Into Timbavati Country Made Famous by "The White Lions of Timbavati" ...


Today we would complete a fairly long loop drive through the area made famous by The White Lions of Timbavati. The area is west of Satara. White lions are not a true white but pale versions of the normal lion sandy colouration. This is a genetic aberration passed on into successive generations.

Kruger park map Satara Region S126, S36 to Timbavati We would head down the H1-3 for a short distance before turning west onto the Sweni River road (S126) before turning right onto the S36. This sand road would take us across the main Satara to Orpen road up the S39 which then would loop back to Satara via the S40 and H7. The initial and middle sections of the drive are along rivers. Waypoints  278 to 300 Timbavati Loop via S126 (Sweni Drive), S36, S39 and S40.  The first section of the drive would be along the Sweni River (means to close eyes tightly) which is the largest tributary of the N'wanetsi where we saw the big Tusker yesterday.
 Burchells Coucal Kruger National Park A nice sighting of a Burchell's Coucal got us of to a good start before we reached the S36 turn off to drive along the Sweni River at waypoint 278 to be followed shortly by a stop at the Sweni watering point. Egyptian geese were flying overhead and Wildebeest were close to the water feeding in the open area (see below) as was a male Kudu. The country here was more closed than yesterday but still relatively open compared to other areas in the Kruger.
Sweni watering point Wildebees in the open area Kruger National park Waypoint 280 was a point where large boulders just "grew" out of the ground and became the start of a ridge  and more dense bush. Weather was cool and cloudy today and yesterday.
Elephant crossing S36 near Welverdiend watering hole Kruger National park Just before we got to waypoint 281 we had a close sighting of an elephant that crossed the road in front of us (see how he's watching us with that right eye). 281 is the Welverdiend watering point (meaning well earned success after hard work ... referring to successful sinking of the borehole here in 1975 or thereabouts).
Juvenile Swainsons Spurfowl Kruger national park At the small watering point in an open area we saw a Swainson's Spurfowl previously called Francolins (picture is of a juvenile) and a slender mongoose.
Epiphytec Orchid growing in the fork of a tree Kruger National park Waypoint 282 ... after passing some beautiful Impala we saw an interesting phenomenon at waypoint 282. The photo below shows an Epiphytec Orchid growing in the fork of a tree. These orchids do not like permanent moisture and would quickly rot if they were in soil. The idea growing position is, as can be seen in this photo, in the fork of a tree where the plant has the right substrate (bark) and good air circulation which is vital for success. Learn more here: epiphytic orchids 
White backed vulture Kruger national park Waypoint 283 is the junction with the S36. At this point we turned left to the Muzandeni (named after seeing Tssessebe in the area during road surveyance work by J. Klopper in 1958) Picnic denoted on the map as waypoint 284. Close by on a dead tree and paying close attention was a White-backed Vulture . On cloudy days there are fewer thermals to power so much loved by soaring raptors such as vultures so they tend to perch more. The picnic spot is about 100 metres higher than Satara camp at around 380 metres above sea level.
Looking north over the Knobthorn Savannah Kruger national Park Waypoint 285 is the Rockvale watering hole. donated by Ena Rhind in memory of her husband "who loved animals". Apart from a few zebra travelling in perfect single file there were few animal sightings on the road. The views were still terrific just like this one here ...
Tony Roocroft at Bobejaan Krans Kruger National park Waypoint 286 was the junction with the main H7 road where we turned left to look out from the Bobbejaan (Baboon) Krans, waypoint 288 ... at the Krans there is a get out point and a beautiful bench has been placed "in loving memory of Theo Emmet, who spent many happy hours here" and where yours truly was captured on camera talking to himself ...
Red sandstone rock Phelwana River Kruger National park On the way up to Bobejaan Krans we crossed the Phelwana River at waypoint 287 ... the river was dry and the rocks in the river, worn smooth over millenia, were a beautiful red sandstone colour. You can see from the photo where the river level gets to as shown by the change in colour. 
Panoramic view Timbavati region Kruger National park Waypoint 289 was the turn onto the S39 heading towards the Timbavati picnic spot 32 kms away (the road straight ahead would have taken us to Olifants Camp some 79 kms away). The photo shows a typical shot of the vegetation and countryside around here. The trees are varieties of acacia thorn tree including the Umbrella Thorntree.
Black-backed Jackals on S39 Kruger National Park Shortly after turning onto the sand road about 5kms just before waypoint 290 we saw one of the highlights of the day and even of the whole trip. Two Black-backed Jackal were in the middle of the road. This was close to a spot on the Timbavati River where vultures were circling and the call of a Hyaena could be heard.
Black Backed Jackal Kruger National park Timbavati District We were able to watch and follow the Jackals for about 10 minutes as they slowly moved off parallel to the road in a south easterly direction.
Picture of woodland and stream map Timbavati area Kruger National park Waypoint 290 was a lookout over the dry Timbavati River. and then 291 was the crossing over a small dry river where we saw a herd of Impala and also shortly after that a group of Kudu. There are many small streams crossing this woodland area as you can clearly see from this detailed map
Panoramic view Timbavati region Kruger National park Waypoint 292 is Leeubron (Lion Spring) watering facility sponsored by First National Bank "in the interests of nature conservation" and certainly judging by the number of Wildebeest and Zebra at the spot they appreciated this very much.
Dry Timbavati River Kruger National Park Shortly after waypoint 293 which provided a spectacular view of the dry Timbavati River bed there was a very large herd of Buffalo lying down in the grass. Buffalo are rarely far from a water source since they need to drink every day. 
Giraffe grazing close to Timbavati River Continued ... A number of Giraffe and Impala were also in the immediate area. Shortly after this at waypoint 295 we came across a single tree half of which was completely covered in a vine of some sort.
Tree covered in moss or air plant substance KNP It was the only tree in the area that had this growth all over it. It was most peculiar. I wonder if it is some kind of air plant?
Blue Waxbills and Jamesons Firefinches drinking Kruger National Park Waypoint 296 ... Crossing the Sandspruit stream just before it enters the Timbavati ... the stream had a small shady pool, in a grotto as it were, in which Blue Waxbills and Jameson's Firefinches were drinking.
Wildebees calves Kruger national park Waypoint 297 is the Timbavati Pan where Giraffe with splayed legs were drinking. Just before that a nice herd of Wildebeest with youngsters. 298 is the Timbavati picnic spot where we stretched out legs.
Wildebeed Kruger National Park Waypoint 299 and 300 ...  Magabayane Koppies. These 2 hills are part of the Clarens Sandstone Formation. They are named after Creeks that rises here. One is called Nsemani (300) and the other Mangadyane (299). Quite impressive formations at about 335 and 354 metres above sea level respectively. The road was around 300 metres. The scenery in this area is very different from the S39 and animals were quite scarce in comparison too. Remember we had traveled along the Timbavati river for the last couple of hours. Now the country was bushveld rather than riverine/bushveld mixed. We had seen more Wildebeest.
Sycamore Fig Tree Girvana watering hole Kruger national park Before arriving back at Satara we made a short detour down the S12 to take a second look at the beautiful Sycamore Fig tree we'd seen at the Girivana watering hole the previous day. The windmill at Girivana was donated by Mr and Mrs C.C. Kay in 1981. This also meant we managed to get another look at the Nsemani Pan also.
From here we left to meander up the H1-4 for the last hour before the Satara Camp gates closed. At waypoint 301 we were told about 4 lionesses along the S90 so turned around to take a look. We were in for a surprise. We were told that the rear tyre on the car was flat as we were watching 4 lions. I asked my wife to get out and change the tyre while I watched out for the lions ... see the truth here.