Part 3: Kings Camp, Timbavati Reserve

By Bert Duplessis, Fish Eagle Safaris

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On 09 March, a driver from Eastgate Safaris picked me up from Leopard Hills for the road transfer to the Timbavati Reserve, which is located along the central portion of Kruger Park.  It was quite an interesting drive on a mix of gravel and asphalt road, through interesting terrain with the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment in the background.   At my request, we stopped at a cafe en route; I picked up a copy of the local newspaper and some candy – the one thing that is in short supply at safari camps.

By early afternoon, I was settling into my very nice room at Kings Camp in the Timbavati.  First as a youngster with my family and later on my own and with my wife, I had spent many a wonderful vacation in the nearby Kruger Park, with drives from Rest Camps such as Letaba and Olifants often taking us to the edge of the Timbavati.  The game-viewing was always satisfying, and I still clearly recall finding lions there regularly, as well as some of the most magnificent elephants I had ever seen.  On trips to the area during the 1970’s, we kept our eyes peeled for a sighting of the widely publicized white lions of the Timbavati.  That was not to be.  We saw plenty of lions, but no white ones.  Little did I know that I would have to wait another 30 years to finally see a white lion.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Before going in search of two white lion cubs which had been sighted in the area, I had to inspect the camp.  It is impressive in every sense:  beautiful grounds creating a sense of space and freedom, with an elevated lounge/conference area, a very cozy bar & adjacent lounge and a dining room that opens up to the manicured lawns.  Even though may stay was very short, I got the distinct impression of a very well run property, with everything ‘just so’, from the quality of the guiding to the cooking, and the house-keeping.  The rooms are massive and luxuriously equipped with air-conditioning, Victorian ball-and-claw bath, indoor and outdoor double shower, fully stocked mini-bar and private verandah. Dark tones of wood and thatch offset the natural colors of the bushveld.

Kings Camp really came into its own on the game drives with guide Morne Hamlyn.  Clearly, Morne was at his happiest in the bush and his enthusiasm was great to see.  It wasn’t long before we came upon our first lions and sure enough, there were two young white cubs amongst them.  Amazing to see how white they really are, in comparison with the normal much more yellowish/brown lions.  The blue eyes were striking.  Of course these lions are not albinos, they are leucistic (reduced pigmentation) which is caused by a recessive gene.  So it is a condition which occurs naturally but extremely rarely – currently the two white cubs in the Timbavati are the only two known to exist in the wild.

It was apparent that the cubs were quite thin, with some of their ribs very prominent.  Morne was worried about that – apparently the cubs had not eaten solid food in several days to the inability of their pride to make a kill.  Morne added that it was unusual because the pride is ruled by several extremely powerful females who can literally kill anything and who are known to regularly bring down giraffe.  A couple of days after our departure from the area, I learnt that the pride had in fact taken down a giraffe so there was plenty to eat for all of them.

PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN AT KINGS CAMP

We had some great views of leopards, most of whom were not shy either:

Not many elephant sightings, but there were some:

These juvenile hyenas were quite entertaining, with their parents absent from the den

But of course the highlight at Kings Camp were the two white lion cubs, the latest emergence  of the rare strain of white lions of theTimbavati

Clearly this cub had not had a solid meal in quite a while:

My ‘room’ at Kings  Camp – actually it was the honeymoon suite.

This elevated lounge at Kings Camp has a view of the water hole which is frequented by wildlife especially in the dry season.

The pool at Kings Camp

The bar and adjacent lounge

Continue to Part 4


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