Good day all!
I’m hoping someone out there may be able to offer some advice on The Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, South Africa.
I am looking to go next year for a month to photograph wildlife, I am hoping to go in April or May - can anyone advise me if there would be a better time to go?.. the main thing I would like to know is if the area is very good for wildlife, I have done my research and it does appear to have a good variety of wildlife, Hippos, Crocs, Rhinos... I am paying a fair of money to do a photography program there and I don’t want to be disappointed by a lack of wildlife. I would really appreciate if anyone can share their experiences of this reserve or if you know whether it has a good reputation for wildlife viewing?
Martin, you'll be sure to get some incredible closeups of hippos, crocs, and birds from the various boats that give safaris along the estuary. in order to access many parts of the park, especially near the beaches, you will need a 4x4, but i would imagine if you are going on a photography program, they would have the right equipment to get you where you need to go. it's really a coastal park. Within an hour's drive is the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve that offers everything and anything you can imagine in terms of African wildlife/game and a little further up the road is the Mkuzi Wildlife Reserve, a little gem of a place with all kinds of waterholes and hides to view the game in the park. All of these are easy to drive to and through. Hluhluwe has some of the most rhinos in SA so you shouldn't be disappointed. I would just ask the program if they will be taking you to all of Kwazulu-Natal's game parks near St. Lucia. If you are interested in photographing people at all, the local homelands surrounding the parks offer plenty of opportunity.
Thank you for the info, the places you mention sound fantastic!... I will definitely ask if these parks are part of the program. What month do you advise to go?... I was thinking of April or May next year, I don't totally understand the seasons in Africa but for photography I'm going to need good visibilty and preferably not humid.
I travelled to the St Lucia/Hluhluwe area exactly the same time last year and got fantastic photos and plenty of animal sightings. Have a look at my blog if you like: www.getjealous.com/katenelson. You are heading into the dry winter time in SA, so animals were congregating at the waterholes in numbers. Croc and hippo sightings are pretty much guaranteed in St Lucia all year and the bird life is consistently good. I agree with the previous post that it is well worth going to Hluhluwe/Infolosi parks for excellent opportunities to see White Rhino, Elephants and if you are lucky the rest of the Big 5 as well.
With regard to timescales, I would stick with your plans. It will be drier/clearer by June/July but in the middle of winter you will miss opportunities to photograph some of the smaller creatures e.g. insects, snakes and the birds won't be as good. In some ways springtime is great as there are babies in abundance and birds in breeding plumage......but then you are likely to get rains. In the height of summer the area will be crowded with tourists, hot, sticky and full of mozzies. So on balance, I would go with your original dates - I found May a perfect time to go to St Lucia and relatively quiet in terms of crowds.
Have a fantastic trip (and if you are staying in South Africa after your course, then I would thoroughly recommend travelling down the coast afterwards to try and get a sighting of the Sardine Run in late June. Pods of dolphins up to 30,000 strong and whales galore - the perfect opportunity to put your newly learned skills in practice!
I hope this helps
Sounds amazing!... I'll look forward to reading your blog tonight, already what you've said has wet my appetitie!... I don't know if I can wait till May!
Martin, May is a decent time to go as well as June. In fact, as far as heat and humidity go, June is probably better. Depending on the type of rains that they have this summer, you can go in May and the vegetation growth is so dense you'll have a hard time seeing through the bush! But still, I've traveled several times to all those parks even in March after rains and it has produced incredible game viewing. July and August are peak game viewing times and there are some school holidays thrown in there, so things tend to get more crowded at that time of year. If you are partial to shooting pictures of birds, the Ndumu game reserve has incredible variety. For HUGE elephants, the Tembe Elephant Park is unrivaled. These smaller parks are still in Kwazulu-Natal, but on the border of Mozambique. If you like, you can check the photo gallery on my profile as I have lots of pics from most of these parks uploaded. Good luck with your planning! Holly