Tucked into a nook halfway up the Kruger Park on the western boundary is a modest nature reserve of about 60,000 hectares! Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is a combination of the Timbavati, Klaserie and Umbabat Private Nature Reserves that were formed when some far-sighted folk back in the 50s decided to join their large expanses of wilderness into one larger expanse of wilderness.
In 1990 the fence between Timbavati and the Kruger National Park came down; the initial result was a migration out of the overstocked reserve and now the balance is returning to days of old – very old.
All of the high profile game, and a massive supporting cast, are there for the experienced trackers and guides to find for you. Home to the ‘magnificent seven’ – lion, leopard, wild dog, elephant, rhino, buffalo, cheetah – and many interesting smaller animals, over 350 types of bird and some fascinating flora, the park offers an excellent wilderness experience in pristine African bushveld.
Being a private reserve, your vehicle will be completely open for better viewing; your tracker can perch on the car’s bonnet for a better view and you can follow tracks and animals off-road. You can also participate in optional walking safaris and night drives – exciting activities that are not possible in the national park.
Guests are sure to find accommodation to suit their needs between the luxurious lodges, camps, and self-catering options available in the reserve. Timbavati can be reached via any of the three regional airports that well-served daily flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg. Hoedspruit’s Eastgate Airport is the closest (a quick 30min road transfer away)
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Timbavati Game Reserve
There are several ways of getting to the Timbavati Game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, each of which has a slightly different cost implication and convenience to take into consideration. Daily flights operate between Johannesburg and Cape Town Airports to Hoedspruit, which is a 30 min drive from Timbavati. Most of the lodges collect guests from Hoedspruit Airport. This is the easiest and most convenient way to travel to the Timbavati. The flights take about 60 minutes from Joburg and just over 2 hours from Cape Town.
For those with more time, self-driving to the Timbavati is a very feasible and enjoyable option. The Timbavati is about 6 hours drive from Johannesburg. The road is tarred and well maintained for the most part, with clean service stations along the way. Fuel is never a problem in South Africa, and you won't get lost with google maps or waze. Roads are surprisingly well signposted & traffic density is generally low.
Based on your lodge of choice, time and cost, our Travel Experts will gladly advise you on the best way to get to your lodge of choice in the Timbavati Game Reserve.
The Kruger National Park boasts many ultra-luxurious private game reserves, including the Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Manyeleti and Thornybush Game Reserves, which are home to a wide variety of secluded lodges, each with their own brand of style, level of luxury and opportunities for up-close game viewing. Not all lodges, however, are made equally - the ability to off-road, do night drives, and game walks together with the exclusivity of traversing (The area a lodge can drive) are the nuances that set both price and experience apart. They are the nuances why two lodges that are seeming close together are so differently priced. We at Rhino Africa are Kruger Experts. We visit and stay at all these lodges regularly, and hence we have all the knowledge and know-how to ensure you make the best choice, making your Kruger National Park Safari, the best it can possibly be.
Like Kruger, Timbavati Game Reserve is a Year-round destination, but it remains seasonal - Here is what you can expect to experience through the months of the year.
November through to December: The summer months are hot and humid with either continual rains or very typically afternoon thundershowers which generally clear before the game drives depart. Lots of young animals are born during this time notably the impala lambs, which are beautiful but vulnerable to predators.
January to March: These are normally drier months with very hot days. There are lots of beautiful migratory birds during the summer periods. Early morning drives with early returns to escape the heat are typical.
April: The vegetation starts changing from thick lush green bush to a slightly sparser browning bush during this Autumn period. The temperatures start cooling down at night but daytime is still warm. Potential scattered thundershowers can be experienced in the afternoons.
May to June: Cold temperatures are experienced at night and at dawn during the winter months. Warm clothing is recommended such as gloves, scarves, beanies and insulated jackets. Large herds of elephant are very mobile. The vegetation becomes totally brown and trees start losing leaves. Visibility during drives is enhanced due to sparser vegetation.
July to September: This period is very dry in the bush with very cold night temperatures and therefore chilly during the early morning and late afternoon game drives. Game viewing is generally fantastic and the visibility is good and the game is concentrated around any water source.
September to October: Spring is the height of the dry season boasting hot dry winds and colourless, sparse vegetation. Because the rivers and dams are low high concentrations of game can be viewed at these areas and game viewing, in general, is very good. The first rains may start towards the end of October and the signs of spring and a new wet season are evident.
Whichever season you chose, our Rhino Africa Travel Experts will ensure you are in the best area to maximise your Safari experience.
Here is a rough idea of what you can expect on a Timbavati safari. Please note that this differs depending on where you stay.
05:00: Wake up to get your day started!
05:30: Coffee with your ranger and tracker before going on safari, most often on an open 4x4 vehicle.
09:30: Start heading back to the lodge for a scrumptious breakfast.
11:00: Depending on where you are staying at what time of the year, you can often embark on a bushwalk with an armed tracker. This gives you a chance to appreciate the smaller wonders of the bush.
13:00: Enjoy your lunch and unwind.
16:00: Meet for your afternoon game drive.
16:30: Your evening game drive promises different sightings than the morning, with nocturnal animals coming out to play.
18:00: Watch the incredible sunset while you drink a G&T.
18:30: Using a spotlight, take a peek into the lives of your nocturnal creatures.
