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Timbavati - 4 nights at Kambaku River Sands


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pomkiwi

I'm going to try a 'semi-live' report. Bits will be written on my travels but I reserve the right to add some later posts with more considered views and images!

 

Currently I'm sitting at Birmingham Airport waiting for my SWISS flight to Zurich connecting onto the overnight flight to JNB. The connection is only 70 minutes but the Swiss seem relaxed about it...

 

This morning I heard from FedAir that they will be moving my flight to Hoedspruit forward by 90 minutes tomorrow. This is significantly more than their advertised tolerance of plus/minus an hour and I wonder if they are combining the early and late flights. Anyway that leaves me with just less than 2 hrs to connect assuming my arrival is on time. Could be an interesting morning and I've had to repack a little as there will be no time to do this in the morning. I have a few possible alternatives worked out if it goes wrong - mainly on the basis that this will act as an insurance policy :rolleyes:

 

I'm taking a Nikon D7200 with an 80-400 lens attached and a D7100 with 16-85 for some landscapes and closer animals. I have a monopod and also a clamp that allows attachment to vehicle bars for the days I have a private vehicle. I have brought a flash along but still not sure if I will be using it.

 

I am staying at Kamkbaku River Sands (pay 3 get 4 and no single supplement). I've invested the saving in 2 days with a private vehicle and a days private photo tuition from Villiers Steyn of Vision Photography. The weather forecast looks good (maybe a little cloudy with a possible shower late on Friday). This trip was organised with the help of Jacqui Sive of Lodge Trackers who helped narrow down options and pulled together the (admittedly simple) arrangements.

 

Time to pack and head for the gate. More news tomorrow.

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Day 1 SWISS got me to JNB on time and FedAir did the needful to Hoedspruit. First impressions of Kambaku are positive and it feels much more open to the bush than the lodge I stayed at in the Sabi S

Day 2 'Local' wildlfe Kambaku River Sands does not have any boundary fencing. It also has a pool adjacent to the dry riverbed into which a small waterhole has been dug. Elephants seem to prefer the

Day 3 Just a few minutes to comment that the third day remained cold but dry. The wind dropped. Again a day with lots of elephants, some sleepy lions and some nice zebra photos. Highligts were my fir

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Peter Connan

I hope you have a wonderful trip, and look forward to reading more about it.

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xelas

I will follow your report with special interest to hear (and view) about the D7200 results.

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pomkiwi

Day 1

SWISS got me to JNB on time and FedAir did the needful to Hoedspruit. First impressions of Kambaku are positive and it feels much more open to the bush than the lodge I stayed at in the Sabi Sands. A buffalo was grazing below my deck when I arrived. The first drive was relaxed and i got to see 3 'firsts' for me - African Python, Bushbaby and African Wild Cat. Some unmodified shots below (apologies for the quality especially of the bushbaby). Pleased with the D7200 and the wild cat was hand held at 400mm with ISO8000.

 

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pomkiwi

Day 2

The day dawned bright and cold but the weather deteriorated with some rain in the afternoon. A day of lots and lots of elephants. We also spent some time with a young female leopard who was hunting impala (unsuccessfully). This afternoon we went to watch vets implanting microchips and marking rhinos in an effort to deter hunting - amazing to see these animals sedated and worked on and then getting up within minutes of the work finishing. It is bedtime here ( before the 5.30 am start tomorrow) so just a couple of images.

 

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Game Warden

@@pomkiwi Thanks for this super field update. Matt

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pomkiwi

Day 2 'Local' wildlfe

Kambaku River Sands does not have any boundary fencing. It also has a pool adjacent to the dry riverbed into which a small waterhole has been dug. Elephants seem to prefer the pool water and this contributed to the large number of the pachyderms seen during the day. As well as drinking from the pool we were able to witness young bulls sparring. At bedtime there was a small group trotting over the path between the main lodge and the rooms. A slightly less welcome vistor has been the dagga boy who has resisted all attempts to move him from his grazing outside of all the rooms in turn - leading to more forced time at the bar while we wait for him to move.

 

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Marks

You're off to a fantastic start.

Is there something on that elephant's trunk in the next-to-last picture above?

