Peter Maris & Caroline Piek recently joined Marlon du Toit on safari in South Africa. They spent time in southern Kruger Park as well as within the Timbavati Reserve, Greater Kruger.
Please take some time to read through their account of the safari experience below. They were blessed with some incredible sightings & experience, as you’ll soon see for yourself.
After following two male lions the whole morning we decided to stop for some hot coffee. The two brothers were lying down in the grass, resting as lions do the most of the day, so we are also allowing ourself a break. Suddenly there is action. The lions are going to hunt!
Marlon nearly tosses his coffee out of the car out of enthusiasm and screams, “Go, go, go, GO!”. The camp guide floors the car and we speed ahead. In front of us dust clouds obscure the view as the herd of buffalo run away. The lions are chasing them and are in full sprint.
While the car is bouncing over the road I try to make photos. From the corner of my eye I see one of the lions putting his claws in a buffalo. Just three meters from the car the lion pulls her down and puts his teeth in the neck of the loud screaming animal. His brother is proudly standing next to it. The buffalo manages to escape the grip of the lion but it is only a matter of time before the lions grabs her again. It is cool to see, but also very sad.
Can you imagine our private safari with Marlon has just began!
Peter and I are staying in Shawu Camp for the first couple of days. A beautiful spot in Kruger National Park. It is a small camp with only five huts which are luxurious with a bath, big bed and a seating area with a fireplace. From the deck you have an amazing view over a waterhole. Even if you would skip the game drives you would go home with amazing pictures. On the deck your face-to-face with elephants which from time to time stop to look at you.
One little elephant was really comical; with loud trumpeting he chased all the animals at the waterhole. Sometimes there was so much wildlife we did not know where to look; at one moment we counted nine rhinos. The waterhole is also popular with zebras, impalas, giraffe, warthogs and hippos.
After Shawu we drove through Kruger Park to Umlani Bushcamp in Timbavati. Marlon told us this was an excellent spot to see leopards. And thanks to Greg and the trackers of the camp we photographed this elusive cat every single day. Umlani lives up to its rep! The trackers sometimes went on foot to track a leopard trail and not without success. We have spent hours observing and photographing the beautiful animal; sometimes not even a meter from the car.
The guides and trackers determination really showed when we got to see mating leopards for a whole day. It is an unique experience to see and to hear it. Male Leopards really make strange noises during mating. Our best photographic opportunity did not come until the sun had set; which did not make it easy but with Marlon his instructions on spotlight photography we managed.
Umlani was more than leopards. During our searches we saw many animals. We spend a great time next to a rhino and her calf. They were so relaxed that they never looked up while we took pictures and just kept grazing. We found it really special to see this special animal up close.
Regularly we were surrounded by herds of elephants; adults and babies. It felt like there was a big baby boom in the Timbavati. Each herd had little ellies. In their search for food elephants pull whole trees from the ground. The most powerful encounter was with one of the old tuskers. This bull was four meters high and his tusks went to the ground. The morning light enhanced the texture of his old skin. It was nice to just turn off the car and spent some quality time with this bull. Or as Marlon said it: “I really love elephants. They don’t need to go anywhere. They have all the time in the world.”
Sad to say this was not applicable for us…. After spending a great time in Timbavati we said our goodbyes to Marlon. The last nights of our trip we spend in nThambo Tree Camp on our own. We felt like kings during our private safari, our own row in the car and a car which is always lined up as good as possible, now we had to detox.
We were common tourist and had to share the car with other people. The drives were not specific for photofreaks as us, so we also stopped for less special animals such as impala. A couple of days before Marlon expressed our feelings for this animal in a perfect way: “I really like to photograph them when they are caught by a leopard”.
On the other hand we learned a lot of interesting facts. Who knew the bush has a tree which you can use as toilet paper when you really need to go and that you can make a toothbrush from a tree which you can also use to extinguish a fire. nThambo provides safari walks and after coffee on each game drive we walked back to camp. It is really nice to experience the bush on foot! Our guide had 30 years of experience and recognised tracks everywhere. On the last morning he had found fresh rhino tracks; mother and young. We walked through bushes and riverbeds. Suddenly the guide stopped and I nearly bumbed into him. He showed us tracks of a male lion. Gets you thinking that a big male just passed by on that exact spot only hours ago. We never found the rhino but the experience was unforgettable.
All in all we had a great trip. It was a golden combination of excellent company and awesome photo moments that will always stay with us.
About the authors
A passion for nature and animals runs through the veins of Caroline Piek. She is a professional garden photographer and also writes colourfull stories about nature for the Dutch Natuurfotomagazine. Caroline hosts photography workshops for aspiring nature photographers.
Caroline on Facebook
Peter Maris is an engineering department head by profession, but wildlife photography is what really fuels him and consumes all of his spare time. He prefers the dunes along the Dutch coast where he tracks foxes and deer.
Peter on Instagram