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.

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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.

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