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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"


UK
          

In August last year my family consisting of myself, my wife and our three children (between the ages of 1 & 6!) travelled back to our native South Africa. There we were joined by a family friend on a eight day, seven night trip to the Kruger National Park, a place which should be familiar to frequent Nikonian browsers on the Wildlife forum . It has taken me until now to start seriously editing the photos I took on that trip, but I thought that in true Nikonian style I would post a slightly belated photo diary . I have attempted to be as accurate as possible and have gone to great lengths to describe the routes we travelled in the hope that this may be of use to any Nikonians planning future trips to the Kruger Park, but if there are any mistakes please forgive me. So without further ado here is my;

Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06

Day 1 –

After a long drive from Johannesburg, we arrive at the Malelane Gate only to discover it is shut for half an hour while the guard on duty checks with head office whether he can allow some day visitors to enter. This entails him walking the half a mile back to the main office on foot and leaves about 15 cars stewing at the gate, many of whom still have a long trip ahead of them to get to their camps.

When the gate finally reopened the booking office is overwhelmed and can’t cope with the number of people.

Despite having planned enough time to get to camp, we are now running very late and it is a race against the clock to get to camp before the gates close at sunset. We take the main H3/H1-1 route from Malelane gate up to Skukuza. From there we cross the Sabi River at the low level bridge and take the H1-2/H1-3 all the way up to Satara where we are spending our first night. This is a journey of +-180km and should take three and a half hours at the maximum speed limit of 50km/h. The ideal speed for game spotting is between 15 & 25km/h especially considering the thick thorn scrubveld that typifies much of the Kruger habitat. We have just under four hours to do the journey in, and that does not take into account any stops for viewing game.

With darkness setting in we notice the number of vehicles on the road decreasing rapidly. As we come round a corner a leopard leaps up from the side of the road where it had been napping and darts into the bush We stop for a minute to see if there is a photo op to be had, but he has slunk into the tall grass, so we quickly resume our race against the clock.

When we are still a few miles out from camp and it is just on gate closing time, we come round a long sweeping bend to find two enormous bull elephants looming out of the dusk in the middle of the road. We slow to an abrupt halt and the elephants, obviously not expecting us at this time of day, flap their ears and swat their trunks nervously. We spend five minutes waiting, as the elephants have decided that the road belongs to them and show no sign of vacating their territory. Eventually they move off into the bush and we resume our journey. We arrive in Satara just after gate closing time, but avoid the almost inevitable fine by explaining what had happened at Malelane Gate. Apparently we hadn’t been the only ones affected and we get away with it.

We start unpacking, then go for the organised late night drive which turns out to be a complete flop. It is very cold and the animals are seeking shelter deep in the bush. I guess four out of the Big Five in our first day isn't too bad .

Later on we lie in bed enjoying listening to the lions roaring in the distance and the hyenas cackling round the camp. We get to sleep late…

Spotted;
Mammals - Impala, Zebra, White Rhino, Warthog, Bushbuck, Hippo, Giraffe, Elephant, Leopard, enormous herd of Cape Buffalo(500+), Lesser Spotted Genet, Steenbok, Blue Wildebeest.
Birds - Longtail Shrike, Grey Heron, Yellowbill-Hornbill, Nightjar, Saddlebill Stork
Other - Nile Crocodile

African Sunrise.
Female Giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis) Silhouetted Against A Perfect Kruger Park Sunrise
D200
70-200 F2.8 AFS VR
F8 @1/6400
ISO 800
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

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Reply message RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06
Photophil Awarded for his valuable contributions to the Resources, most notably in Wildlife Photography
23rd Jan 2007
7
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24th Jan 2007
8
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28th Jan 2007
9
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30th Jan 2007
10
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30th Jan 2007
11
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Marsel Gold Member Awarded for his masterful accomplishments in Nature Photography Awarded for his excellent white papers and product reviews for the Resources
30th Jan 2007
12
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Safariman
16th Jan 2008
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14th Jan 2007
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Photophil Awarded for his valuable contributions to the Resources, most notably in Wildlife Photography Basic MemberTue 23-Jan-07 11:54 AM
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#7. "RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"
In response to Reply # 0


Gent, BE
          

B R A V O !
Thank you so much for sharing your Kruger experience .
Excellent reading and pictures. Makes me want to book a trip right away.

Cheers,
Philippe

WILDEYES / ARTERRA
Before You Attempt To Beat The Odds. Be Sure You Could Survive The Odds Beating You.

  

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archivue Gold Member Nikonian since 26th Mar 2002Wed 24-Jan-07 08:27 AM
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#8. "RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"
In response to Reply # 7


Paris, FR
          

I'll add my modest BRAVO too...
I'm fond of those diaries and yours is excellent ! I feel that diaries are much better then just posting some pictures, as for the "non specialist" of wildlife it is as an electronic book and allows for re-reading
On the photographic part it's also like a portfolio where each picture has been chosen for a reason and it gives more sense to the whole

Thank you for taking the time to share with us

Jacques

"Architecture and Photography are following the same goal ... To sculpt with light !"
My Gallery...

Jacques

"Un photographe, finalement, c'est quelqu'un comme les autres, mais qui prend des photos." - Man Ray
My Gallery...
My Other Gallery...

  

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Safariman Basic MemberSun 28-Jan-07 08:33 PM
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#9. "RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"
In response to Reply # 7


UK
          

Thank you Philippe & Jacques.

I have avidly followed the diaries of other Nikonians over the past few years living their adventures with them day-by-day.

While we were in the Kruger Park I meticulously diaried every days events hoping to be able to post my diary shortly after my return, but unfortunately work commitments got in the way, and I had to keep putting it off.

However this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as putting the diary together now was almost like re-living the entire trip over again, with the excitement of every 'spotting' and photo opportunity.

It will still be a while before I manage to plow through the 3000+ photos I managed to take on the trip!

I would also like to thank everyone who commented on the diary for taking the time to offer encouragement. It is very much appreciated. I would highly recommend the photo diary to any Nikonian lucky enough to go on a photo trip as a way of gaining feedback and encouragement on their photography (not to mention the ego-boost }> ) as well as being a way of sharing ones experiences with friends and family by emailing a copy of the link. It is something I plan on saving and being able to come back to in years to come.

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

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Zoo Registered since 18th Dec 2006Tue 30-Jan-07 09:33 AM
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#10. "RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"
In response to Reply # 9


KW
          

Thank you so much for sharing this adventure, both visually and with a fantastic commentary. My husband and I are planning a trip to Africa ourselves(one of those life goals I've always had ) and this post has added further impetus to those plans.

