Timbavati Game Reserve


About the Safari

Join us as we take you on a photo safari into Timbavati Game Reserve, a premier destination for large predatory photography. Timbavati is known for excellent leopard and lion sightings and, if you are lucky, a chance to photograph the famed white lions of Timbavati. Expect to see more than big cats on this safari.

The Timbavati Private Game Reserve is located on the western border of Kruger National Park and north of Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. The borders between the reserves and parks are unfenced allowing greater freedom of access to wild life. This is typical lowveld terrain and home to zebra, kudu, giraffe, river buck and many other species including the big 5. The land that make up the Timbavati Game Reserve have only ever been very lightly inhabited and have thus remained largely unspoiled and wild.

Due to lack of availability, we will be staying at an alternate camp in 2015.  Details are being finalized, but will be equal to or better than our Leadwood Private Camp option (which we hope to re-visit in the future.)

Within Timbavai, we will be staying at Leadwood Private Camp. Leadwood Camp has the ambiance of a colonial style camp, with a welcoming lounge and dining area which opens onto a spacious deck overlooking the waterhole. There are 6 elegant suites. This friendly lodge has a very intimate and relaxed atmosphere. As you sit among the Leadwood trees, you can image a time long ago where Ernest Hemmingway or Teddy Roosevelt would be in the chair next to you discussing the next upcoming adventure!

Safari Highlights

  • We have two private vehicles throughout the entire safari, with only 2 people per row of seating (the vehicles have 3 rows behind the driver, plus a seat next to the driver if you want to be lower down to the ground.)
  • Each vehicle will have one of the co-leaders. Their role is to work with the guides to achieve optimal photographic positioning of the vehicle and to advise on lens selection and camera settings.
  • Safari is limited to 12 participants.
  • Knowledgeable and passionate safari guides will drive us in open Land Rovers/Land Cruisers to help us get the images we are after.
  • This safari offers superb game viewing and photographic opportunities in one of the best areas in South Africa.
  • The “immersion experience” – you will be on safari in Africa with Africans! We strive to create a 50/50 split of South African and American travelers on our trips.
  • A virtually unlimited amount of weight per person of up to 180 pounds. Bring as much gear as you need.

Schedule of Events

Photographic instruction, image processing tips, photo sharing and critiques will be offered in a casual atmosphere during down time. Instruction and guidance will be on hand at all times. Laptops are recommended for photo sharing and working with your images throughout the trip. There is no better way to learn than by doing and with digital, the processing is an important element.

Recommended lenses for this trip include the 100-400mm range and a smaller lens for wider shots, including landscapes. It’s a good idea to also bring a shorter zoom if you wish for something wider. We will often be quite close to game, so long lenses in the 500-600mm range are typically not needed but are useful on occasion. A complete and detailed list of recommended gear and clothing will be provided upon registering.

Local South African Home cooked meals will be prepared in the lodge kitchen with help from the resident staff. If you have dietary restrictions, please let us know in advance and we will be happy to accommodate.

Day 1 – Our adventure begins in Johannesburg, South Africa. Upon arrical in Johannesburg you will be met by a representative from the Eagles Nest Lodge, who will then transfer you to the Lodge, where we will spend this night.

On the evening of arrival, everyone will come together to meet your photographic co-leaders leader, Buddy Eleazer and Paul Salvado. Over an early dinner, we will share tips for getting great shots on safari review the itinerary for the trip. The goal will be to answer your questions and set expectations for the fantastic days to follow.

Day 2 – With an early start we will have breakfast and begin our journey to the Kruger Park. The drive is 5 hours, but along the way you’ll be treated to incredible vistas as we cross the Drakensberg Escarpment, with scenes reminiscent of the great Southwest of the U.S.

Upon arrival at Timbavati, we may immediately see game. Giraffe, warthogs, wildebeest and many other large mammals are often spotted on the roadway into Leadwood Private Camp. Once at the camp, we will have lunch and a little time to unpack before heading out for our afternoon game drive. As the sun begins to set, our guides will find a safe location to park and set up ‘sundowners’ – a chance to stretch our legs and have a refreshing beverage and snacks while watching the sun go down.

Day 3 through 8 – The basic schedule each day will be similar.

  • Upon waking each morning, Coffee, hot tea and rusks will be available. We will head out at sunrise each day for morning game drive. After a few hours of shooting, we will stop at a safe location for a beverage and snacks and then continue on the game drive. Around 10:30, the light becomes too flat for good photography so we return from the lodge.
  • From 11 to 3 each day, we will have lunch, but you will have ample free time to transfer your images from the camera, talk with fellow travelers, view game from the deck overlooking the river, relax at the lodge pool, or take a short nap. Another option during this period is to go on a ‘walking safari’ into the bush with one of the guides. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about tracking, the smaller animals and some of the plant life of the region.
  • Typically the afternoon and evening game drive begins around 3 p.m. The schedule is similar to the morning game drive in that we will photograph for a few hours and then, as sunset approaches, we will find a safe location to get out of the vehicle and have ‘sundowner’ drinks and snacks. The Co-leaders and guides will work in cooperation to find a location that has a spectacular view of the setting African sun and also close by features to allow beautiful landscape compositions. Following sunset, we will begin an evening game drive while working our way back to the lodge. These evening drives can allow excellent chances to see and photograph animals on the hunt.
  • Each evening, in conjunction with the evening dinner, we will have a short audiovisual presentation and workshop. We encourage each participant to submit 2 or 3 photos from the day to be added to a slide viewing and discussions.

Day 9 – After the morning game drive, we will pack and begin our journey back to Johannesburg. Near the Drakensberg Escarpment we will make several stops to photograph the dramatic landscape. In the same region are numerous local craftsmen and venders so this is also a good opportunity to purchase souvenirs. Upon return to Johannesburg, we will check in at the Eagles Nest Lodge and then have a final dinner with the co-leaders.

