Trip report: Kruger National Park Oct-Nov 2013 (Punda Maria area)

I cannot believe my last trip report was posted way back in October 2013 on the Family affair in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. So I am due to post another trip report. So let us go to another part of South Africa – this time well known to the rest of the world.

This trip report is on my visit to the northern part of the Kruger National Park.

My sister, her husband and I planned and booked the trip well in advanced (almost 1 year) and we stayed at the following camps:

Punda Maria – 5 days

Shingwedzi – 2 days

Bataleur – 2 days

Shimuwini – 1 day

Olifants – 1 day

Satara – 1 day

We stayed the first night in Louis Trichardt and entered the park early on Sunday morning via Punda Maria gate. As with all my other trip report, I’ll let the photos tell the stories theme by theme and not day by day.

My previous visit to the Kruger park was a few years ago – before I became interested in photography. So I only had a point-and-shoot camera at that stage and I did not like photography that much. So this time around it was different as my equipment consisted of a Nikon D3S & Nikon D800 camera, 600mm, 200-400mm, 70-200mm, & 17-24mm & 105mm macro lenses, and a Nikon 1.4 convertor. I did not really have high expectations before the trip because I was not familiar with the environment and circumstances and I did not know what to expect – unlike the Kgalagadi. But after all – I was very impressed with the images I got although I came home with only about 2500 images after being almost 2 weeks in the park. Totally different from the Kgalagadi – after three weeks in the Kgalagadi (just after this Kruger Park trip) I came home with about 11 000 images.

Let’s start this time around with something different – we stayed next to a tree plantation in Louis Trichardt and I’ve tried to get some abstract photography going:

Here are a few images of the trees:


 Tree abstract

Tree abstract 1

Nikon D800 camera with 105mm macro lens, ISO100, 1.3 sec, f22, exposure comp = +0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.



 Tree abstract 2

Tree abstract 2

Nikon D800 camera with 105mm macro lens, ISO100, 1 sec, f32, exposure comp = -0.7, Aperture priority, WB = sun.



And another abstract photo – this time of an elephant. We came across this elephant bull near Punda Maria camp late one afternoon and because of the low light conditions, my shutter speed was automatically very low – almost by accident and I got it even lower with an f-stop of 32.


Elephant abstract

Elephant abstract

Nikon D800 camera with 200-400mm lens @ 200mm, ISO100, 1/2 sec, f32, exposure comp = +1., Aperture priority, WB = sun.



For a day or two we did not have great photographic sighting and we were just enjoying ourselves in the park environment (just being in the park). Near Crookes corner we came upon a group of baboons and this small one took a leap of faith over the thorns below him. It was overcast and I had to increase my ISO to get a decent shutter speed.


Baby baboon jump 1

Baboon jump 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1600, 1/1250 sec, f8, exposure comp = +0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun.


Almost at the same spot we saw a Black shoulder kite ready to take off – we waited and were not disappointed. However, the action happened a bit far from us resulting in a heavily cropped image.


Black shouldered Kite take off 1

Black shoulder kite take off

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1250, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.


It looks like Crookes corner is the place to be for watching raptors and vultures. A lot of vultures are breeding in the top of the trees along the river. We saw a few Africa fish eagles as well and the yellow bill kites, as always, on the lookout an easy piece of food. Below is a yellow bill kite flying over the river doing exactly that.

 Yellow bill kite in flight 2

Yellow bill kite in flight 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/5000 sec, f4, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.



Around Punda Maria there were lots of animals and birds. I’ve only been in that area once before (about 20years ago) and from what I’ve read, my expectation was not very high because everybody told us there is not a lot going on in that area. So, it was a nice surprise to experience the wild and birdlife around Punda Maria. So, do not believe what people are telling you. Go and experience it yourself. For me, there are more enough to keep us busy. Here are a few examples:


Oxpecker framed

Oxpecker framed 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1000, 1/1600 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.33, Aperture priority, WB = sun.



 Sharpe greybuck 1

Sharpe greybuck 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO4000, 1/3200 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.



Tree squirrel 1

Tree squirrel 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO2500, 1/8000 sec, f5, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

These guys are so quick I had to get a shutter speed of 1/8000 to get a sharp image of this one. And that means I had to increase my ISO to 2500. Luckily it is small animal and I decided that f5 would do the trick for me – and it did. We’ve spend a lot of time watching these little creatures running around near the bridge over the Luvuvhu River.


And these two love ones were just around the corner from the Punda Maria camp enjoying themselves after a hard day’s work foraging.


Tree squirrel grooming 1

Two squirrels grooming 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO4000, 1/3200 sec, f4, exposure comp = +0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.



