Join us at Hilltop Lodge and Experience true Africalm

Hilltop Lodge



Romantic ambience

Hilltop Lodge has one of the finest settings in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve, an unfenced but private part of the Kruger Park. It’s perched on the hillside with wide angle views over the bush and views to the distant mountains of the Drakensberg escarpment. Below lie the expansive Mbali Dam and the Nhlaralumi River, where you may be lucky to see elephant, and other wildlife, come to quench their thirst.

Hilltop Lodge has a light footprint, purposely designed so that it can be removed without leaving any lasting impact on the land. This luxurious tented lodge has a romantic, bright and airy ambience with 8 spacious tented suites connected by wooden walkways to the main lodge.

The Timbavati forms part of the Greater Kruger Park and offers exceptional game viewing including all the Big Five, most notably leopard, and also wild dog. Twice-daily game drives provide for close encounters with birds and animals, large and small.

Why we love it

Romantic Ambience

Romantic ambience with luxurious, private suites overlooking the beautiful dam

Bar & Fire Pit

Circular bar and convivial fire-pit, all with stunning birds-eye views

Private Decks

Spacious private decks with a Sala pavilion with daybed for each suite

Panoramic Views

Panoramic bush views towards the Drakensberg mountains


Relax in style

8 luxurious tented rooms offer a choice or King or twin beds. Each suite has glorious views over the bushveld, the dam and the Nhlaralumi River. French doors open out onto an expansive viewing deck, each with its own private sala pavilion with double day bed for an afternoon read or snooze.

The en-suite bathroom tent is connected to the bedroom tent via a small passage. On the deck is a double ’rain’ shower with views over the dam.

Simbavati Hilltop - suite
Simbavati Hilltop - tsala

Top Reasons to Visit


The Setting

There’s not much that beats this elevated setting in the Greater Kruger with near and distant views over one of the foremost private game reserves in terms of wildlife concentration and habituation to game vehicles. The design makes the most its location, affording a great outlook from every part of the lodge: the pool, the bar, dining tent and sitting areas.


Celebrate the big moments

All the best associations of being under canvas in a wildlife paradise with none of the rustic homeliness of safari camps of old, Hilltop is modern and architecturally playful in style. Not only private and spacious but also light-filled and light-hearted. It’s a pared down luxury where nature is the star. But you can feel suitably indulgent if you are celebrating one of life’s big moments.


Dancing Flames

Sometimes the romance of the dancing flames and the glittering dark skies of the southern hemisphere are all we want. Evenings around the Hilltop firepit encourage tall tales from rangers and guests alike, ghost stories, yarns and friendship.

Simbavati Hilltop - firepit
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A great lineage was left behind by an exceptional female leopard known as Ntombi. 

Ntombi was a very relaxed individual. But, as do we all, she aged and was forced to the south by younger, stronger competitors. 

Before she moved on, she had two cubs, both males. Both the cubs made it to adulthood which reflects the success of this female leopard as a mother. One of the males is now known by us as Ntima, meaning ‘black’, because of his dark nose. He carved out a piece of territory within his birth area. 

When I started working at Simbavati 3 and half years ago this was generally the leopard we got to see most frequently when out on game drives. Ntima is an absolute legend and definitely as relaxed as his mother. At the age of around five, he was the dominant male in our part of the Timbavati. Over the next few years, he grew both physically and in confidence. Though he has expanded his territory beyond our boundaries in order to continue spreading his genes, we still see him on a regular basis. 

I remember one of many incredible sightings I had with him. We went out on a morning game drive, not knowing what to expect, and that's the best part of it… The sound of hyena close by attracted our attention and we came across Ntima who had caught a warthog and was busy dragging it to a nearby tree. Before he could hoist it, 3 hyenas stole his hard- earned meal. 

