Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Maximize Your Kruger Experience

Trevor McCall-Peat All Authors, Trevor 15 Comments

Having recently returned from an amazing holiday in the Kruger National Park with my wife, I thought I would write a blog to describe my thoughts on the Kruger National Park, why it holds a special place in my heart as well has some helpful tips and guidelines for anyone else who wants to experience the Kruger and get the most out of their experience.

Ever since I can remember, I have been going to the Kruger with my family and even to this day, it is one of my favourite places to visit. Considering I was a guide for a number of years and worked at one of the most prestigious and well known lodges/reserves in Southern Africa, you may ask why I still enjoy going to the Kruger National Park? Well, there are a number of reasons why I enjoy it and I will do my best to touch on each and every single one.

As I have mentioned before, I grew up in a small town called White River. The closest gate to our house was a mere 25 minute drive away and my family and I would pretty much go once a month into the Park for the day.

Some of my fondest memories are waking up early to the sound of my mother packing the picnic basket and my father packing the cooler box – preparing for a day in the Park. We would all jump into the car, my brothers and I would go back to sleep and we would head for the gate, trying to get there before it opened.

Often, we would be the first car at the gate where we would eagerly await the gate to open. We would all take a guess as to what the first animal would be and in doing all this, the excitement for the day would build. We would enter the gate, windows open – taking in the smells of the bush and off we would go.

After a good few hours of driving around, we would then stop at a waterhole, have some coffee, rusks and a toasted bacon and egg my mother prepared earlier that morning.

I think my parents played a huge part in creating the excitement we had as they were always very excited to be heading into the park and they had a huge part in creating the passion I now have for the bush. Ever since those early days, I find myself longing to get back to the Kruger.

There are so many special things about it – The smell of the thatch(grass roof), returning to camp in the evening and seeing everyone starting their campfires or walking along the perimeter fence seeing if we could see any animals walking by. Every single time I return to the Kruger, I am reminded of all those wonderful childhood memories. My wife, who also frequently visited the Kruger while growing up has very similar memories and it is always great reminiscing over our pasts and at the same time creating new memories of our own that one day we will hopefully share with our kids.

You cannot compare the the experience between Private Reserves and the Kruger National Park as they are just far to different. For me, the Kruger isn’t about photography and capturing my dream shots its about the experience. Its about spending time out in the bush with no expectations.

I remember and still to this day it happens, where you can drive around for hours in the Park and not see anything, to me thats ok, that is what the bush is all about. It is unpredictable and really gives you an appreciation for the bush. Another reason you cannot compare the two is the price, there is a massive difference in the price and there is a reason for that. Having a guide who knows the area, knows the animals and follows them on a daily basis is a huge advantage. There are a number of other reasons to it as well such as accommodation, vehicle density etc. For the purpose of this blog I am going to keep it all about the Kruger National Park.

Yes, there is a high density of vehicles in the Kruger at any given time and can make sightings rather unpleasant. Sadly, it has not always been like that and only over the last 10 years or so it has gotten increasingly worse. Going to the Kruger, I never had/have an expectation of few cars and great sightings cause that can lead to disappointment. I rather go with the mind set of “whatever I see is a bonus” because in my opinion just being there is amazing. There are also ways to counteract the high  number of vehicles and traffic.

Looking at the Park, it is a massive expanse of land which is an area the size of Wales with roads running throughout. From my experience, I have found that many people stick to the main tarmac roads and look for convenient routes as they move between camps and do short drives in the mornings and afternoons. So having said that, when I go into the park I try as much as possible to stay as far away from the main areas as possible.

Using dirt roads and doing larger routes, I try avoid the crowds. Doing this can be challenging in terms of game viewing as there are less vehicles patrolling the roads so you may see less but when you do find something, a lot of the time it may only be yourself in the sighting or, one or two other vehicles making for a much better and enjoyable experience.

