Towards the end of September we had a public holiday on Tuesday the 24th. We decided at the last minute to make it a long weekend and go to the Kruger. At such short notice it was very unlikely that we would get accommodation. But we got very lucky and managed to get 3 nights at Olifants Rest Camp in a NG2U unit.
(The NG2U units consist of two single beds, bathroom, A/C and a fridge. The unit has no kitchen, however there is a communal one available to use if need be. Each unit does have a braai stand and we packed our picnic box that has cutlery and a small hiking stove to do all our cooking.)
Our trip began on Friday after work. As we would not have made closing time at the gate, we decided to find accommodation just outside the park for a night and then head in early the next day. We managed to find a bed at Tranquil Nest just outside of Hazyview. The place is more than adequate for a stop over. The staff are helpful and friendly. Very luxurious accommodation, including a jacuzzi that we partook in after a long evening of travel.
On Saturday morning we left not so early for Phabeni Gate thanks to a good night of beer and jacuzzi. From there we took the S1 (Doispane Road) to Skukuza. This road is very famous for Leopard sightings so keep a sharp eye out. We unfortunately didn’t see much except for some Buffalo and Fish Eagle near a waterhole. Just before Skukuza there is a turn off on the left to go to the Golf course and Nursery. On that road is one of the hidden gems of the park, Lake Panic. The bird hide is a must if you have the time. We didn’t so pushed on to Skukuza where we filled up on fuel and food.
From there it was up the H1-2 to Tshokwane and then the H1-3 to Olifants camp. That’s when the magic happened. Just after passing Satara Rest Camp we were blessed with a lion sighting, a few females pretty far in the bush having a snooze in the shade.
Shortly after, another car pulled up and informed us of a Leopard kill that had just happened a little further up the road. We immediately set off to find it. Wasn’t very hard as there were so many cars already at the sighting. We did manage to find a gap to park across the river bed and could barely see the leopard busy with its fresh kill. We even caught a whiff of the blood as we parked off.
He was furiously eating from the little that we could see. As this was our first Leopard kill, I wondered why he didn’t just take the kill up a tree to be safe from other predators and scavengers. From what I gathered, the Leopard was eating the insides of the Impala first so that it would be lighter to carry up a tree. Very clever.
And that’s exactly what he did. Eventually the Leopard disappeared into the riverbed out of sight dragging his kill. I looked around and the closest easiest tree to climb was across the riverbed (on our end) right in front of the car. I told Hemisha excitedly that the Leopard was going to climb up this tree in front us, and she asked how I knew. It just seemed to make sense.
So I framed a shot of the tree as best I could and waited. My heart was racing. A few seconds later the Leopard appeared out of the riverbed and began climbing the exact tree that I’d guessed. My frame was set, focus was set, exposure was set. All I had to do was press down on the shutter and let the camera do the rest.
It was by far one the best moments we’ve experienced in the bush yet. To see the raw power of a Leopard pull an Impala up a tree was amazing! And now the Leopard was right in front of us so we spent a few more minutes watching him feed and climb up and down the tree. Eventually we had to leave as time was limited for us to get to Olifants camp before the gate closed.
The next morning we woke up super early and we were at the gate before it opened. As soon as it did we headed straight back to the Leopard kill hoping to get a few more shots. We definitely weren’t the first to arrive as there were already many cars around the tree. Aside from the cars there were a few other spectators in the form of Hyenas. They were hanging around hoping for a few scraps to fall.
The Leopard in the tree was also different to the one from the previous day. This one was much smaller in size and may have been a female that was mating with the larger male. The light wasn’t great and it was getting brighter and harsher, so we took a few more shots and moved along to give others a chance at this rare sighting.
The remainder of the day was just another beautiful day in the Kruger National Park. The weather was baking hot so sightings were few. Below are a few sightings from Day 2.
The day began exactly as the previous day with us being at the gate before opening time. But today the weather was overcast. My favourite weather. Perfect for driving around and also my favourite light for wildlife photography!
We headed immediately for the Leopard kill site again but found an empty tree. No leopards and no kill. We heard later on that the kill was invaded by some hungry lions and the Leopards had to abandon it. So we pushed on towards Satara Rest Camp.
We stopped at a small herd of Zebra which had the tiniest of baby’s. We must have spent about 15 minutes with them trying to get the perfect baby Zebra shot.
While we were shooting the herd starting running, then started sprinting at full speed. I thought it’s so cute how the baby can run so fast. But my thought was immediately interrupted by two Cheetah, that appeared out of nowhere, running alongside the baby. We couldn’t believe what was happening! The Zebra ran across the road in front of us and I immediately started the car to try follow. On the other side of the road, one of the Cheetah tripped the baby and it tumbled to the ground rolling a few times but it somehow managed to find its feet again during the tumble and got up and carried on running. The Cheetah couldn’t take advantage of the tumble and eventually ran out of energy and gave up the chase. The Zebra and the Cheetah were both long gone. This all happened in about 30 seconds. I didn’t manage to get a single shot and Hemisha also struggled during the excitement of it all.
But what a moment to witness! We just sat there for another 15 min waiting for our hearts to come back down to a normal pace.
Still reeling from all the excitement we pulled in to Satara rest camp for a quick pitstop. From there we decided to drive along the famous S100. But just before entering the road, we were greeted by a beautiful Elephant with a broken tusk and a white Rhino.
The S100 did not disappoint! We spotted Waterbuck, Elephant, Leopard, Fish Eagle, Bateleur Eagle and some more Lion. There was a male sitting far in the bush while the females were walking around looking for their next meal.
Sadly all good things must come to an end. Our last day was a sad one because we had to leave but also did not have many good sightings. We left Olifants Camp early as per usual and made our way slowly towards Orpen Gate via the Timbavati road. We did see some Lion close to Orpen Gate but they were very far in the bush. The highlight of the short trip was probably a Tawny eagle right alongside the road eating what looked to be feathers of another bird.
After exiting the park at Orpen gate we began our journey back home. Kruger National Park is always magical, even if it’s just a quick 4 days. We can’t wait for our next adventure, and also we’d love to hear from you! If you’ve enjoyed this post or even if you didn’t, please leave a comment below.
Till the next one!