Kruger National Park – South Africa July 2009

I recently had the privilege of visiting the Kruger National Park again for nine days of photographic bliss, during July with my son Tom, during which time I finally completed the last few roads in the park and have now seen it all (it has only taken me 25 or so years!).

Whilst winter is a difficult time for photography in that the light quickly becomes harsh and bright and equally fades quickly at the end of the day, I still had some very good sightings. Bright white skies and burnt bush however made exposures tricky but the open nature of the veld made viewing considerably easier than the green and dense summer months. The animals I saw included 16 (very close) lion, 2x civet and 4 x spotted hyena, tsesebe, hartebeest and 1 x sable antelope as well as the rest of the big 5 including 2x leopards (which have a habit of disappearing into the undergrowth before you can load up the camera), buffalo and elephant. I was mock charged twice once by a large bull and once by a real youngster but only caught the latter on video.

The best time for photography was between about 7:00 am and 8:30 a.m. Shooting earlier proved too dark without a boost in iso and it was really necessary for the sun to break the horizon. I predominantly used an iso in the range of 100-400. My favorite shots of the trip were of waterbuck, kudu, fish eagle and mating lions and fighting zebra. I really need a bigger lens…! I also saw some rarities such as a black mamba, black eagle. I saw over 80 species of birds including a black crowned night heron and tawny and martial eagles. My only disappointment of the trip was a lack of action/ motion and interaction shots (or should I say shots that I missed). a leopard running across the road stalking and chasing impala and monkeys – missed! The only real action /motion shots were some running impala being chased by a jackal and some zebra fighting.

I am not sure when the next trip to the Kruger will be, since I generally avoid the hot summers and the resultant risk of malaria. Next year will be chaos with 2010 and I hear the park is almost fully booked over the winter period. Another notable experience on the trip was undertaking the ‘Madlabantu’ or ‘Man eater’ 4×4 trail. If you ever want to experience total solitude with that Serengeti savannah like feel then this is it…dongas, river and stream crossings and axle twisters to boot….and you may leave the confines of the vehicle at your own risk….the trail commenced from Pretoriuskop camp and takes about 5 hours to complete. Not a soul seen.

If anyone is interested in an inexpensive rough and ready, camping and photography oriented and guided trip to the Kruger (which I know like the back of my hand having visited over 60 times.) in a customized land rover suited to photography (open sunroof with canopy, tripod mounts and heads on doors / windows, 240V inverter for charging batteries, do email me on philipleavesley@hotmail.com. All trips will leave Johannesburg.

Enjoy the gallery!

Phil

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