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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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
Dear Wild4, Very many thanks to all of you Stu, Ann, John, & Justyna - for a wonderful trip. We really enjoyed our two weeks with you - the organisation was superb, the food was excellent and the guiding and photographic advice from you. Stu, was invaluable. I am sure that without your expertise we would never have seen as many animals or got as many images as we did. Several photographic friends have already contacted us to enquire how our trip went and we have highly recommended you to them. With many thanks from us both,
David and Mary Cantrille, UK