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Timbavati - 4 nights at Kambaku River Sands

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Day 3


Back to breakfast.


The day warmed up and generally slowed down.


A hyena shot us a sideways glance.




A vulture on lookout gave us hope of something interesting nearby but nothing was found.




A moment with something smaller




Finally a quartet of lazy lionesses.




A quick wash and then time for some serious rest.






We headed off for breakfast.

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  • Kitsafari


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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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@@pomkiwi just love that crisp sharp photo of the pretty zebra (3rd in the zebra series) with the hay in its mouth. i also enjoyed those two rascal young elephants playing.

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@@Kitsafari Thank-you (as ever) for your encouraging feedback. The most unexpected aspect of my stay at Kambaku was the sheer number of elephants we saw - both in terms of numbers of contacts and the numbers of individuals. This was both on drives and through the congregation around the waterhole and pool at the lodge. It was both interesting and exciting to be able to spend so much time observing behaviour and interaction within and between groups. I'm afraid some serious elephant overload is likely in the next few contributions!

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@@pomkiwi I've come to love elephants and the serene calm energies they emit when they don't feel threatened, so i'm looking forward to more ele photos and interactions. I wonder though, if the drought has forced them out in the open to seek water. it must be quite hard on them too but at least they can dig for water at the riverbed. not the same can be said for the other herbivores.

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Elephants (part 1)


One of the things I had not expected at Kambaku was the number of elephant sightings. The Timbavati is very dry at the moment and lots of animals came to the waterhole. Additionally most, but not all, of the elephants came to the pool on the deck to drink. Presumably the water was cleaner and the chlorine content is not enough to bother them. The next posting will concentrate on the photo opportunities provided by this behaviour.




Meanwhile we had sightings of elephants in the bush at the edge of the camp (and on one occasion after dark charging straight across the main path between rooms).




We were also able howver to spend hours watching family groups come and go with lots of interaction and in particular young adults play fighting.






















Apologies for the overkill - I have to warn that there will be even more in my next post.

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Elephants and the wine cellar


Kambaku River Sands has a wine cellar. In reality this is a pleasant room lined with wine racks and with a table in the centre. An excellent spot for a romantic dinner (not on my agenda as my wife was several thousand miles away). However the unique feature of this room is that it is tucked under the deck with a large plate glass window facing the waterhole. As such it was possible to get to see animals at ground level and it was particularly reqwrding to be there when several family groups of elephants arrived at the same time.


There was a lot of interaction and noise with what appeared to be some bad tempered exchanges to an untutored human ear.


A selection of images 'from ground level'

















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Poolside pachyderms


Essentially some photography playtime. I was joined on one day by Villiers Steyn a professional photographer from Hoedspruit. He spent the day with me and as well as lots of excellent tuition whilst on drives inspired me to take advantage of the opportunities offered by elephants and the pool. He was regaling me with stories of how at waterhole hides (such as at Mashutu) he would sometimes hold his camera in the palm of his hand over the water, gradually lowering it until the back of his hand got wet. I was not brave enough for that but instead lay by the pool with my camera right on the edge. Anyway a final set of elephants (may be one or two from drives to come however :P)



















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Beautiful perspectives! Last one (mirror) is great; to become fantastic do level the horizon.

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Really enjoying your report. The zebras and elephants are lovely, and may I cast another vote in favor of that owl? I've only pushed my D7200 to ISO 6400 at night, with a spotlight, but your spectacular result is proof positive that I can take it even a little further.

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@@xelas Thank-you for your comment. The horizon is difficult as there are in effect two! There is the surface of the water and then the edge of the pool itself. The problem is that the pool edge rises slightly to the right of the picture and I elected (rightly or wrongly) to try and use the water edge as the horizon line. I have had a further attempt since your comment but have not got a result that I am any happier with. Anyway in the end it more playtime than 'serious' wildlife photography!

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@@Alexander33 Thank-you. I shall return to the report proper shortly now that I have finished with the elephant overload. The owl was a lovely sighting and I think that the relative simplicity was very forgiving in terms of ISO and noise. I will post an image of a leopard at 12800 later in the report - not the best quality but certainly very usable.

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Day 3 continued


We tore ourselves away from the pool and set off on the vehicle again. The difference being that I had the vehicle to myself as I had paid for 2 days exclusive use. This meant a change of guide and tracker and I enjoyed being with a slightly older team and really enjoyed doing everything at a more relaxed pace. Once I had made it clear that I had no target sightings and preferred driving slowly with stops for the sake of it smiles broadened and we headed off in a relaxed fashion.


We stopped for a male giraffe and passenger having briefly sat with a rhino with intact ears (hence had not yet been micro-chipped).






We did come across a lone male elephant and I will restrict myself to a single picture!




A small group of vervet monkeys were playing in a laid back fashion as the sun started to set.






The message came on the radio that a female leopard had been sighted and we headed over. The light was golden and the leopard was apparently draped over the bough of a large marula tree - one of the shots I have yet to get. There were a number of other vehicles ahead of us and we stopped by the hyena den to be entertained by the youngsters.









