Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park South Africa

The first time Annette and I visited Kruger National park it was in September. We booked into a Safari tent at Lower Sabie rest camp, with two of our lady friends, Debbie Seegers, and  the late Helena De Lange. Debbie grew up in the Kruger National Park, and still visits it quite often. It was  a privilege and very much to our advantage to have someone like Debbie with us in the Park, as she is an excellent guide. We have learned great deal from her.

The second time that we visited the Kruger, we booked into the safari tents at Lower Sabie again for about 4 nights.  Then we moved to Satara  camp, where we booked into one of the bungalows, for 3 nights. It is  fully equipped with everything one needs in the bush and very comfortable. There is a wide variety of accommodation to choose from, from camping sites to the Luxury Lodges where luxury is the order of the day.

Safari Tent
Bungalow in Kruger National Park
Bungalow in Kruger

We were lucky to see all of the Big Five all during our first trip which was only a mid weak trip of 4 days, and that really impressed me. I have never taken pictures of  so many different species of animals and birds in just 4 days.Below is a picture of a young warthog that looks like it  has escaped the claws of some of the  many predators in the park.

Baby Warthog
Baby Warthog crossing a gravel road in Kruger National Park
Baby warthogs are called piglets. This baby Warthog was crossing a gravel road in Kruger national Park

 On our first day, we were very lucky  to stumble upon a beautiful Leopard walking down the road, and then came to a stand still on a ant hill. Of course the camera’s  clicked away and after a few seconds hundreds of photos were already taken between the four of us. What a great sighting! I think it is one of the most beautiful cats of Africa. It is said that a Leopard can drag its  prey high up into the trees that is more than twice its  own weight.

Leopard standing on a ant hill in Kruger National Park
Leopard in Kruger National park standing on a ant hill. These large carnivores are powerfully built with long bodies, relatively short legs, and a broad head.

We saw a big herd of Buffalo. Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other animal. Apparently they have such great strength,that it is 4 times the strength of an Ox. They looked so calm and harmless when chewing on the grass. I have seen many videos where  the buffalo  herd stands together to attack a group of lions, when their young is facing danger from the lions.

African buffalo portrait in black and white Kruger National Park
African buffalo portrait in black and white. The African buffalo are large, heavy cow-like animals native to Africa.

Rhinoceros are very shy, because they being hunted down and declared as an endangered species. We were very fortunate to see two of them grazing. before they disappeared in the bush. We are very privileged to see this beautiful creation of God. It is just a pity that mankind wants to destroy everything for his own gain. How can one kill this majestic animal just for it’s horn, which is by the way made of the same substance as hair or nails and a horses’ hooves’.

Rhino walking next to gravel road in Kruger national park.
In the wild, rhinos are nearly extinct. They only have a chance to survive in protected areas such as the Kruger National Park.

Elephants in the Kruger Park are also in abundance. We had some wonderful sightings and took some lovely photos. They differ from the elephants in the ADDO National Park as their tusks are much bigger. The elephants in the Kruger are also more aggressive than the much tamer ones of the Addo. They  do not like vehicles to be very close to them, and to be safe, rather keep your distance, especially when there is a mother and her calf in the vicinity. Do not get between them with your vehicle.

Don’t forget the Lions, the main attraction for most people go to the Kruger. Thanks to Debbie’s watchful and trained eye, she let us have our first lion sighting in the Kruger. One could only see the paw of a lion against a tree where dozens of cars passed. They did not see the lion’s paw at all and to our amusement, we were the only people there , spend a while , waiting for it to wake up. The Kruger is well known for its predators.

Female lion lying under the shade of trees in the Kruger National Park
The main role of Lioness is to go out and hunt, get food for its pride and serve the first meat to the Lion from freshly killed prey.

What is a drive through the Park without seeing the baboons? The baby riding on the back of its mothers back were very cute, just next to the road. They are very photogenic and one can sit for hours with them and you will get some interesting and acrobatic photos. This little one looks like it is driving a Harley Davidson.

Chacma baboon with her baby riding on her back in Kruger National Park
Chacma baboon with her baby riding on her back. The Chacma Baboon is a large primate with a dog-like face and large, prominent canines.

The next day we spend some time at Lower Sabie dam. WOW! and double WOW!! again. I will be able to sit at the Lower Sabie dam for the whole day. There are so much life in this dam, it is unbelievable. The Lower Sabie dam was full of fish and that attracted a lot of water birds. There were hippo’s and crocodiles sunbathing on the far side  banks of the dam.

Yellow Billed Stork
Yellow-billed Stork seeking for fish with his beak in the water in Kruger National Park
The Yellow-billed Stork walking in the water seeking for fish. It is a large stork with pinkish grey-white plumage and black flight-feathers and tail.