Stoical, Ntima stuck around in the area, hoping to reclaim his prize. His patience paid off as the hyena got startled and left the warthog for only a few seconds. Ntima saw the moment of opportunity, came running in and claimed it back. Three hyena hot on his tail, he made it to the safety of a Marula Tree and could feed in peace. Today, he’s a very experienced leopard and in the prime of his life. Stay tuned for an update on his own lineage.

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Timbavati Game Reserve - leopard with a kill

Hilltop Lodge

River Lodge

Wildlife & Safari

Leopards of the Timbavati - Ntombi

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There are over 350 species of bird in the Timbavati. All so beautiful and interesting in their own way. But I have to confess, having the good fortune to view these birds on a regular basis, there are a few that stand out for me.Given its proximity, you can also spot these birds in the Klaserie as well. Why not see how many of these birds you can spot on your safari visit?

African Skimmers

The African Skimmers are sought after birds as they are mostly found in the Okavango Delta. We have been spoiled as every year we have a pair that comes south to the Timbavati to breed. These special birds are classified as endangered. They have suffered habitat loss, exploitation and disturbance. Construction of Lake Kariba resulted in loss of important breeding sites both up and downstream of the dam wall. They prefer large river systems and lakes of the Okavango Delta with unvegetated sandbanks where they build their nests. They then skim over the water looking for small fish. This is one of the rarer birds we see in the Timbavati and each year we always cross our fingers hoping that they will return the following year.

Lappet-faced vulture

The Lappet-faced vulture is our largest and most dominant vulture. When looking up in the sky you can always tell that it’s a vulture just by the sheer size of their wings. This is a massive bird with an incredible wingspan of 2.8m which makes it the biggest vulture in South Africa. It's not often that we get to see them. But recently we saw one close to an elephant carcass just waiting for its turn to go and feed. These guys don't mind being a little patient as they can eat the skin, tendons and ligaments that are too tough for other vultures. They very seldom eat the meat. Just like all vultures within South Africa, this bird is currently listed as vulnerable. Again due to loss of habitat and susceptibility to being poisoned by farmers. That’s why it is so important that wildlife sanctuaries like the Timbavati, and the Greater Kruger Park exist.

Greater Painted Snipe

The Greater Painted Snipeis beautiful just like most other birds but its the breeding behaviour that makes them stand out from the rest. These are polyandrous birds. With 1 female mating with up to 4 males in one season. The males are the ones that will sit on the nest to incubate the eggs and thereafter take care of the young. You will find these birds in most waterside habitats, where there’s exposed mud among the vegetation, either alone or in pairs.

Ground Hornbills

Ground Hornbills look like some sort of prehistoric bird, but one that stills roam the earth today. But we have been lucky to have multiple sightings at all of our lodges of these magnificent birds. They are generally an uncommon resident and are listed as vulnerable in South Africa with a big concern about their falling numbers. Due to habitat loss you usually only find these vunerable birds in the larger reserves such as the Timbavati or Klaserie in the Greater Kruger. Or in protected and uninhabitated remote areas. They also get persecuted for breaking house and car windows when hammering at their own reflections in territorial aggression.

Brown-headed Parrot

The Brown-headed Parrot is always amazing to see in the wild as most people have the perception as a parrot being in a cage. Or in places like the Amazon rainforest. They are uncommon in South Africa except in the Kruger National Park. You can find these birds easily when the combretum trees start to flower as that's one of their main sources of diets. However they can also drink nectar from other flowering trees.

White-crested Helmet Shrike

The White Crested Helmet Shrike has very beautiful eyes, with an impressive yellow eye-wattle that resembles a flower. The interesting thing about these birds is that they live in group structures, moving almost as one unit through the bush. They are what we call ‘’cooperative breeders’’. This means that, instead of just the parents looking after the hatchlings, these birds have a team helping them. This ensured that all new-born chicks will survive.

African spoonbills

Spoonbills are water birds and very interesting to observe as their bill’s shape makes me think they could come from “Alice in Wonderland”. They wade through the water with a bill that looks like an odd-looking spoon. Their bill will be wholly or partly submerged and sweeps from side to side, snapping prey. They sometimes submerge their heads to probe the mud on the river banks.

