Kruger Park Trip Report - December 2017

We stayed at 9 places over three weeks, starting on the 14th December 2017 and ending on the 6th January 2018. 

Temperatures varied from 15 degrees Celsius to 49 degrees Celsius!

Kruger Park Trip Report - Overview of Predator Sightings

Lions: 21

Leopards: 7

Wild Dogs: 4

Cheetah: 3

In addition, we had great elephant, buffalo, hyena, rhino and bird sightings on our self-drive safari.

Our first overnight stop was Hamilton Parks Country Lodge; a great place to unwind before starting your Kruger adventure.

Our second stopover was Hulala Lakeside Lodge; by now we were starting to relax – there is something special about sipping coffee on your patio overlooking the lake.

With breakfast pack in hand we left Hulala early and went straight up the R40 to Orpen Gate (126 km) and made it in good time. We spent the morning around the Orpen Satara area and had some nice sightings of lions on the S100. After leaving the cool Hazyview area we now had temperatures going up to around 39 degrees. 

Our 3rd stop was Shalati Safari Camp.

When we left the park we decided to go down Welverdiend road which is a gravel road that links the Orpen road to the Acornhoek road, well it was not a good decision because we had 12kms of badly corrugated road then the Acornhoek road was full of potholes, we are just glad it was only a short stretch to the Shalati Safari Camp gate.

We left camp early each morning and decided to rather go through Manyeleti Game Reserve to Orpen gate - we would rather pay each day and go through the Reserve than do the first corrugated route we did. It is only 18 km through Manyeleti Reserve to Orpen’s entrance gate and a much better option because you get to travel through the park and see animals. It only took about half an hour to get through so we got to Orpen Gate just after it opened.

The highlight of our stay at Shalati was our lion and hyena interaction in Manyeleti on our last morning. 

We left Shalati through Manyeleti and entered Orpen gate at 6am and travelled down to Nkambeni Safari Camp.

Our highlight was coming across a ranger and his dog on the S125. The ranger asked us for water for his dog as there were lions on the opposite side of the stream and the dog could not go down to drink!  

Boulders Safari Lodge was the 5th stop of our journey and is located just 12 kms outside the park past Malelane gate. On our way down through the Kruger to Boulders we saw lion, wild dogs and a leopard.

Our highlight at Boulders was the beautiful scenery and landscapes (plus the great food and service!).

Sunset from the boulders

Our next stay was at Tamboti tented camp in the Kruger, we had tent number 20 for the next 4 nights and it was great fun as we joined our friend Trevor, who had tent 19 next to us, and we traveled together each day searching for the elusive leopard and other subjects to photograph.

Trevor and us at the Satara shop

The highlight of our stay was the Tamboti Leopard. The last animals we saw when returning from our afternoon drive was a wildebeest mother and calf on the Tamboti access road.

That night we spotted a leopard walking past our tents just after dinner...

The next morning we left as the gates opened but could not find the leopard so we headed towards Satara. The morning was very quiet and then we checked the Latest Sightings app - the leopard was in a tree back at Tamboti camp!

We headed back to camp and found a big traffic jam at the sighting but we were patient and waited until two gaps became available.

The leopard was in the grass behind the tree with the wildebeest calf carcass up in the tree so we spent most of the afternoon sitting at the sighting waiting for the leopard to climb back into the tree.

We were rewarded with some great images...

Descending the tree after feeding for about 20 minutes
Note the hyena below!

In addition to the leopard we saw a lioness stalking various targets at Sweni hide

The lioness didn't chase as the buck sensed her and ran away each time!

After we left the hide we spotted a cheetah...

we saw mating lions...

and hunting lions at Gudzani east waterhole...

The next day we saw the Orpen pack of wild dogs chase a cheetah up a tree...

Late afternoons we spent at Shimangwaneni Dam where we watched elephants in the dam...

We also watched a Secretary bird collecting grass for its nest and feeding its chicks...

Then it was off to Kambaku River Lodge for 3 nights. We drove through the park and got to see so much. 

We spotted a leopard high up in a tree - most people photographed what you see here - impala legs hanging down and just a hint of a leopard... 

By waiting about 40 minutes we got to see the leopard descending the tree.

The highlight for us while staying at Kambaku, however, was the leopard lying on the river bank on our last night and the birds that kept us entertained, like this pin-tailed whydah...

We then stayed at Letaba Camp in the Kruger Park for 4 nights.

Moonrise in front of Letaba camp

The highlight for us was the high level bridge where we photographed the sunrise and sunset each day.

Sunset from Letaba bridge

So many visitors hit the road and travel for miles to try and get good photos yet the bridge is right there and provides so much more than just landscapes.

On New Year’s Day it was just us and one other person on the bridge – Hein Grobler, the program Manager for Wildcard. 

We photographed the sunrise and then chatted to Hein for a while. 

We usually leave right after sunrise but we were delayed by chatting to Hein. 

After Hein drove off on his game drive, we packed up our tripods and other photo gear and then we headed off towards Mopani as we wanted to check out Grootvlei Dam.

As we drove off the bridge a leopard crossed the road in front of us!

It headed down the S62 towards Matambeni Hide – we followed him for a while as he played hide and seek with us and then he disappeared. 

We had seen leopards around every main camp in Kruger except Letaba Camp, so this was a big occasion for us, and what a great start to 2018! (Hein – you can delay us anytime you want).

Hein was also on the bridge the previous evening – it seems only a handful of people appreciate the potential that the bridges provide.  

In addition to the bridge we then saw a herd of elephants at Grootvlei Dam and more at Nyawutsi hide... 

and a Lilac-breasted Roller entertained us for hours while feeding its nest at one of the lookouts along the Letaba River.

In Letaba Camp we photographed scorpions that lived in the Mopani tress...

Our final stay was Mtomeni Camp in Letaba Ranch. The highlight for us was the landscapes and open plains with the dead Leadwood trees.

We also saw a tawny eagle fly down to catch a water monitor right in front of us but it was too fast and too close for us to capture any images!

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