Trip Report: Exclusive Timbavati Safari 11-15 May

Johan van Zyl Johan 2 Comments

The Timbavati Game Reserve is a name that needs little introduction to the avid Safari goer.  Open to the Kruger National Park this Private Game Reserve is known for its phenomenal game viewing, especially the Big Cats.

This Exclusive Timbavati Safari is only limited to 3 guests, which makes it very intimate and ensuring each guest receives personal undivided attention.

My 3 guests arrived at Umlani Camp just on time for a delicious lunch.  Whilst sitting and overlooking the dry riverbed, enjoying our lunch and refreshments, we discussed our plans and ambitions for the 4 days and what it was each person wanted to focus on from a photographic point of view.

There was great excitement as we were heading out on drive to see what was in store for us.  Part of the excitement is that you never know what might be around the next corner when you are out in the field.  We eased into some good sightings of White Rhino as well as general game such as Giraffe’s, Impalas and Kudu.

As we meandered back to Camp, it was evident that seasons are changing and winter is approaching at a rapid speed, which in turn means that the temperatures also dropped drastically.

Umlani Bush camp offers a real authentic African experience, focussing on small, simple yet forgotten things like sitting around the camp fire and enjoying a good glass of South African red wine.  If you have not yet experienced sitting around an open camp fire then you really need to think about where your next holiday is going to be! There is just nothing that beats the small of the wood fire, nightjars calling in the distance, the warmth on your cheeks – and all of this under a clear African Sky.

For those who have been to Umlani, you will know it is a traditional Bush camp, with reed walls and thatch roofs.  The rooms, however, are still very spacious and extremely comfortable.  Each room has an outside shower, which can be a bit challenging upon entrance and exit, but simply is pure bliss.  The Camp has a top strain fence, keeping out the larger mammals such as Elephant and Rhino, however, Leopards and Lions can move through Camp.  Each night after dinner one of the staff members will escort you back to your room.  The open design of the rooms allow you to hear all the wonderful sounds at night.   Almost every night, without fail, we heard Spotted Hyaenas, Leopard and Lion from our rooms.

The Timbavati lived up to its reputation for the wonderful game viewing and we had some incredible sightings of Lions and Leopard, (3 different individual Leopards to be exact).  On one particular evening we followed two Lionesses through the bush, when out of the blue, we came across a beautiful African Rock Python that reared up a few meters from the trackers seat.

As with majority of our Safaris, we try to encourage our guests to photograph different species and as many different lighting situations as possible.  This will not only give them a variety of images, but also allows them to practice the different technical techniques and skills required to do so.  We were fortunate to find Lions on a couple of occasions after dark, where with the use of a spotlight, we could do some night photography which worked extremely well.

Each day between Safaris we spent time downloading images, processing and taking stock of what we had captured.  It was extremely rewarding to see that; not only did my guests capture some amazing images, but their photographic skills improved day by day as they came to terms with the technical and creative elements.

Unfortunately the weather was not in our favour to do the overnight hide sleep out as out of season rains took us all by surprise.  However this did not dampen the mood as the excitement of what we had witnessed and photographed during our Safaris was way more important.

A special thank you to Jody, Hans and Nancy for joining me on this incredible Safari and to all the staff at Umlani for making this another huge success.

I am very excited to head back to this destination next month, there is still one spot remaining on this trip, so if you would like to join me on this Exclusive Safari, get in touch soon, would love to have you there.


Join us in the Timbavati

Join Johan on the next Exclusive Timbavati Photo safari with just 3 guests!

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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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Comments 2

  1. Nancy Anderson

    Very well written and very enticing…I want to go back! The pictures you added covered the entire gambit of what we saw. Great job on this. It was a superb trip, thank you.

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