on the Chobe River, where we photographed from a boat customised to accommodate serious photographers (i.e. people with lenses bigger than their legs) and a waterway full of hippos and elephants and lined with Africa's most iconic birds. If you can only go once to Africa, go to Botswana with Wild4 Photographic Safaris. They will take care of every detail of your safari to ensure that everything is just right. If you are an old Africa veteran, ditto. You just can't go wrong with Wild4.
George Cathcart, USA