Michael and I have recently returned from the magnificent and newly renovated Shindzela Tented Camp in the Timbavati Game Reserve, and what a week on safari it was!
Although Mike normally hosts this particular photo safari on his own, alongside five other guests, this time around we took up more of the camp with eight guests, and so I joined Mike as the second photographic guide on site. The split meant that we could ensure we had four guests and one guide on two separate vehicles, each with more than enough space for camera bags and other photo equipment – not to mention the jerseys and jackets… it was COLD!
We had a wonderful group of guests from all corners of the world, including the USA, Portugal, the UK and South Africa and we all had a wonderful week sharing sightings, memories and fire-side stories with one another.
Much to our surprise, the camp had undergone a major transformation in a relatively short space of time. Not only were the tents brand new, with noticeable additions to the en suite bathroom and shower, the main lodge area had changed from a small wooden deck area, to an extended main entertainment area with concrete screed flooring, high raised thatch roofing, and comfortable dining and lounge setups overlooking the camps water hole and dry river bed.
The change had been so drastic in fact, that Mike could not believe we had arrived at the same camp, given that he hosted a photo safari there merely a few months prior. Whether you have been to Shindzela before, or whether it was your first time visiting the lodge (as it was mine), you would have been incredibly impressed with the upgrades and improvements to the camp.
Another small, yet significant improvement, was the installation of a central charging station labelled per tent where guests had the opportunity to charge cell phones, laptops and camera batteries between game drives.
When it comes to sightings of wild animals, the reality of the situation, is that we are always at the mercy of nature. Sometimes this may work in your favor, and other times, it may be a little more difficult to find game. Although we experienced good sightings during the course of the week, they never came easily, and we really had to work hard out in the field to find animals.
The reason for this? The greater Kruger National Park area including the Timbavati Game Reserve, had experienced unusually late season rainfall right up until as late as the end of April which is unusual for the area. The late rains meant that the bush had not yet transformed into the late autumn / early winter colors where the bushes and trees lose their leaves and the grass shortens and dies off. The surrounding vegetation was still incredibly thick and green which made spotting the game that much more difficult. The animals were certainly around, we just couldn’t spot them as easily.
On a number of occasions, we stopped to inspect fresh lion, wild dog and leopard tracks, only to lose the tracks in a section of bush that would have been inaccessible for our game vehicles, as rugged as they may be. This was perhaps even more frustrating, knowing that the animals were around, but that we weren’t able to access the areas that they seemed to be frequenting.
However, luck was on our side later on in the week, and in addition to frequent sightings of large elephant herds, buffalo herds and general game, we were treated to a phenomenal sighting of a lion pride feeding on the remains of a zebra carcass which the pride had managed to kill the morning before. We had the luxury of spending good quality time in the sighting without being pressured by other vehicles, which allowed for experimentation with spotlight, side-light and backlit photography of the pride finishing off their hard earned kill. This certainly lifted the spirits of the group, and the guests walked away with a series of unique, and very impressive images.
A gallery of images below, should provide an indication of the kinds of sightings we experienced during the week:
Mike and I also made use of some down-time after assisting guests with some Lightroom editing between game drives, to record a video segment on my feelings about the Timbavati Game Reserve, and the Shindzela Tented Camp setup in particular, given that it was my first time to the area.
I hope you enjoy the video as much as we did the entire week on safari!
Until next time,
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