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Join us at River Lodge and Experience true Africalm

River Lodge

WATCH

OVERVIEW

Watch elephants drink from the comfort of our dining deck

Simbavati River Lodge enjoys a unique setting on the banks of the Kruger Park’s Nhlaralumi River in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve.

One of its winning charms is the popular waterhole right below the dining deck, much loved by elephant. Between game drives, you could enjoy a game-viewing experience of note just sitting on the deck as wildlife comes and goes from the water.

This lodge has a broad appeal, with a traditional safari ambience but with a relaxed contemporary twist in terms of décor. You have a choice of tented or chalet accommodation. It caters well to couples and honeymooners with a safari spa and fully equipped fitness centre. Whilst its two-bedroom chalets and Cubs Club kids centre are popular with families.

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.

Why we love it

On the River

Stunning river setting with flood-lit waterhole right in front of the deck

Animal Visits

Frequent visits by herds of elephant

Family

Caters equally for both couples and families

Activities

Safari spa, gym and kids club & activities are additional features

ROOMS

Perfect for families

There are three family chalets. Each has a main bedroom with king-sized bed, second bedroom with twin beds and one bathroom with bath and double indoor rain-shower. Please note that the bathroom is accessed via one of the bedrooms. Each has a beautiful game viewing deck with a riverfront view.

Top Reasons to Visit

WILDLIFE

Deck game-viewing

We are inspired by our natural surroundings at Cederberg Ridge – the smells, textures and tastes of the Cederberg. From farm to table, or in our case, from ‘Berg to Plate’, our food incorporates fresh farmed produce from the area, local flavours and unique cooking techniques.

Plus we’re also all about homemade goodness (and goodies)! From freshly baked breads, croissants and Danish pastries, to sausages, macaroons and gelato, our chef creates homemade, fresh food on a daily basis.

You can expect a seasonally changing menu with a choice of starters, mains and dessert. As we are small and personal, we try to cater for special diet needs. So there are always two vegetarian dishes on offer at dinner. Vegans are also welcome. Plus we’ll happily offer other options if you are staying longer.

FAMILY FRIENDLY

Cubs Club

Simbavati River Lodge is probably our most family-friendly lodges. As well as our two bedroom family chalets, we also have the Cubs Club kids centre. This is an ideal place for younger kids to hang out with games, bean bags and craft opportunities.

On request, someone can entertain your kids after breakfast with various activities from cupcake decorating, bug/treasure hunting, making animal face masks, colouring in, board games, wildlife DVDs and scrap-booking and more. 

Your guide may also teach your older child the skill of archery. Or lead a short walk looking at animal spoor around the lodge. 

This allows parents some quiet time for reading or a visit to the spa.

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Disconnect to Reconnect

Growing up in a family that loves nature and wildlife, I have a long history of travelling for leg-numbing hours in the back of the land-rover. We kids had special beds and an assortment of books and games to keep us entertained. And let’s admit, quiet too. All as we headed for some new and suitably adventurous destination to go camping.

Our arrival at the camp would be a mix of excitement and groans. No scampering to a pool. We had to get set up first before it got dark, or before we could go out for an activity. But there were evenings around the campfire with stories until late into the night. Then we would head to bed - only to lie awake listening. And sometimes being terrified of the noises around us. But that's invariably part of the excitement and good for new stories for the next day! These are still some of our fondest memories growing up.

These days, of course, there is the option of coming to a safari lodge, where everything is organised ready for you. Families on safari have much less to think about, let alone do. We take care of your welcoming tent, your meals and your game drives, giving you much more time to relax.

And that's what one should get out of family trips away - an opportunity to make memories, have fun. And, most importantly, reconnect as a family. All the while, having a safe environment for kids to relax and be kids. And for adults to have a little pampering.

Families on Safari - the crucial question of age

So what age should your kids be for a safari? The ideal age to safely appreciate game drives on safari is from around 8 years or older. That's why we chose to set the limit at Amani and Camp George to eight years old. However, we are a little more flexible at River Lodge and have happily hosted kids of all ages. The same goes for Homestead where there’s no minimum age either. One does need to consider exactly where you go, though. Many safari lodges have a minimum age limit, mainly for safety reasons. If you have young kids on a game vehicle, the guide will not go as close to some predator sightings for obvious reasons. Plus remember that in the Kruger, malaria is a consideration, especially in our summer months.

For game drives, children need to be over 6 to take part in shared game drives at River Lodge. Sometimes it is possible to pre-organise a private game drive vehicle (at an extra cost per day). This gives more more flexibility to a family safari as you can go for shorter drives, which really helps for little ones with a smaller attention span.

How do the kids stay amused at Simbavati?

Our family-friendly lodges try to be flexible and tailors activities according to the kids - their ages, interests and weather. The options are varied, both indoors and outdoors, ranging from crafts, nature hunts, track mouldings, elephant dung cricket, card and paper making. All the way to seasonal delights of frogging and mud wallowing - yes dirt equals fun!

For older kids, there are nature walks, baking with the chefs, macro photography, learning local languages to a junior tracker or ranger course. Which of course comes with a badge or certificate.

At River Lodge in the Timbavati, there's even a Cubs Club. This is equipped with TV, DVD’s, games, archery practice area, books, maps and a discovery nook with bugs, bones, dung & identification tools. So everyone gets something! But each lodge has a refreshing swimming pool and some can even do spa treatments. Camp George and Amani have fenced in gardens which means that kids have space to play, without anxious parents. 

