LIONS and LEOPARDS of KRUGER photo safari - July 2014
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 15th Jul 2014
The move towards the “dry season” is becoming more and more evident, waterholes are drying up, the bush is turning into its winter colours and the early mornings were particularly cold !!
Our first stop was the Big Cat Reserve and some highlights were the lion pride feeding on a giraffe, night photography of the leopards and the porcupines, the female King Cheetah, Floppy and Hunters the resident male Cheetahs out on patrol and a great sighting of the three elephants, Becky, Malutka and Juba !!
Thanks very much to Ben our Ranger for looking after us and all the staff at Tshukudu.
Next stop was the Kruger National Park. As water levels begin to drop the animals are beginning to concentrate along the river lines and large reservoirs. On our first day we found a young male lion trailing far behind the rest of his pride, a very cooperative common Duiker, lots of beautiful Lilac Breasted Rollers, large herds of elephants and the two main highlights were a herd of 800 plus Cape Buffalo who all arrived at Girivana waterhole and filled it up completely. Lions were close behind and they ran in on the buffalo a couple of times without success. On our final morning we found two male cheetahs on the road south towards Skukuza. We got some great images of them as they scent marked and looked out for potential prey.
Our last stop was a three night stay at Mala Mala, where the focus shifted to Lions and Leopards. We had great success with both - starting with our first sighting of the Marthli Pride barely 20 mins after we left camp. The large Lioness without a tail is always an interesting sight.
We continued our drive in search of the cubs of the “Kikilezi female” and found them resting in a dry mud wallow, it is always a real privilege to see these cats, and even more special to see cubs.
During our stay we also found a male Leopard known as the “Tree house male” and he was busy stalking Impala. He did not succeed on this occasion but we still managed to follow him after dark before we left him near the Sand River.
We had a brief encounter with “PAP” another dominant Male Leopard in the area.
One Highlight was finding the Kikilezi female with her two cubs as well as the “Airstrip Male” leopard all at the same kill site. To see a male leopard around cubs is very rare, but it is believed that the Airstrip male is the father of the two cubs and is tolerant towards them.
On a bit of a concerning note, we later heard that “PAP” (Princess Alice Pans Male Leopard) had arrived at the kill and fought with the “Airstrip Male” over the carcass and seemingly won the fight. The cubs and the female would have scattered to get away and at the time of our departure only one of the cubs had been seen again with the female which might suggest that “PAP” could have killed the other cub, but we hope to hear news that both cubs are back with the female Leopard.
Our final highlight was spending some quality time in a perfect position opposite 9 Cape Hunting Dog puppies who proceeded to run up and down in front of us playing like puppies do. This pack is now mobile so to find them is extremely difficult. We were very fortunate to have seen this once in a lifetime sighting..
Thanks very much to Jonno our Ranger for looking after us and to all the Mala Mala staff.
Thank you also to Erik, David and Bridget who joined us on this safari, we certainly did have some amazing sightings that not many people get to see, it was a pleasure having you on the trip..
Enjoy some of the photos !
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I recently did a trip with Wild4 which far outweighed any expectations that I had! Wow what a trip. There was a great variety of animals, Stu has extensive knowledge of the animals and their habitat and was always mindful of us getting the best shots possible. My friend and I had our own bench seats in all the vehicles, which was great as we both had 2 DSLRs with numerous lenses, each vehicle is equipped with beanbags to steady your camera / lens, pockets and enough room to take a camera bag. We had fantastic opportunities to watch the cats for a good period of time and learn a little bit about their life, rather than taking a photo and moving on. I loved that we could sit and watch the lions at Mala Mala play in the Sand River, it was a fantastic opportunity. Stu provided us with some great tuition, I certainly learnt a lot of new photo techniques which I look forward to using back home. I hired a Canon 500mm lens from Stu which was great, I think I used that about 85% of the time and used a 70-200mm for the rest. We had many opportunities for night photography, silhouettes, time lapse, low light etc At the end of our trip we did the reptile extension at Khamai Reptile Centre. We went behind the scenes at the centre and had one of Africa's leading reptile specialist spend the day talking about the reptiles, spiders, scorpions we were about to take pictures of. Donald and his team certainly made for a very safe photo shoot, they were extremely patient positioning some of the reptiles for better light or different background. I learnt a lot from Donald, living in Australia we do have some venomous snakes, the day certainly gave me a renewed appreciation for the reptiles. I would highly recommend the Wild4 team for your next photographic safari you will not be disappointed.
Linda Cappello, AUSTRALIA
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