Trip Report – Kruger Photo Safari July 2016

Grant Marcus All Authors 1 Comment

Arriving at Crocodile Bridge after a comfortable 5 hour drive from Johannesburg we were greeted by a friendly SAN Parks official that checked us in and gave us our entry permit into the Shishangeni Private Concession,. our home for the next 5 nights.

From Crocodile Bridge you drive approximately 25 km to the camp. Arriving at Shishangeni John awaits you where you sign the necessary paperwork. Your Ranger Sifiso then drives you to Camp Shawu, which is a small intimate camp on the Mpanamana dam. We were only 5 people in the camp and that made our experience even better.

Arriving at Shawu everybody is hyped up ready for the afternoon safari. It is extremely dry in this region at the moment so we did not have to go far! We saw Buffalo, White Rhino, Elephant and loads of general game at the dam right on our doorstep. We drove up the dam wall for some elephant photography and to witness the amazing interaction between these big mammals.

Sifiso then took us to a place where they suspected a mother cheetah with her youngsters hangs out. We did not get to see them on this afternoon but we still had 4 days to go. We stumbled upon a big herd of zebra with some great rim lighting so we spent the afternoon with them. What a great experience just to do something different photography wise. After some sundowners we went home to a lovely dinner. Everyone was quite tired so we had an early night. The rooms are spacious and beautiful with everything you need in them.

What a great first day, how can tomorrow get any better? Well it did!

The hippos were busy outside our rooms the whole night and at 2:30 lions very close to camp woke me. I knew the morning was going to be good.

shawu 2016 .... (6 of 30)

We met for coffee at 6:00 every morning and left 6:15. Sifiso said he was going to look for those lions we heard all night and about 20min into the drive he stopped and showed us where buffalo had ran across the road. Probably away from the lions. Just as we wanted to get out and have a look his eye caught the lions on a buffalo.

We just missed the take down!

We really worked that sighting so all the guests got shots at different angles and with different lighting. It is so special to spend quality time in a rare sighting like this one. Work with what you have in front of you it will pay of. We spent just over an hour with this pride and their kill. By that time everybody was looking forward to a well deserved cup of coffee, so we went to look for a nice spot to stretch our legs.

shawu 2016 .... (7 of 30) shawu 2016 ... (2 of 8)

After some great coffee we went back for breakfast. Not bad at all for our first morning drive. Between drives guests have some down time and get a chance to download their photos and take many more.

As the rooms are right on the dam you have action 24/7 right in front of you.

shawu ...... (2 of 10)

shawu ...... (7 of 10)

We had lunch at 14:00 and the plan was to leave earlier to go and see if anything changed at the lion kill. That was a good call as there was loads of interaction between the vultures and the one remaining lioness. The others left the carcass and out of the blue they returned with 3 tiny lion cubs. What a treat that was.

We decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon with the pride and photograph the youngsters. Again work with what you got. Don’t go chasing around and leave a good sighting when you don’t know what else is out there.

shawu ....... (4 of 4)

Once again everybody was rather tired and drained from all the action of the day, so it was an early dinner and off to bed, which was the case for the rest of the week as everyone wanted to be as fresh as possible for the next day.

We were guarded by a pride of lions right on our doorstep for most of the night as they roared away every now and then.

Wednesday morning

Quick cup of coffee and ready for our morning safari. We went back to the buffalo carcass just to see the end result and there were only a few bones and scraps left that the hyenas, jackal and vultures were squabbling over. What a great experience for all to see life and death in the African bush.

We then got to spend time with some female cheetah in golden light that ended the morning on a high.

Back at camp after our breakfast we focused on some different photographic techniques like panning and motion blur. We had animals on call for more than an hour while the guests practiced and had fun on the deck.

shawu ..... (1 of 7)

Leaving at 15:00 in the afternoon we spent some time at the dam and used our wide-angle lenses. That forced everybody to think differently about composing the scene they photograph.  It was quite a fun exercise!

shawu ...... (3 of 10)

Sifiso got a call over the radio about a female cheetah and cubs.

Immediately the wide-angle lenses were packed away!

We arrived at the sighting with only 2 other vehicles, which gave us lots of options for good positioning. The female killed an impala and they had just started feeding and gave us such a good photography session. We stayed with them till almost sunset and moved on with the hope that she would be able to keep the carcass till the morning, because out here being a cheetah with cubs and food is not easy. There are loads of other scavengers and predators around.

shawu ...... (10 of 10)

shawu 2016 ... (4 of 8)

shawu 2016 . (4 of 4)

After dinner we did a quick session on star photography. Great fun to learn and share. Even with the bright moon we got some interesting shots.