Of course...I'm also going to HAVE to add the 200-400 F4 AFS VR lens to my kit as well (and probably the D200 if truth be told, lol!)...

~Beth~

  

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dgoertz Registered since 27th Mar 2006Tue 30-Jan-07 09:42 PM
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#11. "RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"
In response to Reply # 0


Silver City, US
          

Thank you for sharing this experience. You did a truly wonderful job and I thoroughly enjoyed everything.

Don

  

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Marsel Gold Member Awarded for his masterful accomplishments in Nature Photography Awarded for his excellent white papers and product reviews for the Resources Charter MemberTue 30-Jan-07 11:10 PM
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#12. "RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"
In response to Reply # 0


Amsterdam, NL
          

Great work! And thanks for taking the time to write the detailed reports, it's truly a pleasure to read. Congrats on those wonderful images and what must have been an exciting trip.

.

Marsel van Oosten | Squiver Photo Tours

2013/2014 Tours & Workshops: Alaska | Iceland | Japan | Namibia | Spain | South Africa | Turkey | Zambia

.

  

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"


UK
          

Cape Buffalo (Syncerus Caffer)
Kruger National Park, South Africa
D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
F4.5 @ 1/60
ISO 400
SB-800 @ -1.7 for Fill-Flash
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"


UK
          



Lilacbreasted Roller (Coracias Caudata)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
F5 @ 1/250
ISO 200
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

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shutterpup Gold Member Nikonian since 28th Apr 2006Sun 14-Jan-07 02:14 AM
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#1. "RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"
In response to Reply # 0


US
          

I enjoyed your commentary (day 1)...nice captures! I especially like the photo of the Lilac Breasted Roller...just beautiful.

I have never been to Kruger Park. What exactly is your "camp" like? Do you have to stay on the main road, or are you allowed to go anywhere in the park?

Karen

Visit My Gallery


Linger in "the moment"...and capture what you "feel"...

  

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Safariman Basic MemberMon 15-Jan-07 01:15 AM
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#2. "RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"
In response to Reply # 1


UK
          

>I enjoyed your commentary (day 1)...nice captures! I
>especially like the photo of the Lilac Breasted
>Roller...just beautiful.

Thank you Karen

>
>I have never been to Kruger Park. What exactly is your
>"camp" like? Do you have to stay on the main road, or are
>you allowed to go anywhere in the park?
>
>Karen

I am planning to post a report on the Kruger Natioanl Park (KNP) at the end of this diary, but basically the park is about the size of the country of Wales! There is a network of roads throughout the park which one may drive on, some tarred and some dirt. There is also a network of fire-breaks and service roads which you are not allowed on. It has been known for people to get stuck on them and take days to be found! You are not allowed off-road at all.

There are a variety of camps and accommodation options available, ranging from luxury bungalows to pitch-it-yourself tents, all very reasonably priced on a worldwide scale. There are campervan facilities available and this is a popular budget option for many South Africans.

Many people find the basic bungalow to be perfect. Known as 'Rondawels' they are round brick huts with conical thatched roofs, which keep them warm in winter and cool in summer, They all have electricity and running water, and most of them have aircon these days, a necessity in the summer when temperatures can hit 45 degrees Celcius! Some have their own ablution facilities and kitchen, and others share communal ablutions and/or kitchen. You are provided with clean linen every day, and the huts are cleaned on a daily basis. I have found these to be pleasant, not luxurious, but clean and tidy. There are no TV's or Radios at all, and cellphones only work intermittently! Bliss!

The camps themselves are beautiful shady areas, generally with a shop which is reasonably well stocked with basic foodstuffs and curios. The larger camps have more facilities and may have a restaurant. Skukuza, the largest camp in the park has a permanent staff base of over 2000 people, including a doctors surgery, police station and mechanics.

The camps are fenced in, as one ranger put it to me 'to keep the people in, not the animals out!' A variety of game can be found wandering through the campsites, and some of them, such as the Vervet Monkeys and the Warthog make such a nuisance of themselves that some camps have one person whose job is to spend the entire day going round the camp chasing them out.

I had one memorable experience a few years ago while strolling round the perimeter fence at night I came across an elephant reaching over the fence and feeding on the tree under which I was standing! Neither of us had seen the other, and I am not sure who got more of a shock!

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 2"


UK
          

Day 2 –

After the long day yesterday, we sleep through the alarm and wake up late It is then a rush to pack the car and check out. We drive from Satara to Skukuza where we are spending the second night, backtracking along the same route we had travelled the day before. Along the way we detour to see the most southerly Baobab tree. We have a good sighting of three bull Elephant drinking at the Kumana Dam.

We enjoy good general game viewing all the way through to Skukuza. Once again we find ourselves in a race for time to get to camp before the gates close. 5km out from camp we come across an organised night drive vehicle which has spotted two lion laying up in the river bed. The view isn’t good, and it is only a few minutes to gate closing time so we take a quick look and head off to camp. We now have all the Big Five (Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant & Rhino) in the bag. We arrive with a few minutes to spare and check in. We unpack the car while the braai (b-b-q) gets going. After a supper of lamb, chicken and roast potatoes on the braai it is off to bed. Tomorrow is an early start….


Spotted;
Mammals - Zebra, Impala, Giraffe, Kudu, Steenbok, Elephant, White Rhino, Lion, Dwarf Mongoose, Hippo, Buffalo, Thick-Tailed Bushbaby
Birds - Saddlebill Stork, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Geese, Lilac Breasted Roller, Grey Lourie
Other – Nile Crocodile

Burchell’s Zebra (Equus Burchelli)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
1/320 @ F4
ISO200
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 2"


UK
          

Watchful Giraffe Family At Waterhole, (Giraffa Camelopardalis)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
70-200 F2.8 AFS VR
F5.6 @ 1/350
ISO 100
Beanbag

PS. Can anyone spot the ‘Giant Land Tortoise’ my wife spotted in this picture

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"RE: Kruger Park Diary – August ‘06"


UK
          

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle Rudis)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
F4 @ 1/100
ISO 100
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 3"


UK
          



We are up with the alarm this morning and head out as the gates open. We take the popular H4-1 route between Skukuza and Lower Sabi which is usually excellent for game viewing. This morning it is very slow and we see very little. We spend an hour at Sunset Dam watching the hippos who are out of the water enjoying the winter sun. Hippos can only tolerate minimal sun exposure as they sunburn very easily. This is in spite of the oily red secretion produced by their body which acts like a sunscreen, and gives them their pinky-brown colouratation. They occasionally emerge in winter for a few hours a day to get their required dose of Vitamin D. One young hippo takes exception to a very large crocodile being in his way and gives its’ tail a nip until it moves. The croc is non-too pleased, but if you have ever seen a hippos’ teeth you will understand why the croc ended up moving!