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Simbavati River Lodge - family safaris

Amani

Camp George

Homestead

People

River Lodge

Tips on Families on Safari

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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

/ River Lodge

REGIONS

Getting There

Simbavati River Lodge is approx 1 hour 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 27km. Please ensure that you keep to the speed limit (50km/hour) and do not get out of your car.

Turn right at one of the stone direction markers with a sign for Simbavati River Lodge, onto a gravel track. There is a Simbavati sign here as well. Follow the Simbavati River Lodge paw print signs on the trees all the way to the lodge for approximately 6.4km.

Timing 

From Johannesburg Airport – ± 6½ hours (490km)

From Kruger Airport – 3 + hours (195km)

From Hazyview – 2 to 2½ hours (145km via the R40)

From the Three Rondavels view point (last point on the Panorama route, 145km) – 2½ hours (so depart by 12 noon latest).

Directions from Johannesburg to Simbavati River 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 – 3+ hours (195km) * Hazyview – Allow 2 to hours (145km)

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.

ROOMS & FACILITIES

Tented Luxury Suites

Six luxury tented suites have a king-sized bed (which can be converted to twin) and a beautiful game viewing deck with either a river or bush view. There’s a spacious en suite bathroom and dressing area with ample storage space, shower, double vanity, enclosed toilet and door out to an outdoor rain-shower as well.

Tented Pool Suites

Two spacious and airy Tented Pool Suites are in a more secluded location. They have a king-sized bed (which can be converted to twin) and a beautiful game viewing deck with a solar-heated plunge pool. (These can prove quite popular with the elephant.) There’s a good-sized en suite bathroom and dressing area with ample storage space, indoor shower, double vanity, enclosed toilet and door out to an outdoor rain-shower as well.

Two-bedroom Family Chalets

There are three two-bedroom family chalets. Each has a beautiful game viewing deck with a riverfront view. Each has a main bedroom with king-sized bed, second bedroom with twin beds and one bathroom with a bath and double rain-shower. Please note that the bathroom is accessed via one of the bedrooms.

And you don’t have to have young children to use the family chalets. Families with adult children can use them as well (with a discount for the 3rd and 4th adults). Just as long as you don’t mind sharing a bathroom.

However each two bedroom chalet is configured slightly differently.  

Chalet 1 (Buffalo) has one twin-bedded room and one king or twin-bedded room which has direct access to the deck. The bathroom is accessed via the twin-bedded room. 

Chalet 2 (Rhino) has one twin-bedded room, with the main bathroom accessed from this. Beyond is a triple room (one king bed and one single) which has direct access to the deck.

Chalet 3 (Elephant) has a larger bedroom (with king bed) with the main bathroom accessed from this room, and direct access to the deck. Then a smaller twin-bedded bedroom, which also deck access.

In- room Facilities

  • Private viewing deck
  • Air-conditioning
  • Ceiling fan
  • Minibar with drinks
  • Coffee and tea-making facilities
  • Chalet Bathroom – bath, double vanity with indoor shower
  • Tent bathroom – indoor and outdoor shower, double vanity
  • Complimentary eco-friendly amenities
  • Room equipped with electronic eco-friendly insect spray (10 min intervals) 
  • Hair-dryer
  • Electric blankets for winter 
  • Mini-safe for storing valuables 
  • Laundry service – laundry bag in room

Lodge Facilities & Good to Know

  • Main lodge has deck with expansive river views and adjacent waterhole
  • Sitting area and books and board games
  • Convivial bar
  • Outside dining area
  • Swimming pool
  • Open air boma & camp-fire overlooking the river
  • Safari Spa
  • Fitness Centre
  • Cub’s Club (children’s discovery centre and play room)
  • Safari shop
  • Complimentary Internet access – main lodge area only

OUR DETAILED

2024-2026 Rates

Enquire about our SA Resident offers.

Room TypeMax GuestBasis01 May 2024 –
05 Jan 2025
06 Jan 2025 – 20 Dec 202521 Dec 2025 – 04 Jan 2026
Family Chalet
(2 bedrooms)
2 Adults + 2 Children/Teenagers
/Young Adults in a Family Chalet
Sharing ONE bathroom
One chalet sleeps 5
Sharing pp
3rd/4th person
Child
R9,850
R7,375
R4,925
R12,500
R9,375
R6,250
R13,750
R10,313
R6,875
Luxury Safari Tent2 AdultsSharing pp
Single
R9,850
13,100
R12,500
R16,625
R13,750
R18,288
Tented Pool Suite 2 Adults Sharing pp
Single
R10,525
R14,025
R12,500
R16,625
R13,750
R18,288

FINE PRINT

Inclusions

Booking Policy

General Information

Simbavati River Lodge takes kids of all ages. But only children of 6 years upwards are allowed to participate in the shared adult game drives. 

If you wish for your younger children to join you, you will need to take a private vehicle at any extra cost. This is subject to availability of vehicles.

We have three family chalets at River Lodge. Two are for two adults and two kids or teenagers. And one is for two adults and three kids/teenagers. Note that all family chalets share ONE bathroom. 

If you prefer two bathrooms, you can take two adjacent tented rooms, if your children are old enough. But then the children pay adult rates.

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.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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?

How does the Cub’s Club work?

Get in Contact

Lodge telephone number: 015 793 9051

Reservations: +27 87 151 4520