Timbavati Private Game Reserve

The Timbavati Private Game Reserve, though not as well known as the Sabi Sand, offers exceptional private lodge safaris in the Greater Kruger.

A herd of elephants caught in the glow of the setting sun.

The Timbavati Association was formed in 1956 with the aim of reclaiming land for conservation and mutual benefit. Soil erosion, caused by crops and cattle, was destroying indigenous plants and vegetation. Dams were also affecting the natural water supply. Today more than 50 members of the association continue along this path of conservancy and Timbavati has become part of the Greater Kruger National Park .

Size 53 392 Ha (131 935 Acres)
Distance north to south 40km
Average distance east to west 24km
Mammal Species 40
Closest Town Hoedspruit
Closest Airport Hoedspruit Airport
Gate Opening and Closing Times Opens: 06:00 Closes 18:00

Vacation Options

Our vacations in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve can easily be tailored to suit your particular travel needs and budget.

Reasons to Visit



Timbavati offers game viewing for all of the Big Five in a large reserve that forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. The possibility of viewing the famous white lions of Timbavati in the wild is sure to add to the excitement of a wilderness experience in this private game reserve.



Timbavati does not offer the same number of lodges as the Sabi Sand. Visitors do however have a choice of luxury five star lodges as well as more affordable four star options and even greater value offered by the bush camps. Generally speaking, the Timbavati offers more bang for your buck while not comprising on the safari experience.


Density of Game Drive Vehicles

The number of game drive vehicles per square kilometer is a lot lower in the Timbavati than in the Sabi Sand, a fact that makes it possible to spend more time at each wildlife sighting, which definitely offers better photographic opportunities and affords the rangers more time to share interesting facts.


Regional Activities

Regional activities like the Kapama Cheetah Breeding Project and visits to the Panorama Route are much more easily accessible from Timbavati than from the Sabi Sand, a fact that is sure to entice those who will be spending more time at the lodge and would like to enjoy some regional highlights in combination with their stay.

Useful Info

Getting There?

By Air

Hoedspruit Airport provides easy access to the Timbavati. It is only about a fifteen minute drive from this airport to the Timbavati Main Gate. Daily flights connect Johannesburg and Cape Town to Hoedspruit. Flight time from Johannesburg is just over an hour, while from Cape Town it is three hours and twenty minutes.


By Road

The drive from Johannesburg to the Timbavati is approximately six hours. It is recommended that anyone traveling overland to the Timbavati travel via the towns of Belfast, Dullstroom, Lydenburg, Ohrigstad and Hoedspruit. Upon reaching Hoedspruit, the Timbavati gate is only about 20km away.

Weather & Best Time To Visit

Like the Sabi Sand and the Greater Kruger National Park in general, Timbavati is best visited during the spring, autumn and winter months from about the middle of April until the end of September. During this period the temperatures are moderate and rainfall does not interfere with game activities.

Having said this, each season has its own unique charm. Those visiting in the summer months might be hot, but most young animals are born in late October and early November, something very special to witness. In summer, the bush is green and lush, creating a much more attractive appearance than in the dry winter months.

Medical Considerations

The Timbavati is in a malaria area, and as such all visitors are advised to discuss anti-malaria precautions with their doctor prior to their visits.

Health & Safety

Once at one of the lodges of the Timbavati, the only safety concern is animals. Heed the rules as explained by your ranger, and there should not be much to concern yourself with.

Experiences to be Savored

The Timbavati Private Game Reserve truly has a wealth to savor, from fruitful Big Five game viewing to unwinding in the inimitable tranquility of the bush. Stand out experiences include spotting the rare white lion and lodge-based indulgences.

A pair of lionesses encountered on safari in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve.

Lantern-Lit Dinner at Umlani

Umlani Bush Camp is special in the sense that it does not have electricity. Soft lantern light creates a more natural safari atmosphere. At dinner time, it creates the feeling of being one of the great explorers of yesteryear dining in the wilderness.