We take the S30 Salitje road back to Skukuza, but it is midday by now and there is even less game in evidence than earlier as the animals seek shelter in the shade. I keep reminding myself not too take this road, especially at midday, but I always end up taking it. It is one of the best roads in the park for photographing Yellowbill Hornbill, but the light is just not right today and I can’t get them to pose with a photogenic background. We spot two hyena crossing the Sabi River bed in the distance, but they are too far away to get a decent shot.

The day is looking like a wash out until 3km from the camp, when I come across a car who has spotted a leopard dart across the road into the bush. It is quite deep in the bush, but I manage a photo or two before it slinks out of sight. The last time I was in Kruger we didn’t see a single Leopard, so I am very happy just to have seen two on this trip already. After drawing a blank on my last trip I didn’t seriously expect any sort of leopard photo opportunity, so I am satisfied with what I have in the bag.

Spotted;
Animals - Grey Duiker, Bushbuck, Impala, Greater Kudu, Elephant, Leopard, Hippo, Hyena, Giraffe, Chacma Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Waterbuck, Tree Squirrel
Birds - African Fish Eagle, Burchell’s Coucal, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Reed Cormorant, Bateleur Eagle, Hammerkop, Pied Wagtail, Wire-tailed Swallow, Yellowbill Hornbill, Ground Hornbill, Egyptian Goose, Hadida Ibis, Blue Starling, Blackeyed Bulbul, Swainsons Francolin, Cape Vulture, Grey Heron, Blacksmiths Plover.
Other - Yellowfish, Nile Crocodile

Male Vervet Monkey (Cercopithecus Pygerythrus)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR + TC-14EII
F5.6 @ 1/750
ISO 200
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 3"


UK
          


Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
F7.1 @1/250 (-1EV)
ISO 100
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 3"


UK
          

Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus Niloticus)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
F6.3 @ 1/350
ISO 200
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

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Visit my Nikonians gallery.

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 4"


UK
          



Saturday is a rest day, and we spend it pottering around camp and recuperating from the hectic travel schedule of the past week. Skukuza is a busy camp with lots to see and do. We take the kids to visit the library and tell them the story of Harry Wolhuter as we show them the lion skin and knife displayed on the walls of the library.

Harry Wolhuter was an assistant to James Stevenson-Hamilton the first game ranger of the Kruger Park, even before it was accorded National Park status, and they fought valiantly for the protection of the animals threatened with extinction by the indiscriminate hunting of the time. On a horseback scouting mission one afternoon, he was riding with two native rangers when a pair of lion ambushed them from some thick undergrowth. The horses of the two native rangers bolted, but the lion managed to catch his horse and dragged him off it’s back. Pinned underneath the lion, he somehow managed to free his sheath knife and stab the lion in the heart, killing it. Badly wounded, he was forced to climb a nearby tree when the lion’s mate returned from unsuccessfully chasing the other horses. He spent the entire night in the tree, strapping himself to the branch by his belt, as nearby the second lion devoured his horse and then started taking an excessive interest in his presence in the tree. His dog, Bull, is credited with making sure that the lion did not pull him down from the tree, by making life difficult for the lion, snapping and snarling from just out of range.

His native rangers having successfully escaped, returned in the morning hoping to recover whatever remains the lions may have left, only to find him deliriously hanging on with his last ounce of strength, the lion pacing below waiting for the inevitable, and the tireless Bull continuing his harassment of the lion from close by. After rescuing him and taking him by horseback to the closest hospital, they returned to the scene, skinned the lion he had killed and recovered his knife. The skin and knife were presented to him and he in turn presented them to the doctor who had taken care of him whose family presented them to the Skukuza library which is named after Stevenson-Hamilton. The first hand account of his story can be found in ‘Memories of a Game Ranger’ by Harry Wolhuter. This book, as well as ‘Jock of the Bushveld’ by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, are two classic South African bushveld stories on which many young South Africans are weaned, helping to instil in them an innate love of their natural heritage.

Arriving back at our ‘Rondawel’ we disturb some Vervet monkeys who have been busily helping themselves to the avocados we left in the fridge on our veranda. We had left the fridge barricaded by a heavy wooden table, but these monkeys are persistent and the table has been dragged out of the way and our bag of avos lies scattered in front of our hut. Thanks to Claus, at least we had the good sense to lock the Snickers away in a suitcase!

At one in the morning I am woken by a loud screaming from outside our door. Tiptoeing to the door, trying not to disturb whatever nocturnal visitor it may be, I find a pair of Bushbabies mating on our veranda table! I quickly grab my camera, which is all set up with 70-200 and SB-800, but as soon as the IR light from the SB-800 hits them and the lens whirrs as it tries to focus in the pitch dark, they scatter so quickly I hardly see them go! Luckily, as I lie in bed listening to the sounds coming from the bushes at the back of our hut, it doesn’t seem as if my intrusion was more than a slight inconvenience to their nocturnal capers

Spotted:
Mammals - Vervet Monkey, Chacma Baboon, Thick-Tailed Bushbaby, Impala.
Birds: Yellowbill Hornbill, Glossy Starling, Blackeyed Bulbul

PS. Apologies for some of the severe JPEG compression artefacts showing in some of the images. I am struggling to get them down under the 100k limit. They seem ok in photoshop when I save them, but when they come up in Nikonians some of them are showing up much worse than I expected. I will try and redo some of them and repost in my gallery in the next week or two.


African Elephant Bull Coming Down to Drink(Loxodonta Africana)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
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ISO 200
F6.3 @ 1/125
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 4"


UK
          

Ground Hornbilll (Bucorvus Leadbeateri)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
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ISO 200
F5.6 @ 1/640
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 4"


UK
          


Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
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ISO 100
F5.6 @ 1/320
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 5"


UK
          

Day 5 –

It’s off to Crocodile Bridge today for the rest of our stay. We get an early start out of the gate and head back to the low level bridge over the Sabi River to see if we can find some backlit hippos breathing steam in the chilly morning air. We find the hippos, but they are not in a good position for photo ops, so we turn back and take the main H4-1 Route between Skukuza and Lower Sabi. This road has one of the highest concentrations of Game in the Park, but it is slow again this morning. We take our time over the drive, stopping at many of the scenic lookout points along the drive. Halfway between Skukuza and Lower Sabi a lone Buffalo bull crashes out of the bushes on our right, and crosses the road right in front of us as he heads down to the shade of the reed beds in an attempt to seek a respite from the growing heat. We are the only car to witness him, eliciting groans from a car a mere minute behind us who have been looking for a Buffalo to complete their ‘Big Five’ sightings for their trip. This once again highlights for us the vagaries of game viewing in Kruger; one car sees it the next car doesn’t.

