This is a guest post by Jeff Cammack.
The Kruger National Park has become synonymous with rich wildlife and exciting safari adventures – and even though the park promises vast expanses of natural landscape, a sanctuary of fauna and flora, and the ever popular Big 5, it is not the only park to offer pristine game viewing conditions.
In fact, some of the surrounding parks will provide you with a more intimate personal experience of the bush-veld that sometimes gets lots in the buzzing touristy vibe of the Kruger.
Timbavati Nature Reserve
Mere hours from Johannesburg, Timbavati Nature Reserve is one of the parks located on the border of the Kruger.
It is an unfenced wildlife sanctuary, so all game can cross freely from the main park into Timbavati. The sprawling landscape and lush vegetation along with beautiful colonial style lodges and colorful traditional Rondawels make it one of the most desirable safari stops in Southern Africa.
Rare White Lions
There are many reasons to visit Timbavati, but the park was put on the map in the 1970’s for its discovery of the White Lions. These lions are not albinos, which a result of a genetic defect, but a rare genetic form of the species. Most of these lions have pale blue eyes, and they truly are born snow white. If you are lucky enough to see these marvelous creatures, you can feel truly honored, but it is important not to get your hopes up of spotting one.
David, the manager at Motswari lodge lived in Timbavati for more than 10 years, and he has only seen a white lion once!
As he explained to the guests, the white color is a very unfortunate color to have in the bush. It will explain why many white cubs don’t survive past infancy. None of the white cub litters born in 2006 survived, and it was not until two more cubs where born in 2009 that the white lions returned to Timbavati. They have grown to independence, and are spotted from time to time by guests. Very recently, much to the excitement of residents and staff, a new cub was spotted among the northernmost prides.
The white lions are a rare treasure of the park, and naturally steal the show when they make an appearance. I was privileged enough to get close to these elusive beasts more than once in my life. Their soft eyes make them seem almost vulnerable, and it is easy to forget that you are still looking at the king of predators.
While you will naturally want to dedicate your time to finding these rare lions, do not exclude the rest of the animal population.
The leopards at Timbavati are pretty special, and are surprisingly relaxed around tourists.
The elephant activity is bustling, and getting close to these massive creatures will make you forget all about the white lions for the time being.
The highly endangered white rhino and wild dog make Timbavati their home, and zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, hippos and warthogs all contribute to making the reserve an exceptional place.
A total of nine private lodges offer you a range of accommodation and luxury options to suit most budgets. All the lodges provide access to open air game drives, and Timbavati is accessible by passenger vehicles.
Motswari Lodge is one of the popular choices within Timbavati, offering natural living and relaxation. Do not expect added luxuries like spa and gym facilities. Instead, the fifteen bungalows will provide you with privacy and exclusivity that is hard to find elsewhere. The freedom to explore on your own combined with the relaxing surroundings will ensure that you do not miss the lack of added luxury one bit.
The first thing David, the manager will tell you, is to be on the lookout for snakes. This is not a horror, but a reality. The lodge is situated on the bushy river bank, which is for a snake like a puddle of mud is for a pig; they love it! Vine snakes and bush snakes are common, but staff always sound the alarm when a snake is found in the perimeter.
The beauty of Timbavati Wildlife Park is you never know what to expect. Ian Sharp recently discovered an extremely rare species of butterfly, proving that the area is home to the exotic and scarce, not only when it comes to large game, but the smaller easily overlooked species as well.
Jeff Cammack writes for Safari Guide Africa – an online resource and tour operator for South Africa and the region. Jeff is often times found overlooking some body of water at sunset and is always loyal to his Castle. You can follow his work on his Google Plus profile.