Lilac Breasted Roller

And lastly the Lilac Breasted Roller is probably one of the most beautifully-coloured birds in the bush. Its name Roller comes from their impressive aerial display which can be on show at any time of year. The male flies up high to about 20m-50m and then tips forward and dives down with its wings closed. They then roll from side to side in the latter part of the descent. All of this effort is just to get the attention for a suitable female.

The Lilac Breasted Roller is a common resident of the Timbavati and often allows for some amazing photography opportunities. As they can remain motionless for prolonged periods, often perched on dead branches. Giving our guests the time to get that PERFECT shot.

Tips for Birding in the Timbavati

  • Bring a pair of good-quality binoculars. This is vital for all game-viewing and not just birding in the Timbavati. Your guide will have a pair to lend you but you don’t want to have to wait whilst binoculars are shared around. 
  • Bring one of the well-known bird books on Birds of Southern Africa. Or download the app on your phone (though its quite pricey.)
  • To be honest, we find the bird books are easier to navigate than most apps. And that’s important when you may only have a short time to view the bird and identify it.
  • Again your Simbavati ranger will have a bird book, but it is good to have your own and not have to wait as the book is shared around the vehicle. It also allows you time to read around the subject to identify similar birds and their distinguishing features.
  • Birding in the Timbavati is generally more rewarding in the Summer months with the migratory birds coming from the northern Hemisphere. But you can see many favourite birds all year round.

As I mentioned, many of the birds in the Timbavati and Klaserie areas suffer from habitat loss. It is important to keep in mind that we are visiting these animals' homes, so it is up to us to protect them. To ensure their survival so the next generation of bird lovers will also have the opportunity to experience these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat.

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Hilltop Lodge

Kruger Klaserie

Kruger Timbavati

River Lodge

Trails Camp

Wildlife & Safari

My Favorite Birds in the Timbavati

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 The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and its  alluring wilderness calls to wildlife enthusiasts, nature lovers and visitors from all over the world seeking out the perfect safari. Within this private reserve, Simbavati Lodge Collection offers a variety of luxurious lodges, villas, cottages and camps, each appealing to different tastes and preferences. 

Simbavati River Lodge: Where Luxury Meets Wilderness

Simbavati River Lodge is a welcoming luxury safari lodge, nestled in the heart of Timbavati. Here, you'll find spacious suites with private decks overlooking the Nhlaralumi River, ensuring that you are always close to the wildlife and wonders of the African bush. The lodge offers a blend of modern comfort and traditional safari charm, making it ideal for families, couples and friends seeking a memorable safari escape

Simbavati River Sands: An Exclusive and Oppulent Safari

Ideal for two couples travelling together or a family of four seeking a private safari experience, Simbavati River Sands is an intimate choice. This luxurious safari villa boasts just four suites, providing an exclusive and private atmosphere. The setting offering breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness and meals are privately catered at the lodge. Exclusive safari drives and a tranquil ambience make for a wonderful and personal experience. 

Simbavati Hilltop Lodge: Panoramic Views in the Heart of Nature

A romance-inspired lodge, Simbavati Hilltop Lodge offers a unique vantage point from which to appreciate the Timbavati's beauty. Perched up high, it provides panoramic views of the reserve's sprawling landscape and wildlife below. Romance and exclusivity is at the foundation of the experience and it is an idyllic lodge for couples, honeymooners and those seeking a sophisticated, tranquil safari. Recently softly refurbished, the suites are elegantly designed, with private decks featuring a daybed for true relaxation. Hilltop is a fantastic choice for those who wish to immerse themselves in the serenity of the Greater Kruger.

Simbavati Mvubu Cottage: The Epitome of Privacy and Comfort 

Families or couples travelling together can find their perfect safari getaway at Simbavati Mvubu Cottage. This quaint and charismatic safari cottage offers an exclusive-use experience with a comfortable living area, impressive deck and private  pool. The daybed on the upper level is so inviting and the perfect spot to game view or star gaze from.  The name "Mvubu" means "hippo" in Zulu, hinting at the potential wildlife encounters right outside your doorstep. 