A short stop at Sunset Dam where the hippos and crocodiles are lying in a haphazard comatose heap on the sandbanks, is followed by a quick pit stop at Lower Sabi camp. Just outside Lower Sabi we turn left down onto the bridge across the dam wall. The area just below the dam wall is a well known hotspot for bird life, there have been times when we have spotted more than 20 bird species in a quarter of an hour, but today there does not seem to be much doing there, so we turn around and head back to the H4-2 main tarred route through to Crocodile Bridge. This again is an excellent game route, but for some reasons the animals all seem to be hiding today.

A few miles out of Crocodile Bridge we come across a lioness exhibiting severe signs of TB. She is wearing a radio-collar which shows she is part of the lion TB tracking program. This program is studying the effects of TB on the lion population, especially in the Crocodile Bridge area. The Crocodile River is the southern boundary of the Kruger Park, and domestic cattle crossing the river in search of grazing, are passing bovine TB on to the Buffalo herds in the area. The lion in turn are catching TB from eating the buffalo, once again highlighting mans negative impact on our environment. A massive tract of land has been fenced in near Satara in the middle of the park, and a herd of buffalo are being kept there for study purposes, and to make sure that they remain quarantined should a TB epidemic wipe out the buffalo population of the Kruger Park . This lioness looks to be in a pretty bad way, and soon moves off into deep grass, so we head to camp.

Spotted:
Mammals – Hippo, Impala, Warthog, Buffalo, Chacma Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Elephant, Greater Kudu, Lion, Zebra, Giraffe, Nyala, Bushbuck, Klipspringer, Hyena
Birds – Blacksmith Plover, Pied Wagtail, Red-billed Oxpecker, Egyptian Goose, African Fish Eagle, White-headed Vulture, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Burchells Coucal, Brownhooded Kingfisher, Little Sparrowhawk,
Other – Nile Crocodile, Tilapia, Yellowfish


Whitefronted Bee-eater (Merops Bullockoids)
Kruger National Park, South Africa
My wife calls this a ‘Family Photo’ because there is always one who is the odd-one-out in every family!

D200
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ISO 200
F6.3 @ 1/350
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shutterpup Gold Member Nikonian since 28th Apr 2006Fri 19-Jan-07 12:57 AM
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#3. "RE: DAY 5"
In response to Reply # 0


US
          

Hi Shaia,

Are there any plans to limit the infected cattle's access to the park boundaries in an attempt to limit the spread of Tuberculosis (TB)? Is TB showing up in other animals as well as the lions, namely, other carnivores that might feed on buffalo carcasses?


>>>My wife calls this a ‘Family Photo’ because there is always one who is the odd-one-out in every family!<<<

I love your wife's comment...very perceptive.


Keep the wonderful photos coming...really enjoying them.


Karen




Visit My Gallery


Linger in "the moment"...and capture what you "feel"...

  

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Safariman Basic MemberSun 21-Jan-07 05:00 AM
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#4. "RE: DAY 5"
In response to Reply # 3


UK
          

Hi Karen

Sorry, re-reading my initial post I see I wasn't clear enough.

Infected cattle are thought to have entered the park sometime in the 50's or 60's when the area suffered an outbreak. This was before the park was fully fenced in. The contaminated buffalo are mainly carriers of the disease, rarely exhibiting symptoms. At the moment estimated figures for the infected percentage of the buffalo population in the South of the park range between 40% and 80%! Scary!

Several other animals have also been found with the disease, including Kudu and Baboon, but buffalo being a herd animal are much more prone to infection. Other carnivors which have been found with TB include Leopard and Cheetah, although with buffalo being such a large animal it is not very high on the list of animals preyed on by either of these two smaller cats.

Buffalo generally catch the disease from airborne particles when an infected animal sneezes or coughs in the herd environment.

Lion on the other hand are less likely to catch the disease from airborne particles, but rather catch it from eating an infected prey animal and especially if they ingest the lungs of such an animal. You can imagine the effects on a pride when the whole pride feed on an infected animal! Whereas the buffalo are mainly carriers and can carry TB for much of their life without showing outward symptoms, a lion who is infected stands a good chance of dying from the disease. Infected lion who begin exhibiting symptoms deteriorate very rapidly. Approximately 25 lion out of a total population of +-2700 die in Kruger every year from TB!

It took a long time for the effects of TB to be noticed in Kruger and even now there is no agreed plan as to how to combat the disease. Several study groups are doing research and several projects are ongoing. Some of the options for eradicating TB from Kruger include;

a) a TOTAL buffalo cull,
b) partitioning off a slice of the park and then culling all buffalo in that area, then moving the partition fencing further south, while the buffalo population in the north is allowed to regenerate itself in a TB free zone.

At the moment no plan is in action and it is very sad to come across thin, sick looking lion.

We can only hope that an effective plan is brought into action sooner rather than later!

>>Keep the wonderful photos coming...really enjoying them

Thank you, I am enjoying posting them and re-living my wonderful trip!

Safariman
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 5"


UK
          

‘It’s the tooth right at the back Doc’

Hippo Yawn (Hippopotamus Amphibius)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
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ISO 200
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 5"


UK
          

Zebra Family At The Waterhole (Equus Burchelli)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
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ISO 100
F6.3 @ 1/250

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 6"


UK
          

Day 6 –

Another early start this morning, and after a quick look at Gesanftombi Dam, we head off down the S25 and S27 to the Hippo Pool where a Ranger is on duty to walk you into the river bed and to within a few meters of the pool where the Hippos are wallowing. It is incredible to see how aware the Ranger is of the bush and his surroundings. Before we head down to the riverbed he carefully counts the Hippos in the pool to make sure they are all accounted for. Only then will he accompany us down. It is a humbling experience being down in the riverbed, knowing that any clump of reeds could be hiding a lion or leopard, watching the hippos snorting and grunting at one another only a few meters away.

Hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa, killing more people every year than any other single species. The ranger has a high-powered rifle, but he will only use it as a last resort. A cattle egret flies in and plops down in the shallows to take a drink, followed by a second one, which lands on a sandbar. The ranger looks around and within a few seconds spots some reeds 100 meters away which are not moving in synch with the breeze. A small herd of buffalo has settled down in them to get out of the sun, and the ever attendant cattle egrets have taken the opportunity to get a mid morning drink. I wonder at how in tune the ranger is with the bush, knowing that I watched the egrets fly in without giving a second thought to where they had come from.

