Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, situated next to the Kruger National Park, is home to a dozen of South Africa’s best luxury game lodges. Famous for the sporadic birth of rare white lions – still ongoing – the reserve was created by 50 forward-thinking individuals in 1956.

Did you know?

With about 360 species of birds, Timbavati is an exceptional destination for twitchers.

There are some places in the world that vigorously resist human development. Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is one of these.

Pressed up against the belly of the Kruger National Park, it has experienced almost nothing in the way of farming or other encroachment, even before being conserved.

In fact, when parts of the land that would become the Timbavati were cleared for crops and cattle in the 1950s, it became apparent (and this in a decade that wasn't particularly conservation-minded) that farming here was a serious mistake. So a few dozen forward-thinking people worked together, bought up the land and dedicated it back to wildlife.

And so it has remained ever since.

Timbavati’s 53 000ha were named after the river that flows through them. Its riverine forest attracts elephants, as it has done for centuries.

Timbavati was in the news in the 1970s, when the first white lions were spotted on the reserve. Suddenly Timbavati became a household name around the world and the lions in question (along with their discoverer, Chris McBride) became famous.

Every now and then white lions are still born here or on neighbouring reserves. Every white lion in the world owes its genes to something mysterious and recessive in the DNA of Timbavati big cats. White lions are extremely rare.

In 1993, the fence dividing Timbavati from the Kruger National Park was dropped, allowing the free flow of wild animals.

It affords visitors to the park’s 12 famous luxury game lodges – including Tanda Tula, King’s Camp, Ngala, Motswari, Umlani and Leadwood – an incredible wildlife experience.

The owners of Timbavati are about to take another step that will further protect its wilderness: there are plans to proclaim Timbavati as part of the Kruger National Park.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
Tel: +27 (015 793 2436
Email: warden@timbavati.co.za

How to get here

There are three regional airports in proximity to the Timbavati.

Hoedspruit’s airport is closest, only 30 minutes away. Phalaborwa is 90 minutes away, while Kruger Park International Airport (KPIA) at Mbombela (Nelspruit) is about three hours’ drive. Your lodge will usually organise transfers; some of the lodges have their own airstrips.

If you’re driving from Johannesburg or Pretoria, it will take roughly six hours. Individual lodges will supply detailed directions.

Best time to visit

Summer (October to March) is rainy and can be very hot. Autumn and Spring are far more temperate.

Get around

Once at your bush lodge, you’ll be transported in game-viewing vehicles.

Length of stay

Two nights would be the absolute minimum to see most or all of the Big Five. Squeeze in another night if you can.

What to pack

If you’re travelling in the South African winter, don’t forget to bring warm clothes for night time, when temperatures can drop suddenly.

What to eat

The lodges often include traditional South African food and venison in their offerings – including biltong (cured meat), sosaties and boerewors (South African sausages).

What's happening

Activities include game viewing, birding and game walks.