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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On arrival we were treated as part of the family by Stu Porter, his wife Justyna, and parents John and Ann. The conditions for finding and photographing everything from small birds to large game was perfect – a 500mm lens on hire from Stu, a specially equipped vehicle, which was referred to as a hide on wheels ( with only 3 photographers) , a dedicated and professional approach to photography and plenty of time. We would set off at sunrise, find a group of lions as they were beginning to yawn and stir from sleep, or a pair of saddle-billed storks building a nest, and quietly move our cameras into position. The initial sighting was accompanied by the rapid firing of shutters, but then we would wait as long as necessary in the hope of getting further shots. Stu was very sensitive to our needs and would only make suggestions about the best camera settings if he thought we needed his advice. His awareness of how animals behave was very useful in planning our shots. Stu’s knowledge of African Wildlife and skill as a wildlife photographer is second to none, and I have learned a lot from his expertise. I am delighted with my photos !! This was the trip of a lifetime, good accommodation, delicious food and great company. It was altogether a wonderful, challenging and thrilling experience and, if you are looking for a photo safari in Africa, I too recommend you contact Stu Porter at Wild4.
David Austwick, UK
For thirty-five years I had dreamed of going on a photographic safari in South Africa. This year I finally realized that dream and it is fair to say that my hopes and expectations were surpassed in every way. I had done extensive research on African photographic safaris on the Internet before settling on Wild 4 photo safaris. What an inspired choice that turned out to be! This family company run by Stu Porter and his wife, Justyna, and aided by Stu’s parents, John and Ann, provides the perfect safari experience for photographers of every skill level. Stu is one South Africa’s finest wild-life photographers and a first-class teacher into the bargain. His knowledge of the habitat and habits of the animals and birds to be found in Kruger National Park is simply encyclopaedic. I was accompanied on the trip by my 25 year-old daughter, Amy, and we eagerly adapted to the early morning wake-up call to go off into the wilds in one of Stu’s specially fitted jeeps to photograph animals at sunrise. Every day brought its special moments whether the spectacle of lions mating just a few metres from the jeep, or leopards lying lazily in the grass digesting a meal, or elephants and hippos frolicking in a river. The days sped by and we returned home with thousands of photographs of birds and animals to sort through and cherish for the memories they bring back. A safari with Wild 4 is more than a photographic experience with a master photographer: it is an initiation into the wonders of South Africa – its wild-life and spectacular landscapes - and, above all, an experience of friendship as everyone aboard the jeep bond in common purpose. Everything about Wild 4 is first class: organization is superb, accommodations excellent, choices of locale perfect. Our safari with Stu and Wild4 was truly the experience of a life-time.
Andrew Oliver, CANADA