Spotting the Rare White Lion

The Timbavati is the one of only a handful of areas in the Greater Kruger where white lions occur naturally. The possibility of this rarest of African wildlife sightings should add a measure of excitement and anticipation  to your safari in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve.

Views of an African  Waterhole

Many waterholes are scattered across the Timbavati landscape. These are often great places to spot herds of buffalo, resident hippo and a large number of other plains game and predator species intent on  quenching their thirst.


Guests on safari in Timbavati observe an elephant in the wilderness.

Guests are transferred from Hoedspruit or Nelspruit airports in comfortable air-conditioned vehicles. The transfer from Nelspruit has a duration of approximately two hours. From Hoedspruit, the drive is less than twenty-five minutes.

At the lodges of the Timbavati, like the Sabi Sand and all other private South African lodges, game drives are conducted in open 4x4 vehicles that have been specially fitted for the purpose.

Their open nature ensures a feeling of being immersed in the wilderness with animals often viewed within very close proximity. These vehicles have the further advantage of making great photography possible.

Foods to try when visiting the Timbavati

A mixed potjie.

Impala Meat

Impalas are the most numerous antelope in the Greater Kruger National Park. Their meat is lean and very tasty when well prepared. During your stay in the Timbavati, a dish with impala meat will almost certainly be on the menu.

Buttermilk Rusks

A South African favorite enjoyed with coffee. Rusks are a type of biscuit baked with cake flour, eggs, butter and buttermilk. Once baked, it is sliced and oven dried. These are served as a snack with coffee on morning game drives.

Dried Fruit

Dried peaches, apples and mango are a favorite snack served with drinks on afternoon game drives. These are mostly a product of the Western Cape, with the exception of mangoes that are produced in areas not far from Timbavati.

Dry Wors

A traditional South African snack - a type of dried sausage or jerky, made from either beef or game meat. Dry wors is served on late afternoon game drives with sundowner drinks, as well as around the bar once guests return to the lodge.


Recommended Reading

  • The White Lions of Timbavati - Chris McBride

Web Resources


Is the Game Viewing in Timbavati Comparable to that in Sabi Sand?
The short answer is yes, you will see as great a diversity of species as in the Sabi Sand and are as likely to encounter the members of the Big Five.
What is the ideal duration for a safari?
Four nights is ideal, as it allows for three full days on safari.
What about poachers?
Though poaching is a substantial problem, you are highly unlikely to ever come in contact with poachers.
Do I need to take Malaria Medication?
Yes, it would be advisable. It should be noted that taking any medication should first be discussed with your personal physician.
Is it easier to reach the Timbavati or the Sabi Sand?
The southern camps in Sabi Sand and the Timbavati are both easily accessible, the first from Skukuza airport and the second from Hoedspruit airport. The Timbavati is, however more easily accessible than the the camps in central and northeastern Sabi Sand.
What makes the Timbavati Unique?
It is the only private reserve in Africa where white lions occur naturally.
What lodges do you recommend?
Those seeking a five star experience will be well served by choosing Kings Camp. If your budget is a little more limited, Motswari or Simbavati Hilltop Lodge should be considered. Those interested in a truly unique safari experience can consider Umlani Bush Camp.
Are credit cards accepted at the lodges?
All major credit cards are accepted at the lodges in Timbavati. These include Visa, Master and Amex.
Can I visit the Timbavati with my Children?
If the children are younger than six, it is not recommended to take them into a malaria area. If older they will enjoy the wilderness and its animals as much as you, maybe even more so.
Will I have mobile reception and access to the Internet?
The camps offer free WiFi, with the exception of Umlani. Mobile phone coverage is widely available though signal strength will be a problem in some areas.

