Our trip to Timbavati!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014
The week I've been looking forward to all holiday have finally arrived - To spend a week with my family and some family friends in the Timbavati Game Reserve. 

We decided up front, to spend 1 night in the Kruger National Park, at Lower Sabie to ease the drive to Timbavati. Therefore, we would have to drive to Komatipoort. But in order for us to get to Komatipoort - or at least, to make the drive fairly shorter, we decided to take the route through Swaziland. 

Our bags were packed, got our passports ready, paper work done and we were ready to hit the road.

5am, we were on the N2 North Bound in my dad's new Toyota Fortuner! We drove for about 3 and a half hours till we stopped at a service station near Hluhluwe for Petrol and something to eat at the Steers. We also met up with our family friends whom we'll be joining in the Kruger and Timbavati. About another hour's drive further, we finally reached the Swaziland border. From previous experience, we have learned that if you aren't extremely friendly, take the blame for anything and be ultra polite, they won't help you at the border, nevermind stamping your passport. But surprisingly, it all went down smoothly this time. There were barely any queues, they we fast and we thankfully didn't have to go through Customs, which usually is a pain and forces us to unpack the boot of our car.

By this time, my dad decided that he's tired driving, and I take over the steering wheel. The 2.5 hour drive though Swaziland was without a doubt, one of the gnarliest roads I've ever driven. For about 2 hours, I announced, that I'm a professional pothole dodger. Was a crazy drive indeed. But I got through it eventually!

After another 40mins just outside the Northern Swaziland border, we finally reached Komatipoort. We went to the Spar (a Supermarket chain in South Africa and Europe), to buy some meat since we're planning to Braai (Barbecue). We were no longer than about 20 minutes in the store.

We drove to The Kruger Park gate, known as Crocodile Bridge and checked in. Then we all first just had to stop at the small store to buy some cold beers, to cool us down for the slow drive, till we find
the Camp site, Lower Sabie, where we'll be staying for the night.

During our drive to Lower Sabie, we spot elephants, lots of Impala and was very lucky to have seen 2 lions.

We arrived at Lower Sabie, unpacked a few things and went to our friends' chalet to have the braai there. Was also a good time, to get to know the Australian girls.
Went to bed fairly early that night, as I knew we still had another 5 hour drive the next day.

I woke up fairly early, around 6am..... My parents was still asleep, so I decided to take a drive to Sunset Dam, which is about 1km from Lower Sabie camp. That have always been an interesting dam for me. The dam is not very big, but it's riddled with Crocodiles and Hippo's. Therefore you can always expect some fascinating activity.

At around 8am, hit the roads again till we got to Orpen Gate in the early afternoon. Was a rather long drive, but the scenery was great!

After we went out, we finally reached a town called Hoedspruit. As a matter of fact, I've been in Hoedspruit many times before as it's near a private game reserve, owned by some of our family friends, where we used to go often. But this time, we rather went into Timbavati.

We went into the Pick 'n Pay in Hoedspruit where we bought lots of meat, drinks, snacks and so forth, for the week.

After spending about an hour in the store, we filled up the car with Petrol and drove further to the Timbavati Reserve.

In the Timbavati Nature Reserve, we stayed at Rock Fig. A self-catering lodge, that can accommodate 9 people. It over looks a little water hole, where animals come and drink. Really a beautiful place. Apart from our own chalets, there were a big Kitchen, a room with 2 big refrigerators and a deep freeze – which we claimed to be our Bar, since that's where we decided to store the gazillion litres of beer, wines, liqueurs and more.

After unpacking, we went on an afternoon Game Drive, where we met our Game Ranger, Patrick who'll be showing us around this week. He's been in the industry for over 15 years, so I can imagine that knows his story and are very experienced.

On our first drive, I was fortunate to have close encounters with some elephants from the Land Rover. We were all quiet, blending in with our surroundings and appreciate these beautiful creatures.

That night we had some delicious fillet.

The next morning, something happened, well certainly miss-communicated with my dad, as I'm 100% sure, that I told my dad to wake me up at 5am, for the morning game drive. I woke up at 6:20am... With no-one except my mum (who was still sleeping) and the cleaners at the lodge. Without being too disappointed, I took a shower, made coffee and enjoyed the calmness and peacefulness of the natural surroundings. By the time my mum eventually woke up, I already had my third cup of coffee and some rusks.

