Trip Report: Private Guided Safari in Kruger National Park & Sabi Sabi

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There is always something quite nostalgic about returning to Kruger National Park. For me its an instant reminder of the rest camps, the green tiles with Custos Logo, the evening braise and the lunchtime leftovers.

This time however, it was a completely different experience. This was my first time visiting a private concession INSIDE the Kruger National Park. Not adjacent to or part of the Greater Kruger National Park, INSIDE the Kruger National Park.

For a total of 4 nights I hosted a group at Camp Shawu in the southern section of Kruger before we headed to a more familiar destination in the form of Little Bush Lodge at Sabi Sabi.

The game viewing there was great with good numbers of general game, herds of giraffe and elephant as well as lion and leopard. Our first evening saw us spending time with three cheetah in the later afternoon light on the first afternon before relocating them again the following morning.

The two youngsters were full of life and made for great photography as they chased each other around their mom, who was quite obviously not interested in joining them.

We also came across a pride of more than 14 lions who were feeding on a large carcass on our first evening. Photography was challenging but the sighting provided the ideal opportunity for the guests to get used to the settings needed to photograph wildlife at night.

Breakfast in the morning was usually under the watchful eye of either a herd of more than 200 buffalo or a couple of elephant bulls, and the ever present hippos and African Fish Eagles.

During our stay we saw all of the big 5 visit the dam in front of camp and spent one morning with a breakaway group of 7 young male lions who were finishing up with what we assume to have been an impala which they had killed.

Most of our afternoons were spent searching for the illusive leopard and, after spending some time with hippos in the crocodile river, we came across a group of very alert impala snorting and grunting in what was clearly an alarmed state.

Sitting still and observing for a couple of minutes eventually the distinctive flash of a white tipped tail gave away the location of the young and beautiful leopardess.

We had just a matter of minutes to photograph here in very low light but this provided the guests with a challenge they were fully prepared for and they ca,e away with some incredible images of this young beauty.

We were also treated to a number of sightings of rather impressive elephant bulls. The most memorable of which was this bull with beautiful uniform tusks who was attempting to reach the best on offer from a number of Marula trees.

For a brief moment he leant back and I wondered if we were about to capture a Mana Pools type moment, but alas, it was not to be.

It wasn’t all about the large charismatic wildlife though, we took the time to stop and enjoy the finer photographic subjects on offer such as this mantis on the forehead of an elephant and a rock monitor attempting to warm up in the early morning light.

Our final morning was dominated by misty conditions which provided a fitting farewell as we left Camp Shawu and made our way North to the Sabi Sand Wildtuin.

Our scenic 3.5 hour drive through the Kruger national Park saw us exiting the Paul Kruger Gate and entering the Sabi Sand Wildtuin where we would spend the following 3 nights at my favourite Sabi Sabi camp, Little Bush lodge.

Our plan for this portion of the safari was to focus on the big cats, in particular leopard, and also to make the most of any opportunities to shoot subjects with the aid of the ethical use of a spotlight.

Our first afternoon drive provided the ideal opportunity to shoot back-lit, side-lit and front-lit lions and, having 2 vehicles for our group made this sort of photography that much easier.

We also enjoyed opportunities to photograph a variety of other subjects in-between our dedicated quest to find and photograph the big cats. Patterns and textures are interesting elements of photography for me and a large bull elephant feeding close the road gave us an excellent opportunity to capture what must be one of the most iconic frames of these gentle giants.

We would also stop for the even smaller creatures such as a Bark Spider which had spun a web right next to the roadside. Our tracker managed to dodge the web and provided some back lighting to once again transform the scene into something spectacular.

Our final afternoon also provided a short but in credibly special sighting of a pack of Wild Dog. We sat with them for all of 1 minute before they got up, greeted one another, flushed a scrub hare from a nearby bush and then proceeded to have a drink at an adjacent waterhole.

The youngsters of the pack played with some of the aquatic plants in the golden light and provided us with some really unique photographic opportunities.

All of this was good but the group were hungry for leopards and our efforts to photograph these spectacular cats were not without reward.

We saw no less than 5 different individuals during our 3 night stay and were treated to some really special interaction between the leopards themselves as well as the ever present scavengers of the African bush, the spotted Hyena.

I’m not going to go into too much detail in the hopes that one of our guests will share their experience in a blog post but we were fortunate enough to watch a male leopard approach and steal a kill which a hyena had dragged into a drainage line, thinking it would be safe from other predators there.

Needless to say, the tension and ferocity of the interaction left each and every one of the guests in a sate of awe.

This was undoubtedly the highlight of the safari for me.

This seven night private guided safari provided some incredible photographic opportunities, loads of scenarios for learning and honing photographic skills, and what i am sure will be lifelong memories for the lovely group of guests that I hosted.

If you’d like to take your photography to the next level, get in touch with our team and allow us to recommend one of our scheduled departures best suited to your goals and objectives, or craft a bespoke private guided safari suited to your needs and budget.

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

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