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Because of growing soil erosion caused by cattle farming and crops, indigenous vegetation was being supplanted by alien invaders and the building of dams and rerouting of streams and rivers affected the water supply. This resulted in much of the wildlife common to the area disappearing. A group of conservation-minded farmers got together in 1956 and formed the Timbavati Association with the express purpose of reclaiming the land. They had seen the wilderness gradually disintegrating, and decided to do something about it.

A pair of lionesses share an affectionate moment.

Hard work and dedication by the association started paying off and more and more farmers joined the conservation effort. Today there are more than 50 members who have restored Timbavati to its former natural state.

Because the area was attracting more and more attention as a wilderness conservancy area, the Timbavati Association was invited, in 1993, to become part of the Greater Kruger National Park and so all the internal fences were dropped. Removing fences increased the range over which animals could migrate and improved the gene pool.

Vulture Research

In conjunction with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Timbavati Private Game Reserve is involved in the vulture nest monitoring program. Two main objectives are involved in this research, the first being to monitor vulture nests in terms of annual use, and the second is to quantify elephant impact on these nesting sites. Vulture chicks are tagged by the research team, who also maintain records of locations in the reserve where they are spotted. Timbavati is in the privileged position of having a larger vulture nesting colony than any of the other private reserves that belong to Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR).

A herd of buffalo encountered on safari in Timbavati.

Leopard Research

The Timbavati Leopard Project is a joint effort involving the reserve, independent researchers as well as partners including Panthera, a global organization dedicated to the protection of the thirty wild cat species found internationally. The aim of this research is to determine the leopard population in Timbavati, as well as average space used by each animal. In other words, determining their home ranges. This research will eventually be integrated with other variables like genetic and behavioral profiling to contribute to future leopard management programs and protection efforts.

Elephant Research

Timbavati is proud to be contributing to the long running Trans Boundary Elephant Research program, an effort that encompasses the entire Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This project officially started in 2003 with the goal of understanding the motivation behind elephant movements from core conservation areas in Southern Africa. The research has resulted in an extensive individual identification database and has contributed greatly to the understanding of elephant ranging behavior. The research was expanded in 2004 to create a database of elephant impact on selective trees, which as part of the research monitors the impact of elephants on trees used as nesting sites by the ground hornbill as well as by vultures.

Ground Hornbill Research

Timbavati actively contributes data to the Southern Ground Hornbill Research Project aimed at improving the long term management of this endangered species. The project is run by the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology. During the breeding season from October to March, 58 natural and artificial nesting sites are monitored in the Timbavati in order to gain a better understanding of both nesting behavior and home ranges.

Eradication of Alien Plants

Alien plants present a great threat to any natural habitat because they generally grow faster and consume more water than indigenous species. If left unchecked, they multiply rapidly and threaten the local flora as well as the species that depend on these plants, grasses and tress.

An open-air game drive vehicle traverses the Timbavati.

Erosion Control

Based on aerial photographs taken in 2004, a large number erosion sites were identified in the Timbavati. These erosion sites where not the result of natural conditions, but were caused by overgrazing and the improper construction of dams and roads. Of these erosion sites, almost all have been restored to their natural condition over the years. The few sites that remain are receiving ongoing attention and the reserve is committed to a program of constant monitoring in order to avoid potential future problems.

Malaria Control

Malaria is unfortunately a fact of life in the entire lowveld region of South Africa. Timbavati takes active steps to reduce the risk of visitors contracting this disease by spraying around camps on a regular basis during the wet summer months when the risk of contracting the disease is at its highest. This greatly reduces mosquito numbers. As a result of this action, no to very few people ever contract malaria in the Timbavati.

Poaching in general, and rhino poaching specifically, are one of the greatest challenges faced by all protected areas in Africa, whether they are national parks or privately owned reserves. Timbavati is no exception. The reserve employs an anti-poaching unit consisting of well-trained armed rangers.

A white rhino stands protectively alongside her calf.

These men constantly patrol the reserve and have been instrumental in the conservation of the rhino population in the area. Great progress has been made here in the last few years in limiting rhino poaching to an absolute minimum.