 

Forced time in the bar? I suppose it could be worse. ;)

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pomkiwi

Day 3

Just a few minutes to comment that the third day remained cold but dry. The wind dropped. Again a day with lots of elephants, some sleepy lions and some nice zebra photos. Highligts were my first private drive - so much more relaxaed and relaxing just dawdling along. We went to a hyena den and briefly followed a leopard until she started to hunt. I will add more detail and more photos when I get home and have a chance to sort out photos. Apologies too for the quality of images but file size is limited by the internet connection here.

 

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pomkiwi

@ Marks The elephant's trunk had some type of tumour or scar from an injury on it. Seemed fine otherwise. Yes the extra time in the bar was a major hardship :D

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Kitsafari

Cool cats! AWC and leopard. And love that pic of the bush baby. Those babies jump so fast, it's tough to get any glimpse of it.

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pomkiwi

Apologies but the daily updates faded away due to lack ot time, so many photos and an intermittent internet connection. Now back into the reality of work and trying not to concentrate on having no more safaris planned (although I have some ideas). I will post some more when I've had a chance to sort through some images and have a bit more time to write. In the meantime I will offer you a couple more images.

 

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TonyQ

@@pomkiwi

I have really enjoyed your photos and updates - I look forward to seeing more when you have time!

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SafariChick

@@pomkiwi I've enjoyed these a lot too - what fun to have the eles coming to drink from the pool and hanging out. Though I always wonder, do they not use cholorine for pools in Africa as we typically do in the U.S.? I would think that would be bad for the eles to drink! I love that giraffe photo.

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pomkiwi

@@SafariChick The pool is chlorinated but most of the elephants seem quite happy with that. There were a few who appeared to prefer the waterhole but I'm not sure if this was to do with the taste of the water or the proximity to human company. In general the elephants were watchful around the pool and did not tolerate much in the way of sudden movement. It was not warm enough to see what happened if anyone was actually in the pool when they came to drink!

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pomkiwi

It is also the case that the Timbavati is so dry with many waterholes now empty that the animals will increasingly come to any source of water:

 

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Atravelynn

African Python, Bushbaby and African Wild Cat--all these firsts in one trip!

 

Did you accompany the vets to the rhinos? Was this set up in advance or did you just happen to encounter them? Fascinating either way.

 

Timbavati--an area I want to learn more about. Your report will fill that need. Great!

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pomkiwi

@@Atravelynn I will do a slightly more conventional report with some more details of lodge, area and general experience but it may be a week or two before I can get much done.

 

The Rhino chipping / marking was set up in advance and 3 or 4 vehicles from various lodges met up and were able to spend a couple of hours with the vets watching the work and getting up close to rhino. I will give more details and thoughts on this later. We were charged by the lodge - R1000 per person that went as a donation to the Rhino conservation team in Timbavati. I felt that this was fair.

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Atravelynn

No hurry on the report.

 

Thanks for mentioning the cost of the rhino chipping.marking. I have seen "accompany the vet and rangers on a rhino mission" at a cost of over $2000 USD per person. R1000, very fair indeed. The $2000 was for occupants in vehicle (requiring 4-6 participants as I recall.)

 

I'll look forward to more when you are ready.

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pomkiwi

Practicalities

 

I flew with SWISS from Birmingham (UK) to Zurich and then from Zurich to JNB. This is a good option for those living in the midlands of the UK as the plane from Birmingham leaves at 18.30 and although the transfer time in Zurich is only an hour this is not an issue for the Swiss. The flights are also somewhat cheaper than with BA from London. The flight lands in Johannesburg at 9.15 which works reasonably well for late morning connections. Return flights leave JNB at 19.15 and arrive in Birmingham by 8am. The flights were on-time and very comfortable. I connected with a FedAir flight to Hoedspruit (Eastgate) airport. I had previously booked an SA Express flight but changed as their operating licence was suspended for 48 hours a couple of weeks earlier and I lacked faith that the issues would all have been resolved. FedAir brought my departure forward by 90 minutes but this was not a problem and I had time for a shower in their comfortable lounge. They store luggage if wanted although they have a generous allowance of 20kg in a soft sided bag and 5kg hand luggage (mine wasn’t weighed).

 

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My transfer at Eastgate was not there and after 15 minutes I phoned my TA (Jaqui Sive of Lodge Trackers), the guy arrived 5 minutes later with apologies. Overall I was very happy with the service provided by the TA and it cost no more than making individual bookings would have done.

