Year in the Wild Blog

Kruger Catch-up – Week 6 – Difficult leopard and not much else (not really)

You have to work a bit harder at spotting wildlife in the Olifants area of central Kruger, and my sixth week in the park was probably my quietest. After a few days of seeing very little, it can start to get a bit tiresome (to be honest), especially during the heat of the day. So you learn to see the little things, and I suppose that’s why the more time you spend in Africa’s wilderness areas, the more you learn, because it’s inevitable that sometimes you’ll see NO leopards, or lions or elephants. But there is SO much else to see…and smell, and hear, and touch and taste. I think that’s when you become a true bush lover…when it doesn’t matter that you don’t see the traditional crowd-pleasers.

But hey, there’s always a leopard lurking somewhere, like this one near Letaba Camp…who refused to co-operate with me. Enjoy the photos :)

It's good to know that sometimes, the animals are still in charge. Late one afternoon, as I was making my way back to Letaba Camp, rushing to make the closing of the gates, I saw a whole lot of cars on the side of the road. And yes, there was the leopard. Through my 500mm lens, I had a great view. The light was perfect, the composition good, and the leopard very photogenic, as always. Except, for twenty minutes, he didn't move his head once to look at me. So I took a great photo of a leopard which never looked at me. I think he was fed-up with all the attention. But I grudgingly respected him.

A bull elephant crossing the Letaba River...

The view from Letaba restaurant, now a Mugg and Bean branded restaurant. Good food, much better service than the old restaurants!

The fig trees in Letaba camp are amazing...

A morning walk with guide John Adamson near Olifants Camp is highly recommended. He is one of the best guides I have come across in Kruger.

Saddle-billed storks are not common at all, and are usually only found within protected areas. I saw plenty in Kruger, but was conscious that these birds are hardly ever seen outside of the park.

African spoonbill, in a pool on the Letaba River road (the S47). Not often that I get close to these birds, so although the light wasn't good for photos, I was grateful for the opportunity...

Balule Camp just south of Olifants is one of the original camps in the park, and only has 7 small thatched rondavels, with communal ablutions and a cooking area. It's beautiful and perfect, a reminder of how Kruger's camps used to be. The rondavles have no windows, just a big gap (with wire messhing and mozzie netting) betwen the walls and the thatch roofs. It's also the only camp where non-white people could come stay during the apartheid and colonial years. South Africa has come a long way...

I must still tally up my predator sightings, but I think I saw more leopards than lions while in Kruger. Most sightings are like this, though. I took this photo between Olifants and Satara. This female leopard was about two hundred metres from the road, in this leadwood tree. It's not a great photo but it represents reality...most of the time, these cats are quite happy to be far from the road, and only a few are habituated to vehicles. Interestingly, according to researcher Mitch Reardon, your best chance of seeing leopards is near tar roads that lie alongside riverine areas, because the individuals whose territories cover the tar roads and river dongas are used to vehicles and consequently won't run away too quickly...

Bateleur eagle...check out those colours.

Klipspringers spotted on dolomite ridges...

Notice the huge scent-marking gland on the male klipspringer's face...it looks almost sore, but it's normal and healthy.

And their hooves..rubbery and adapted to bounding up and down rocks.

One of my favourite views in Kruger...looking south down the Olifants River, from Olifants Camp.

A huge herd of buffalo at a dam near Olifants...

Sunset over the Olifants River

For more, go to www.yearinthewild.com and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Check out my Flickr photos at www.flickr.com/scottnramsay and my Instagram photos at www.instagram.com/wildscotty. Twitter on www.twitter.com/yearinthewild.

Thanks to my partners Cape Union MartFord EverestGoodyear, and K-Way.

As well as WildCardEeziAwnFrontrunnerGlobecommHetznerNational LunaOutdoor PhotoSafari Centre Cape Town, Tracks 4 Africa, and Vodacom.

Conservation partners BirdLife South AfricaBotswana Department of Wildlife and National ParksCapeNatureEastern Cape Parks and TourismEzemvelo KZN WildlifeGorongosa National ParkiSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

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