Kingfishers were everywhere. Giant Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, They all were quite busy catching fish and left, only to  return a few minutes later. That was an indication that there were babies in the nests. Here is  a Giant Kingfisher with its catch. It then hits the fish against the wall until it is dead before swallowing it.

Giant Kingfisher
Giant Kingfisher with a fish in its beak in
Giant Kingfisher with a big fish in its beak. The Giant Kingfisher is the largest Kingfisher in Africa.

There were various species of Herons’ as well. We saw Grey Heron, Green backed Heron, Squacco Heron and the Goliath Heron.

Green backed Heron
Green-backed heron on Branches
The green-backed heron is one of the smaller herons at around 45 cm in length.

When the birds fly low over the water the fish jumped out of the water. Grey Heron where flying low over the water and catching fish in flight. On the photo below one can see that the Grey heron has a fish in its beak and then one can see another little fish jumping out of the water. I also have a beautiful photo of a Hamerkop flying low over the water, where one can see dozens of fish trying to get away in front of it.

Other water birds that we saw included the Three-banded Plover, White crowned Lapwing, Spotted Thick Knee, Hammerkop, Yellow Billed Stork, African Jacana, Black Winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Great Egret. I believe there were a lot more. But since it was our first trip to the Kruger and with only 4 days, Debbie had so many still to show us.

Three-banded Plover
Three banded Plover standing in the water
Three banded Plover. They love the wetlands and freshwater inland dams and lakes, or where ever there is water.

The bird that stole the lime light, could only be one bird, and that is the African Fish Eagle. It’s calls will give you goose bumps for sure. What a majestic bird. It would swoop down from high up a tree and with its fierce claws grab onto its meal. Just look at that claws, no fish are going to escape that claws. 

African Fish Eagle
African Fish-Eagle flying very low over the Sabie dam, Kruger National Park
Fish-Eagle flying very low over the Sabie dam. African Fish-Eagle is a large bird of prey. Dark body and wings contrast with white head and tail.

The Eagle definitely also had some chicks to feed, as each time that he caught a fish he would fly away to return only a few minutes later to catch another.

African Fish Eagle bypass with fish in its claws, Kruger National Park
This Fish Eagle flew past us with a fish in it’s claws at the lower Sabi dam in Kruger National Park.

There were various other animals that visited the dam during the day to drink some water. Like I mentioned previously, one can sit at this dam the whole day and you would definitely get some good pictures. Well,  I did.

African Jacanas walking next to the water with its very long toes.
African Jacanas walking next to the water with its very long toes. African Jacanas are sociable birds gathering together in groups near their preferred swamp-like habitats.

Another two Kingfishers that are quite easily spotted in the Kruger, is the Woodland Kingfisher and the Brown Woodland Kingfisher. Your chances to see tem are better in the bush where they hunt insects.

Woodland Kingfisher
Woodland kingfisher on branch
A medium-sized, blue-backed kingfisher with a distinctive bi-colored bill – red above and black below.

No wildlife park with predators, are without its scavengers. Blacked back Jackal, Painted dogs and Hyena were frequently spotted.  This Hyena with one blind eye was my favourite. With blood all over its face and the blue-blind eye, it really is a scary little fellow. But they got a purpose in the wild, and they are good at it.

Blood faced Hyena with one blue blind eye - Kruger National Park
Blood faced Hyena with one blue blind eye. The spotted hyena, also known as the laughing hyena or tiger wolf, is native to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Painted dogs or African Wild Dogs, is one of my favorite animals. They kept us entertained for a few kilometers, running on the tar road in the early morning rain with a few dozen cars following then. They were definitely on the hunt out. It was our last day and we had several hundred kilos’ back to home and had no choice but to leave the pack behind.

African Wild Dogs
African Wildldog - Painted dog - Kruger National Park
African Wild dog The pack is led by an Alpha Male and Female who do most of the breeding. They are also called African Painted Dogs or Painted Wolf. With a success rate of 80% in all hunts it is Africa’s most effective predator. Wild dogs are high-stamina hunters and can keep up high speed chases for several kilometres.

There are a lot of other animals and birds, especially the mammals – antelope, that I did not mention, which would make this post too long to read. Is it worthwhile to visit the Kruger National Park? Definitely yes, even as far as from oversees,  I would say it is worthwhile. There is something to see for everybody’s liking, from insects, flowers, birds, to animals and the big five, A photographers dream….

Southern Ground Hornbill walking with a snake in its beak. - Kruger National Park
Southern Ground Hornbill crossing a gravel road in Kruger. The Hornbill had a snake in its beak.

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Fanie Heymans

Fanie Heymans is a wildlife photographer and nature lover. Based in the West Coast at St Helena Bay, South Africa. Images of his wild life photography was featured in the local Wild Magazine, Wildcard blog, and internationally by Media Drum World, and Mail Online.

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