That night the lions were around the dam again. Roaring away the whole night.

Thursday Morning

We decided to go and look for all the lions that made such a noise during the night and it didn’t take Sifiso long to find them, 7 lions 6 young males and 1 young female. Then out of the blue two bigger males came rushing in and we could see they mean business. They chased the younger group and cornered them at the dam by the camp. Great sighting with loads of interaction. It was still a bit dark but we managed to get a few photographs.

After that eventful start we went back to the cheetah family and found them there still happily feeding. Mom did very well!!

On our way back to camp we managed to see a leopard and that just ended the morning on another high note…well done Sifiso!!

The days at Camp Shawu gets spent mostly on the deck by your room watching the waterhole and I think that is what makes this place so special. You constantly have wildlife around for almost 24 hours a day.

shawu 2016 .... (5 of 30)

shawu ....... (2 of 4)

We left on the afternoon drive with absolutely no expectations and we focused on shooting a bit into the sun with white rhino as our subject and to add a bonus he kicked up some dust for us. No matter how you look at your safari experience you always have something to photograph or to look at.

We stopped for some sundowners just after sunset and on our way back to camp we stopped at the leopard again to see if she was there. This was the first time we could really do some spotlight photography. We went through the basic settings, got a few frames and moved on back to camp. Sifiso was very good not to blind the leopard with the spotlight and we didn’t spend to long in her presence.

shawu ..... (7 of 7)

shawu ..... (2 of 7)

Friday morning

This morning we decided to take the Lebombo road on the foot of the hill in front of the camp with the hope of seeing something different. Slowly driving along and scanning the hill we spotted a rhino and a calf. Not just any rhino but a black rhino. She was so relaxed with us we got to spend some really quality time with them and everybody got some great photographs. That was truly an amazing moment for everybody in the vehicle.

With everyone in awe of these magnificent creatures we left and stopped for coffee on the banks of the Crocodile River. There was heaps of activity from a Fish eagle catching fish to hippos chasing crocs. We didn’t have enough eyes or cameras to catch everything that was happening. This whole scene also teaches you to be patient and anticipate a shot coming up. For instance a heron taking of and landing on a hippos back, which one of my guests did indeed get. A beautiful scene where we could all watch and learn some animal behavior.

shawu 2016 .... (1 of 1)

After breakfast everybody went back to their decks where the herds of zebra and wildebeest kept us all very busy once again. I thought the guests might get bored during the week between drives. No chance for that with such a busy waterhole keeping us all entertained.

shawu 2016 .... (8 of 30)

Sadly but excitedly we got ready for our last afternoon drive and our mission was to get a spot with a nice view to photograph the sunset.

Sifiso drove up to the Lebombo area where the Mopani belt starts and we had the most amazing sunset photo session.

shawu ..... (4 of 7)

For our last evening everybody had to get at least 2 of their most memorable images of the week and we shared some insights on why and how we decided to take the images.

Going on a photographic safari for me means sharing as much as you can and help each other to get better at our shared passion. So we learn a lot from one another.

shawu ...... (4 of 10)

Saturday morning we did a short drive and had our last coffee at the river, which was a lovely way to end the trip. As we drove out on the banks of the river a lioness was lying on a game path not far from where we had coffee. It shows you, you never know what is around the next corner of your adventure.

These 5 days in Kruger were just unbelievable from a sighting and definitely from a photography point of view. If you want to experience the true wilderness of Kruger this trip will definitely blow you away. The setting of the Camp is just spot on with your rooms looking onto the dam. We literally had lions on our doorstep vocalizing every night.

The Game drives are just amazing. With Guide Sifiso at the steer, you are guaranteed to have a good time. He goes out of his way to show his guests everything.

shawu 2016 .... (9 of 30)

This Safari destination is truly unique and caters for such diversity. The people working at Shishangeni and Camp Shawu really made my guests stay a truly memorable experience. Nothing was too much trouble.

All my guests had a great time and took some amazing photos.

About the Author

Grant Marcus

From a young age Grant’s passion for wildlife and conservation burned bright and was constantly fed by different experiences and people in his life. After completing a National Diploma in Nature Conservation in 2001 he started his bush career in conservation. After 6 years he changed his path to include the tourism side of the industry. With his wealth of bush knowledge and now also photographic skills he is really looking forward to host you on Safari and change the way you see the world.


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