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Join us at Trails Camp and Experience true Africalm

Trails Camp

WATCH

OVERVIEW

Untamed African wildlife Wonderland.

Simbavati Trails Camp is a gem; a luxury-yet-back-to-basics walking trails camp located in a secluded area of the Timbavati Game Reserve. It’s all about guided walks with expert guides, one of the most stimulating and enthralling forms of safari. Trails Camp borders, without fences, an unspoilt wilderness area of 11,000 hectares in the Kruger National Park.

There is no electricity, WiFi or cell phone reception. Just you, in the heart of an untamed African wildlife wonderland. Hearty and delicious meals are prepared over an open fire by an expert cook.

The minimum stay is two nights. But to really appreciate the rich but slower walking trail rhythm, we recommend a three night stay.

Please note that the camp is only operational during the cooler autumn to spring days from March to November.

Why we love it

Walking Trails Camp

Focusing exclusively on walking safaris with expert guides

Four Tents for
Eight People

Only four en suite tents so intimate and exclusive, perfect for friends

Interactive Dining

From fire to table – amazing bush cuisine including earth-buried pot bread

Camp Fire

 Great traditional safari vibe around the camp fire

ROOMS

Select Room

Simple yet comfortable

Four en-suite Meru-style tents are surprisingly spacious with proper furniture and mosquito nets. En suite bathrooms have a proper flush toilet and a simple basin with a jug of hot water for washing. The back of the tent opens out to your private al fresco en suite ‘bathroom to the stars’. Here you find a gloriously simple bucket shower which is filled on demand with warm water.

In front of the tent there is a small shaded area with two chairs.

Simbavati Trails camp - tent exterior
Simbavati Trails camp - tent interior
Simbavati Trails camp - bathroom detail
Simbavati Trails camp - shower
Simbavati Trails camp - tent view
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Set in Big 5 territory within the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Simbavati Trails Camp offers an off the grid walking safari with no electricity or WI-FI. This makes for an enchanting, back-to basics-in-luxury experience and the fire-to-table style of cooking sets the tone to the ambience in camp. 

The culinary delights that are plated at each sitting are memorable and one of the highlights of the safari. 

The heart and soul behind Trails Camp’s food is charismatic Head Chef Raphael, who is a joy to connect with around the fire or table setting in camp. His pride in his dishes is captivating and his incredible cooking skills are so impressive. 

In conversation with Head Chef Raphael, we found out more about his passion for cuisine and what makes Simbavati Trails Camp so special.

What makes cooking at Trails Camp different compared to a traditional safari lodge?

Here we encourage one of the oldest forms of cooking: from the fire, straight to the plate. It is unique and wonderfully rustic. 

Fire cooking is one of the most challenging methods because you need to regulate the temperatures by using instinct to detect the heat and keep it perfectly set to cook the dish. I took it as a personal challenge that if I could master cooking on the fire I would be able to do wonders in the industry, in any other way of cooking too. Simbavati Trails Camp has the ability to drive back time. In camp we are able to use a rustic form of presenting luxury. I love that.

What are your passions and how do you share these at Simbavati Trails Camp?

I love cooking with my heart. It is my passion. I’ve been at this special camp from the day it opened about three years ago.

I choose to be at Simbavati Trails Camp and to share my passion for food and for connecting with people, through stories around the campfire. We are connected through food and through humanity.

What are your favourite dishes to prepare at Simbavati Trails Camp and why?

I enjoy making traditional dishes. I like to fuse dishes to accommodate every guest, no matter where they are from in the world, so they will appreciate the food at a high standard. I like to add traditional and international touches to bring out flavours that everyone will love. This is how I like to put a twist on my creations

On plated evenings at Trails Camp I enjoy making Braised Pork Neck. This is one of my signature dishes. I serve braised pork medallions, baked mashed potato cakes, broccoli and baby corn with apple jus. I like to serve this on a shared board, between two people, enjoyed around the fire.

Boma nights at the camp are enjoyed around the fire together, where all guests dine side by side and get to know each other. It’s an African tradition. People from different nationalities interact and share stories, discovering that the world is one and we have so much in common.

