Category: Kruger National Park


Cheetah are one of my favorites and I had been on the lookout for them since we entered the park several days previously. On the last day we had a long drive from the Satara campsite to J’burg airport and so it was another early morning.  We drove slowly down the road and spotted lots of wildlife, including sable antelope, hyena, and a chameleon.  I had all but given up on seeing cheetah but as we came around a bend in the road we spotted two casually walking down the middle of the road. Initially we were the only ones around and slowly followed them along the road. However, within a few minutes another car approached from the opposite direction and instead of stopping and letting the cheetah continue to move along the road, the people drove right up to them to try and get some pictures. The cheetah calmly moved off to the left into the green grass and low laying trees and shrubs that were charred black from a recent fire.  Like most of the wildlife in Kruger, they didn’t seem to mind the human attention too much and I was able to get a few decent photos below.

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Cheetah jogging along searching for any signs of danger or potential prey

Using it’s keen sight, this young cheetah spots a herd of impala off in the distance.  The siblings maneuvered to the be downwind of the herd and slowly crept closer to the herd using the few shrubs as camouflage.  However, they still stood out like sore thumbs and the impala easily spotted them in the green grass.  The impala emitted their warning calls to the others in the area and casually moved away from the cheetah.  Seeing that the had been spotted, the cheetah relaxed and moved off into the bush to regroup.  A large percentage of attempted kills by cheetah are unsuccessful and even if they do manage to make a kill, they are routinely pushed off the kill by the much more powerful lions, hyenas and leopards.  These two cheetah appeared quiet young and likely just left their mother to try to attempt to establish a territory of their own. Male siblings will stay together to work as a team, while the female siblings will eventually move off to hunt on their own.

A young hyena bars it’s teeth while assuming a submissive posture to a much larger adult.  Female hyena are larger and more dominant than males.  Offspring born to the dominant female automatically assume the next highest rank in the group.  Their powerful jaws are among the strongest in the animal word and allow them to crush and eat bones.

On the drive down from Olifonts to Satara campgrounds we came across a family of hyenas sitting in a man made watering hole. After a few minutes of relaxing in the water two of the hyenas started splashing around the pool. There are many of these watering holes throughout the park and they represent the old way the park and wildlife were managed. In the past, during periods of extreme drought parks staff would fill the basins with water so that there weren’t as many wildlife die-offs. However, this selected for less drought tolerant species and the number of drought resistant species like sable antelope that had naturally evolved to the climatic conditions have decreased. Going forward, most of the man-made watering holes will be decommissioned and the animals will have to re-adapt to life without year round water throughout the park.

With full stomachs and having just cooled off in the artificial pool a young hyena decides to play a game of tag with a somewhat less enthused adult. The game lasted about ten minutes before they made their way back to the den to rest and get out of the heat for the day.

This little chameleon was walking across the main road when we spotted him. After taking a few pictures and scanning for any large carnivores I got out,  picked him up and moved him to the grass.

Another roadside spotting. The first day we arrived in the park it had just stopped raining and these guys were all out sitting on the side of the roads looking for insects and warming up on the asphalt.  Farther down the road we came across a green snake trying to eat on of these frogs but the frog inflated itself so much that the snake could not get it’s jaws around it and gave up.  Unfortunately my camera decided to malfunction at this precise moment and all the pictures I had taken were out of focus.

These prehistoric looking birds have historically been difficult for me to get close enough for decent photographs but I have seen them on numerous safaris in Kenya and Uganda. However, this family of three consisting of 2 adults and a juvenile were walking along just adjacent to the road between Satara and Olifants camps in Kruger National Park.  They didn’t seem to be bothered at all that we were there and they continued to search for food.  They are opportunistic in what they eat which can include insects, lizards, snakes and even hare. When they catch something small enough to shallow whole, they first toss it up into the air like a piece of popcorn before consuming it.

This photo of a juvenile ground hornbill shows a bit of their playful personality. Just prior to taking this photo the bird walked up to this torn apart tree (compliments of a hungry elephant) and grabbed at a piece of the bark. It pulled back and forth and  jumped up and down until it was able to rip a piece  off the tree.  As if to show off it’s accomplishment it flew up onto the tree with the piece of bark still in it’s beak. However, it quickly lost interest and after pausing for a few seconds it tossed the bark up into the air, jumped down and went back to foraging for food.

