PHOTO TRIP REPORT | Focus on the Kruger | May 2019
Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 3rd Jan 2020
Photos & Text by Leon Marais
Guiding in the Kruger is always a privilege, and to have the opportunity to host three keen photographers for 11 days under almost flawless winter weather conditions was a true treat. And the incredible luck we had just made it that much better! This Focus on Kruger itinerary offers the chance to settle down for five nights in each of Kruger’s two best game viewing areas – Lower Sabie in the south-east and Satara in the south/central part of the park (and one of the participants came out a couple of days early and got to experience the Skukuza area as well). With packed breakfasts and lunches we had the flexibility to stay out for long periods, averaging around 10 hours on game drive per day, and this no doubt contributed to our success – the more time one spends looking, the more one finds!
Our luck kicked in not far out of the airport on day 1 with our first leopard find, the first of seven that we found ourselves, out of 8 individuals seen in total. Starting off at Lower Sabie we had a few wonderful photo sessions at Sunset Dam, a superb spot where one can easily rattle off several hundred shots during a morning or afternoon session, with plenty of birds, hippos and crocodiles as subjects. Other highlights in the Lower Sabie area included numerous Lion sightings, including a full hunt and kill sequence when a young male Lion killed a Porcupine – a heart-wrenching experience made all the more so when we realized that there was a baby Porcupine involved, which thankfully made an escape, though the adult Porcupine wasn’t so lucky. We bagged the other big cats too with an unbelievable sighting of four Cheetahs on the S28 south of the camp; a great find of a Leopard pair resting on a rock in the shadow of Muntshe Ridge early one morning; and two other Leopards on one morning drive up to Jones’ Dam.
Up at Satara, we started to shift focus to Wild Dogs, but unfortunately, they eluded us, despite a lot of effort put in. We did, however, see plenty to keep us entertained, with many long sessions spent photographing the more common species such as Zebra (for some of the participants the Zebras were an absolute highlight), Southern Giraffe, Elephant, African Buffalo, Kudu, Impala and so forth. We had a second Cheetah sighting too, with a pair of males that had killed a Zebra foal not long before we arrived in the area. Another guide gave us third-hand info about Cheetah seen along the H6 towards the Nwanetsi Picnic Site, and as luck would have it one popped its head up out of the long grass just as we were passing by. Pretty soon the Vultures began arriving at the kill site, eventually gathering in big enough numbers to push the cats off their kill. The Vultures however also attracted the attention of the local Spotted Hyena clan, and several of them came charging in to claim the remains, sending vultures flying in all directions. They soon picked up on the Cheetahs, which had been resting out of sight under a tree, and harassed them enough that they walked towards us, crossing the road in front of us to give us some great views.
Our last day provided two highlights: Lions killing a Buffalo, although this wasn’t really photographable, taking place behind some thick bushes, but providing an insight into how raw nature can be in the world of big predators; followed soon after by a great sighting of a big male Leopard walking down the road, totally unperturbed by the vehicles following him – a great way to end an incredibly successful Focus on Kruger photo safari!
Many thanks to the participants, Al, Char and Claire, for joining us on this Wild4 Photo Safari and to John and Ann for providing the great food for our packed breakfasts and lunches.
Enjoy some photos from the trip,
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Kruger North to South 16 days of photo safari gone off like a wink of an eye especially when it was fun and memorable. Like an aciton-packed movie, the opening scene at the Skukuza Airport reception by Wild4 Team : Stefan and Sandrine was delightful and the afternoon game drive was filled with excitements with shots of wildlife encountered as we travelled to our first camp in Satara. The numerous sightings we experienced over the next two weeks were nothing less than thrilling and of course capturing the Big 5 was fulfilling. The teamwork of Stefan and Sandrine was excellent giving the traveling photographers absolutely nothing to worry except to be trigger happy. Each day I shot approximately 1,500 images as each day bought new surprises. As a photographer I used the Sony A9 with the 2x teleconverter on the 100-400mm G Master zoom for distant & fast-moving subjects like eagles' flights, lions, leopards, rhinos and the smaller birds in flights while my Leica SL on a APO Vario Elmarit 90-280mm zoom for intermediate distance subjects like elephants, hippos, zebras, Impalas, Kudus and various animals within close quarters of the vehicle, and finally my Leica Q for the panoramic shots of landscape and daily point and shoot. A memorable trip ending with almost 4 TB of mobile hard disk storage. I will re-live my memories when I sort out the images and I look forward to my next trip with Stu on the Tanzania & Elephants of Amboseli and many other trips with Wild4.
Clifford Yap, Singapore
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