19:30: Return and freshen up for dinner.
20:00: Feast on dinner while your ranger tells you stories around the campfire.
Unfortunately not. We are not doctors, so please note that you should always speak to your doctor about malaria prevention before travelling. However, on that note, it is entirely possible to have a safe, malaria-free holiday in Africa by using prophylactic drugs.
Tip 1: Repel the Mosquitoes
The female mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria is a silent mossy, so you will have to ensure you repel them. They can strike at any time of day but are most active at dusk as well as dawn. Always wear repellent as well as long-sleeved shirts and long trousers in the evenings and mornings. Please note that clothes alone won't protect you, as they can bite through the material. Most of our lodges will have screened windows and doors, air conditioning systems, and mosquito nets to further protect you.
Tip 2: ALWAYS Take Anti-Malaria Tablets
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against malaria is taking Prophylactic tablets. Please note that you have to speak to your doctor before taking these tablets to ensure that you take the right one, as well as the correct dosage when entering the malaria area.
Tip 3: Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms and Finish Your Course of Meds
If you start to notice any flu-like symptoms, you must get a malaria test to be safe and catch it early because malaria reacts well to early treatment. Also, don't stop taking your meds until the course is complete!
The highlight of any safari in the Greater Kruger National Park is exploring the bush and the wildlife by enjoying a game drive or bush walk. It's an incredible experience to see amazing wildlife in their natural habitat, but we do urge you to take note of the guidelines below that will assist in ensuring the long-term survival of South Africa's beloved Kruger National Park.
Please respect your surroundings and the wildlife by following these guidelines:
- Take back photographs and memories only! Do not remove natural objects (rocks, flowers, plants, etc.) from the Kruger Park or any of the reserves. It disrupts the ecology of the area.
- Do not try to attract the animals’ attention by imitating their sounds, clapping, throwing objects or any other means.
- Never tease or corner wild animals. This may cause an unpredictable response and a potentially dangerous reaction.
- The vegetation in Kruger Park is very sensitive, and off-road driving causes erosion. Only go off-road with a ranger and never on your own.
- Remember that you are a visitor to the animals’ natural habitat, so observe the animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives will frighten the animals away.
- Don’t litter! Besides being distasteful, litter thrown on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds.
- The African bush is very dry, ignites easily, and fires can kill many animals. So PLEASE abstain from smoking on game drives.
- Respect your driver/guide’s judgment about your proximity to certain wild animals. Don’t insist that they take the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a well-deserved meal.
- Always follow your guide’s advice – they are the experts! Don’t be afraid to ask them questions if you are unsure of anything.
- Never attempt to approach a wild animal on foot, especially near your lodge or campsite where the animals have become accustomed to humans.
Game drives are an exhilarating experience! Whether you are up with the birds before sunrise to view the bushveld’s early risers or tracking the nocturnal animals with spotlights at night, safari game drives in the African bush are an experience of a lifetime.
The private game reserves along the western border of the Kruger National Park offer the best game viewing experience. There is no fencing between Kruger and the reserves so animals can roam freely between them. Game viewing in the Kruger Park and neighbouring reserves is essentially the same but there are some differences in the type of game drive you will experience.
The main difference between Kruger and the private reserves is that only closed vehicles are permitted in the Kruger Park whereas the private reserves offer open vehicle game drives. The advantage of open vehicles is that you get better views and feel a great deal closer to the bush and the experience. The ranger and tracker who accompany you on excursions in the private reserves are also in contact with other vehicles on game drives which greatly increases your chances of finding the animals that you most want to see. Off-road driving is forbidden in the Kruger and night drives may only be conducted by park rangers in large park vehicles. In contrast, the private reserves offer night drives every evening and they may also leave the roads to follow animals into the bush and provide much better opportunities to witness animal behaviour and interactions.
No matter where you are in the area, however, the scenery in the Kruger National Park is wild, unspoiled and breathtakingly beautiful. Heading off into wild Africa in a safari vehicle where there are no fences or man-made structures, you have the unique opportunity of enjoying Africa just as you had imagined it. Wide, open plains alive with game and watering holes teeming with birdlife, herds of elephant and buffalo. You might get close to a pack of lions, watch giraffes grazing on treetops or see a cheetah on the hunt. Leopards are more elusive characters but can be seen frequently in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park.
Your game drives will focus on the animals whose movement is determined by the season and the rainfall. Most South African safari lodges have a ranger and tracker accompanying all game drives. They are well trained and knowledgeable and can offer great insight into the various ecosystems found in the Kruger National Park. Having the trained eye of a tracker onboard increases your chances of seeing something special and exciting.
On safari, each day is different. You could be silently watching elephants drink and bath one day and the next day you could be following a wild dog hunt off-road. Whatever you encounter is sure to be a unique experience and your guides and trackers will willingly answer all of your questions. Sundowners are an old safari tradition and most game drives will pause at sunset for a cocktail and a quiet moment to listen to the shrill sounds of the bushveld.
A lot of game drives are on open vehicles so you should remember to take sunscreen and a hat during the day (all year round) and in winter you will need warm clothing in the evenings (May to August).
The Kruger National Park is one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries and morning and evening game drives offer spectacular sights, sounds and observations of flora and fauna that form part of the vast and ancient African ecology network.