My Kruger Safari – A Mega Educational to Timbavati and Klaserie
Michelle is our Product and Reservations Manager, she just returned from the Kruger on an educational which took 30 tour operators on a whirlwind tour of the Klaserie and Timabavti reserves in Kruger
I joined a group of tour operators on a visit to the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve and the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. The aim: visit and experience numerous lodges, spot the magnificent game on offer and soak up the atmosphere while staying in some of the most beautiful places in the world.
We set off on a Friday morning from Cape Town on the very convenient direct flight to Hoedspruit, the gateway to the reserves in the mid and northern section of the Greater Kruger Area. Once our luggage arrived – on the tarmac of the parking lot – we were divided up into the groups we would explore the Kruger with. There were 8 lodges partaking in this wonderful trip, and they were all on hand to whisk their group off on their adventure.
I set off with 2 groups to the Klaserie to visit nDzuti Safari Lodge and stay at nThambo Tree Camp and Africa on Foot. Even the rain soaking us on the drive couldn’t dampen our excitement. First stop was a quick view of nDzuti Safari Lodge. This lovely lodge only has 4 rooms, which keeps it intimate. The beautiful deck and lawns overlook a waterhole and the bush.
Back on the safari vehicle, we headed, still in the rain, to Africa on Foot and nThambo. We saw the first of the first big 5 – the Rhino – on the drive. I was deposited with my group at nThambo Tree Camp, where I was to spend the night. After checking in, we went off to our rooms for a change of clothes before lunch and our evening game drive. nThambo has 5 safari tents on raised decks. These rooms have wonderful views of the bush, while the main lodge has a plunge pool and a lovely lounge.
We headed off with our guide Matt, and tracker Isaac on our evening game drive, thankfully the rain had stopped. We saw a wonderful herd of elephant, many birds, and another rhino and then joined up with the group from Africa on Foot for sundowners. We headed back to nThambo for dinner, yummy lamb braai (BBQ) where the local hippo made an appearance, as did a roaming hyena!
An early morning game drive took us to a sight that was on my bucket list – a pack of wild dogs!! We visited with them for a while along the main road through the reserve, they then loped off into the bush in search of their next meal! We then came across two large male lions and a female at a kill. She was still eating, but the boys had eaten their fill and were napping in the bush!
After check out and good byes, we headed to Africa on Foot for a site inspection. This is a lovely camp with a raised pool deck, and a tree house for the more adventurous to spend the night. From here we went off to Kambaku River Sand in the Timbavati. This is a luxurious lodge, the rooms have everything you could wish for, including a bath with a view! The lounge, bar and dining areas command a stunning view of the river and are adorned with owner Bryce’s stunning wildlife photos.
We then moved on to have lunch at the sister camp, Kambaku Safari Lodge. Resident warthog with piglets joined us as we enjoyed lunch at this beautiful camp, overlooking the waterhole.
We were then dropped at our next stop, Simbavati River Lodge, where we spent our second night. This is a stunning camp, where the rooms were tents with all the bells and whistles you could need. As I walked to my tent, I startled a large elephant who was grazing right there. After trumpeting at me indignantly, he continued to graze!
We set off on our evening game drive, coming across elephant, and the first giraffe I had seen. We then caught up with some sub-adult lions, doing what lions do best – sleeping! We returned to camp for a lovely boma dinner. We had such yummy lamb stew, chicken, vegetables and more – all cooked for us on the braai (BBQ). We even had a hippo visit us! The next morning I spotted the cutest little owls in the trees in the parking lot – African Barred Owlets, and their chicks.
The highlight of the morning game drive was seeing a nesting pair of tawny eagles with their juville still in the nest. We also spent time with 3 large bull elephants grazing away and then a mad dash through the bush we found a white rhino. After the best breakfast of the weekend at Simbavati we went off to inspect the next lodges.
First stop was the Simbavati Hilltop Lodge, a six month old lodge, tents, built on decks. This is a stunning, five star lodge that any visitor would fall in love with. Situated on the top of a small hill it commands views in all directions, with a river winding below. The decks and tents were perfect, as was the rim flow pool!
From here, we went to visit one of the oldest camps in the Timbavati, Mostwari and it’s private use camp of Geigers Camp. Geiger’s feels like a luxury home in the bush, with views over the Timbavati. The rooms are stunning, but the outside lounge and pool area steal the limelight. This was one of my favourite spots. Mostwari is a beautiful camp, with a real bush feeling. It overlooks a river, where animals visit daily.
We then headed back to Simbavati River Lodge for lunch of delicious fish and chips followed by de-constructed strawberry cheesecake. After eating our fill, we joined the guide from Kambaku Safari Lodge, Neil, on a drive back to Kambaku for the night. Kambaku Safari Lodge is one of the only eco friendly lodges in the area, running entirely on solar electricity and gas for cooking and hot water. Even the staff village runs on solar.
The team here is outstanding, the rooms lovely and the food great. After settling in and cooling off a bit, we joined Neil our guide again for a game drive. We saw some elephants and then Neil sped off into the sunset – he was on the trail of some amazing game for us! We went off road into the bush, and then spotted her – Nthombi the leopard. She was clearly marking her territory. We followed her until the light completely went, she was so relaxed by the landrover noise, and continued to mark her area. It was clear that she had a cub somewhere that had not been seen yet. (A few days later, I saw a post by Neil to say they spotted her cub for the first time! )
We headed back to camp in the dark, when suddenly we took a turn and there, in the middle of the bush, a bush braai awaited us! What a special treat Kambaku gave us. We watched the song and dance of the local staff and then settled down to have dinner in the wild. Not long after we settled in we heard the hyenas, they were less than 20 meters away. They spent the whole dinner in the area, fighting amongst themselves and completely unconcerned we were so close. After dinner, we drove back to the camp. Half way there our guide switched off the vehicle, and we sat in silence and darkness. The stars were so magnificent and clear – and if the day couldn’t get any better – we saw a shooting star!
The next morning our game drive was superb. We followed a large herd of elephants to a dam where they drank their fill, played a bit, had a swim and hung around. We left the herd and smelt before we spotted a group of hyena’s, wallowing in a shallow stream to cool down. It was only 7am and the temperature had climbed about 30 degrees!
We then got the call over the radio…. Marula the leopard had been spotted, and she was hunting! We bashed through the bush, and sure enough, there she was in a tall tree, scouting the land. We followed her as she made an attempt at an impala but failed, as she climbed tree after tree in search of a meal, and as she brushed up against Alfred our trackers legs as she passed the vehicle. What an awe inspiring sighting.
We then headed back to Kambaku for breakfast before checking out and heading back to Hoedspruit airport. What an amazing experience, three days felt longer, but even then, not enough!
I have spent many many years visiting the Kruger National Park, staying in the camp sites and the official parks accommodation, and loved every minute of it. Visiting Kruger this way is so completely different, the ability to go off road to track animals is an experience like no other, the lodges are all luxurious, the staff and their smiles welcoming. I still love the National Park, but I think that this way of going on safari is a phenomenal experience that I can’t wait to repeat!