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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If anyone is contemplating a photo trip to Africa, then we would have absolutely no hesitation in recomending Stu Porter and Wild4 Photographic Safaris. It doesn't really matter what your level of skill is you will get as much or as little help and advice as you wish to receive. Nothing is thrust down your throat and Stu doesn't spend all his time taking his own photographs as some do. Stu has taken a huge amount of time and trouble in customising and setting up his safari vehicle and the effort he's put in makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable. Tethered bean bags are provided and secure plate mounts on the side of the vehicle will also take your tripod head ensuring a rock steady platform and Stu most certainly knows where the animals are. Particularly enjoyable was the time we spent at the Big Cat Reserve (part of the 4 night extension) which is an unbelieveable photographic experience. Many thanks WILD4 !
Rob & Sue Brookes, UK
We recently travelled to South Africa for a safari led by Wild 4 African Photographic Safaris. To put things simply, we were completely blown away. I had been on safari before, and had expectations that I thought were reasonable, but Wild 4 completely exceeded those expectations in so many ways. First of all, Justyna handled all of our travel and trip details with exceptional professionalism and always responded to even our most basic questions quickly and in a very detailed manner. Once we had arrived in South Africa, we were met by our guide Stu Porter, who I cannot say enough good things about. He is so organised and cordial. Stu was spotting things that we couldn’t believe that he was spotting, which almost always led to an amazing wildlife experience that we never saw coming. His knowledge and understanding of the wildlife and ecosystem was outstanding, and he went to great lengths to insure that we had the best chance of capturing a great photo, without compromising the rules of the park or the integrity of the animals and ecology within it. His understanding and respect for the wildlife and surroundings made the trip so much more than just a “drive around and look at whatever we see” kind of experience. I know that you can never predict what kind of experience you will have when you go out into the wild, and often it’s up to nature to decide what events you will be a part of, but in all honesty, I can’t imagine a better guide than Stu Porter. We will be doing our future trips to Africa with Wild 4, and cannot recommend them highly enough. Thank you so much for what a lot of people call “the trip of a lifetime”, although we feel that this is only the beginning of many trips of a lifetime. Thank you, Wild 4!!
James Smith, USA