The Timbavati – My 10 favourite moments

Johan van Zyl All Authors, Johan Leave a Comment

The Timbavati Game Reserve, open to the Greater Kruger region is one of my favourite destinations to travel to in South Africa.

This part of the Greater Kruger, is probably not as rich with game from a numbers perspective, but from quality of sightings that you get it is right up there.

Here are 10 of my favourite moments in the Timbavati

  1.  Fighting Buffalo

One early morning as we headed out for the start of our morning safari, we across a big herd of Cape buffalo.  Arguably one of the most feared of the big 5, they often have a very docile, cow like appearance to them.  Hardly ever flustered by the presence of vehicles, they often give visitors the false impressions that they are actually not dangerous at all.  On this particular morning my guest and I witnessed the shear power these beasts posses as a serious fight broke out between two bulls.  I will never forget the sounds, the dust and most of all the tremendous power these magnificent beasts have.

2.  Lions taking down a Buffalo

It is one of those cases where it is something you always dream about seeing, but when it happens you wish it would just end.  For many many years there have been several documentaries done about Lions against Buffalo.  In certain areas, like the most part of the Greater Kruger, Lions have developed a taste and a technique to take down Buffalo.  This skill set is passed down the generations and is often the key to success for many prides.

3.  A White Lion!

I had a guest on a Private Safari in the Timbavati and one of her biggest dreams was to find a white Lion.  With a very slim chance of finding the one individual that was roaming around, we decided to give it a go and hope for the best.  As wet set off, following up on some Lions tracks from the night before, the radio call came in…  They had found the female white Lioness!!!  I can’t remember ever being so nervous to get to a sighting, purely because I knew that this was most likely our only opportunity to see her.  How far to go?  How far to go!!  I must have irritated to living daylights out of our guide, but this was too good to miss!!  Eventually we found her, walking through the grasslands on a very misty morning…  It was perfect!  Needless to say my guest Deborah got some amazing images and was over the moon!

4.   Wild Dogs on the Hunt

For me there is nothing more exciting than watching Wild Dogs on the hunt.  Even when they are not hunting, they are fascinating animals to view.  Their social interaction, strong family bonds and incredible team work make them the successful hunters that they are.  Wild Dogs cover massive ground, and with the size of the Greater Kruger area, one day they could be right in front of your camp, the next day they could be miles away into a different concession.  On this particular morning we followed the Wild Dogs on the hunt and witnessed the whole scene unfold in front of us, from start to finish.

5.  The Leopard in the Riverbed

The Timbavati is known for delivering good Leopard sightings.  One of my favourite sightings was of a Female Leopard we found making her way down to the dry riverbed.

6.   A Rhino in the Riverbed

The dry riverbeds in the Timbavati can make for some fantastic photographic opportunities.  One particular morning we had a White Rhino Bull resting in the Riverbed during a cold winters morning.

7.  Spending time with a few young Male Lions

I thoroughly enjoy spending time with young Male Lions who have recently been kicked out of the pride.  As much as this is a very challenging time for them as individuals trying to find their piece of territory and establishing themselves, it is also fascinating to see how they go about it.  In the past we’ve been very lucky to see young and adult male Lions in the Timbavati and with a fair amount of competition around, both from other Lions and Spotted Hyaena’s, these guys have their work cut out for them.

8.  Spotted Hyaena Cubs

Although this could hardly ever be planned, it is a real bonus when you come across a Spotted Hyaena den site.  During my last three visits to the Timbavati we were fortunate enough to be there over the time when a clan of Spotted Hyaenas had just recently had cubs.  These youngsters are super inquisitive and will often come to inspect the vehicle, making for some fantastic photographic opportunities.

9.  It’s not all about the Big stuff!

So often we can get caught up in the moment of just looking for the big game that we look past the smaller things more often than we should.  With the right light you can create incredible images from what appears to be a very dull subject.  During the early mornings Spider webs can be great fun to photograph as we experienced on this particular game drive.

10.  NEVER sleep in on Safari

As much as the Timbavati boast some great game viewing, there are never guarantees.  On one particular trip I did we had found everything in the first couple of game drives except for Leopard.  We were searching high and low, following tracks and signs…  You name it!  We weren’t far away but just couldn’t get a glimpse.  As we departed the camp for our last morning game drive, the optimistic side of me said there is still a chance, anything can happen.  As we had our final cup of coffee in the bush for the trip, the call came in!  They found a Female Leopard less than a couple of kilometres from where we were.  With cups of coffee flying all over the place, we quickly packed up to try and get our Leopard sighting that we had worked so hard for.  The sighting and the trip could not have ended better as she was lying in a tree in the open with no distractions and on a freshly made kill.  Thank goodness everyone was motivated and ready to get out of bed that morning!!

To join us on any of our Timbavati Photo Safaris click here.

Hope to change the way you see the world!


About the Author

Johan van Zyl


The opportunity of visiting some of the wildest, undisturbed areas and sharing my passion for wildlife, conservation and photography with like minded people is a privilege that I am forever grateful.

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