LIONS and LEOPARDS of KRUGER photo safari trip report - July 2017
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 29th Jul 2017
The first "Lions & Leopards of Kruger" photo safari began with the clients arrival at Hoedspruit airport. Due to a delay in the flight arrival time, we headed off to Ngala and went straight out on our first afternoon game drive.
There is no better way to begin a 13 day photo safari than with a visit to one of the resident Ngala Lion prides known as the Birmingham pride. A few adult females with small cubs were in the group. The pride is suffering with a bit of Sarcoptic Mange, but they looked well fed having recently finished off a Buffalo kill. Our two night stay at Ngala offered another sighting of the Lions as well as good general game sightings of Zebra, Wildebeest, Common Waterbuck and Impala. The highlight was spending time with a beautiful young male Leopard known as the Black Dam Male, he was with the last remains of his latest kill that had also attracted the attentions of a few Spotted Hyaenas.
We met the Wild4 support team at the Kruger National Park's Orpen Gate, where we transferred into our own Open Safari Vehicle and headed off into the Kruger National Park where we spent the next 6 nights split between Satara camp in central Kruger and Lower Sabie in the South. Central and Southern Kruger offered wonderful early misty mornings, a great sighting of fighting Zebra, Greater Kudu, Giraffe, Impala, Bushbuck, Steenbok, Elephants, Southern Ground Hornbills, Male Lions, African Scops Owl, Nile Crocodiles, Bateleur Eagles, Wooly Necked Storks, a Male Leopard in a Leadwood Tree, Vervet Monkeys and a Hippo covered in Terrapins !!
The highlight from Kruger was without a doubt the Leopard kill we all witnessed at the N'waswitshaka waterhole (known locally as "Watergat") As we arrived at "Watergat" we noticed an older female Leopard hiding in a small gully. She was observing Impala as they came down to drink from the waterhole. After a few "almost" moments where the Impala was just not in the right position, the female leopard launched herself at a young male Impala and brought him down in full view of us and the other extremely lucky people that happened to be at the waterhole for that very brief moment in time.
I have been lucky to observe Leopards on many occasions, but this was the very first time that I witnessed and photographed a kill from start to finish, truly a once in a life time opportunity ! It certainly took me many years to see this, but for one client with us, it was his very first safari to Africa, such is the amazing way of mother nature !
Final stop on the trip was a 4 night stay at Mala Mala Private Game Reserve. The Lion dynamics at Mala Mala and surrounding area at the moment are certainly getting a shake up with new males moving in, others trying to avoid being detected and a new group of females known as the Kambula Lionesses. Things are by no means settled and the dynamics change on a daily basis. We did get to spend time with the two Avoca Males, we saw the three Manyeleti Males, as well as the three younger Marthly Males. We were fortunate to find the two Cheetah brothers in the north eastern part of the reserve and spent some time with them.
On our way back to camp one day, we bumped into a fresh Impala kill in a Fig Tree right next to the road. The Senegal Bush Male Leopard was responsible and we watched him first catch his breath, then climb into the tree and open up the Impala carcass. We also got to spend time with the Picadilli female Leopard who had just had her kill stolen by Hyaenas, the Tree House Male Leopard was photographed on patrol one night. The Island female Leopard was seen one morning. She is now thought to have dropped her new litter of cubs, and we followed her to the Sand River and photographed her crossing over to the eastern bank.
Other animals seen and photographed at Mala Mala included a brief late afternoon sighting of some African Wilddogs (this year with no den site as a result of the Alpha female being killed by Hyaenas), African Buffalo, large Elephant & Impala herds at the river, Nyala Antelope, Three banded Plovers, Hammerkop, Tawny Eagles, Greater Kudu, Common Duiker, Klipspringers, Side Striped Jackals and Nile Monitor Lizards.
Many thanks to all the lodge staff that looked after us at each location and also to our rangers, Shaun at Ngala and Theo at Mala Mala, thank you for your hard work and patience and for getting us into sightings and spending quality photographic time with the animals. Thanks also to the Wild4 back up team who looked after us so well in the Kruger National Park.
Finally, thank you to the participants, Andy and Patrick, it was great travelling with you both and we certainly did share some great experiences and photographic opportunities - oh boy that Leopard kill !!!
Enjoy some of the photos below.
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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
This was our first out of country photography trip. We were very excited and nervous. We did our research. Could this be for real? Was it too good to be true? Where was the catch? Let us give you a clue…there was no catch! We were treated in a warm and friendly manner from our first inquiry to our final wave goodbye at the airport. Everything was handled totally professionally! It was like a dream come true….days spent on wildlife photography…and being tutored by someone who really knows how to do it. Obviously Stu, Justyna, Ann and John love what they do. The only downside is sorting out several thousand photos in Lightroom ! . There are just some tasks you don't mind doing. It will be a labor of love. Will we go on photo safari again? Only with Wild 4 folks!!!
Michael & Toni Anderson, USA