Simbavati Trails Camp: An Immersive Wilderness Experience

For the adventurous souls, Simbavati Trails Camp promises an authentic, immersive wilderness experience. Here, you'll embark on guided walking safaris, getting up close and personal with the flora and fauna of Timbavati. This luxury-yet-back-to-basics camp provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature and each other while enjoying wonderful fire-to-plate style food and in-camp relaxation too. 

The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and Simbavati's diverse lodges offer something for everyone. Whether you're seeking luxury, romance, family-friendly accommodation, or an adventurous experience, you'll find it here. Each lodge provides exceptional service, guided safaris, and a chance to witness Africa's magnificent wildlife in their natural habitat.

Discover more about the Timbavati and our lodges within it.


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Kruger Timbavati

A Safari for Every Taste in the Timbavati

/ Hilltop Lodge


Getting There

Simbavati Hilltop Lodge is approx 1½ hours from Hoedspruit Eastgate airport. It can be accessed via a rental car. 

Directions from Hoedspruit Airport

As you exit the Airport, turn left for Timbavati Game Reserve onto Argyle Road. Continue until you reach the Enkhulu control gate of the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.  Please note that continuous cell phone reception ends here.

Aim to arrive by 2.30pm, if possible so that you have ample time to settle in before the game drive. If you are going to be late due to unforeseen circumstances, please let us know on (015) 793-9021.

After the gate you continue on the tar road for approximately 37km. Please ensure that you keep to the speed limit (50km/hour) and do not get out of your car.  On the way you will see the turnoff for Simbavati River Lodge. Do NOT turn in here. 

You will later cross a low water bridge just before the entrance to Ingwelala game lodge. After another 800 meters, you will see the Simbavati Hilltop sign on your right.

Turn right onto a gravel track. Follow the Simbavati Hilltop Lodge paw print signs on the trees/side of road all the way to the lodge (for approximately 10km). Please keep a careful lookout for all signs, as the elephants sometimes knock them. 

Please do not rely on your GPS after Hoedspruit. Their directions are incorrect and this could mean a two-hour detour.


From Johannesburg Airport – ± 6½ to 7 hours’ drive (505km)

From Kruger Airport – 3½ + hours (210km)

From Hazyview – 3 hours (160km via the R40)

Directions from Johannesburg to Simbavati Hilltop Lodge (± 6½ – 7 hour drive)

The most direct route is via N4 then Dullstroom to Lydenburg and Ohrigstad and onto Hoedspruit. However some people prefer to take the northern route via Polokwane and Tzaneen as there are fewer potholes. See Downloadable Directions. 

From Johannesburg take the N12 to Witbank (Emalahleni) and continue on the N4 towards Nelspruit.  (From Pretoria, take the N4 to Witbank).  Follow the N4 and turn left to Belfast (Off ramp R33/R540). Once in Belfast, turn right into Voortrekker Street and continue straight on the R540 to Dullstroom.  

Drive straight through Dullstroom and continue to Lydenburg (name change to Mashishing) on the R540. At the T-junction turn left into Lydenburg (Mashishing) into Viljoen Street (R36).  Turn left again into Voortrekker Street.  Turn right into De Clercq Street and follow the R36 through Ohrigstad.  After the Abel Erasmus pass, the R36 turns left to Tzaneen. Do not turn left here. Instead continue straight on the R527 to Hoedspruit.

In Hoedspruit, continue straight. After the bridge crossing the railway line, turn right at the four way stop and continue south on the R40 for another 6.4km.  Turn left onto the D1909 (Argyle Road). The sign says Timbavati/Eastgate Airport road.  Then follow the Hoedspruit directions to the Lodge.