In between searching for food this hornbill briefly looked up above the dried grasses to survey the open savannah. I snapped off a few photos and this by far was my favorite.

After stopping at a camp to stock up on supplies we had a look at the wildlife sighting map. Each camp has a map of the surrounding area that people can mark down the various high profile wildlife sightings (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog)  for that day and the day before.  We were both hoping to see wild dog, but we would really have to be lucky to spot them as they are very rare in the park.  Someone had posted on the board that they had seen wild dog in the area and so we headed off to try our luck.  While we didn’t see any wild dog we did come across a lot of other wildlife including a large herd of elephants playing in a waterhole (photos to come), zebra and of course impala.  However, with most wildlife drives I usually see something unique and unexpected, which is what these three photos illustrate.

We came down a steep section of the gravel road and had to drive across a section of road that had been flooded by a small pond adjacent to the road. As we approached the flooded road I spotted a turtle, then another and another. They appeared to have spotted us and had no fear of our car.  As our tires touched the water they started walking more quickly towards the car. Soon over 10 were ‘running’ towards the car.  To get these photos I put my wide angle lens on, opened the door, held my camera just above the water and tried to center a turtle in the middle of the frame so that the camera would automatically focus on it. Thankfully it worked and I managed to get several photos from their perspective.  It wasn’t until I got home that I figured out that these are Serrated Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus), a relatively common terrapin found from East Africa down to South Africa. Apparently they are naturally quiet bold as a found several photos of them perched on top of hippos!  I suspect these ones associate cars with free handouts as they were way too friendly.

This terrapin seemed to pose for me but I suspect he was just annoyed that I was not giving him any food!  Most of the other terrapin had moved back into the deeper water at this point but any time we moved the car forward they would all come racing back up.

By this point we had managed to cross the water to the other side of the pond but not without being followed by one of the terrapins.  The females in this species are generally larger than the males and so I think this was a curious female terrapin. She walked right up to my lens before deciding to return to the safety of the pond and we quickly left before anymore decided to come up for another visit.

I’m back!  I know it’s been quiet some time since I last posted photos on my blog so thank you for hanging around.  Hopefully in the next few months I can start updating my blog on a more regular basis. I still have lots of photos from my trip last year to Kenya to add in addition to all the new photos I have of wildlife in Alberta, Canada. But I thought I would start off with a few photos from my most recent trip to South Africa. The reason for the trip was because I was teaching a course at the annual Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) Healthcare Workshop hosted by JGI Chimp Eden in Nelspruit, South Africa. The workshop is for veterinary personnel working in sanctuaries throughout Africa that care for great apes (gorillas, chimps, bonobos).  I have been involved with PASA since 2003 and I am always amazed each time I come to these conferences to meet the vets working throughout Africa that do so much for the wildlife in their sanctuaries with so little in terms of supplies and basic things like reliable electricity.  If you are interested in learning more about PASA please visit http://www.pasaprimates.org or find them on Facebook.

After the workshop I rented a car with a colleague from the workshop and we drove the short distance from Nelspruit to Kruger National Park.  If you have the opportunity to visit this park I highly recommend renting a car and making your own safari.  It is not any more expensive than going with a safari company and you can set your own itinerary.  We woke up at 4am to be at the camp gate when it opened at 430am and started the morning game drive. About two hours into the drive we started passing by a bunch of large acacia trees and I thought they would be excellent places for a leopard to be resting in. Literally within a few minutes I spotted a leopard sitting up in a tree about 50 feet away. We watched if for about 10 minutes as it tried to get comfortable in the tree and get some sleep. However, it was restless and seemed to be distracted by something. It got up, stretched and slowly made it’s way down the tree to the ground. At this point all I could see was it’s tail.  Initially it stayed in the spot it landed on the ground but then all of a sudden it started jumping around in the tall grass as if it was playing with something.  Within a few seconds I could no longer see it anymore but I was confident that if we had patience we would see it again. We slowly circled the car around the next corner and then backtracked to the original spot but did not see the leopard. We circled around the corner again and just as we started to drive off my colleague yelled out “leopard, no two leopards!” They were sitting in the grass about 20 feet away staring at us!  We couldn’t believe our luck. Not one, but two leopards and both were in a clearing with great morning light on them. Over about five minutes we watched them as they made their way through the green grass. It appeared it was a mom and her almost full grown female cub.  They rubbed chins together as they walked along without a care that we were there. The next two photos are a few more I took before they disappeared.