I serve  them traditional African dishes, cooked on the open fire. Part of the boma spread is pap, a maize meal dish. It is one of my favourites. It is a dish that tells a story of humankind as it is found all over the world and throughout history. In Africa we eat with our hands. I prepare the pap so it is fluffy and served with a stew made with lamb neck, slow- cooked over the fire, so it falls off the bone. The pap can soak up the sauces and flavours of the stew.

What is it that connects you to this unique walking safari camp?

It gives true variety to my well being. It gives me the pleasure of combining two of my passions, that being cooking in an authentic fire-to plate style and also connecting with the guests. 

I love Trails Camp. Trails Camp is my home.

Simbavati Trails Camp invites guests to explore the untamed wilderness on foot, surrender to a connection with nature, enjoy incredible food and revel in a rejuvenating reset.

Discover more at www.simbavati.com/lodges/trails-camp/

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Simbavati Trails camp - dining

Community

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Trails Camp

Interview with Simbavati Trails Camp Head Chef Raphael

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Simbavati Trails Camp is where simplicity meets luxury in the heart of the Timbavati wilderness. Expect an authentic, back-to-basics-in-luxury experience that allows you to disconnect from modern complications and immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of the bush. Differing from the typical safari lodge experience, Trails Camp focuses on guided walking safaris and provides an enchanting, off-the-grid stay. The  ambience in camp offers an "Out of Africa" feel that's both nostalgic and unforgettable.

Approximately an hour's drive from Simbavati Hilltop Lodge, the journey to camp is an adventure in itself, with a guided safari drive taking guests there. Our host Russel excitedly welcomed us to camp and our senses were captivated instantly as we surrendered to the tranquility of the setting.

The camp

The heart of the camp is a large canvas tent that houses an open-plan dining area and lounge. The pool, slightly elevated, overlooks a Mopani forest, providing a serene backdrop for relaxation. Adjacent to the pool is a sunken lounge with plush cushions beneath an umbrella, the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon cocktail and a good book.

Tents in the wilderness

Simbavati Trails Camp features four Meru-style tents, accommodating a maximum of eight guests. Inside, you'll find two single beds pushed together under a hanging mosquito net, a vanity area with a sink and bucket for washing, and an invigorating outdoor shower. While there's no running water or electricity, the bucket-style showers are filled with warm water before each use and  there is a flushable toilet for your convenience. The strategically placed tents in the bush provide privacy and an authentic, wild feel. The canvas side walls are left open with netting, allowing refreshing air to flow through and granting you uninterrupted views of the wilderness from your bed.

Morning Walk: A bushveld awakening

Each morning, the adventure begins as your friendly guide awakens you at sunrise, and the harmonious chorus of birds greets you naturally. Hot coffee and freshly baked muffins and rusks are served at the main guest area, setting the tone for the day. Our trails guide Martin, shared exciting insights about the morning walk and was equipped for any situation. In single file, behind the guide, guests embark through the bush, searching for tell-tale spores and taking in the wonderment of being in nature. We encountered elephants on foot and revelled in the thrill. We learnt the art of tracking, spotted zebras and waterbucks and heard the distant roar of lions. Martin shared  insights into the region's diverse trees, rocks and soils, explaining how they shape the ecosystem and how the ground determines which plants flourish, attracting specific wildlife and their predators.

Morning walks are typically 2.5 hours long to avoid the midday heat.

Simbavati Trails camp - walking safari & guiding

Return to camp: A warm welcome

As we returned to camp, our smiling butler, Donald, awaited with chilled orange juice and refreshing damp cloths, providing a warm and comforting welcome. 

Shower time beckons before breakfast, which is wonderfully rejuvenating. 

Breakfast: A feast to savour

Breakfast is a feast and differs slightly each day, featuring trays of scones, cinnamon flapjacks, seeded toasts, cheeses, cold meats, and fruits, muesli and yoghurt, all served on the center server table.

Today's breakfast highlight is a bacon-stacked eggs benedict on a toasted English muffin, a renowned favourite at Simbavati Trails Camp

Daytime: Rejuvenation

After breakfast, the pool becomes the preferred spot to unwind until lunchtime. With panoramic views of the Mopani forest and the bush, it often attracts elephants, who consider it their personal watering hole. Eight towel-laden loungers overlook the pool, providing a perfect setting to bask in the sun, birdwatch and savour the view.