Disappointly the golden light of the evening had faded by the time we got our turn but the consolation was that the leopard had descended from her tree and was on the move.






We followed her along the road briefly and then along the banks of a dry river, dialing up the ISO settings (starting at 5000 and finishing at 8000) as she worked her way along the bed.










Attempts to leave the river were thwarted by an elephant who was on the bank just beside us but once it moved off the leopard came up from the river into the dark and headed off. We did the same and finished our drive a little early for a bush brai.



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Day 4


Today was a full day with my own vehicle. I had also arranged for a local photographer, Villiers Steyn, to come and spend the day with me to give me some tips. This worked very well and I found that I was able to pick up lots of good ideas without feeling I had been sent back to class. Most of the time it was discussing how to make the most of opportunities but we also had a really useful Lightroom session back at the lodge and an unplanned session with the poolside elephants shown a few posts earlier.


The day was still and cold first thing. There was a beautiful moon set and sunrise.






The stork we had seen the previous day was back again but more interesting against a threatening looking sky.




A few minutes later we were able to play with reflections thrown by another stork.




A nyala watched us whilst its youngster fed.




A bushbuck provided some backlit opportunity or challenge depending on your photographic mood.






Finally a close up encounter with an elephant that had used its tusks for a good while.





Edited by pomkiwi
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Sory all - I mistakenly labelled the 5th image of mother and youngster as a nyala - it is a kudu (hangs head in shame).

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Great report but is it not a Nyala rather than a Bushbuck in Pictures 6-7?

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The lodge looks really interesting.

How many people do they seat in each vehicle?

How much did you have to pay for the private vehicle?

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@@mvecht I think you are probably correct in spotting the nyala as well. I will just have to go on a few more safaris to get this right....

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Kambaku River Sands keeps to 6 guests per vehicle although the lower priced Kambaku Safari Lodge sometimes has 8 or 9 I believe.

For 2017 the rate for private vehicle use is R4500 per day but I got a discounted rate in May and paid R3300 per day.

I have put a review in the Lodge Review section with a few more details

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Reflexion of saddlebilled stork is awesome. Great Report to @@pomkiwi.

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The morning drive continued with a rather nice opportunity to watch 2 giraffes indulging in some 'necking'. The sun was still just low enough to allow some backlighting and it was interesting to observe the interaction.
















We finished the drive with a contrast in scale!



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There comes a time in the production of a trip report when enthusiasm seems to wane. The gap between trip and report gets ever longer (despite the best intentions) and perhaps the writers attention begins to turn more to forthcoming rather than past journeys. This often seems to coincide with an apparent reduction in the audience (based on numbers of comments and notifications of approval).


Anyway I am going to reinvigorate my enthusiasm and thank those who are hanging on in there. We spent the break between drives eating far too much (as ever on safari) and I treated myself to a holiday lunchtime beer. Villiers spent an hour or so showing me some tips and tricks with Lightroom (some of which I have struggled to remember now I really need them). We then spent an fun hour with the elephants and pool (results a few posts earlier) before heading off into a lovely golden afternoon. (Well a few photos were taken of elephants from the cellar as we headed off) :)




It was a relaxed drive. We spent some time just listening to the silence.


A waterhole provided us with some terrapins and their mobile island.






Further on another waterhole gave yet another pachyderm perspective.












We got word of another leopard but on the other side of the traversing area. We agreed to head off there but stop for anything interesting.


There actually wasn't much to stop for which was just as well as it was beginning to get quite dark (this was turning into the ideal trip for me to practice my low light leopard photography). We were further delayed as the leopard in question (a young female) came down from her marula bough (regular readers will see a pattern here) and disappeared into some thick bush. Eventually we saw her but she vanished again and appeared somewhat cross when we found her again.




She clambered out with a lovely sinous movement and we followed her along some thick bushes until she rather obligingly sat on a branch and allowed some variations on portrait phtography.















Finally she set off again and I briefly explored what a photo at ISO12800 would look like.




She did settle again but we felt both she and we needed a rest and we set off pausing only to capture the aftermath of a sunset we had missed whilst on the chase.






All in all a lovely, relaxed and relaxing evening.

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Lovely Leopard variations, and I love the shots of the Elephant in the river. The colours, the shadow, the water by the trunk - very special! And please keep on, I enjoy the report a lot! And I can tell you from experience it's quite normal to lose parts of the audience as these reports go on.

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@@michael-ibk Thank-you for your encouragement, the observations about trip report writing apply to other forums as well as ST. I am not downhearted at all! It is always good to have a reason for going back to the images of a safari and enjoying the memories they bring back. This report will end soon however as there is only one more drive to go!

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I concurr with @@michael-ibk! I'm hanging on patiently waiting every day for an update!


I also love the elephant pictures by the water, with the beautiful tree. Lovely perspective! If I ever managed to take a picture like that, it would go on my wall for sure! To me it represents everything I love about safari and Africa! (I do happen to love elephants a lot... :) )

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@@pomkiwi please keep going as I have really enjoyed your trip report.

I love the hippo and terrapin photo's, I wonder how the little guys get on-board??


I look forward to the last drive coming up.

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