We leave the hippo pool and head along the S25 which wends it way along the banks of the crocodile river, spending some time with a colony of white-fronted bee-eaters nesting in a riverbank, before heading inland. We come across a white rhino mother suckling her year old calf, already almost as big as a small car. A bit further along we come across a herd of zebra heading down to Gayisenga Waterhole for a midday drink. There are a couple of cars pulled over a little way down the road, who also appear to be watching the zebras. After watching the zebra slaking their thirst for a few minutes, we continued down the road to see if the other cars have a better view, only to find them watching a leopard in a tree! So much for leopards being nocturnal!

The sighting is not ideal for photography. The leopard is in a tree about 150 foot off the road and is lying down on a branch obscured by twigs and branches. It is mid-day and shooting up at the leopard is going to be a nightmare between shadows and highlights . I revel in my D200 and it's histogram as I spot meter off the leopard and then with the help of the histogram dial in an exposure which leaves me with some detail in the sky and plenty of detail in the leopard. The monitor on the back of the camera confirms my choice and I can breathe easy and concentrate on getting the shot. When the leopard finally moves into a photogenic pose I am all ready and with minimal postprocessing to the RAW file I get a shot which will go nicely as an A1 poster!

The leopard is very alert, intently watching the zebra in the distance and a couple of giraffe browsing nearby. After giving us a 20-minute show, he descends 40 foot down the vertical trunk in a superb rush of rippling muscle and to the sound of claws ripping bark. The two browsing giraffe who have spotted the leopard descending from the tree, immediately leave off what they are doing and move purposefully towards the leopard. I have heard about the very idiosyncratic behaviour that giraffe display when they spot a predator, moving towards it to get a good look rather than moving away, but this is the first time I have ever witnessed it in real life. The leopard doesn’t seem keen on the giraffe getting too close to him and he crosses the road just ahead of us at a trot, slinking into some dense bushes and lies down. After satisfying themselves that he poses no threat, the giraffe move off. All that is now visible of the leopard is an ear that twitches occasionally above the long grass. We wait for over half an hour, but he doesn’t re-emerge, during which time many cars pass us without stopping to enquire what we have spotted. This highlights once again how easy it is to pass within a few meters of this elusive cat without ever knowing that he is there. We make it back to camp via the S108/H5/H4-2 route without any further excitement.

After a late-lunch-cum-early-supper we head out on the early night drive, but this proves rather anticlimactic with very little action. I have had excellent sightings of many rare and elusive nocturnal creatures (including many of my leopard sightings) during night drives on my previous trips to Kruger, but for some reason all the drives we go on this trip are washouts.

However towards the end of the night drive we experience what I have come to regard as the highlight of every one of my Kruger trips. About twenty minutes before we are due back in camp, we ask the ranger to pull the vehicle into a lookout spot overlooking the dry riverbed and kill the engine. Everyone then turns off their lights and sit back in the utter stillness and darkness of night in the African bush. The Milky Way is a vivid white smear across the length of the sky. A satellite slowly tracks its way across the horizon while overhead, bats, silhouetted against the stars, swoop and dip, their shrill squeaks loud in the night. In the distance a lion gives his pre-hunt coughing grunt and he is answered nearby by the whoop of a hyena. Everywhere the bush rustles and whispers as a million nocturnal lives go about their business as usual. We can just sit there and drink it in, wondering why the outside world seems so far away and insignificant all of a sudden, as we sit face to face with the Eternal Night of the African Bush. Thinking what it must have been like for those early explorers and tribes who lived in the bush without even the basic modern amenities and yet seemingly so at peace with themselves, I was suddenly jealous of them. When the driver called for us to turn the spotlights on again it was with a sense of reluctance as though coming out of a trance. It is truly a special moment to be locked away safely in my memory and brought out and savoured like a fine single malt during quiet periods of introspection.

A perfect end to an exciting day.

Spotted:
Mammals - Hippo, Greater Kudu, Impala, White Rhino, Giraffe, Zebra, Leopard, Warthog, Vervet Monkey, Blue Wildebeest, Porcupine, Small-Spotted Genet, Dwarf Mongoose, Elephant, Buffalo, Scrub Hare, Spotted Hyena, Bats (Unknown specie?)
Birds - Cattle Egret, Red-Billed Oxpecker, Little Egret, Blacksmith Plover, Egyptian Geese, White –Fronted Bee-Eater, Lilac Breasted Roller, Greenbacked Heron, Reed Cormorant, Woollynecked Stork, Giant Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Pied Kingfisher, Burchell's Coucal, Grey Lourie, Long-Tailed Shrike,

Leopard (Panthera Pardus)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR + TC-14EII
ISO 200
F5.6 @ 1/500 (Manual metering)
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andrewib Registered since 16th Jan 2005Sun 21-Jan-07 10:56 AM
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#5. "RE: DAY 6"
In response to Reply # 0


Felixstowe, UK
          

Sounds like your trip was really fantastic! I love this shot of the Leopard-we saw 3, but found getting a good shot of them really difficult, when they don't want to be seen they just seem to disappear! Congrats.

Look forward to seeing more shots from your trip,

Regards,

Andrew.

  

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Safariman Basic MemberMon 22-Jan-07 12:22 AM
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#6. "RE: DAY 6"
In response to Reply # 5


UK
          

Thanks Andrew

To tell you the truth this was definitely the best trip I have ever had to Kruger, both from a game spotting as well as photographic point of view.

The undoubted highlight of the trip for me were the number of leopard we spotted, with the added bonus that some of them gave me superb photo opportunities. A good photo of a leopard was something I was missing from my files, and I was really happy to be able to fill that gap on this trip. It is notoriously difficult to obtain a good sighting of a leopard, and we were just very, very lucky on this trip! (Just wait for the last installment! )

On my last trip 3 years ago I missed several leopard by a matter of minutes and ended up not even seeing one during my entire ten day trip. Then again I did get good sightings of wild dog, cheetah, serval, civet, african wildcat, aardwolf, honey badger and black-backed jackal on my last trip, of which I saw non on this trip!

This is what is so great about the African Bush. One never knows what one will see, and it keeps me coming back again and again!

>>I love this shot of the leopard<<

Thanks This is definitely one of my favourites from the entire trip!

