I have been going to the Kruger National Park for 17 years, at least four times a year, and I can honestly say that what my wife and I saw on the 19 July 2013 was pure Kruger magic. Text and pictures by David and Courtney Marneweck
Courtney and I had been at the Zoological Society of Southern Africa (ZSSA) 2013 conference in Tshipise and the temptation of being so close to the park very easily got the better of us and we booked three nights. It turned out to be a fantastic few days starting from Pafuri gate and ending at Satara rest camp.
By all accounts, the 19th was a slow day in the park. In other words this meant no cats, big or small. We did have a couple of leopard sightings the day before but the frustration of not seeing lions was getting to me and we travelled from Letaba to Satara very early in the morning in the hope of having some lion sightings before our return to Johannesburg on the 20th.
We had already tried the famous S100, S41, H6, H1-4, H7, S127 and Girivana to no avail. Seeing as we had a few hours before the gates closed, we decided to chance our luck on a fairly long and protracted route back to Satara. We decided to drive towards Balule camp then turn right back along the S90 all the way to the tarred H1-4 in the hope of finding something special. Little did we know just how special that drive would be.
At approximately 17:00, we were 4,2km from the H1-4 when we noticed a couple of small animals in the road ahead. At a distance, I was convinced that it was two African wild cats but we stopped the car about 100m away just to be sure not to scare them off. As we looked through our binoculars, we could not believe what we were looking at; two serval kittens very calmly sitting in the road, apparently sunning themselves!
Our excitement exploded and we edged the car forward hoping not to scare them.
As we approached the spot, they were still there, both sitting right on the side of the road and completely relaxed.
Once the sighting was over, we had to sit in awe and ask each other if that really happened. To have had those two kittens, with no other people around and with perfect light for photography, was quite surreal. As two people that work in and visit the bush each holiday, this was a first but hopefully not a last.
This will definitely go down as one of the top sightings we have ever had. As soon as we got back within cell phone signal, we eagerly “tinged” the sighting to Latest Sightings-Kruger in the hope that these serval kittens will be viewed many more times during their lives. It goes to show just how magical and amazing the Kruger Park can be with a bit of patience, perseverance and some very good luck!
About the photographers
My wife (Courtney Marneweck) and I are both postgraduate students at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and University of Pretoria respectively. We currently live in Pietermaritzburg but often make trips to Kruger whenever we can. Courtney is currently conducting her MSc/PhD research on “Olfactory communication in white rhino in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park (KZN)” while I am registering for my PhD at the Centre for Wildlife Management in Pretoria where I am working on African wild dogs across the various KZN reserves.
All of the photographs that David shot were with a Canon 7D body and with a Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM telephoto zoom lens. “I set the camera to Aperture Priority and opened the lens up wide (f/5.6) to try and freeze their movements in the low light to so as to ensure that all I had to worry about was composition and not about metering the light.” The photographs Courtney took were with a Canon 30D body and a 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM zoom lens.
These photographs are presented to Tip Africa Publishing for use on Wild Card’s website only. All other usage is to be discussed with the photographer/s.