 A delectable lunch is then served and ours featured a South African favourite of  bunny chow made with fire-baked bread and chicken curry. Guests then choose to rest, read or play board games in the communal tent before  a sumptuous high tea is enjoyed, satisfying those sweet cravings.

Afternoon walk: Tracking Secrets

Every afternoon walk begins with a debriefing, where the guide discusses expectations and plans for the walk.

Our journey took us through dense bush, and a dry river bed, leading to a waterhole. The scenery is awe-inspiring, with ancient Jackalberry trees gracing the horizon and gold orb spider webs glistening in the sunlight.

Martin delved into the intriguing and unusual facts about the bush. From the life cycle of termite mounds to discovering an elephant's favorite sleeping spot, we learnt about dung and  the fascinating relationship between honeyguides and humans.

We spotted aardvark prints and porcupine signs before learning about the lion prides of the Greater Kruger and following their tracks. It was immersion in the wilderness at its best.

Sundowner surprise: An enchanting end to the day

As the sun set, we found ourselves walking along a dirt road, and the sky painted itself in shades of red and purple.

Martin signaled, hinting at a surprise just around the corner.

A delightful sundowner table awaited, stocked with snacks, wine, gin, cooldrinks, ice-cold beer, and Amarula.

It was the perfect way to conclude a thrilling day of adventure before driving back to camp in the dark, where we were lucky to see hyena, elephants and other creatures along the way.

With no electricity at camp, paraffin and solar lanterns illuminate the pathways. Simbavati Trails Camp is unfenced, so walking around with a torch is essential, and a guide or your butler will escort you to and from your tent.

Guests take time for a soothing shower under the stars before dinner and the tents and camp are lit up, creating a tranquil setting

Dinner: a boma feast

At dinner, tables were arranged in a half-moon shape around an open fire, reminiscent of a traditional South African boma night, where fireside tales are shared. Chef Raphael or Thompson, will tantalize your taste buds with options like succulent pork ribs, spicy chakalaka, hearty lamb stew and traditional pap, flavourful veggies, beef rump with chimichurri and more, allowing international guests to savour local cuisine, often with a twist. Dessert that night was a decadent chocolate cake, and the staff's traditional African songs filled the air.

Nighttime serenade: Nature's chorus

As we retired to our tent with full bellies and hearts, the sounds of the African bush serenaded us. Hyenas made whooping sounds in the dark around us. Scops owls called in the trees above us.  The African bush is alive at night with choruses of frogs and nocturnal creatures, ending the perfect day at Simbavati Trails Camp.

Discover more at www.simbavati.com/lodges/trails-camp/

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Trails Camp

A Day in the Life at Simbavati Trails Camp

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When considering a journey into the untamed beauty of Simbavati Trails Camp, it's essential to be prepared. Here's a guide to the "need to know's" that will ensure your walking safari adventure at this immersive and unique safari camp is perfect and memorable.

1. The Length of a Walk

Guests are led by an experienced trails guide on twice daily safari walks through the alluring Big 5 wilderness of the Timbavati. On average, a walk spans between 5 to 10 kilometer, however, the pace is deliberately slow, with numerous stops to examine animal spores, delve into the world of flora and fauna, and for water breaks in the most wonderous of settings.

2. Fitness Level Required

You don't need to be an athlete to enjoy Simbavati Trails Camp, but a moderate level of fitness is beneficial. The terrain can be challenging, and walks can extend up to 10 kilometers. Remember, it's not a race; it's an opportunity to immerse yourself in the wilderness and take inn all the details.

3. Footwear Essentials

When it comes to footwear, comfort is key. Trails are not predefined, so expect to navigate through muddy patches and shallow riverbeds. Your shoes will get wet and dirty, so ankle-covering boots or gaiters are ideal. The long grass and dense bush are teeming with sticky seeds, broken branches, and sharp thorns to so make sure your shoes are tough enough.

4. Power Supply

Simbavati Trails Camp is powered by solar energy, ensuring that you can enjoy a comfortable stay in harmony with nature. Solar lights set the ambient scene in the evenings, food is prepared (mostly) on the open flame and outdoor showers are prepared for guests by filling the bucket-style showers with warm water before each use.

A backup generator is available when needed.