In terms of camps and accommodation – The accommodation is rather basic and very rustic. There is also a variety of different types of accommodation from full on camping, semi luxurious tents to guest houses which have all the necessities to be comfortable. It all just depends on what your comfort level is and what kind of experience you wish to have. There is also an array of camps you can stay at. Some are very large and have petrol stations as well as a shop, while others are a bit more exclusive and much smaller.

I generally prefer the smaller camps as I like the privacy and how quiet they are. Once again, it just depends on what you would prefer. Considering the price of accommodation and if you have time of your hands you can try a few different kinds of accommodation. My personal favorite is Tamboti. It is a very small camp which contains tents only. Each tent over looks the beautiful Timbavati River bed and the evening sounds are simply incredible. On this past trip we heard a variety of owls, nightjars, hyena, lions and leopard. To me, there is nothing better than falling asleep to all the nocturnal sounds of the bush.

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

All in all, it is an incredible place to visit and if you are someone that just enjoys being out in the bush then this is an experience for you.

I must say, when leaving the park I always have a sad feeling in my stomach but guaranteed my wife and I will be back soon and its only a matter of time until we plan our next adventure in the Kruger National Park.

Take a look below at some of the highlights from my recent visit…

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography
Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Wild Eye - Kruger Park - Wildlife Photography

Until next time,

Trevor

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About the Author

Trevor McCall-Peat

Having Grown up in White River which then was a small town in the Lowveld, I have had an inner burning desire to pursue my passion and love for wildlife. From a young age I was guided by my family who shares the same passion for the natural world as I do. Frequently visiting wilderness areas from a young age instilled a deep craving to explore and learn more about the bush. Once I left school I began my journey to becoming a guide and following my dream. I have been a field guide for the past 9 years, starting out in the Western Cape and then returning to the lowveld where I spent my last 4 years spend at Londolozi Game Reserve where I gained invaluable experience and had the opportunity to learn about myself as an individual. Through my love for wildlife it has kick started my passion for photography and has allowed me to grow and pursue it as a career. Combining an array of different elements such as safaris, photography, being one with nature and sharing experiences with others is something I have really enjoyed doing and looking forward to continuing it on this new and exciting chapter.

 

 

 

 

Comments 15

    1. Post
      Author
      Trevor McCall-Peat

      Hello Mark,

      Thank you so much for leaving a comment, I really appreciate it and Im glad I could bring back your fond memories of a truly special place.

  1. Sharee

    What a perfectly captured description of the Kruger, which makes me long to be back on those dusty sand roads. So well written Trev.

    1. Post
      Author
      Trevor McCall-Peat

      Hello Sharee,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the blog – No doubt I will be back there as soon as possible.

  2. Jay

    Thank you for a balanced blog post.

    I found your colleagues podcast to be unstructured and in essence rather exclusionary. The point of comparing two polarities such as the Kruger versus private conservations seems pointless. The large drive of tourism to South Africa and in particular to the Lowveld is in part driven by the story you tell through all your photographs and tourists wanting to recreate that scene mostly with less budget than your services.

    Sadly and actually realistically in a South african context the barriers to entry for even just wildlife photography is too high for most people let all be a visit to the Kruger park and the thought of a visit to the Sands is just unthinkable.

    Driving from Lower Sabie to Skukuza is, I agree, always enjoyable but we should not diminish the experiences of others who also want to experience what you are so fortunate to experience almost daily, lest we forget the benefit tourism has to our country.

    Regarding the behavior of tourists, is a given that people will react to situations that can not be controlled from the idiot that gets out his car to take a photo to the dollar touting tourist who will harass a private guide until he sees his leopard.

    I found that the wild-eye podcast didn’t answer what it was trying to solve rather came across as a positioning to say “we know the Kruger but it’s kak and we go to amazing places where you can take better photos” I feel your blog and accompanying photos go a long way to neutralize that and if the podcast was a way to segment a very niche group of tourists that can fly from Ruaha to Selous to Mala then it should be said out front.

