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First time safari - Motswari Lodge (Timbavati)


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My wife and I spent four nights (22-25 June) at the Motswari game lodge in the Timbavati reserve Kruger. We're both first time safari goers so had no real experience or expectations, although my wife wasn't sure it was something she'd enjoy (I'd been the one who picked the trip after some delicate honeymoon destination locations last year :)). We flew from London to J'berg then onto Huidspriet which is an hour's transfer from the resort. I've tried to summarise the game over the four days below:


Day 1:

Given we'd arrived at lunchtime we missed the morning drive but got straight out for the afternoon with our guide Chad. The first thing he did was ask us our experiences, whether we had any particular sighting requests etc. Once we'd informed him he could show us anything and we'd be happy we set off on the drive.


We headed out in search of some lion cubs which had been reported in the area but had a pretty quite drive, only finding zebra, giraffe and a male Kudu. With the light fading and still searching for lions, our tracker spotted some drag marks from a leopard's kill. After about 30mins of our guide and tracker on foot trying to follow the drag marks they came back with no joy and the light was working against us so we headed back to camp.

14605084453_18cd771a85_n.jpga zeal of Zebra by naddan28, on Flickr

14605053743_66fba3b87a_n.jpgGrazing 2 by naddan28, on Flickr


Day 2:

A nice early start and we headed off to follow up on yesterday's drag marks. On route we discovered a with a family of miniature mongoose, enjoying the morning sun and a Sharpe's grysbok. After about 45mins we arrived on the sighting which another jeep had been holding for us. The sighting consisted of two 15 month old male cubs and a mother, although they all split in different directions so we spent time with the male cub. We spent approximately 30mins watching the cub grooming and relaxing in the undergrowth, pretty disinterested by our presence.

14398355138_bd18b878b9_n.jpgLeopard by naddan28, on Flickr

14584963135_d6ebcd50f7_n.jpgLeopard grooming by naddan28, on Flickr

14398376899_81915ff9ca_n.jpgLeopard grooming 2 by naddan28, on Flickr


Having had such a great sighting in the morning our afternoon game drive was going to be tough to follow. We headed out in search of hippos and came across a large male waterbuck. After spending some time observing the waterbuck we headed onto the pool where the hippos were. Unfortunately the hippos were not playing ball and sitting in the pool a fair way from us. After waiting for the hippos to do something other than stand in a pool a long way away, we gave up and moved on. Afterwards we saw a female Kudu and juvenile who was suckling followed by a female waterbuck and juvenile too, alongside a small group of Zebra. After sundowners we headed back to the camp and spotted a hyena under torchlight.

14398374078_0d594646de_n.jpgLittle and Large by naddan28, on Flickr

14561929816_c02cafd3cd_n.jpgFeeding time by naddan28, on Flickr


Day 3:

Our morning drive started and we headed off in search of more game. We came across a solo male hippo who, like the hippos from the previous day decided to sit in the centre of a pool and be as inactive as possible. After the hippo sighting we a message over the radio of a nearby leopard sighting which we sped off too. We had a great sighting of a mother leopard and her two cubs, spending approximately 30mins with them. On our way back to camp we discovered a warthog and finally some Hippos out of the water being at least somewhat active!


Whilst sitting in the camp, we were fortunate enough to be visited by a couple of large elephants who were in the creek below the camp's pool and a family of warthogs (approx 5-6 piglets and two adults).


Our afternoon drive started and our guide was clearly becoming more tense as we'd not seen a great variety of animals so far. We decided to go out for Rhino which were rumoured to be in a particular part of the reserve. On the way we discovered a large male crocodile (approx 5m) enjoying the afternoon sun and a host of antelope. We eventually came up on the rhino tracks but after some tracking and a discussion over left/right between our guide and tracker he had no luck so stopped for sundowners. After packing up for sundowners and heading back (which involved going left - the way the tracker wanted to go) we instantly discovered four rhino (one male, female and two juvenile). Turns out we'd been having our sundowners less than 50m away! After spending some time with the rhino we headed back and our tracker caught some eyes in the spotlight. After getting close, we discovered it was a wildcat on a hunt! Normally I'm told these animals are very illusive but this one was completely unphased by our presence and stalked her prey in the light whilst we all watched in awe. Unfortunately she didn't catch the small mouse or rat she was hunting and we left her to it and headed back.

14584224632_13c3d6eb6d_n.jpgThe waterhole by naddan28, on Flickr


Day 4:

Chad was really starting to feel the pressure now on the sightings front (not from us I add, we were having a great time!) so that morning we set off again in hope of lions or rhino. We initially found some zebra and giraffe but after a fair amount of tracking time discovered a herd of 9 rhino. Chad asked us whether we'd like to have a sighting on foot and we all said yes! So we spent about 20mins approaching the rhino on foot and then enjoyed a great sighting. On our way back to the jeep, our tracker had drinks etc ready which was a great way for everyone to come down from our adrenaline high!

14584944205_06a74a03da_n.jpgRhino by naddan28, on Flickr


After our drive, Chad asked us whether we fancied a walk into the bush with him before the afternoon drive. My wife and I, alongside another couple from our jeep went on a short bush walk and learned lots more about the 'smaller' things in the bush as well as seeing a male giraffe and kudu at close range.