Safariman
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 6"


UK
          

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
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F6.3 @ 1/200
ISO 200
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 6"


UK
          


Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
70-200 F2.8 AFS VR
ISO 1000
F5 @ 1/500
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 7"


UK
          

Day 7 –

Another early start, and we are out of the camp as the sun is just starting to peek above the horizon. Inspired by the gorgeous silhouettes from Claus’ Kruger gang, I have been on the lookout for animals that lend themselves to the technique during the first and last minutes of every day, so far without success. This morning we are only a few minutes out of the camp gates when we come across two giraffe browsing at the side of the road. The sun is only just over the horizon and the intense colour in the sky is every photographers dream! I position myself so that if they leave off feeding and head in my direction I will have a quick chance of a backlit silhouette before the trees get in the way again. Murphy’s Law dictates, of course, that they finish eating the most delicate leaves off the top of the tree…and head off in the opposite direction!

Quick, start car, manoeuvre up the road without spooking them, get in position.
Camera in manual meter mode.
Meter off sky just next to sun and set exposure manually.
Darn, they have stopped just on the edge of an open patch.
Reverse slightly.
Click. Click.
Check monitor, darn it, they moved during exposure!
Inch car forward to get just ahead of walking giraffe.
Stop, eye to finder, compose, click, darn she’s looking the other way.
Come ON look at me!
She turns her head slowly.
Click. GOTCHA!
Then she moves off behind a clump of bushes and starts feeding again.

I only got one opportunity, but a quick look at the viewfinder tells me that I nailed it! (See first photo on this thread )

With that in the bag we decide to try the hippo pool again this morning. We come across wild dog tracks on the side of the road, but there is no sign of these elusive hunters. On my last trip to Kruger I was lucky enough to find a large pack resting at the side of the road, so I guess it is too much to expect a good sighting on this trip as well. At the hippo pool the ranger shows me how close I am allowed to go, and then is very patient as I spend a good half hour photographing the hippos. The air is not that chilly this morning, so my hope of backlit shots of steaming hippo breath is once again dashed. They also seem not to be in the yawning mood today, so I occupy myself taking shots of a couple of red-billed oxpeckers who perch on the hippos head for a drink.

We then head back towards Gezanftombi Dam where we watch a majestic pair of African Fish Eagles soaring high above us. One lands in the distant river bed next to a pool of water, and as I watch takes a hop into the water. He stands there for a moment and I think he is about to take a bath, when all of a sudden he hops out of the water dragging a two-foot-long Barbel (catfish) in his talons. He struggles to get into the air, and with heavy wing beats eventually disappears low around a distant bend in the river. I get some shots, but they are very distant and the lighting is not great. We then head up the H4-2 towards Lower Sabie where we come across a large herd of elephants who cross the road and then trundle down the riverbed. The lighting is very harsh now so we turn back to camp for lunch and a rest. We have booked on an organised sunset drive, and with the short winter afternoon already drawing in, we decide to relax around the camp rather than risk dashing out for a quick drive.

Our driver on the sunset drive, Billy, turns right immediately after exiting the camp and takes us along a no-entry firebreak road which normal traffic is not allowed on. A couple of miles on we discover why, as the road suddenly seems to disappear from under us and the 4x4 hurtles almost vertically down a riverbank and onto a very low bridge. I can see that with any rainfall the bridge almost certainly disappears under meters of water. However it is the winter dry-season now and no rain is expected for a month yet. The water laps at the edge of the road and a pool full of hippos grunt and snort as their beady eyes peer at us from only meters away. With the sun disappearing over the horizon, the water is tinged a purplish pink, but I have to boost my ISO to 400 and then 800 to stop any movement from the hippos. It is a bit of a task trying to manoeuvre a 200-400 lens in a truck full of people, but they are good natures about it and move out of my way for me to get my shots. Billy cups both hands over his nose and suddenly lets loose with a barrage of hippo snorts. All over the pool the calm surface is shattered as 20 hippo-heads crane out of the water to look at us and the sudden cacophony of snorts and grunts in reply drown out the laughter from the occupants of the truck. Reversing to allow himself to build up a head of steam, Billy guns the engine and just manages to get us over the top of the riverbank. He tells us that it sometimes takes him two or three attempts! The rest of the night drive is rather anti-climactic as the animals seem to once again be sheltering deep in the bush from the chilly breeze that has sprung up. The one animal we do see is White Rhino. As a matter of fact we can’t seem to get away from them and I lose count at 12!

We get back to camp late, and stay up into the wee hours of the morning packing, as tomorrow our Great Kruger Adventure is coming to an end.

Spotted;
Mammals - - Hippo, Impala, Giraffe, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, White Rhino, Elephant, Hyena, Warthog, Vervet Monkey, Bushbuck, Tree Squirrel,
Birds - Red-Billed Oxpecker, Long-Tailed Shrike, Hammerkop, African Darter, Egyptian Goose, Little Egret, Burchell's Coucal, Black-Eyed Bulbul, Blacksmith Plover, Yellow-Billed Stork, Woolly-Necked Stork, African Fish Eagle, Hadida Ibis, Pied Kingfisher, Reed Cormarant, Saddle-Bill Stork, grey Lourie, Yelow-Bill Hornbill, Snake Eagle, Sunbird, Lilac-Breasted Roller
Other - Nile Crocodile, Terrapin,

Lion (Panthera Leo)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
ISO 640
F4 @ 1/1250
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 7"


UK
          

Sunset Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus Amphibius)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
ISO 400
F5 @ 1/80 (Handheld! I love VR!)

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 7"


UK
          

Elephant Bull At The Waterhole (Loxodonta Africana)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 8"


UK
          



Today is our last day and we have planned it to get the maximum amount of time in the park. After a very late night spent packing, we still manage to get up with the crack of dawn to pack the car and we are out of the gates shortly after they open. It is a grey overcast day with a touch of drizzle in the air and the sky where the sun should be rising in a blaze of glorious colour is a sullen mass of low scudding grey clouds.

