The next stop in my crash course of Kruger Park area safari camps was Kings Camp. Roughly an hour drive from Ngala Safari Lodge, Kings Camp stands on a private section of the Timbavati with 9 suites and a private Waterbuck Villa next door. The suites are permanent structures with thatch roofs and lots of rich wood furniture. Our suite had a private verandah looking out into the wilderness where a few impala and other antelope could be seen grazing on a daily basis. Beyond the suites there was a gym, spa and gift shop towards the entrance to camp.
The managers of Kings Camp were extremely nice and seemed to be everywhere all at once. We had a bit of an issue with our suite’s thatched roof smelling musty after a recent rain. Without much fuss we were moved to the Waterbuck Villa for our second night in camp which was a big surprise! I was told that the Villa had been booked by Matthew McConaughey only a few months before we stayed there.
Once again, game was plentiful in the Kings Camp Private Reserve. Lions were feeding on a somewhat recent kill while hyenas tried to steal the carcass. We struggled to get a good position to take photographs as their encounter was within a ditch. A couple of white rhino also stumbled upon us during our morning tea break. The experience got my heart racing, as it is still exhilarating to see such large animals so nearby while on foot.
After one of our morning game drives, we seemed to be heading back to camp for breakfast but took a little detour. We were surprised to find some of the camp staff and other camp guests in an outdoor dining structure along a dry riverbed. The table was set with fruit and bread with a breakfast buffet on the other end adjacent to the ‘kitchen’ where some of the camp chefs were busy cooking breakfast to order. The idea was wonderful, but bugs are a little difficult to control, so it was to be expected that we would have lots of flies trying to land on anything they could during the meal. All-in-all a successful concept with some concessions one must make while in the wilderness.
Another surprise at Kings Camp was their willingness to do nature walks. After breakfast, we were offered the option of being driven back to camp or walking and we chose the walk. The managers have built a few different outdoor breakfast areas all within walking distance of the main camp. So, each guest will have at least one ‘bush breakfast’ and a chance to walk back to camp. I do suggest taking the walk as your guide will teach you about many of the small things that are missed during a typical game drive. It may not seem interesting now, but learning about animal tracks, dung, plant life and trails is made exciting by a good guide!
With just two nights left on our Kruger Park whirlwind safari, I felt like we had seen just about everything there was to see. After staying at multiple types of camps and lodges, I felt like I knew what to expect with regards to safari accommodations in Kruger. All of the other camps had permanent structures with a good amount of space and extras like air conditioning. Once we got to Tanda Tula, I was reminded more of a Botswana style tented camp in the best possible way.
Tanda Tula Safari Camp sits on the banks of the Nhlaralumi riverbed which is almost always dry. The main area has a large thatched roof and displays a good amount of elegance, but still feels like a safari camp. Looking toward the pool area, we noticed a local warthog family ‘mowing the grass’ and a few guests relaxing. Beyond the pool was a small waterhole with a few impala having a drink.
Instead of permanent structure rooms, Tanda Tula has tents covered by large thatched shade-casting roofs to help keep them cool. There was no air conditioning, but even in March the room didn’t feel too hot and we spent most of our time out by the pool or in the main area. In the evenings the room cooled down quickly with the aid of a standing fan. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when the camp you’re visiting just ticks all the boxes, but that’s the feeling we had at Tanda Tula. We met some guests who come to Tanda Tula every single year because they enjoy the area, the atmosphere and the staff so much. I could tell they really enjoyed the dinner we had out in the dry riverbed on our final night. The staff was singing and dancing and the food was fabulous.
Game viewing was spectacular just as it had been the entire time in Kruger. One morning, we were following two lioness tracks that came through camp when a call came in that the same lioness duo was in the process of taking down a warthog. Many guests say they would like to ‘see a kill’ but our guide rightly warned us that it would be quite graphic. So, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it! My wife had to look away for most of the action and she noticed a hyena who had quietly shown up to wait beside our vehicle for scraps.
If you are particularly squeamish with regards to blood, you can avoid clicking on the below lioness photographs. They have been cropped to avoid excess blood but can still be off-putting to some.
I feel like Tanda Tula really is a special place. I have since sent quite a few clients to the camp and hope to send as many as possible. If you have any interest in the Timbavati region, I would highly suggest trying to find space at Tanda Tula.
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