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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This was the second trip I have booked through Wild4 and one of the most memorable and pleasurable trips I have ever been on in my life. We were blessed with incredible sightings from a frenzy of feeding wild dog to mating black mambas. The list is endless and the memories will linger for ever in the form of some great images shot from the customised vehicles driven by expert drivers. The camps chosen were great and there was a real and genuine feeling of being a part of your surroundings. A truly African experience. Botswana certainly came up trumps when delivering us such great sightings. From the bush to the Chobe river and the specially adapted photographic boats, you could not have asked for more. I must extend an enormous thank you to you Stu, for your endless patience and professionalism in everything you did for us. Thank you. Also a big thank you to Justyna who’s meticulous planning ensured a seamless trip to and in between each of our camps and destinations. Good job!
Stephen Tattersall, UK
My wife Joanie and I joined Wild4 for the Best of Kruger and Big Cats in August of 2014. It was our very first trip on an African safari. I’m a serious amateur photographer and my wife’s a non-photographer but both of us enjoyed the trip thoroughly ! To this day, we still regularly recall the highlights of sightings and events fondly. True to Wild4’s brand promise, Stu Porter delivers maximum photographic times spent chasing photo opportunities out in the field - out 6am as soon as the camp gate opens and back only 6pm when the gate closes. Having no more than three photographers on each of two jeeps allows every photographer immediate access to both sides of the vehicle. Stu always knows where to position the vehicle for the best vantage points. Every day has its highs – big cat chases and kills, grazers sparring, herds of elephants and buffaloes appearing from nowhere at water holes... Thanks to Stu and the enthusiasm and knowledge of experienced senior guide Mike Lentz. Camps in Kruger are basic (by first world standards) but hey this is a safari ! There’s the important benefit of being only a short drive away from dams, good spots to catch the first light when the sun rises. This is important as the gates do not open till 6am so there’s little margin for being late. I had the opportunity to experience first-hand, the Wild4 team’s dedication and commitment to a successful photo trip for guests, beyond the call of duty. The Wild4 team helped solved a major photographic equipment problem. Early afternoon on Day 5, the lens AF motor on my 400mm telephoto lens failed. This was really a disaster on a trip like this, as (like everyone else) I had a spare camera body but not a spare super telephoto lens ! The other lens I had was a medium telephoto zoom, hardly a lens to use with tele-converters. Murphy’s Law indeed ! This happened with seven more days to go ! I enquired with Stu about hiring a lens from the nearby towns. Stu sprang into action immediately whilst still on the afternoon game drive - got his back-office team to make enquiries back in Nelspruit town. This was something new to the Wild4 team as they never had to hire a lens but they found a lens on the same day, a 200-400mm that’s also ideal for safari. The lens had to be dispatched from almost 200 km away and Mr John Porter helped to drive south to collect the lens sooner. I had the use of this lens by the morning of Day 7, with one-and-half day “downtime” in a remote location. Service excellence lived by as a core value indeed. After eight nights I left Kruger National Park with the feeling that I was just warming up and was leaving too soon. I would have gladly extended a few more days if that was possible. But we were bound for the next destination. I notice Wild4 has not been static. More new trips were added. I see the enterprise is growing fast ! Joanie and I are now looking forward to a trip to Kenya, again with Stu and the Wild4 team.
Steve Seow, Singapore