The afternoon drive began with Chad asking us whether we minded driving a far distance because he'd got permission to cross some local land which they don't normally have traversing rights to find a local lion sighting. Everyone was more than happy for this and we set off for the lions. On the way we discovered a pair of hyenas guarding a den site and a decent size heard of elephant including a juvenile (approx 12 months). Anyway after spending the afternoon driving and tracking for the 'sure thing' lion sighting we drew a blank. Everyone in the jeep felt a little disappointed at sundowners as we'd spent a lot of time looking for lions at the expense of other game. On the way back to the lodge, Chad's radio was unusually chatty and he really sped up. We all initially thought it was the head chef telling him not to be late for another night but no, we were very wrong....we discovered a sighting of a female leopard (the leopard from day 2) heading back to her cubs to fetch them for a fresh kill, with a hyena for company. After about 5 minutes of following her through the undergrowth we discovered the two male cubs who ran up a tree as the Hyena approached. At this point the two cubs began playing whilst mum stood guard at the bottom of the tree, being watched by the hyena. Ten more minutes passed and Hyena number two appeared! At this point the leopards decided to leave the tree and walk off, being followed by the Hyenas. At this point we decided to leave (personally I think Chad's fear of Lee the head chef grew to big!).

14581628381_9bb2c376a2_n.jpgP1080161.jpg by naddan28, on Flickr

14584217792_157950bfca_n.jpgTree House 2 by naddan28, on Flickr

14581607001_c9f0c15d5a_n.jpgTree House by naddan28, on Flickr



Day 5:

At tea and coffee everyone was abuzz with excitement. During the night some loud lion roaring was heard very close by. Given this was our last drive and we'd still not seen lions we were quietly hopeful that we were going to strike it lucky. As we set of for our drive, our tracker along with three other trackers all piled into a jeep to go and follow up on the lion roars whilst we headed down to the road where lions had been seen the previous day. Although Chad was confident we'd find the lions warming up on the road and the trackers jeep was a lost cause we had no such luck but did come across a giraffe with her child. Then, all of sudden the radio was alive with chatter and we were told to hold on, whilst the jeep gained speed. After ten minutes of frantic driving we discovered the trackers all smiling in a jeep whilst three female lions were tucking into a fresh kill, juvenile buffalo. After spending 20 minutes watching the lionesses we headed off to try and find a live buffalo. We then stumbled across two large male buffalos living in a bachelor group. At this point we headed back and the jeep was very quiet as we all knew that that everyone had to head home that day.


14605046833_998c5ce63c_n.jpgThe kill by naddan28, on Flickr

14584927345_8b01661ba1_n.jpgThe Kill 3 by naddan28, on Flickr

14584924635_c26430a06f_n.jpgLioness portrait by naddan28, on Flickr

14584200622_06e7894eda_n.jpgDuga by naddan28, on Flickr


Thoughts on the trip:

I mentioned earlier that my wife wasn't keen on the trip initially, not being a big outdoors person and now.....she loved the holiday. So much so she's been in contact for next year's rates already. The lodge itself was phenomenal, the food was absolutely first class and our guide (Chad) was incredibly knowledgable and contentious (after all he didn't need to spend time phoning around on day 4 to get traversing rights). We had a great time and as I mentioned earlier are seriously considering a return trip next year.


Also for those who are interested, I've put two short videos up of stills/video captured on the trip as linked below:

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Thanks for the report @@naddan28! I enjoyed reading it and looking at the photos. Chad Cocking is also a very good wildlife photographer. Does he take many photos while on game drive? I and my wife spent 3 nights at Motswari in May this year and loved it. We were guided by Harold (tracker Difference) for the first two days and by Richard (tracker Petrus) on the last day.

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Very enjoyable trip report, thanks for sharing this with us.You really had terrific leopard sightings. I very much like the Kudus as well.


Good thing your wife was converted -but then it's almost impossible not to fall in love with Africa, isn't it?

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Thank you, I really enjoyed it, and loved your pics. I hope the same conversion will happen to my husband on our trip, too. It will be our first trip, and I can't wait to see all these animals and birds.

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Thank you for the report - beautiful leopards - and I am glad you got to see the lions

Could be an expensive new addiction?

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@@naddan28 you picked an excellent lodge for your first safari experience.

Motswari is a real jewel with some outstanding guides. One of my favourites.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Good to know Motswari is still hot.

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What a fantastic first safari with some great sightings. Thanks for telling us about it.

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Thank you for a great report - it looks like you had an excellent all around safari and had some terrific leopard sightings - very lucky!

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I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Motswari, but have enjoyed Chad’s quite funny articles in Africa Geographic. You had some great sightings and took some excellent photos, particularly at night. I’d be interested in seeing the spotlit hyena you mentioned, if you have any photos handy.

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Thanks everyone for the kind comments. For those who haven't been to Motswari and are thinking about Kruger...go Motswari!


@@FlyTraveler Chad is very impressive, put me to shame! He takes very few photos on the drive and normally only if it's something very special/good lighting etc.


@@Marks I'll see what I've got and try and post some over the next day or so.

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