LIONS and LEOPARDS of KRUGER photo safari trip report - July 2018
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 2nd Aug 2018
The first of our 2018 Lions & Leopards of Kruger photo safaris included stays at Indlovu River Lodge, Moholoholo Forest Camp, Jock Safari Lodge, the Kruger National Park and Mala Mala Game Reserve.
First up was the fantastic eye level waterhole hide at Indlovu River Lodge in the Karongwe Game Reserve. This is a fantastic location which allowed our group to settle in and get warmed up with their camera settings and techniques. The hide itself is very comfortable and spacious and armed with a coffee, tea and cookie basket, we spent 4 sessions in the hide and were treated to some great photo opportunities with Baboons, Impala, Nyala, Zebra, Grey Go Away birds, Red Billed Ox Peckers, Cape Glossy Starlings, Laughing Doves, Crested Francolin, Red Billed Quelea, Golden Breatsed Buntings, Blue Waxbills and a stunning Green Winged Pytilia. This is always a great place to begin a photo safari to help prepare for the rest of the trip.
Our next stop on our pre tour extension was Moholoholo Forest Camp where we enjoyed a great afternoon photographing the Vultures and Marabou Storks at the Vulture Restaurant. It is always a pleasure to observe these massive birds in flight and it offers wonderful opportunities for photography. We then spent a full day at the Kinyonga Reptile Park which is always a wonderful and surprisingly productive experience from both a knowledge and photographic perspective. During the day we photographed a Gecko, Bearded Dragon, Plated Lizards, Chameleon feeding, Leopard Tortoise, Golden Brown Baboon Spider, Black Mamba, Boomslang and a Snouted Cobra, quite a variety and we were only just getting started !
We then headed off towards the Kruger National Park, to Jock Safari Lodge, a beautiful and recently renovated private lodge in a private concession within the boundary of the Kruger National Park. Despite some unusual and unseasonal cold and wet weather, we were still able to enjoy a number of great wildlife sightings including two large male Leopards, Male Lions on patrol at night, Vervet monkeys, Baboons, herds of Elephants, Greater Kudu, Spotted Hyaena and a number of different birds. We also had a very unexpected experience when we bumped into a rhino relocation operation and observed the de-horning and loading of the massive mammal into a relocation truck.
After 3 great nights at Jock Safari Lodge, we headed towards Satara Camp, located in central Kruger. Here we spent full days out in the park exploring the Timbavati River and we also staked out the Shimangwaneni Dam. Both full days were very productive and we spent time photographing Giraffe, Elephant, Zebra under a rainbow !, common Waterbuck, Impala and the beautiful Purple and Lilac Breasted Rollers. On our final morning drive as we headed towards southern Kruger we saw a lone female Cheetah and some Cape Buffalo.
After the cold weather, the air was as crisp and clear as I have ever seen it and the views of Southern Kruger and Muntshe Hill were spectacular as we decended from Nkumbe Lookout point. Our three nights at Lower Sabie provided us with a variety of very different photo opportunities which included two Cheetah that literally arrived out of nowhere at Slim's waterhole on the S128, we did not even notice them approaching as we were busy photographing a number of big Bull Elephants drinking and mud bathing. The photo hotspot of Sunset Dam, just outside the camp was really productive with great sightings and photo opportunities of Hippo, Crocodile, Giant Kingfishers, African Fish Eagle, African Spoonbills, Egyptian Geese, Yellow Billed Storks, Great White Egrets and a stunning Saddle Billed Stork that paraded past us not more than 5 meters away.
One early morning drive in the thick mist that simetimes covers the Sabie River, we encountered a wonderful Lion sighting. The pride had gone to drink at the river when a lot of roaring began, two male Lions arrived on the scene and proceeded to roar at each other and continued to do so for the next hour or so. It was a challenge to photograph in the thick mist but we did end up with some different looking pictures.
The Aloe's were flowering in the camp and we managed to get some good photos of Marico Sunbirds, Dark Capped Bulbuls and a Black Headed Oriole.
On our final morning heading along the Sabie River, we bumped into a very busy Honey Badger who looked like it had been in a few wars with a damaged eye and a large wound on its back.