5. Connectivity (or Lack Thereof)

Prepare to bid farewell to Wi-Fi and phone signal during your stay. Simbavati Trails Camp is intentionally off the grid, offering a genuine digital detox experience. Should an emergency arise, rest assured that the staff can communicate with the outside world effectively.

6. Seasonal Operation

Simbavati Trails Camp follows a seasonal schedule, open from March to November. The camp closes during the hot and rainy summer months, ensuring the best possible experience for guests.

7. An unfenced Camp

Simbavati Trails Camp is unfenced, allowing wildlife, to roam freely. This creates an authentic and immersive safari experience.

8. Age Restriction

Keep in mind that Simbavati Trails Camp is an experience for adults and older teens. Only children aged 16 and above are permitted.

9. Ideal Length of Stay

While there's a minimum two-night stay requirement, we highly recommend extending your visit to at least three nights. It allows you to fully absorb the magic of the wilderness.

Top Tips for your Walking Safari

  • Keep your tent side flaps open. The netted canvas walls offer protection while letting you enjoy the breeze, views of the outside wilderness and moonlit bush at night.
  • Keep listening. Honey badgers and hyenas do visit the camp from time to time, during the night. You may hear them as well as other nocturnal creatures from the comfort of your bed.
  • Bring along a small backpack for your convenience on the walking safaris, especially for holding your water bottle.
  • Don't forget sunscreen to protect yourself from the African sun.

With this information in mind, prepare to embrace the wild, succumb to tranquility and create memories that will last a lifetime at Simbavati Trails Camp.

Discover more at www.simbavati.com/lodges/trails-camp/

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Trails Camp

What You Need to Know About Simbavati Trails Camp

/ Trails Camp

REGIONS

Getting There

You cannot drive to Simbavati Trails Camp, so we arrange complimentary scheduled transfers in and out of Trails Camp. The collection time is 13:45 from Simbavati Hilltop Lodge. 

Kindly note that there is only one daily return transfer. An additional charge will be levied for any late arrivals into Hoedspruit as we will have to send a second vehicle.

Directions to Hoedspruit Airport to Hilltop

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.

Here you will be required to pay an entrance fee. (This changes on a yearly basis). This gate is open from 6am to 6pm.

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.

Timing to get to Hilltop by 13:30

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

From Hazyview area – 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 – 3+ hours (195km) * Hazyview – Allow 2½ 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.

ROOMS & FACILITIES

Our Meru tents are surprisingly spacious with proper furniture. The back of the tent opens out to your private al fresco en suite ‘bathroom to the stars’. Here is a compostable toilet (eco-friendly), a basin with water. And a traditional bucket shower, which is filled with hot water on demand. 

In-tent Facilities

  • Mosquito net
  • Bathroom – eco-friendly toilet, vanity with basin and jug of water, alfresco bucket shower
  • No electricity, Wi-Fi or cell phone signal
  • Coffee and tea-making facilities
  • Cooler box with milk and soft drinks

Camp facilities

  • Mess tent with dining area and sitting area
  • Camp-fire with casual seating
  • Small plunge pool and pool deck

OUR DETAILED

2024 – 2025 Rates

Enquire about our SA Resident Offers.

08 Jan 2024
to 05 Jan 2025
Per Person SharingR7,375
SingleR 9,900
EXCLUSIVE USE ( Max 8 Pax)R68,700

FINE PRINT

Inclusions

Booking Policy

General Information

Unfortunately Simbavati Trails Camp does not take children under 16 years old, due to the Timbavati regulations around walking safaris.

The Kruger is a seasonal malaria area so we recommend that you take anti-malaria prophylaxis. However mosquitos are less prevalent in the winter. We also recommend anti-mosquito repellent to stop you from getting bitten, especially in the autumn and spring months.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a typical pattern for the day?

How fit do I need to be for a walking safari?

What’s the ideal length of stay?

What if I miss the collection time?

Will we encounter dangerous wildlife?

Is there wifi?

Is there electricity in my tent?

What should I wear for a walking safari?

Get in Contact

Camp Hosts

The camp is managed remotely by Natasha Bull and JP de Bruyn. The hosts rotate, so it may be Natasha and JP or Maricha Miles

There is no phone number for Trails but you can send an urgent message by ringing River Lodge on 015 793 9051, as they have radio contact with Trails Camp.