We spent one night on the last day of march at Kings Camp lodge in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. Here is a review containing our impressions:
|Table of Contents|
Suites & Facilities
Tips, Advice and Rating
|Getting to Kings Camp|
We used our own car to drive to Timbavati game reserve and can recommend it to those who have their own (or rental) car… a 4-wheel drive is not necessary and the place is easy to find. International visitors often arrive by small airplane.
We were greeted at the car by Maggy in such a welcoming and friendly way. While our luggage was being taken to our suite, she gave us cold cloths to refresh us as well as a berry drink and explained the ins and outs of the camp to us. You can't help but feel immediately relaxed and I knew straight away the staff was a big part of what makes Kings Camp special.
When we arrived in the room there was a handwritten welcome note on the stand.
|Lodge performance and staff|
Everyone at this South Africa lodge was great. The staff was always around and available yet they don't get in the way of the bush experience. They lead a very different lifestyle, often away from their families for weeks on end with no entertainment and some, like Simon the barman, welcomes the opportunity to chat with people from all corners of the world and to share their own culture.
There is nothing to fault Kings Camp's performance. They add many special touches to your stay… for instance when you return from the evening game drive you arrive to a hot bubble bath with several candles placed around the bathroom. When we arrived in our suite after dinner, a personalised card was placed next to the bathroom basins to advise us of the next day's weather conditions, presumably so we could plan on what to wear!
From the cleaning staff to the restaurant staff and chef, to the assistant managers (we never met the management couple) - everyone was friendly and professional and added to a very enjoyable and personal experience at the lodge.
We also met Patrick, the head ranger, who has an obvious passion for what he does. He is currently working on a project to "bring to life" the stories of the leopards around Kings Camp for the guests' enjoyment, something I believe can only add to the understanding and appreciation of a stunning animal.
|Suites and facilities|
Where to start…! Our suite was exquisite. The big four poster bed with mosquito net and quality bedding comes straight out of a dream. The cupboard is stocked with umbrella, insect repellent, bath robes, slippers and the like.
The spacious sitting area is comfortable and you could enjoy fresh fruit and sherry while you page through magazines, something we regrettably didn't have time (or much space!) for during our short stay. There were complimentary purified water, a mini-bar (extra cost), your own veranda area with hammock (strong enough for two!) from where we saw a bushbuck in the early morning.
The bathroom almost warrants a chapter of its own. It's beautiful and apart from the indoors shower, you can enjoy a more natural cleaning session under the stars, like we did, in the double outdoor shower!
If you are so inclined you can make use of Kings Camp's basic gym or enjoy a variety of beauty treatments. There is also a swimming pool and a viewing deck where you can pass lazy hours.
The entire camp is laid out so that most suites and the general area all overlook the water hole. I would love to visit in winter time when animals apparently make regular use of that water hole… one almost wouldn't have to leave camp!
The lodge is decorated with a strong Colonial flavour with quality furniture, Kelims and Persian carpets abound…
We arrived just in time for lunch in the dining room, filled with natural light. There is so much detail about the gorgeous food we ate at Kings Camp but let me not spoil the surprise.
All our meals were extremely tasty although the portions were a bit large. But it's so good that you can't stop eating… and then end up rolling to your suite to try and sleep it off! A nice problem to have, some might say! Maybe that gym isn't such a bad idea…
We got the opportunity to meet the chef after dinner; another person who is passionate about what he does and someone who loves spending time in his kitchen.
|Game drives, vehicle, guides|
The open Land Rovers (hat essential) were built to take a bit of hammering, and they do! The guides sometimes follow game into the bush (off-road) and you can imagine that the vehicle is not spared from scrapes and bumps. I couldn't help but wonder at times if all the off-road driving was doing the environment much good, but it's only done for the wildlife enjoyment of the guests and not unnecessarily.
The Land Rovers they use at Kings Camp take a maximum of 6 guests so everyone has a "side seat" and a handy storage compartment between each two seats.
The tracker's seat is on the bonnet of the vehicle so that he can watch for animal tracks and -signs in the dirt road ahead.
Our tracker, with the convenient name of Remember, was fantastic. On our morning drive we dropped him off in the bush to track a white rhino - something the other guests really wanted to see. Less than half an hour later he radioed our driver-guide Cynet to say he found the "Mkombi" (Shangaan for rhino).
You could see that he has a love for the bush and its wildlife, and that he knows his stuff! The two of them made a great team and were constantly talking about the activity in the bush and speculating on where certain tracks were leading.
Cynet was also good and really made an effort to show us and the other guests the best of Africa's big game in the limited time we had. The guides of the various lodges within the same traversing area of Timbavati, keep in radio contact with each other, thereby increasing the odds of finding the big game.