100 meters outside the camp I slam on the brakes as something in a tree catches my eye. It turns out to be two pairs of Trumpeter Hornbill, a relatively common resident in the north of the park, but a species I had never seen this far south. Several cars zoom past, giving us strange looks as I focus my lens on some small birds in a distant tree. }>

We take a last peak at Gesanftombi Dam, but there is nothing yet stirring there, so we head off down the S28 gravel road. This is renowned as one of the best Rhino roads in the park, but it seems deserted this morning. We head past the turnoff to the S137 and instead carry on down the road for a few kilometres to take a peak at the Nthanddangathi Hide. This is a picturesque hide overlooking a deep pool where Kingfisher often perch on branches a few meters from the hide as they scan the water below. There are no Kingfisher present this morning, but a few young kudu are lying under a tree quietly chewing their cud. We backtrack to the S137 turnoff which leads to the Duke waterhole, a well known hotspot for Cheetah sightings. We drive slowly, carefully scanning the light-golden dry grasses with which a Cheetah blends so well, but we are out of luck today with no Cheetah to be seen. After a short stop at Duke, where we discuss whether to hang around for a while hoping that the Cheetah might put in an appearance, we decide that it would be more productive to head on. On cool overcast days the large cats such as Lion and Leopard tend to stay out hunting later in the day, and we decide to cover more ground in the hope of some good sightings.

We turn off the S137 back onto the S130 and drive the couple of miles to where it rejoins the main H4-2 tar road. Not two minutes after we rejoin the H4-2 we spot a massive traffic jam of cars on the road up ahead. It can only mean one thing, BIG FIVE! We pull up next to a car intending to ask what there is to see, but there is no need to even ask. The road here forms a bridge over a small stream which swirls into a pool behind some trees, The ground on either sides of the stream slopes steeply upwards putting us virtually at eyelevel with the young Impala ram hanging by his neck from the fork of a large tree!

LEOPARD!

Being in a large van gives us a massive advantage over the sedan cars around us, in that we can easily see over them. I carefully position myself where I will be able to get a prime vantage point as soon as any one of several cars decides to move. It only takes ten minutes and one of the cars start up and I immediately manoeuvre myself into the vacant spot with a perfect view of the kill. I get some ‘daggers’ looks from several cars which where there first, which I studiously ignore. }> Most cars have their engines switched off and apart from the odd car arriving or departing there is a quiet hum of friendly conversation from the forty odd cars parked randomly across the road. A friendly guy in a nearby car tells us that there is a mother leopard with her two cubs in the bushes near the foot of the tree. The Impala is very fresh, probably killed within the last hour, and the leopards have hardly started feeding yet – only the succulent flesh of the rump has been started on. Within a few minutes there is a ripple amongst the watchers as a year old leopard cub strolls out of a thicket and bounds thirty foot up the tree. The mother leopard has chosen a tree with a Y-fork about forty foot off the ground, into which she has wedged the Impalas head, and a perfect platform of branches on level with the Impalas stomach on which to stand while they feed. I would guess that this tree has been used quite frequently as a leopards’ dining-room table, judging from the amount of old bloodstains on the bark, contrasting with the fresh blood of its’ current incumbent.!

The cub is in a boisterous mood and between bites and tugs at the carcass, it clambers up and down the tree, before settling down to feed. When it has finished feeding, It scrambles down and it’s twin takes its’ place, while it tumbles about in the thick grass below. After about forty minutes, there is another ripple of excitement as the mother leopard emerges from the bush. The cub in the tree quickly scrambles down and with a couple of powerful leaps the mother is up the tree. She looks in superb condition, and we marvel at her power and grace. She begins feeding earnestly using her incisors to split the skin up the stomach and then going straight for the heart and kidneys. She ignores the stomach sack which hangs heavily, full of half chewed grass and of little nutritional value, until it breaks free and plummets to the ground below. As she finishes on the one rump, the leg below swings merrily, attached to the body by a small strip of hide. She stops what she is doing and gnaws through the strip of hide to let the leg drop to the ground below. Within seconds the cubs have appropriated the leg and begin a game of tag with it, dashing through the long grass and up and down the slope, first one then the other grabbing the leg and bounding away from its sibling.

I have set up my beanbag on the windowsill and with the D200 + TC-17EII + 200-400 I have a more-or less full frame image of the Leopard feeding on the Impala. The TC-14EII lets in half a stop more light, but the extra 120mm of reach is vital here as I do not want to have to crop too much. The light levels are very low with the overcast sky, and I have to bump the ISO up to 1000 to get 1/200 @ F6.7. I am loathe to go above ISO 1000 due to the grain, but I need a minimum of 1/200 in order to stop any motion from the feeding leopard. There is no way I can stop the motion of the running, tumbling cubs and I try and slow the shutter-speed even further for artistic motion blur, but I do not get any pictures that I am happy with. With my own jumping kids in the back of the van it is a mission to get everything sharp even with VR. It is a revelation to be able to download the full CF cards to my laptop during lulls in the action and analyse the photos, seeing where I am going wrong and being able to take steps to rectify my mistakes.

In all my years of going to Kruger I have very rarely seen leopard during daylight hours, and the few times we have seen one with a kill it has usually been so far away and obscured by branches that it has not been worth a photo. To have a beautiful leopard in the middle of the day feeding on a kill in full view of the road with no obstacles in the way is a dream come true! The feisty cubs are just icing on the cake! The only thing I could wish for is for the sky to brighten up and give me a couple of stops more light, but I guess that would be too much to ask. Even if I would have no camera with me, this would be the sighting of a lifetime, and at times I just sit back from the camera and enjoy the scene before me.

We stay with the leopard for over three hours, watching her and the cubs taking turns feeding, as the Impala slowly disappears and their bellies slowly swell. After all three disappear for a while, we contemplate leaving as we still have a long journey ahead of us, but the reappearance of one cub who clambers up the tree in slightly less sprightly fashion than previously, puts paid to that. We watch him as he tugs at the carcass, but it soon becomes apparent that he is satiated and is more interested in playing than feeding. He climbs up and down a few branches and then wanders down the length of a branch which starts swaying precariously as he gets close to its leafy extremes. He jumps back, but appears fascinated with the swaying and slowly inches out further and further. Everyone is holding their breath as the branch bends and sways thirty foot above the ground, and then with an audible crack it gives way beneath him. He grabs at some nearby foliage and for a moment catches a thin branch, but then that comes away clutched in his paw and he tumbles out of the tree, twisting cat like and lands running thirty foot below. All around us people let out their breath with an audible gasp, while I take my face away from the viewfinder and stab at the playback button eager to see whether I got the shots.