Off to Mala Mala it was, our destination for our final 3 nights of the safari. The newly renovated Main Camp is very impressive, it has a wonderful modern look but still has a feeling of the old Mala Mala too, which I liked. Of course the wildlife at Mala Mala never needs renovating and we were spoiled with sightings of three different female Leopards, and the Lookout Female also had her cub with her at the site of an Impala kill. We had fun photographing these beautiful cats at night too, this is not a common opportunity and one of the things that makes Mala Mala special. We also caught up with the Gowrie male Lions, one of whom was mating with one of the Kambula Lionesses, and another of the males was with the rest of the Kambula pride. These we photographed as they slowly began to get active at the end of the day. It was full moon and the strength of the moonlight enabled us to follow the lions without the aid of our lights. We also got to photograph the Lions in the moonlight !
Many thanks to all the lodge staff that looked after us at each location and also to our guides and rangers, Stefan at Indlovu River Lodge, Steven at Moholoholo, Prince at the Kinyonga Reptile Park, Lazarus at Jock Safari Lodge and Liam at Mala Mala, thank you all for your hard work and patience and for getting us into sightings and spending quality photographic time with the animals. A massive thanks also to the Wild4 backup team (mum & dad !! ) who looked after us so well in the Kruger National Park.
Finally, thank you to the participants, Helen, Sharon W and Sharon T, it was really great travelling with you all and we really appreciate the long distances you travelled to join us on this Lions & Leopards of Kruger photo safari.
Please enjoy some of the photos below.
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Shopping for a travel adventure on the Web is somewhat risky, but when I wanted to go on an African photo safari, I really had no choice. I looked around and finally picked Wild4 Photographic Safaris for one reason: the vehicle. It was obvious that this was an outfit that understood photographic details and the needs of serious wildlife photographers. With a capacity for 10 passengers, the vehicle takes just three photographers. The three photographers' benches feature platforms to steady big lenses on both sides of the vehicle, and loads of storage space and pockets for lenses, bodies, accessories, binoculars, field guides, water, etc. I can not imagine a better platform for photography in the bush veldt. What is not as obvious in the on-line description is that the vehicle comes equipped with Stu Porter, the Wild4 owner and guide. Stu, who bears a striking resemblance to movie actor Matt Damon, is a deceptively shy young man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Kruger National Park, its animals, geography, geology, climate, seasons, and, of course, rules. He also has the eyes of an eagle and is the best leopard spotter in South Africa. Stu's knowledge and patience are seemingly infinite, and he somehow manages to be aware both of his passengers' needs and everything around us. He does everything humanly possible to give you the opportunity to get the best shot. And if you need more than just the opportunity, he can instruct even the most seasoned photographer on technique. Stu grew up next to Kruger National Park, and his mother (who does the meal preparation for the safari) started taking him there as soon as he was old enough. He has been accumulating his knowledge of the park and its animals all his life, and that comes in very handy when you need to know something about animal behavior. In short, Wild4 Photographic Safaris is all about the vehicle, with spacious seats, shooting platforms and Stu Porter as standard equipment. You can't do better. Thank you, Stu!
George Cathcart, USA
I did a photo safari in and around Kruger National Park with Wild4. At the end of the trip I could not think of one significant thing that I would have changed to make the experience better. I have travelled to various parts of East and Southern Africa many times to photograph wildlife and I have to say that this was THE most photographically productive trip of them all. Not simply the volume of pictures, but the quality and variety of images that I returned home with was simply awesome. Key to this was Stu’s knowledge, enthusiasm and patience. Most days we were photographing from first light until sunset, and beyond on some occasions. I quickly learned not to worry about getting the vehicle into the best position for background, light, etc. We would see an animal and I'd start to assess where I would like to be for a shot, no sooner would I have done this I would realise that Stu was already getting us into that very position. The man is a first class guide AND an excellent photographer. Perfect. The whole trip, from start to finish, ran like clockwork. The camps were comfortable, the food was great and the company delightful. Going on Safari with Stu and Justyna was like being with friends, I had a truly unforgettable time. Photographic safaris do not come any better than this.
Mike Needham, UK