We have just completed the Best of Kruger plus big cats photo safari for 2014 where we visited the Big Cat Reserve for 3 nights followed by 8 nights inside the Kruger National Park at Lower Sabie and Satara Camps.
This time of year in Southern Africa is a good time for game viewing as the animals are drawn more and more to the last water sources. From this point on it will get progressively more difficult for the herbivores and easier for the carnivores as the weak, old and young animals begin to feel the pressure due to less good grazing and less water.
First up, the big Cat reserve provided some great opportunities with the two young female leopards, in their camp close to the lodge. Ntombi the Cheetah graced us with her presence on the plains near Bush Camp and the Cheetah Boys, Floppy and Hunters made two kills during our stay. Being able to get so close to these adult male Cheetahs is still one of the highlights of the trip. Hippo, porcupine and a Bushbaby called "peanut" were some more highlights.
We then entered into the Kruger National park via Orpen Gate (Vehicle 1) and via Phabeni gate (Vehicle 2) On route to our first camp we came across the Nwaswitsontso Lion pride just north of Tshokwane. They had just finished a Zebra kill and were relaxing on the banks of the river.
Lower Sabie is famous for the great photo opportunities at Sunset Dam, a mere 200m from the camp gate. We spent a whole morning at the dam photographing the residents as well as two male Lions that came to drink on the far side of the dam. Fish Eagles, Giant Kingfishers, Egyptian Geese, Yellow Billed Storks, Hippos and Crocodiles kept our trigger fingers happy.
The afternoon drive took us out to the Mlondozi picnic site area where we stayed with two male Cheetahs who were resting up for the day. It was a lucky day for us and the cheetah but unlucky for a young zebra foal who stumbled right into the resting Cheetah who gave chase. Sadly the Zebra foal was knocked down by a few of the fleeing adults and the Cheetahs grabbed it right in front of us.
We spent a good deal of time at some waterholes in the Kruger which proved to be very successful, Rhino, Giraffe, Kudu, Impala, Warthog, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Zebra and a beautiful male Leopard were photographed.
Apart from the Cheetah and Zebra incident, we were very lucky to see three more chases which ended up in the prey getting away, and perhaps the best chase and catch sequence I have seen and photographed yet in the Kruger. On this occasion a Lioness waited in ambush on the bank of the Sweni River, just south of Satara Camp. A small herd of Zebra came in to drink and the result was an amazing chase through the river where the Lioness managed to catch a young Zebra foal. Such a sighting is really quite rare to see and we were really very lucky and fortunate to have been able to witness, and photograph it.
A few other highlights were a number of small Spotted Hyaena cubs who emerged from their roadside den, approx 700 Buffalo drinking from Girivana waterhole, the two leopard cubs and their mother in the Nwatimhiri River north of Lower Sabie and the 4 young male Lions we met on the road towards Crocodile Bridge.
The randomness and surprise factor in the Kruger is second to none and when the conditions are right it is a really amazing place to spend time in.
Many thanks to our two amazing rangers at the Big Cat Reserve, Deon and Matt, thanks so much for all your hard work getting us the great shots that we did. Thanks also to all the staff at Tshukudu for looking after us so well.
Thanks also to the amazing WILD4 backup team, mum and dad - thanks for all your help, the amazing meals and endless energy you have which make this trip such a great success :)
Finally I want to thank Mike Lentz for guiding the second vehicle in Kruger, it was a privilege to have had Mike on the trip with his amazing knowledge gained during more than 10 years in the bush, Mike I hope we get to have you again on more WILD4 photo safaris :)
Here are some photos from the trip - enjoy
Kind regards from the WILD4 team.
PS - look out for the next trip report from Kenya and the migration photo safari...
Ntombi with her Impala prize near Bush Camp - Big Cat Reserve
One of the young female Leopards at the Big Cat Reserve
A pale coloured female Lioness at the Nwaswitsontso River - Kruger Park
Young Lion - Kruger Park
African Fish Eagle take off - Kruger Park
Giant Kingfisher - sunset dam - Kruger Park
Wood sand piper - Kruger Park
Nile Crocodile - Kruger Park
Yellow Billed Stork - Kruger Park
Grey Heron landing on a Hippo - Kruger Park
The two male Lions that came to drink at Sunset Dam - Kruger Park
Egyptian Goose in flight - Kruger Park
Territorial battle - Kruger Park
The two male Cheetahs watching the approaching Zebra - Kruger Park
The point of impact - photographed by Joanie Liew - Kruger Park - great photo Joanie !!
The two Cheetahs with their Zebra foal kill - Kruger Park
One of the young male Lions next to the road to Crocodile Bridge - Kruger Park
Warthogs drinking near Duke's Waterhole - Kruger Park
Giraffe - Kruger Park
Impala with Oxpeckers - Kruger Park
Young Male Impala - Kruger Park
Elephants arrive at a waterhole on the Nwatimhiri road - Kruger Park
Zebra antics - Kruger Park
Black winged Stilt at sunset - Kruger Park
One of the Lion chases near Kumana Dam where the Kudu managed to escape - Kruger Park
Elephants in the muddy water - Kruger Park
I have an itch !! - Kruger Park
Giraffe drinking - Kruger Park
Sunset - Kruger Park
Sunset near Satara Camp - Kruger Park
Giraffe - Kruger Park
Elephant herd arriving at Sweni bird hide - Kruger Park
Elephants drinking - Kruger Park
Elephants running - Kruger Park
The beautiful Male leopard with a milky left eye - Girivana waterhole - Kruger Park
Somewhere in Southern Kruger ! - photo by Steve Seow
Elephant crossing - Kruger Park
Morning misty sunrise - Kruger Park
Lion chases an Impala at Nsemani Dam - Kruger Park
Chacma Baboons playing - Kruger Park
What do I do now ? - Kruger Park
Cape Buffalo just outside Satara camp - Kruger Park
A Lioness launches onto the rump of a Zebra foal in the Sweni River - Kruger Park
Beautiful male Greater Kudu - Kruger Park
Two Spotted Hyaenas on our way to Orpen gate - Kruger Park
The 4 year old Male Lion at the Big cat Reserve
One of the young Leopards at the Big Cat Reserve
Porcupine - Big Cat Reserve
Ferassi the Swiss Hippo - Big Cat reserve
Ntombi the Cheetah - Big Cat Reserve
Star photography at Tamboti Dam - Big Cat Reserve
The magnificent Milkyway - Big Cat Reserve
Team Photo - August 2014 WILD4 Best of Kruger & Big Cats photo safari