After having another coffee, I decided to take a walk, towards the swimming pool area, to check it out. As I got there, I heard a crack (sounded like a branch breaking from a tree), but to my surprise it was a snake, that just snatched a frog. Within seconds, started filming the whole thing with my phone, which was luckily in my pocket. It appears to have been a Twig Snake – apparently quite poisonous as well.

Watch the video I filmed here.

When my dad came back from the game drive, raving about the beautiful leopard they saw and how I missed out. But then, I actually told them that I saw a KILL... They sounded all hyped up about that kill, till I mentioned it was a frog and a snake.

The afternoon drive was awesome. Even though we didn't see much, the weather was great. Just before sunset, we stopped for some Sundowners. We prepared some cocktails on the spot, in the middle of a natural park. What more do you want!

On our way back, we found a Leopard, up in the tree, with an impala carcass. It was already fairly dark, couldn't see much, but the game ranger said, we'll come back the next morning.

The next morning I got woken up by my mobile phone's alarm, which I set for 5am. I really wanted to see that Leopard in daylight. I made sure that my camera is charged and had storage available on my memory cards, had my morning coffee and at 5:30, we were in the Land Rover, in the wild. After about 10 minutes of driving, we stumbled upon the leopard we saw the previous night. He wasn't in the tree this round, but rather at a little waterhole, nearby drinking water. I managed to get some really good photos! That was my first time, ever seeing a leopard this close to me in the wild.

After a while, the leopard disappeared into the bush, found a place between the savannah’s to lie down, and camouflage so it's hard to be spotted – the game rangers, refer to this as Flat-cat position. We drove off, looking for further animals. Like always we stumbled into more elephants, impalas and so forth.
When we got back to the lodge, we had brunch and went straight to the pool to cool off. Everyone opted to chill and have beers by the swimming pool instead of taking afternoon naps. I got sunburnt!

The afternoon game drive started off incredibly boring. It was hot, I was sunburnt and we didn't see anything. I wasn't even near sunset yet, when everyone opted to have their “sundowners” now. We drove to a nice little place, next to a dam where we decided to have our drinks. We all just got off the Land Rover, when we saw a bunch of elephants in a distance. Our game ranger said, it's chilled, they are far and can continue preparing our sundowners. In a matter of moments, we realised that the elephants are coming close now – but we continued preparing cocktails anyway. At some point, they got incredibly close. We all just froze. Tried not to make a noise and stay as calm and quiet as possible. The elephants got as close was 7 metres from us – and we were all on foot, with nothing protecting us. After a couple of minutes of serious stares from the elephants and intimidating reactions they moved off. I filmed it all on my GoPro.

This had the be the moment of the whole trip.. In fact, the best experience I have ever had in a nature reserve.

The evening, around the table, during dinner, we couldn't stop talking about it.

The Thursday morning game drive, was our last morning drive of the trip. We were off again at 5:30am and into the road. After about 5 minutes into the drive, another leopard was spotted in one of the trees. I managed to take an awesome photo of that.

Our game ranger, picked up over the radio that there are a few lions in a dry river bank near one of the other camps. Was pretty interesting to see how the safari radio's work. It reminds me a lot of Air traffic Control – they are even queuing up to see lions, but this is probably to ensure the lions don't get disturbed by too many foreign things like cars and people.

Although we couldn't get extremely close, I still got a fairly good glimpse of the lion – and a decent photo.

After seeing the lions we went straight back to the lodge. We had some elephants and buffalo sightings on the way back... That is 4 of the big 5 on one game drive! Very rare indeed.

My parents made a legendary breakfast, that we used to make when we go on trips, with our family friends, in the Freestate – We call it the “4x4 pie”. It was rather unique, but tasted great!

In the afternoon drive, we spot a few Rhino's which meant that we saw the Big 5 on one day! Very few people see that!

My dad made a Seafood potjie and my mum baked fresh bread for dinner.

After dinner, we all just chilled by the campfire, enjoying our last evening.

The next morning, we greeted everyone, and hit the road back to the South Coast, KZN. It was exactly a 10 hour drive.

Awesome getaway that was!! Thanks dad!

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