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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I wanted to write this while the trip is still fresh in my mind. This was my first trip to Africa and I did as much online research into photo specific safaris as I could. I was not disappointed with choosing Wild 4. Throughout the trip Stu answered the countless questions as if there wasn't a stupid one in the bunch (and there were many) his knowledge of the wildlife is nothing short of amazing, I can't think of a single bird, mammal or reptile that he couldn't identify and give us some background on. Not to mention his uncanny ability to spot wildlife while moving. Our rangers and accommodations in Ngala and Mala Mala were first rate. While in the Kruger proper, John and Anne took exceptional care us. I would not hesitate to book another trip with Stu. Patrick
Patrick Flora, USA
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