How they keep track of where north is, and where to direct each other, remains a mystery to me… these guys are so in tune with nature, it really is something to enjoy.
Around camp, we saw birds but no game apart from one bushbuck and an opportunistic vervet monkey, but I believe in winter it's a different story. Animals then make regular use of the waterhole which is also lit up at night.
During our short stay at Kings Camp we went on two game drives and were fortunate to see an entertaining elephant bull (have you ever seen an elephant scratch its eye with the tip of its trunk?), nyala, ground hornbills (huge birds with the longest eyelashes), wild dogs, giraffe, eagles, impala, white rhino, lions, vultures and crocodile.
These sightings were all wonderful - if you love wildlife everything is worth watching and learning about! - but the two that stood out were the wild dogs and lions for sure.
The wild dog is a highly endangered animal and quite rare to see. This and the fact that even the guides don't often see them around Timbavati, made it very special. We were so blessed because not only did we see them, we were literally among them (a pack of about 10) as they were hunting. It felt like we were shooting an episode of "Be The Creature"!
We went off road to try and keep up with the dogs which were dispersed over a large area but running in the same general direction. Every now and again you would see a white-tipped tail among the grass and the bushes and then it's gone again.
I will go so far as to say those 10 minutes were among the top five wildlife experiences I have ever had on safari!
The second wildlife highlight at Kings Camp was the pride of lions. It was a family of four cubs, one female and one male. They had caught a waterbuck the night before and had their fill, so were extremely lazy and sporting fat tummies! The male wasn't too interested in us but did lift his head and glanced our way for a photo. The female was lying under a different tree and gradually the cubs followed her there. They are really as cute as they seem and even in their lazy state were a little bit playful (if you can imagine slow motion play).
Our guide said he missed another female that usually hangs out with this pride but seeing as she's pregnant she might even have gone off to give birth… exciting!
We were lucky with the weather as it was dry and not too hot. The other guest couple had been there for 3 nights and they had quite a bit of rain in the days before we arrived.
|A typical day at Kings Camp|
Days at a luxury safari lodge are very typical and Kings Camp was no different.
Our day started with a wake up call around 5:30. You have time to brush your teeth and get dressed, then meet up on the observation deck where we could enjoy coffee, tea or juice with an assortment of eats should you wish. We didn't have space!
All too soon it was 6am and time to go off on the morning game drive, which lasted about 3.5 hours.
Upon our return to the camp, a hot & cold breakfast was available until about 11:00.
Then you can choose your preferred way of relaxing until around 13:30 when it's time for lunch…
… after which you may choose the same or a different way to relax further.
At 16:00 everyone met up at the Land Rover to go on the afternoon game drive. We drove around until sunset when we stopped, got out of the vehicle and enjoyed sun downer drinks and snacks to the sound of calling hyenas. Life doesn't get much better than that!
We drove back to camp in the dark, with Remember sweeping his powerful torch light from side to side across the bushes trying to spot nocturnal life.
Back at camp we were welcomed with a short drink, sherry if I remember correctly, and escorted to our suites by Johannes, the night watchman. His job was to ensure we didn't get eaten by any surprise four-legged visitors during the dark hours.
After freshening up, it was time to eat again - a lovely dinner shared with Cynet our Kings Camp guide, in the bar area. He told us about some of his bush experiences, like the time he had a close encounter with a leopard. We could also see he was longing for the next day to arrive when he was due leave to go and spend time with his family, especially his one-month old daughter.
After dinner we sat around chatting in the lounge and then spent a bit of time in the library, looking at the books and checking a few e-mails on a surprisingly fast internet connection. Finally it was time to go to bed in an air-conditioned room, so that we could be rested for the next day's safari activities!
|Tips and advice|
If you can choose the time of year, I would recommend you visit Kings Camp in winter when the game viewing should be even more spectacular.
Although we usually got very close to the animals, our binoculars still came in handy - especially around camp (bird watching) and trying to find the soul of the elephant through his eyes.
Clothing needs to be comfortable, and don't forget something warm for the early mornings and after sunset. Bruce doesn't get cold easily but I was glad I had a sweater on the open safari vehicle. We didn't "dress up" for dinner but the other couple did a bit… I think it depends on your own preference. We certainly didn't feel out of place with a pair of jeans at the dinner table.
|Rating for Kings Camp, out of 10|
9 and a half! I highly recommend Kings Camp (make an enquiry).
|Safari Location:||Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, South Africa|
|Safari Company Used:||Seasons In Africa|
|Traveller Details:||Bruce & Wilma Whittaker, African Safari Journals founders (about us)|
|Rates & Availability:||Make a Kings Camp enquiry|