Simbavati Hilltop Photo Safari 15-19 July

07th September 2015
I hosted Wendy and Johan from Cape Town on a 4 night photo Safari at Hilltop Lodge in the Timbavati game Reserve, Wendy was wanting to Learn more and improve her Wildlife photography as well as Learn Lightroom.

After the introductions we set up Wendy’s Camera and did a focus calibration on her camera and lenses to ensure nice and sharp images and then we set off on our first Safari.

Our First sighting was of a Big herd of buffalo as they moved through the Mopani bush, it was late afternoon and the light was perfect on the buffalo, we got some good images of them as they moved through the bush occasionally stopping to look at us.

Later on that evening after our sundowner drink we had a brief view of a Lioness as she moved through the night ! It was the first time on the Safari we tried spotlight photography and the moving Lioness didn’t make it easy for us but we managed a few images before heading back to the Lodge.

The following morning we headed to the Southern part of the reserve stopping along the way to photograph some general game and the abundant herd of Impalas.

Later on that morning we found Ntombi female Leopard, she was attempting to stalk a Steenbok as it fed, we kept our distance and silently watched ! The Steenbok however was alert and as Ntombi inched closer the steenbok would move ahead, just out of reach !

Finally Ntombi seemed to give up and she climbed a Marula tree to survey the surrounding area, suddenly she spotted the Steenbok again and in a flash the climbed down the tree and continued her stalk, we eventually left the Leopard as she moved through thick bush and we were unable to follow.

By now it was quite late and we made our way back to camp for breakfast and some Lightroom training, stopping along the way to photograph a herd of zebra.

The afternoon drive was quiet and we only managed to see some general game, a crocodile sunning itself and a Scrub Hare, sometimes that’s just how the bush Works !

Before heading back to the lodge for dinner we stopped and tried a bit of Star photography.

The following morning we spent time photographing a big Bull giraffe and some impalas as they groomed each other, it is always nice watching how the Impalas interact !

That Afternoon we set off on our drive and decided to head over to a nearby dam , as we approached the dam there was a nice variety of general game in the area, Kudu, Waterbuck and Impala, as well as a relaxed Steenbok that grazed as we photographed him.

A short while later we bumped into a small herd of Elephants, we spent some quality time photographing the elephants, trying some close up images of them in the afternoon light.

After our sundowner we went to have a look at a small pride of Lions that had been found nearby, there was one lioness and two young male Lions, at first they were sleeping on the road but a short while later they started to move and we managed to get some good images of them using the spotlight, finally we left the Lions and headed back to the lodge.

Just before we got to Hilltop we spotted a Verreaux’s Eagle owl perched on a large dead tree close to the road, it was a good opportunity to try some more spotlight photography and the Owl was obliging and sat patiently in the tree while we got some good images of it, finally the owl flew off and we headed to the camp to a nice spot we had seen earlier in the day where we tried some star photography and a few star trails.

The following morning we had a quiet start to our drive so we decided to stop for coffee at a nearby Dam.

We had just stopped when we saw 2 crocodiles swimming towards each other in the water, we knew something was up so we got our cameras ready, without warning the one Crocodile attacked the other, it was a quick and sudden attack that only lasted a few seconds but we were ready and we managed a few images of the event, the Crocodiles swam off each in its own direction their dispute apparently over !

On our way back to the Lodge we again saw a herd of Elephants and we got some real close up images of a young female as she fed close to the vehicle.

A short while later we stopped to photograph a Hippo in a shallow pool of water, there was also a Dab chick swimming with it, suddenly and expectantly the Dab chick pecked the Hippo on its eye !

The Hippo ‘s never really re-acted too much, he just lifted his head out of the water, we still don’t know why the Dab chick pecked the Hippo in its eye !

After the Dab Chick and Hippo sighting we headed home for our breakfast and more Lightroom training.

That Afternoon we stopped and watched some Hippos playing in the dam, they seemed to be having a great deal of fun !

A short while later we went to look at Nkanye female Leopard, she had made a impala Kill and she was sleeping close by, when we arrived at the sighting a young Hyena approached causing the Leopard to wake up and move, we spent a few minutes with the Hyena before heading over to the Photograph the Leopard, it was late afternoon and we used some fill flash to get some good results on the sleepy cat !

For the rest of the afternoon we watched the lazy Leopard until finally we left her and headed back to Hilltop for our dinner.

The following morning was our last drive , time had flown by and we couldn’t believe it was almost time to go home !

Our first sighting of the morning was a young Saddle billed stork that was fishing in the shallow water of a riverbed, the Stork was persistent but unfortunately didn’t catch anything !

After leaving the Stork to continue its hunting we went to look at the Ross pride of lions that had been found in the South of the reserve, when we arrived the Lions were resting and sleeping but after a short while they started to move again, they were trailing a small herd of Buffalo ahead of them, we photographed the Lions as they walked and searched ahead for the Buffalo, every now and again the Lions would rest for a bit before continuing.

As the morning sun got hotter the Lions became less active before they finally lay down to sleep, the Buffalo still ahead of them but for the Lions rest and sleep was more important right now !

We headed back to Hilltop for breakfast and to say our final goodbye’s before heading home.


Photo comment By Gavin Fernie: Magnificent photography. Very special collection of animals I will keep to brighten my day.

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