    1. Gerry van der Walt

      Hi Jay.

      Thanks for your comment but I am not quite sure how you feel the podcast was pointless as it was based on a question from someone who specifically wanted that information. The podcast, initial blog, this blog that Trevor posted, Marlon’s new post and all the comments received IS the point in that it allows Ben, who asked the original question, to get ideas, different points of view and an informed decision on his travel plans.

      The podcast was not meant to ‘solve’ anything and based on the feedback and comments we have received on the various platforms many people did take value in the comparison which was point. Many people agreed, other disagreed but everybody got the point and it made for great, and I believe very constructive discussion, and the email from the guy who asked the original question confirmed that it did in fact help him in his planning. And THAT was the point and ‘essence’ of the podcast as you call it.

      Yes, we host safaris at various lodges and reserves and yes we do have a select group of clientele who like to travel high end but we also have clients who we assist with a once in a lief-time trip to entry level lodges so to blanket the podcast as segmenting groups is not correct. If you’ve been following our online platforms for the last 8 years you will know that we put out a lot of content which is not designed to sell our services specifically but purely to add value to our online audience. Yes, there is a spillover to sales but our goal is to provide value which, based again on the amount of interaction and shared opinions on this post alone, I know we have done.

      If you dig deeper into the context and content around this topic you will see that your statement of “we know the Kruger but it’s kak and we go to amazing places where you can take better photos” is way off track as each and every one of us have said that we would love to go to the Kruger when we have the time and have fond memories of the place. Everything revolves around expectations and how that can be reconciled with each person’s individual goals and budget. Always has been. Always will be.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment and sharing your views.

      Gerry

  3. Pingback: I still believe in Kruger, but... - Wild Eye

  4. Adam Kotze

    Nice Blog bud! Kruger holds so many memories for me with family, grandparents, my wife Sam and now my daughter Madison 🙂 Tamboti is also one of our favorite places! Thanks now you have let everyone know about it and it always going to be full and booked! Shot!! LOL 🙂

    Have a good one buddy.

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    1. Post
      Author
      Trevor McCall-Peat

      Hi Adam,

      Appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. It really is an incredible place and I really enjoyed writing this blog as it brought back so many incredible memories of the Park.

  5. Corinne

    well written and exactly what’s Kruger experience is, almost brought tears to my eyes as we have not gone for 2 years now! Longing for the Kruger, thanks for sharing. Made my day.

    1. Post
      Author
      Trevor McCall-Peat

      Hello Corinne,

      I have been back for a few days and I am already wishing to return so I can’t even imagine how you feel after two years! Best you book and get there ASAP. Haha, enjoy the rest of your day!

  6. Dee Roelofsz

    Great article Trevor & much of what you say resonates with many of my own thoughts & experiences in Kruger, which we are fortunate to visit often throughtout the year, luckily never in peak periods! Fantastic images to accompany your blog & most of them would be considered dream ones for me, if not for you lol!! 🙂

    1. Post
      Author
      Trevor McCall-Peat

      Hello Dee,

      Thank you very much for the kind words. I look forward to my next visit. Peak seasons are tricky and can be very busy, I always think any kruger time is better than no kruger time.

  7. Callum Evans

    Such an incredible set of photos from what is possibly my favourite place in the world! Photos like this and experiences like this help me to keep faith in the Kruger and that ignorant people haven’t ruined it. I’ve only been to Kruger once when I was 14, and we stayed at Orpen and Satara (saw my first leopard), and I’m dying to go back (but it’s harder for Cape Townians). Personally, when I go there again, I’d definitely stay at the smaller camps in the south or the ones in the north (esp. Shingwedzi).

    1. Post
      Author
      Trevor McCall-Peat

      Hi Callum,

      Looks like its time for you to go for another visit. Shingwedzi is a beautiful camp and being a bit further up north, there isn’t as much vehicle pressure.

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