I was lucky enough to be able to experience six nights in Kruger and 4 nights in the Elephant Plains Game Lodge. When you say every day that it is now the best day of your life, you know you have had your dream holiday.
My journey started when being picked up by Shaheen at Johannesburg airport. He was right outside the baggage claim area, which meant as a solo visitor I didn’t need to be worried. He drove us to Hazy View with a couple of nice breaks along the way, and there I first met Pravir and Bradley. Little did I know then just how much I would come to regard them as my dream team.
On entering Kruger for the first time, my very first sighting was a baby giraffe that still had its umbilical cord attached! The afternoon was spent travelling in the direction of Berg en Dal – where we would be spending our first two nights. We saw numerous species as we went, and we stopped for lots of photo opportunities. Buffalo, rhino and elephants were all seen towards dusk. Pravir spent a lot of time helping guide me with my camera settings, knowing this is a weakness of mine. I was so pleased with how they came out. I knew early morning and at the loss of sun towards the end of our days that I needed my aardvark settings at the ready!
Through the next couple of days we had some unbelievable sightings. The kind of sightings I could only ever have dreamed of. I went with only two photos that I really wanted to come away with, mainly because I was so excited to just see everything. But a male lion portrait and a leopard in a tree were what I truly hoped for. By my second full day in Kruger, we had come across a mating pair of lions where I achieved my male lion portrait and although there was not a leopard in a tree we managed something even better. We stumbled across a beautiful female leopard named Aranyani. She posed so beautifully on a rock for us that my tree idea was long forgotten. Bradleys driving was superb. He knew exactly what the leopard would do next and that awarded me with one of my favourite trips from the whole event. She stopped maybe two meters away from and I got this stunning portrait shot.
After this our sightings snowballed. On our way to Skukuza camp, we saw 8 rhino along with more lionesses, another leopard called Mahogany. She hunted impala in front of our vehicle, performing the leopard crawl and delighting me. There were so many baby elephants, calm giraffe and amazing bird sightings that I claimed that it was the best day of my life. The Skukuza camp was very welcoming. It was a lovely clean room that I immediately felt comfortable in. I was lucky enough to be taken to the train restaurant for food. I highly recommend the pizza, it was delicious. I could sit and watch the vervet monkeys play and listen to the birds calling. Bradley cooked for me often. I was treated to traditional braais, cooked breakfasts and wonderful salads. They truly give big portions, I could never fit it all in.
My first large lion pride sighting came on our way to our next camp Satara. It is a sight I will never forget. Thirteen lions scattered along a dam wall. Two beautiful males that we could see, females and some cubs. There were some stunning photographical opportunities. A male and female walking together along the dam wall, playful moments and a cub bravely approaching us – stopping a short distance away.
I was told that Satara would be my favourite camp, and it definitely did not disappoint. The camp itself was peaceful, with wonderful rooms and a great restaurant. It was here that I got to hear lions calling during the night, with my room so close to the boundary line. The lions here, did not disappoint. By pure chance we arrived at a sighting of 6 females, 1 sub-adult male, and 8 cubs (some of which must have only been about three months old!). Bradley once again worked to get us in a prime position to see the lions walking towards us. We were privileged to spend a long amount of time with them. Seeing the interaction between the mums and their cubs, gave me photos I will treasure forever. Watching the cubs start nervous of the cars but finish walking boldly amongst them was special. Pravir was fantastic at finding out the names/pride names of the cats we were seeing. These were the Nwanetsi pride. To my delight I discovered the male coalition they belonged to contained Casper. The white lion I didn’t dare put on my dream list as it seemed like to big an impossibility, I would ever get to see him.
How wrong I was.
I know that Pravir had waited a very long time to get some great photos of Casper, and that Shaheen had never managed to see him. But on our last morning in Kruger every effort was made to find him. We did. Not only did I get a beautiful portrait of a male, I got a portrait of the only fully grown wild male white lion in the whole park.
Through visiting Satara I got to see Casper, take photos of young lion cubs and Shaheen surprised me by booking me on a night drive as well with SAN Parks. It was the best six nights in Kruger I could ever have hoped for.
From Kruger we ventured to Elephant Plains Game Lodge, for a different of experience. My room and the facilities were breath taking. Here I went on two game drives a day: 6.00 – 9.00am and 3.00 – 6.00pm. I was promised some incredible sightings and I was not disappointed. Thanks to Pravirs guidance, I was able to navigate my night time photography to achieve some brilliant photos including this male lion.
We saw lots of different leopards that I recognised from my time spent watching Wild Earth. They knew how much I wanted to see Djuma and made sure I spent plenty of time on the property. I got to see Tlalamba and her two cubs, meet Tristan as he was guiding for Wild Earth when we visited, and managed to see a pride of lions on an elephant carcass.
We were hit with some torrential rain whilst I was here, but as I had already learned, rain here meant for some incredible photo opportunities. We saw lots of leopards, lions and elephants, who were unfazed by the downpours.
It was here at Elephant Plains that one of my most magical experiences occurred… with an elephant! A young elephant approached our vehicle with curiosity. Luckily my phone was already in my hand for photos as I was able to take an incredible photo. I even managed a selfie after.
It really was the dream holiday for me. I have told everyone since I have been back that they should go and do it themselves. I want to say a huge thank you to the incredible Legend Safaris team for looking after me so well, and making sure I got everything I wanted from my trip and so much more. I will be back as soon as I can!