Timbavati is one of the longest established Private Reserves adjoining the Kruger National Park, with which it is unfenced. The bush has had half a century to recover from historic attempts to develop it for cattle ranching which were defeated by sleeping sickness, malaria and variable levels of water. It is a mature reserve with well-thought-out rules – for example, a maximum of two vehicles are allowed on a sighting.
Timbavati means “the place where something sacred came down to earth”. Today, the reserve is an important part of the Greater Kruger. Game is free to move freely to utilise the land, and development levels are lower than, say, in the Sabi Sand, where there are more private landowners. Timbavati consists of only fifty contiguous land titles. There is less visible human infrastructure – the blight of electricity poles and cables that dog Sabi Sand is less apparent here.
ANCESTRAL WHITE LIONS
Timbavati is particularly well known as the ancestral home of white lions in the wild. In the last few years the remaining natural white lions have located themselves on to private land in the vicinity, and there have been reports of hunting. Do not set your expectations too high for seeing them at the current time. If you do, take it as a blessing.
Timbavati enjoys large herds of elephant and buffalo on its open plains, and the area is blessed by the frequent presence of wild dogs.
SPREAD OUT PROPERTY
There are less than twenty exclusive private lodges. Some other Greater Kruger game lodge are have relatively small properties and share traversing with their commercial neighbours. This can lead to crowded wildlife sightings and the often-present sounds and lights of the many open safari vehicles during game drives.
Elsewhere bush walks are usually conducted mid-morning after brunch when there are no game drive vehicles to encounter to prevent spoiling the experience for both walkers and those on the open vehicle. Timbavati is less developed and has quite limiting traversing agreements with the neighbours, keeping vehicle density low so you may easily encounter no other people or safari vehicles for the duration of your stay.
Proper night drives are permitted unlike in other reserves where consideration of your (rather closer) neighbouring lodges makes this an unusual offering.
Because of the fewer, larger properties, lodges such as Bateleur, with its small Main Camp and exclusive Mobile Camp operation, pride themselves on their flexibility, particularly for those wanting to undertake extensive guided bush walks or pursue leads in the bush to fruition (e.g., earlier sightings of lion cubs some distance away).
Timbavati, with its solitude and flexibility, is particularly well suited to photographic safaris. This, along with neighbouring Manyeleti, is as close to wilderness as you ill get in the southern and central Kruger.
If you are going to the northern sector of Timbavati should be aware that access is not possible from the Kruger Park bush; you must drive (or be transferred) from the south via the tar road, or fly-in