Off at 9 the next morning, we were driving back up to Kruger to spend our last 4 nights at Kambaku River Sands Lodge in the Timbavati section. It is a private camp, so very different to our first 3 days in Skukuza and Satara.
The drive was effortless & took us back through Bushbuckridge.
On entering Kruger we showed the guard the details of where we were staying and followed the clear directions to the entry. On driving to reception we were over the moon to “stumble” on a rhino!
One of the things I was wondering before going to Kruger was surely if the park is the size of Wales it can’t possibly be all fenced. But yes it is!!!
The staff at Kambaku welcomed us warmly and led us to the main lodge area. The camp itself is not fenced so the wild animals can walk freely through camp. You need to be careful during the day but you’re free to walk around. However at night you must have a guide collect you from your room and take you back to the reception area and vice versa.
At about 12.30 pm our room was ready & we were thrilled with what we found. The bathroom is as big as the room but so beautifully laid out with an indoor & outdoor shower. The room itself has a HUGE bed with a mosquito net surrounding it. It was also decorated with rose petals in the shape of a heart! There is a large timber deck that surrounds the room & huge glass doors that slide open. We spent the next hour sitting in the sun on our deck admiring the surrounding bush & hoping some wild animal would walk past.
Lunch (or high tea) is served at 3 then it’s time for the afternoon drive. We dutifully arrived at 3 but everyone was already seated & there appeared to be no room left to sit so we felt a little uncomfortable but in no time we were escorted to our jeeps and we met our fellow safari members. We got an instant feel that it was going to be fun as there was much laughing and chatting. We had been grouped with a young couple (Michelle and David) from Toronto Canada who were on their honeymoon and a family of 3 (Lenna, Gordon and Stephanie) also from Toronto (daughter Steph is the same age as Josh). We were to find ourselves in good company & thoroughly enjoyed being with them all over the next few days.
Our first afternoon out was amazing. Up until this point we had not seen one big cat in Kruger. We might have mentioned this once or twice to our guide JJ. He very kindly fixed the situation first by finding some beautiful lions peacefully resting in the grass then we were entertained for ages that afternoon watching a magnificent lion sitting in the comfort of the shade of a tree as he devoured his buffalo he had caught that morning. It was jaw dropping.
We also saw so many beautiful animals & laughed along with the rest of the crowd & got to know each other. It was such an awesome experience.
We didn’t have time for an afternoon drink stop as the animal sightings were too busy and varied. We came back to camp in the dark and the tracker Renias spotlighted madly to see if there was any nocturnal animal activity but alas we didn’t find any.
Back at camp JJ our guide showed us all to our rooms then we freshened up for dinner & were then guided to the lodge. We had a wonderful dinner together chatting away. Each night the dinner is held in a different location and tonight it was down in the sand at the front of the lodge. The staff had placed all the tables in a line surrounded by fires and lanterns .. a beautiful atmosphere.
We sat for ages drinking & chatting then were guided back to our rooms ready for a good nights sleep.
Well the sleep was somewhat disturbed by the continuous sound of the hyena .. they howled & whooped all night. At about 5am they sounded so close. I have to confess I was a bit freaked out as we had left the glass doors open onto the deck & just had the wire doors closed. I asked JJ later if the wire doors were safe enough & he reassured us they were. We noticed that the canvas on the chairs on our decks adjoining our room had been chewed by something. JJ advised us that it was the hyena’s destruction! Just to prove how close they actually come!!!
We were out on our drive by 6.30 and very early on came across a pack of wild dogs on the road. We watched them playing around & entertaining some zebra close. JJ told us that they were getting ready to go hunting. Suddenly they were off & so were we! We went off road following them fast as they ran. We had just got to the dam when we heard them catch an impala. We drove around the acacia trees & would only have been 1-2 mins but by the time we caught up with them the poor old impala was nearly finished off. They ripped and tore at the dead animal & had a feast. It was fascinating to watch but incredibly smelly. Michelle & I were nearly gagging.
We came back to the lodge at around 9.30, had half an hour to enjoy an outdoor shower then down to the main lodge for brunch at 10. Rod & I retired to our room afterwards where I promptly fell asleep & dozed for about 3 hours! The afternoon was equally as exciting as we saw a pack of hyenas feeding on their kill.
It was then back to the lodge at 6.30 then picked up for dinner at 7 which was held tonight in the boma area off the main dining area. Again the tables and seats were arranged on the sand with fires and lanterns as illumination.
Such a great day.
The following 2 days followed the same pattern & it all turned into one incredible blur. We continued to see all the animals including herds of elephant, journeys of giraffes including some very cute babies, interesting birdlife, rhino, hippo, crocodile, & leopard.
We had the experience of walking single file through the bush learning much about the trees and flora of the area.
There were many funny instances too such as when we got a flat tyre and had to stop in the middle of the bush in twilight to mend it. Of course we all had to get off the vehicle and this was only minutes after JJ had told us there had been a lion sighting nearby. So we are all standing around watching JJ change the tyre & feeling extremely vulnerable. I couldn’t get back on the jeep fast enough.
Another funny instance was when we were careering around in the jeep and suddenly came around the corner to find one of the other jeeps from the lodge parked in the middle of the bush with the tourists on the back but no sign of the guide or tracker. It looked that funny! Both guide and tracker had left the vehicle to look at prints and when we came upon the jeep they were nowhere to be found.
Renias continued to amaze us with his spotting ability – particularly at night where he even managed to see a chameleon on a tree.
We enjoyed some magnificent sunsets and sunrises. The last night we were all together we had dinner at a boma away from the lodge. The staff had brought all the food out & we sat at the beautifully set tables enjoying wonderful food listening to the animals in the dark. The staff also put on a great “concert” where they sang and danced. Unfortunately it came the time when our fellow ‘jeepers’ had to leave and Rod & I were the only ones on the last day. It was great having the jeep, JJ & Renias all to ourselves even though we missed the company of the others.
The highlight had to be though the last night we had there. I had made noises prior to us visiting that we would like to stay overnight in the hide. I’d read about this at one of the other lodges & thought it looked romantic & would be a bit of fun. The staff were so good accommodating our wishes but as the time got closer I started to have second thoughts! Rod was really keen though so we went ahead with the plan. JJ & Renias set up the 2 camp beds for us & they actually were pretty comfortable. However when we got there, I wondered whether I should be more nervous about the hide falling down than the possibility of encountering wild animals! Let’s just say that the hide at Kambaku is not romantic. It was about 8-9 pm when we got out there. JJ stayed with us for a while & went over how to call in on the radio if there was a problem! We had a great torch too. We sat & shone the torch for a while but couldn’t see anything so bunkered down for a good nights sleep. LOL as if!!! Between the sound of the lions roaring, the hyena yelping, the leopard sawing etc we hardly slept. But it was the most amazing experience and I’d repeat it in a heartbeat.
The following day after our morning safari it was time for us also to say goodbye. I have to say the whole experience in Kruger was life changing. It was that humbling to be so close with nature and to spend some invaluable time in the company of the most incredible wild animals. The time spent just bumping around in the vehicle surrounded by terrific scenery & great company was incredibly relaxing. So after some tearful farewells we headed off to Johannesburg by car to catch our evening flight home.
These are the last shots of the drive from Kruger to JBurg