Shindzela Tented Camp, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
After a week of self-driving in Kruger National Park we were not sure what to expect from our first stay at a private reserve. I had chosen Shindzela as it is an unfenced bush camp and pretty small with only 9 tents. We arrived in time for a late lunch before heading out on our first game drive.
Our worries about being stuck with annoying people were soon put to rest as it became clear everyone else was just as passionate about the wildlife as we are. So much so that when we when stopped for our first sighting, a long debate took place as to the origin of the name ‘Bateleur’.
We stopped at one of the local dams as three giraffe approached for a drink. Giraffes are at their most vulnerable when drinking so are extremely cautious, taking many attempts before settling. After waiting very, very patiently I finally managed to capture a shot of all three drinking at the same time.
As darkness began to fall we came across a small crash of white rhino but the half-light did not make for great pictures. A call came over the radio that another vehicle had located a leopard on a kill and we headed off in the darkness to try and find it. This is one of the benefits of guided safaris, you get to experIence the bush at night, something you can only do via special ‘night drives’ in Kruger National Park.
After waiting patiently, our driver Jaco got us close to where the leopard lay on a termite mound, having had to give up it’s kill to a hyena. After a few minutes this magnificent animal disappeared to the peace and safety of thicker bush leaving us us thrilled and excited after our first drive in the Timbavati.
Our first morning at Shindzela started a bit overcast and the bush was quiet except for this curious dwarf mongoose. Despite this we learned about the different flowers and trees and the smaller aspects of the bush one might miss while driving through.
Jeffrey picked up tracks of another cat, not leopard this time but instead lions! The tracks went into some pretty dense mopani bush and I thought that would be where we gave up but no, time for some ‘bundu bashing’! (A term for trying to navigate a vehicle through thick cover.)
We only saw the lions when we were nearly on top of them and you can see from the pictures how well hidden they were. One of the females was unhappy with us disturbing their rest and was a bit aggressive, with a lot of tail swishing and staring intently at our vehicle. So we left and decided to try and re-locate them in the afternoon instead.
Back in camp and after a long breakfast I had a wander around camp to see what birds I could find. There are always hornbills around and I love to watch them foraging for small bugs amongst the undergrowth.
There was suddenly a commotion and all the birds started to alarm call. The last time I heard this was when a snake was trying to steal eggs from a nest. This time it was a barn owl that was being mobbed. When he was able to find a spot to roost a bit further away I was able to capture a picture.
After another hearty lunch (South African portions are pretty big!) we headed out on the afternoon drive and Jeffrey, our tracker, managed to re-locate the lions we had found earlier in the day. They had only moved about 200m but this time they were in more open ground. Being so close to these animals in an open vehicle was thrilling and it is great to be able to hear all the small noises you wouldn’t normally be able to hear. This group comprised a young male and two females who had probably struck out together from a bigger pride in search of food. Like lions often are, they dozed, moved a little, flopped and dozed again. These kitties were in no mood to do anything energetic so we left them to their rest, wishing them luck for the night of hunting ahead.
After the traditional ‘sundowner’ drinks of gin and tonic’s, we headed back home to camp in the growing darkness. It seems to get very dark, very quickly in the bush and it was not long before we started to spot some of the nocturnal animals. This hyena was up and about already looking for a meal.
We hadn’t seen many elephants since we left the main part of Kruger a few days earlier but that was soon changed when we came across a large breeding herd making their way through the bush, feeding as they went.
The young matriarch seemed a little upset with us being around and came close and gave us a trumpet and a headshake. It became clear why when her young calf appeared. She soon calmed down and the youngster proceeded to mock charge us to show how big and brave he was as well.
There was another ‘big baby’ in the dam, this time a hippo with it’s mum. I love listening to these animals ‘laughing’ as they communicate with each other.
As the day became hotter, other animals also sought the cool water. This hyena was enjoying a relaxing bath in the waterhole and seemed happy to stay there all day! We decided to follow the hyena’s example and after breakfast spent some time in the small swimming pool back in camp.
With some new guests on the vehicle we headed out into the reserve once again and managed to find some zebras which made a nice change as we hadn’t seen many since leaving Satara. The grazing in the area wasn’t of very high quality due to the drought so a lot of the grazing herds had moved on to more green pastures.
We found another (or possibly the same) group of elephants and spent some time with them. They were very relaxed and many were happy to come close to the vehicle and were oblivious to us as they carried on with their grazing.
Although we had seen a few rhino on our very first drive it was quite brief and nearly dark. So it was nice to come across this solo animal who had just been enjoying the cooling mud. He seemed relaxed and posed nicely for some photos before heading off slowly into the bush.
Once again we found tracks to our local lions who seemed to have made a temporary home not too far from camp. Once again they were pretty inactive and