 

Kambaku River Sands is one of a pair of lodges run by the same owners. It has 10 double rooms in separate thatched cottages which are very comfortable and have both indoor and outdoor showers. The toilet has a floor to ceiling window looking out at the bush – truly a loo with a view! The camp is completely unfenced and wildlife comes through regularly. During my stay we had buffalo, elephant, warthog, hyena and leopard all wander past front doors at some stage. Rooms look out over bush and a dry river bed. I have posted a review in the Lodge section of the site. Food was ample and of good quality without being memorable.

 

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Drives were all between 3 and 4 hours. I booked a private car for two days and enjoyed the more sedate pace. There are a few lodges sharing a large traversing area but we didn’t see vehicles very often. Sightings are restricted to 2 vehicles at a time which I think is good for the animals but (possibly because game is fairly sparse at the moment) we needed to move on after only 10 minutes on some occasions. The standard of guiding and tracking was good but I found the team for my private vehicle better than my original combination.

 

I’ve already mentioned the small swimming pool and the amazing amount of wildlife (mainly but not just elephants) that came to the waterhole and pool. Lots of viewing from the deck and the wine cellar below the deck which has a large window at ground level. There will be plenty of pictures to come!

 

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The bush around Kambaku is very dry at the moment and we saw very little greenery or live grass. All of the rivers are dry. It is mixed with areas of trees and some areas of mopane. There is little open land and hence few opportunities for cheetah to thrive. There is a single tarred road but an extensive network of generally good tracks. Offroading is allowed for big cats or rare sightings but the agreement between land owners is that any team that does so has to go back later end remove traces of the activity.

 

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Marks

I really like the perspective on the photo of the two eles drinking at the pool.

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pomkiwi

@@Marks Thank-you. I was shown / inspired in the shotof the elephants by Villers Steyn who came to spend the day with me as a photographic guide. I will give more details when I get to day 4 of the report.

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I wonder if animal suffer any ill effects from drinking chlorinated water out of the pools, or if humans could get ill from swimming in a pool where animals drink from)? The lodge in Kenya we routinely visit often has warthog (and once even a cheetah) drink from thir pool and we've never hesitated jumping in (after they were gone of course)!

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pomkiwi

First Day

 

After dropping my bag in the room I went down to the main lodge – as I left the room it was suggested that I keep my camera with me wherever I went. This proved to be excellent advice as so many animals came through or up to the camp. After a few snacks and tea we set off about 15.30 for the first drive. Kambaku River Sands has a maximum of 6 guests in each vehicle and I enjoyed having a row of seats to myself. My vehicle companions were 2 couples from the USA who proved relaxed company – we agreed a rotation of seat rows with every drive.

 

The drive was gentle and relaxed. We headed to a waterhole observed a white rhino that had clearly been rooting around in the mud.

 

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There was also an old buffalo who gave us the classical stare that seems to be a mix of inquisitive and challenging.

 

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A pair of giraffe were lovely in the evening light and I liked the sidelong glance from the smaller (spot the oxpecker).

 

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We met up with a couple of other vehicles and I suspected we were about to see a large cat but this was clearly not the case when we were invited to get out of the Land Rover. We had a short bush walk and then got to see a python that had circled itself around the trunk of a small tree. This provide the only opportunity / justification for using the camera flash of the whole trip.

 

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It remained fairly quiet for the next little while and we headed for a hyena den (this was close to an area where leopards were often seen and became a useful stop when queuing for a cat sighting). A juvenile was expressing irritation with one of the adults.

 

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The attention switched however to a very young cub that was exploring the immediate area but was quick to return to the den at any sound or movement.

 

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We would return on later drives (more cute cubs to follow) but the rest of this drive was quiet.

 

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After sundowners however our tracker (Renais) managed to see a wildcat in a river bed which was amazing as it was both a long way from the track and well below us and I caught an image of a bush baby for the first time.

 

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All in all a relaxing evening and an example of how rewarding time in the bush can be without ‘exciting’ encounters. It was also our only day without any elephants!

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pomkiwi

One more from the first day that I missed earlier - an owlet from a distance. I think this is a pearl spotted owlet but please correct me if I am wrong.

 

 

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