Almost every morning we drove the 50km+ from Punda Maria to the Pafuri area and back. And we were not disappointed with the sightings in this area. However, getting good quality shots were hard to come by and I had to work hard to some decent images. But that did not bother me as I was enjoying myself.  Here are few examples of images taken on your way to the Pafuri area.

One morning we were very fortunate to come across a martial eagle that has caught and killed a water monitor. The eagle was sitting in the middle of the tarred road and it struggled to take off with the monitor in its claws. It was great to watch the eagle struggling and eventually took off. I could not get a great image because of the angle – the eagle moved away from use – but I am pretty satisfied with what I got.


Martial eagle with catch 1

Martial eagle with catch 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1600, 1/1250 sec, f4.5, exposure comp = +0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

I’ve decided to use a positive exposure compensation (Over exposure) because of the dark backside of the eagle – it assisted me to capture the detail in feathers. If I was using a negative exposure compensation, I would have lost the detail in the darker parts of the bird. If the bird was facing me, I definitely would have used a negative exposure compensation (Under exposure) in order to prevent clipping the highlights in the white breast and bellow feathers,



We were very fortunate to come across the Kloppersfontein lion pride a few times during our rides. Here is one example one early morning in nice sunlight:


Golden Kruger Lion The Look

Golden Kruger lion 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1250, 1/3200 sec, f4, exposure comp = -0.33, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

As you can see – I do try and keep my shutter speed relative high all the time (around 1/1600 to 1/3200 sec) even with stationary animals. I do not want to be surprise by a fast reaction/action from the animal with my camera setting on a slow shutter speed.



And then there were the ever-present buffalos – so I’ve tried something different when one buffalo emerged from the herd while the rest were creating some great dust clouds.


 Buffalo in herd 1 1400

Buffalo in herd 1

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @200mm, ISO1000, 1/2000 sec, f4, exposure comp = +0.33, Aperture priority, WB = sun


 And the rest of the trip report will follow at a later stage.


Message to take home:

As you can see from this trip report and my images, I’ve tried to move away from the usual Kruger park images you are so familiar with. Why?  I am sure you have reached a point where all your photos start to look the same. Well, when I look at all the other images for other photographers coming back from the Kruger park, they almost look the same to me. And I am afraid I’ll go the same route. That feeling makes me think about taking photos in the Kruger park and I thought to myself: Do I feel uninspired going to the Kruger park? I’ve never been to the Kruger park since I became seriously interested in photography (end of 2010). Feeling uninspired happens to every photographer every now and then. It is kind of like a writer’s block. As photographers become too comfortable with how we take photos, they tend to get into a routine and everything starts to look the same. This is why it’s important for real photographers (called artists) to break out and think outside the box. That forces you to look for alternative images to show to the world and I hope I’ve achieved some of these objectives with this trip report.


Until my next trip report, keep on shooting but think outside the box while taking alternative photos.


  1. #1 by de Wets Wild on February 4, 2014 - 2:41 am

    Now this is a trip report I’ve really been looking forward to, and you did not disappoint Willem! I can’t wait for the next installment.

    I absolutely agree with your comments about the sightings around Punda Maria and Pafuri. We’ve never been disappointed – our last visit to the area was in September last year and we’re actually heading that way again next week. There’s always something interesting to see – the unique birdlife and chance of encountering rare antelope are big drawcards for us. There’s few places as beautiful as Pafuri’s riverine forests, and best of all you don’t have to jostle with a crowd of people at every sighting.

    • #2 by whk139 on February 4, 2014 - 12:49 pm

      Hi de Wets – thanks for the comment and if I had to go back, it would be again to that areas.

  2. #3 by Jan on February 4, 2014 - 9:35 am

    Hi Willem, hou baie van die fotos. Veral die idee van iets anders afneem en anders afneem. Het jy die buffel so “skoon geneem”, (1 foto), of het jy iets gedoe om die buffel uit te sonder van die stof en die res?

    • #4 by whk139 on February 4, 2014 - 12:48 pm

      Hi Jan – thanks vir die comment. Yes, ek het die buffel skoon afgeneem. Ek het gewag totdat een buffel uit die trop beweeg het – nadat die res van die trop lekker stof opgeskop het. Weereens gaan dit oor geduld en wag vir interessants om te gebeur.

  3. #5 by Christa Snyman on February 4, 2014 - 7:39 pm

    Pragtige foto’s Willem en beslis klop op die skouer werd!

    • #6 by whk139 on February 5, 2014 - 2:38 am

      Baie dankie Christa – bly jy het dit geniet.

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