Timbavati: place of magic & wonder…

The Timbavati Game Reserve borders the Kruger National Park to the north and east. The name Timbavati was derived from a Shangaan expression meaning ‘the place where something sacred came down to earth from the heavens’. This sums up the magical spirit of the Timbavati reserve which has a tangible sense of wilderness. It has no fences so animals are able to move freely, in search of fresh grasses and water.

The Timbavati private game reserve has a vast array of wildlife which includes the Big Five (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino) thriving amongst giraffe, zebra, warthogs, hyena and many antelope species. It also protects sustainable populations of many endangered species such as black and white rhinoceros, pangolins, and many others. All in all there are over 40 mammal species in the Timbavati as well as 360 species of bird life.

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Why we love it

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Fenceless borders

Open, fenceless borders with the Kruger National Park

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Big Five

Big Five Reserve & frequent sightings of wild dogs

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Few Vehicles

Pervasive sense of wilderness with low vehicle density

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Timbavati Leopards

Great chance of seeing leopard given the terrain


Getting to the Timbavati…

The Timbavati Private Game Reserve lies approx 495km north-east from Johannesburg. The closest airport is Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport, which is about 1 hour from most camps. There are direct flights from both Cape Town and Johannesburg into Hoedspruit. From there you enjoy a complimentary transfer to our Timbavati lodges.

If you stay in the Hazyview area, the drive is approx 2½ hours to most camps. However you could enjoy scenic tour of the Panorama route via the majestic Blyde River Canyon. This takes much longer, but you can easily arrive in time for afternoon tea prior to safari activities.

Johannesburg to the Timbavati safari lodges takes at least 6½ hours (as the final stretch is slow driving once you are IN the reserve). For specific driving directions, look at How to Get There on each of our Timbavati safari lodge pages and download the directions.

Closest Airport



Drive time from Hoedspruit

1 hour

to most camps

Dry Season


Wet Season



Best Time to visit the Timbavati Private Game Reserve

The Timbavati has a typical sub-tropical climate with warm, wet summer and dry, but sunny winters. It is in the summer rainfall region of South Africa.

Summer babies

The Greater Kruger has a summer rainfall climate with the rains starting somewhere in November. This usually takes the form of late afternoon or evening thunderstorms which are actually welcome, as it cools the air and keeps everything lush and green. Temperatures are hot and humid during the day. And it stays warm in the evening and night. The rains are heaviest in January and February. 

The bush comes alive again after the rains offering lush vegetation. It is harder to spot the wildlife during this time as the grasses are longer. However birding is excellent with many summer migrants, many young ones are being born, and the interesting cloud shapes make it the perfect time for keen photographers. 

Rain ceases

This is the start of the dry season and thus the safari season. Usually by mid-March the rains have stopped, making game-viewing much easier. The landscape is still green and lush but grasses start dying down. The sunsets are superb as the skies are clearer. Nights are pleasantly warm. And the drier weather means the malaria risk is much lower.

Peak game-viewing

This is our dry winter climate with virtually no rain for months. This is the best time for game-viewing as the bush is less dense and the animals need to come to the rivers to drink. Daytime temperatures are very pleasant (23-25c) with sunny skies for days on end. But you’ll need to have warm clothing for when the sun sets. And for the early morning game drives. However it starts warming up during August.

Heating up

The spring months of mid-August to October are actually just the tail-end of the dry season in the Timbavati Game Reserve. (So not the classic spring weather you may be used to.) But it remains a very good time for safari. As more and more the animals are congregating around the water sources, where our safari lodges are situated. It’s perfect for those who like warmer night-time temperatures. It starts heating up quickly in late September and October prior to the start of the summer rains (from late October to mid-November). With the build-up of humidity, October tends to be hot!


Birding in the Timbavati

Bird watching in the Timbavati Game Reserve is very rewarding. As well as the frequently-spotted lilac breasted roller, there is a wide array of owls, eagles, kingfishers and other water-birds amongst the 360 species found here. . It also protects sustainable populations of many endangered birds such as saddle-billed storks and southern ground hornbills.

Timbavati Game Reserve - sustainable game-viewing


Sustainable game-viewing

There are comparatively few Timbavati safari lodges. So this pristine wildlife reserve has a low vehicle density as well as strict, ecologically sensitive game-viewing protocols. This ensures that there are no more than two vehicles at any sighting. So as to leave the wildlife as undisturbed as possible.

Drives are in the early morning and late afternoon when wildlife is most likely to be active. Due to a long history of sensitive game-viewing, the animals are quite relaxed allowing for superb viewing from open-topped game vehicles. Your ranger and tracker work as a team to find the wildlife. Being a private reserve, you can also enjoy night drives and follow wildlife off road.

After sundowners, you may be lucky to spot nocturnal animals on the night drive, including many smaller cat species, including African wild cat.


Timbavati Lodge(s)

Romantic Luxurious tented lodge.

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.

Enjoy game-viewing experience from our deck…

Simbavati River Lodge enjoys a unique setting on the banks of the Kruger Park’s Nhlaralumi River in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. This lodge has a broad appeal, with a traditional safari ambience but with a relaxed contemporary twist in terms of décor.

Opulent and Spacious Two Bedroomed Villa

River Sands Villa is a combination of luxury and opulence with exceptional private views overlooking a watering hole, in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. It is positioned alongside a dry river bed running through the Timbavati. The waterfall pool feature overlooks the watering hole that attracts a variety of wildlife throughout the day.

Quaint and Picturesque Two Bedroomed Cottage

Mvubu is a picturesque cottage in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve,  with views of untouched African bush. It is located alongside the expansive Mbali Dam and the Nhlaralumi River.

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. There is no electricity, WiFi or cell phone reception. Just you, in the heart of an untamed African wildlife wonderland.