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Kruger National Park: Nature Photographers' Paradise

Kruger National Park: Nature Photographers' Paradise

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by Editor Lourens Durand

Ivory tusks rattle and clatter as two giant elephants – one male and one female – clash head on in a show of force. Between them, dwarfed by their stature, stands a bewildered new-born elephant calf.


Its mother, with umbilical cord still visible, forcefully resists the unwanted advances of the bull elephant, who is confused by the pheromones released during the birthing process, mistakenly thinking the cow has transmitted an invitation to mate.

The calf, in mortal danger, is escorted away by the other females in the family group.
 

 

This is just one small sample of the wonders that can mesmerise any observant visitor to the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

The Kruger National Park, South Africa’s premier safari destination, encompasses 2 million hectares of bush dedicated to the conservation of South Africa’s fauna and flora and part of the envisaged Great Limpopo Trans Frontier park, made up by joining similar parks in Zimbawe and Mozambique.
 


“White Rhino Grazing”by Lourens Durand

 


“Buffalo Drinking” by Lourens Durand

 


“Lioness on the Prowl” by Lourens Durand

 


“Leopard on the Prowl” by Lourens Durand

 

“Leopard in sunset” by Allan Høgholm


Apart from being the home of the Big Five (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard) the park hosts large numbers of other animals.

Cheetah
A cat with explosive acceleration, reaching up to 100 kph from a standing start.

Wild Dogs
They hunt aggressively in packs of 12 to 15, but only the alpha pair breed.

Spotted Hyaena
The only mammal capable of digesting bones.

Black Backed Jackal
A small carnivore that trots around with a bouncy gait.

Hippopotamus
Spends most of the day in water to conserve energy and to avoid sunburn, but grazes extensively at night.


“Hippo Entering the River” by Lourens Durand

Giraffe
Their long necks enable them to reach vegetation unavailable to other mammals, apart from elephants. The horny knobs on their heads are also used by males as weapons in combat.

 


“Young Giraffe” by Lourens Durand


Plains Zebra

Each animal has a unique black and white striped pattern.

 


“Young Zebra” by Lourens Durand


Warthog

Pig like animal with formidable tusks and facial warts that protect against blows from opponents’ tusks.

 


“Warthog” by Lourens Durand


Impala

The most abundant animal in the park, with a rocking horse-like gait when fleeing from predators.
 

 

Nyala

Bulls have an impressive coat, used as dominant displays when they turn side on to competitors.

Bushbuck
A small antelope with spiral horns. Their coat exhibits both stripes and spots for disruptive camouflage.

Kudu
Formidable curved horns used as weapons in territorial competition.

Blue Wildebeest
Strongly territorial gnus, once dubbed as the fools of the veld because of their awkward gait when running.
 


"Blue Wildebeest" by Lourens Durand"
 

Steenbok

Small, shy antelope, usually found in pairs.

Nile Crocodiles
Largest freshwater predator in Africa.
 


 
"Croc eats croc" by Lourens Durand

  


“Crocodile Swimming with Prey” by Lourens Durand


As if that is not enough, it is a bird lovers’ paradise with over 500 species of birds, including about 80 birds of prey.
 


“Martial Eagle” by Lourens Durand

 


“The Vulture” by Mario Moreno

 


“Western Cattle Egret” by Lourens Durand

 


“Squacco Heron Hunting” by Lourens Durand

 


“Cardinal Woodpecker” by Lourens Durand

 


“Malachite Kingfisher” by Lourens Durand

 


“Swainsons Spurfowl” by Lourens Durand

 


“Yellow Billed Hornbill Feeding” by Lourens Durand


This high level of biodiversity is due mainly to the wide variety of topographical and geological features that create a multitude of different habitats, from grassy basalt plains to rocky granite outcrops.

My wife and I are addicted to the Kruger Park, visiting at least three times a year on self-catering self-drive safaris. There are, however, many other options apart from self-driving and catering, ranging from budget tours to no-expenses-spared-your-own-butler type service at the more expensive exclusive lodges.

On our most recent visit we stayed in a hut on the idyllic banks of the Crocodile River at the Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp, where the exuberant dawn chorus of chattering birds welcomes each sunrise. We moved on to a tented camp with a bush view at Lower Sabie rest camp and finally to our time share chalet at Mjejane on the southern border of the park, where another serene bush view awaited us from our patio deck.

“Our Hut at Crocodile Bridge”


View on the Bush

 


View on the Interior


The weather wasn’t too kind to us, though, with rain and cold for all but two of our ten days there, making photography challenging. But hey, at the end of the worst drought in the region in over a hundred years, we weren’t complaining.

From a photography point of view, I used a Canon 5D Mk iv, with a Canon EF 100 – 400 mm lens and a 1.4X converter. When shooting on the go in the Kruger I have my camera set on 1/250 second shutter speed, f/8 and ISO for the prevailing light. If the subject is still there after the first couple of shots, I will adjust exposure compensation and depth of field as required. For birds in flight I use a faster shutter speed of 1/1600 to 1/2500 second or faster and I also use the AI Servo setting.

As mentioned earlier, the weather did not play along, but, all things considered, the Kruger National Park remains the ultimate experience for nature lovers and photographers - a must visit place at least once in your lifetime.

So, pack your gear!

 


“Waterbuck Portrait” by Lourens Durand

 


“Osprey with Catch” by Lourens Durand

  


 
"Get off!" by Lourens Durand

  

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