We wait another twenty minutes, but there is no further sign of movement and when my kids in the back of the van start playing ‘I’ll be the Leopard and you be the Impala and I’ll eat your tummy’ I take that as a sign that it is time to move on

We are only 7km from Lower Sabie, but having eaten our lunch while watching the leopard, we only take a quick toilet break at the camp before getting back on the road, taking the H4-1 towards Skukuza. Within a few miles we have added Elepahant and Buffalo to our list of sightings for the day, but they are both well into the bush and with light levels being so low, we quickly move on. Just outside Nkuhlu picnic spot, as we are bemoaning our lack of good lion sightings, I suddenly see a full-maned male lion walking down the middle of the road ahead of us! We are the only car in sight, and he does not seem at all concerned that he is blocking our progress! At one point he cuts into the bush for a few meters, allowing me to dart ahead of him. The sun suddenly peaks through the clouds, a soft golden glow ensues, and as he comes level with the car I have my window down and the lens out, Ratat-tat-tat-tat-tat goes the motor drive as the lion then turns and heads out of view into the thick bushes and within seconds he is out of sight. I take a quick chimp at the screen, and then start the motor with a big smile on my face.

A few miles after the H12 turnoff, we spot another mass of cars in the distance parked haphazardly at all angles across the road. As we pull up, a lady in a nearby car whispers to us ‘You are so lucky! There is a leopard in that tree there’ She can’t understand why we all groan out loud! The leopard is lying napping on a tree limb, facing away from the road, with a curtain of branches partly obscuring him. On a normal trip we would have excitedly parked, waiting and watching in the hope that if it moves we might catch a good view, but by now we are so blasé about leopard that we decide that this sighting is just not good enough and we should move on! True leopard connoisseurs!

I wend my way through the parked cars until I come to a pickup which has parked at an acute angle across the road in an attempt to get a view through a minute gap in the leaves of the leopards backside. There is a narrow gap between the pickup and a small car which has been blocked in by a tour bus, and after eyeing the gap for a few seconds I decide that it is just doable. I rev my engine slightly trying to get the pickups attention and showing him that I could use a few extra inches to manoeuvre, but I see him take a quick look at me and then studiously ignore me. Fine, if that’s the way you want it to be….}> I inch into the gap, with my wife giving me instructions from the off-side. She is freaking that I am not going to make it and the driver in the small car just puts his hands over his eyes, not daring to look as I creep past a mere few millimetres from his bright, shiny paint. I get to a point where I can go no further as the pickups wing mirror and my wing mirror are about to meet head on. I again rev slightly and the driver gives me another look and then turns back to the leopard, in studied indifference.

By now several cars have backed up behind me also trying to get through and several cars coming in the other direction are waiting to get through, all of us being blocked by one idiot who won’t move 1 millimetre for fear of losing his prime viewing spot. There are several angry hoots by now as the oncoming cars see that the pickup won’t let me through, so I roll down my window and gently fold first my wing mirror, then his wing mirror back along the car. The gentle clunk as the mirror folds against his car provokes a startled look from the driver who then rolls down his window and lets loose a torrent of swearwords at me. I politely point out that he is parked across the road blocking numerous cars wishing to get through, but this just provokes a further torrent of abuse, so I merely slide the car into gear and drive through the now clear gap to a raucous cacophony of hoots and cheering from the thirty odd vehicles who have found this unfolding drama to be more exciting that the snoozing leopard in the tree. It is idiots like that who spoil it for everyone else, a little common courtesy never hurts even if it does mean loosing that prime spot.

Near Skukuza we turn off down the H1-1, deciding that we have just enough time to make it to the Malelane Gate. We join the H3 where it branches off the H1-1, and the surrounding countryside gives way to large granite ‘Koppies’, rising hundreds of meters above the plains. This is perfect Klipspringer territory, and barely five minutes after I tell everyone to keep a good lookout, we come across a pair of them just off the road. These diminutive antelope are at home amongst the rocky outcrops, agilely bounding from rock to rock on their pointed rubbery hooves, defying gravity up seemingly sheer cliff walls and making death-defying leaps across yawning chasms. Not for nothing are they called Klipspringer or ‘Rock-Jumper’. As the road leaves the hilly terrain I entreat everyone to keep a sharp lookout for White Rhino, the only one of the Big Five we have not yet seen today, as this is perfect Rhino territory. Sure enough within five kilometres we find a fine specimen grazing on the hillside, and with that we complete the entire Big Five sightings in one day, a rare feat indeed!

A few miles from the gate we come across a pair of young Hyena who are begging at the roadside in the hope of getting handouts from the cars. Hyena, Baboon and Vervet Monkeys are the animals which tend to beg the most, which is a pity because animals which become dependant on handouts can become aggressive if they do not receive any food, leading to the authorities being forced to put them down. I am glad to see that none of the cars are feeding them, and when one of them takes an exploratory nip at the bumper of the car behind us, I decide it is time to head on. The jaws capable of crushing a buffalo thigh bone are capable of crushing the bumper on our rented car with ease!

We are now getting within sight of the park boundaries, bright green patches indicating well-irrigated fields appear in the distance, and a sense of melancholy takes hold of us as we realise that our trip is coming to an end. And then the gate appears in the distance and our Amazing Kruger Adventure really is over. As we stand in line in the office to get our exit papers stamped we are already planning how soon we will be able to get back.

Spotted;
Mammals – Impala, Giraffe, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Leopard, Hippo, Buffalo, Elephant, Lion, White Rhino, Waterbuck, Greater Kudu, Hyena, Klipspringer,
Birds – Trumpeter Hornbill, Swainsons Francolin, Yellow-Billed Hornbill, Grey Lourie, Lilac-Breasted Roller, Glossy Starling, Forktailed Drongo, Long-Tailed Shrike, Saddle-Bill Stork, Marabou Stork
Other – Nile Crocodile



Thank you for joining us as we relived our wonderful holiday, I hope I have been able to portray even a small sense of the African bush through my photos and words. To me that is what wildlife photography is all about, bringing the wonder of the wilderness to the viewers through my photos. I hope you have enjoyed reading and viewing this diary as much as I enjoyed writing it and taking the photos.

I plan to add a few smalls notes on the bottom of this thread over the next few days about travelling to the Kruger National Park, accommodation there and taking photos there, which I hope will be of some help to anyone thinking of making this trip.

Leopard With Impala Kill In Tree (Panthera Pardus)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR + TC-17EII
ISO 1000
1/200 @ F6.7
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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"DAY 8"


UK
          

Burchell’s Zebra (Equus Burchelli)
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR
ISO 400
1/200 @ F4
Beanbag

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
My Gallery

Visit my Nikonians gallery.

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Safariman Basic MemberWed 16-Jan-08 02:28 PM
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#13. "DAY 8"
In response to Reply # 0


UK
          

The Moon Over Africa
Kruger National Park, South Africa

D200
200-400 F4 AFS VR + TC-17EII
ISO 640
1/100 @ F6.7 (Manual Exposure/Spot Metered)
Tripod

Safariman
Let Nature Get Close To You.
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