Directions from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport or Hazyview

KMIA – 3½ hours (210km) * Hazyview – Allow 2½ to 3 hours (160km)

The most direct route from Kruger Intl Airport is via the R40 thorough White River and Hazyview. Similarly if you are staying in or near Hazyview, the R40 north is the direct route. Just 6.5km south of Hoedspruit. You turn right onto the Timbavati/Eastgate Airport road. Allow 1½ hours to get from Hazyview to the Timbavati turnoff. Then another hour to get to the Lodge. Once on the Timbavati Road, you immediately pass the Eastgate Airport. Then follow the Hoedspruit directions to the Lodge.

Alternative Panorama route if staying at a Hazyview Lodge: 

The R40 is a difficult road given the number of slow trucks and cars as well as many pedestrians. It takes longer than you would expect. 

So if you have time, we recommend enjoying a tour of the Panorama route via the Blyde River canyon. Note that this is a longer route (255km from Hazyview to your lodge or 4 hours driving). En route you can stop off at the Bournes Luck potholes, Gods Window and the Three Rondavels

TIP: It takes approx 3 hours to get to Hilltop Lodge from the Three Rondavels viewpoint. So don’t leave the Three Rondavels later than 11.30am. Assuming you spend 1½ hours at the various stopping off points, we recommend leaving your lodge by 8 to 8.30am latest.


In- room Facilities

  • Private viewing deck
  • Outdoor sala with daybed
  • Air-conditioning
  • Ceiling fan
  • Minibar with drinks and snacks
  • Coffee and tea-making facilities
  • Bathroom – bath, double vanity with double outdoor shower for two
  • Complimentary eco-friendly amenities
  • Room equipped with electronic eco-friendly insect spray (1 min intervals) 
  • Hair-dryer
  • Electric blankets for winter 
  • Mini-safe for storing valuables 
  • Laundry service – laundry bag in room

8 luxurious tented rooms offer a choice or King or twin beds. Each suite has glorious views over the bushveld, the dam and the Nhlaralumi River. French doors open out onto an expansive viewing deck, each with its own private sala pavilion with double day bed for an afternoon read or snooze. The en-suite bathroom tent is connected to the bedroom tent via an open ‘breezeway’ or small passage. On the deck is a double ’rain’ shower with views over the dam.  

Note: Hilltop Lodge is not suitable for people who have difficulty with steps as each suite is accessed by a number of steps. However, two suites are considerably closer with fewer steps. So please mention any mobility issues when booking.

Lodge Facilities & Good to Know

  • Main lodge has wraparound decks with panoramic bush and distant mountain views
  • Sitting area and books and board games
  • Convivial bar with 360°views 
  • Dining tent and alfresco dining area
  • Infinity swimming pool
  • Seated firepit
  • Open air boma & campfire for dining under the stars
  • Spa treatments available in the privacy of your room
  • Safari shop
  • Complimentary Internet access – main lodge area only


2024-2025 Rates

Enquire about our SA Resident offers.

Room TypeMax GuestBasis08 Jan 2024 -3 0 April 202401 May 2024 – 05 Jan 202506 Jan 2025 – 20 Dec 202521 Dec 2025 – 04 Jan 2026
Luxury Safari Tent2 adultsSharing pp



Booking Policy

General Information

Unfortunately Simbavati Hilltop Lodge does not take kids under 12 years of age. Please see our sister lodges, River Lodge, Camp George, Amani for family-friendly accommodation.

Alternatively – if you are a party of friends or family, you may like to take Amani or Homestead on an exclusive use basis?

The Kruger is a malarial area so we recommend that you take anti-malaria prophylaxis. Mosquitos are less prevalent in the winter.

We also recommend anti-mosquito repellent to stop you from getting bitten.


What is a typical pattern of safari activities?

What’s the ideal length of stay?

Is there wifi?

What should I wear for a game drive?

Is Hilltop suitable for mobility-challenged people?

Get in Contact


Colin Ahtom and Tiani van der Walt

Lodge telephone number: 015 793 9021 

Reservations: +27 87 151 4520