Day 10 – Transfers from the lodge to the airport have been arranged. Often flights depart in the evening. If you’d like, transportation can be arranged to take you to one of the many local museums or shopping areas prior to your flight.

What’s unique about a photo safari to southern Africa with Magnum Excursions?

There are a lot of choices when it comes to an African safari; however, we think our tour offers a few things that separate our offering from the pack. The most unique of these is that this is a true ‘immersion experience’ into southern Africa. For you to understand what we mean, you need to know a little of the back story.

Our trips are jointly led by Buddy Eleazer, an American and Paul Salvado, a South African. It’s important to understand how they met and developed this unique offering. Buddy worked in the ‘corporate world’ for many years. Through his international travels, Mr. Eleazer met Paul Salvado, a South African businessman. For over twenty years, Paul has enjoyed teaching photography and taking fell South Africans into the bush. Buddy decided to join one of Paul’s trips … and then another …. and then another. On these later, trips, Buddy was joined by several fellow Americans. Soon it became obvious that the safari trips with an even mix of Americans and South Africans created a unique chemistry for the events. Photographers from each continent brought with them unique styles and tips from their country, so the photography was enhanced. Further, conversations around the camp fire (or “boma”) were also richer with the mixing of cultures. It was clear that Paul and Buddy had stumbled upon a secret formula that enriched the experiences for both the Americans and the South Africans!

Cost of the Photo Safari

2015 Timbavati Excursion Pricing Coming Soon!  We have the dates locked in, but final pricing has not been released.  Stayed tuned for more. 

SOLD OUT FOR 2014 The cost for this 2014 all-inclusive trip was $4,300 per person.  The 2015 pricing is  to be determined based on quotes expected very soon from the lodges.  The goal is to have the trip priced at approximately U.S. $4,300 per person (but not inclusive of airfare to Johannesburg, South Africa).  As we have to pay the lodge for rooms, guides and park fees, the cost is the same for photographers or others who just want this special view of wildlife in the bush. Your cost will cover all in-country transportation costs (from airport to lodging, all in country transportation and all vehicles within the reserve),  as well as hotel accommodation (based on double occupancy).  All meals while in South Africa are also included.  The non-refundable deposit for this trip is $1,400.

All pricing is based on double occupancy. There is a single supplement charge of $900 if you will be traveling alone or wish to have a room of your own.


Upcoming Photo Safari Dates:



2014 Dates Completed

2015   Dates currently being negotiated with lodges


What’s Included

  • Accommodation for 10 nights on a share basis as specified in the itinerary
  • Airport transfer to first night lodging in Dullstroom
  • Ground transportation to and from Leadwood Private Camp
  • Services of the Lodge and staff
  • All meals as stipulated in the itinerary
  • Water during game drives and wine/beer with dinner while in Timbavati
  • Entrance and relevant park fees
  • Extensive game drives in open safari vehicles
  • Professional photographer advice, guidance and tutoring. Photo tour attendee to Pro Photographer ratio of 3:1
  • Professional Field Guide
  • Two game drives per day
  • Optional bush walks while in Timbavati
  • Panorama Route en-route back to Johannesburg

Price Excludes

  • International airfare and/or other transportation between your home and Johannesburg
  • Travel Insurance
  • Photographic equipment
  • Alcoholic Drinks beyond provided beer and wine
  • Additional activities
  • Personal purchases (including souvenirs, spirit liquors, telephone calls, etc.)
  • Gratuities
  • Optional extra activities (charter bush flight to lodge, etc.)

Fitness Level: Minimal physical activity is required for this photo tour. All game photography will be from a vehicle. Some minor walks if you choose to take them.

What Photo Equipment is Required?

Digital SLR Camera with removable lenses (a fixed lens camera will work but will limit what you can do to a degree).

Zoom lenses – the selection is broad but at least 2 zoom lenses are recommended, one wide angle and one medium to long telephoto, which should preferably have some form of image stabilization. At least 200mm is needed and 300 to 400mm is preferred based on a full frame camera equivalent.  As an example of lens selection, the instructor, Buddy Eleazer, most typically uses the Canon 400mm f/4 lens or the Canon 100-400 zoom lens on a Canon 5D MkIII full frame body.  Buddy owns a 500mm lens and also lens teleconverters, but experience has shown that these lenses are generally too large for this opportunity.

A more complete list of recommended equipment, including any filters, memory cards, camera supports, back-up storage, etc. will be forwarded to travelers following initial payment.

When should I book?

We select small lodges, typically with only 5 to 6 guest rooms.  This means we will have the place to ourselves, but it also means that we have limited space, so book early. If you enjoy work closely together with other photographers, sharing our knowledge and experience then this trip is for you. If you enjoy truly learning about the region and culture of the local people where you are doing your workshop, then this trip is for you. If you are excited about the idea of this trip, then now is the time to register.  We want you to feel comfortable with the trip details so if you have any questions regarding the trip before  or after registering, send us an e-mail with your concerns to buddy@MagnumExcursions.com.

See more images from our last Timbavati excursion at this link!

Buddy Eleazer, excursion co-lead: “Let me take you to a different time and place. Your photography and compositions will reflect that feeling of nature. Trust me, an African safari will change your life and your photography forever.”

Paul Salvado, excursion co-lead : For more than three decades, Paul has been staring through the lens at some of the most picturesque places in the world, however, it is the wildlife of his home Southern Africa that inspires Paul back into the bush time and again. Through his courses, workshops and photographic excursions, he shares his love of image creation with others, your novices and experienced photographers alike.  Paul makes the perfect southern Africa hosts for Magnum Excursion’s Southern Africa photo workshops.

Last modified: September 11, 2012


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