Category: Wildlife Photography

Kruger Photography Tour

Our Experience Using a

Professional Guide Service

As part of our South African vacation we spent an entire week in the Kruger National Park region. We rented a car in Johannesburg affectionally known as Jo’burg, and drove the 5 hours over with the intent of doing self-drive tours in the park in addition to using a professional Photography Tour. Trust me, to see all of Kruger(the size of Maryland) you will need several days. There are obvious reasons why one self drives:  save money, privacy, control of your schedule and where you stop, etc.  Those are all great reasons in stateside National Parks.  However, in Kruger it is a bit different and here are some reasons why using a guide service should be part of your planning for a visit:

  1. Obviously they know where to go and where the highest concentration of animals might be found.
  2. They are dialed in to spotting animals and can pick up wildlife that would be camouflaged by the bush to the average tourist.
  3. They don’t need maps so you are not spending precious time looking at a dirt road and trying to decide if it is the way you should go.
  4. In a vehicle set up for touring, you will be much higher off the ground than sitting a rental car,  and your viewing and picture taking will be better.  South Africa rental cars and most cars there are smaller. We save very few off-road vehicles.
  5. Your not allowed to get out of your car except in very specific areas.  Having control of your schedule and where you stop is a non-factor.

 

So while we self drove on two of our visits into Kruger, we did book an all day private photography safari with a small local tour company.  Two operative words here, private & small. Yes it cost more money but here are some reasons why we chose this route:

  1. We were not crowded into a truck with a dozen or more people all scrambling for space to take a picture or see animals.
  2. The guide was focused on our needs and not worried about trying to cram in as many viewing areas.
  3. With a group you will have to deal with people who may not want to sit still long enough to see what an animal may do next, or care about the animal you are interested in at all and want to quickly move on.
  4. We saw with the bigger operations, when one guide spots one of the Big 5 he will get on his radio and alert the other company guides.  In no time, you will have a dozen or more vehicles clogging the area and inevitably the animal will move on due to the crowds and noise.   The leopard or lion will move along.

 

Our guide was focused on our goals, what we had already seen, what we had not seen.  He asked us what we were looking to get out of the trip. He then made it his goal to accomplish them.  Our day started at 0500, well before sunrise.  We were at the gate when the park opened at 0600 and also at the gate when it closed so we had a full 12 hours with our guide.  Boy did we see the animals and birds!

We spotted a couple of gorgeous African Hawk Eagles, two Lilac-Breasted Rollers, Zebras, a Black Rhino, Leopards and Lions, one Leopard Tortoise, Helmeted Guineafowl and more on our Photography Tour.  The leopards were a special treat as you are lucky to see one during an entire visit. We saw 3 in one day!  The first sighting was of a mother who had dragged her Kudu kill up in a tree with a hyena nearby looking to steal some scraps.  In a neighboring tree was the leopard cub, separated from his mom and not happy about being trapped in an Umbrella Thorn tree. The second sighting was of a large male who was on the hunt and we watched him tracking Kudu and Impala for nearly 45 minutes.

Kruger National Park Plains Zebra

Pachyderms on Parade

There were so many elephants in Kruger. We spotted were some LARGE males, females and babies.  Watching the herds was so much fun with the the babies making an appearance here and there being pushed and pulled along.

It was late afternoon and we were headed to the gate when Arno, our guide with Kruger Private Safaris, spotted this Lioness.  We stopped and he started calling, loudly mimacing a lion. She was startled, confused and started returning his call.  She started calling to her young cub alerting him to a danger.  He’s like, “Yup, What’s up, Mom?” They were so sweet, albeit hard to see through the tall grass.  We hurried to the closing gate, pushing the time to its very limits.  You do not want to be late to exit Kruger.  The fine is like $200 or so depending on how late you arrive after closing time.

What is that?


What’s Up Mom?


Safe with mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 We hurried to the closing gate, pushing the time to its very limits.  You do not want to be late to exit Kruger.  The fine is like $200 or so depending on how late you arrive after closing time.

Three Leopards in Kruger

Three Leopards – One Day

in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Arno Pietersen, our guide from Private Kruger Safaris spotted this leopard cub first.  We watched it for some time waiting for it to descend.  Its look of impatience reminded me of my son, Kyle.  The child with BRS (broken record syndrome) who was always asking, “Are we there yet?  Is it time yet?”  This older cub had been treed by a hyena that had been following the sent of a recent kill.  Its mother was about 25 yards away in the next tree eating a large kudu.  With all the tree limbs, she was a bit harder to see.   Leopards are excellent hunters and can drag a kill equal to 3 times its body weight up into a tree and the greater Kudus can weight over 500lbs.  The cub would cry out occasionally and sat there with a look of impatience while watching its mother eat.  It gave Donna the willies at one point with its well practiced look of ferocity.

Hanging out, waiting for breakfast.

The hyena os still down there!! Make it go away!

Kruger Leopard cub practicing viciousness
Leopard Mom with Kudu Breakfast in Kruger National park
Kruger leopard cub heading down to get to its breakfast.

Male Leopard Hunting

Later that morning, Arno Pietersen, our guide found another leopard for us.  This time it was a large, probably male leopard, he said.  We followed it for some time in the tall grass.  It was hunting kudu or impala as they were both in the area.   Much of the time, we could not see it in the grass.  Donna had a better view with the 500mm Canon lens we rented from Kruger Private Safaris.

Steve with his Google Pixel in hand, got this photo of Donna getting a shot of the mom eating its Kudu Breakfast.  According to our guide and to many people with which we spoke, seeing one leopard in Kruger is pretty rare, but three in one day is almost unheard of.  It truly was a day of goosebumps and thrills!

Photographer Donna Fullerton, getting photos in Kruger National Park with a Canon 5d Mark iv and a Canon 500mm lens.

Below is a slideshow of leopard images.

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