Timbavati Game Reserve

Timbavati Game Reserve Overview

Best time to go

Year Round

High Season

June – October

Low Season

April – September

Size

600km² / 232mi²

Altitude

341-529m / 1,119-1,736ft

Location

Greater Kruger | South Africa

Dry Season

May – September

Best Weather

April – May | September – October (Nice weather & virtually no rain)

Wet Season

October – April

Worst Weather

June – August (Chilly mornings & nights) | December – February (Hot & humid)

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Photo credit: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Regarded as a piece of unspoiled Africa, the world-renowned Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park, is a combination of the Timbavati, Klaserie and Umbabat Private Nature Reserve, forming one large expanse of pristine wilderness. Located in the heart of the Lowveld region of South Africa, Timbavati Game Reserve shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park, allowing wildlife to migrate freely between the two reserves, ensuring high-quality game viewing and the greatest diversity of wildlife and birdlife South Africa has to offer.

Timbavati Game Reserve Wildlife

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Photo credit: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Timbavati Game Reserve boasts a vast and prolific diversity of wildlife and birdlife. Home to the Timbavati ‘Magnificent 7’, which includes the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, African wild dog, buffalo, and cheetah, Timbavati Game Reserve has established itself as one of the top and most sought-after African wildlife and safari destinations for local and global wildlife enthusiasts alike.

On average, Timbavati is home to approximately 40 species of mammals, including various endangered species such as the Honey Badger, Bat, Oxpecker, and the Ground Hornbill. An abundance of plains game like kudu, giraffe, wildebeest, and waterbuck (to mention merely a few) can frequently be spotted, as well as several fascinating nocturnal species such as Porcupine, Serval, Genet and Civet, amongst many others, when going on an exciting night drive safari adventure.

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Photo credit: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Undoubtedly one of Timbavati’s top wildlife highlights is its white lions! Timbavati Game Reserve is home to one of nature’s most magnificent creatures, the remarkable, rare, and endangered white lion. White lions are indigenous to the Timbavati Game Reserve, with the earliest records of white lion sightings in this region dating back to 1938. Born with a crème-coloured – snow white coat, and ice blue eyes, the beauty of this extraordinary animal is captivating. Luckily, their colouration doesn’t appear to be of disadvantage when it comes to survival.

While the magnificent white lion has been the target of countless trophy hunters and poachers over the last few decades, several anti-poaching organisations and wildlife protection initiatives have made it their mission to preserve and protect this beloved species. In fact, The Global White Lion Protection Trust (GWLPT) reintroduced white lions into their natural habitat in 2009, and they have been hunting and breeding successfully ever since.

You can count yourself incredibly lucky if you have the opportunity to enjoy a sighting of the remarkable and rare white lion in the Timbavati Game Reserve – It truly is a once in a lifetime sighting!

**Interesting fact: Ancient folklore tells of a time when the local Shangaan tribe saw a bright light streaking across the sky and crash on the African savannah. Shortly thereafter the lions of Timbavati began giving birth to snow white cubs. These unique lions have been regarded as sacred ever since.

**Bonus fact: Due to the continuous hunting and poaching efforts of white lions, as well as their endangered status and small numbers, white lion offspring have been born to normal coloured parents. This phenomenon is known as Leucism. This has resulted in a ‘new’ very pale species of lion (as they carry the pure white lion gene) which can frequently be spotted roaming the Timbavati Game Reserve.

Timbavati Game Reserve Birdlife

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Photo credit: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Boasting a vast and vibrant array of birdlife, with more than 360 species of birds recorded, including endangered species like the Oxpecker and Ground Hornbill, Timbavati Game Reserve is a bird lover’s paradise. In fact, it is estimated that visitors can see more species of birds in one day at Timbavati than what is normally possible in a lifetime.

As the emphasis of a safari game drive is primarily focussed on wildlife sightings and game viewing, avid birders sharing a safari experience with non-birders may be left disappointed. Instead of a traditional wildlife centred game drive, serious birders should opt for more private activities and experiences to get their desired birding fix. The combination of open vehicle drives and walking safaris in the Timbavati Game Reserve are ideal for passionate birding enthusiasts to check as many bird species off their birding bucket-list as possible. Night drives also offer birders the opportunity to spot a few nightjars, coursers, and owls.

While Timbavati’s bird watching is good all year round, the incredible migration of birds from Eurasia and elsewhere in Africa, which takes place from November – April, is by far the most premier birding experience. The wet summer Timbavati months therefore makes for the most exceptional birdlife sightings.

Some of the most notable birds in the Timbavati Nature Reserve include:

  • African spoonbill
  • Chinspot batis
  • Dideric cuckoo
  • Grey-headed Kingfisher
  • Southern carmine bee-eater

Some real birding specials and treats for avid birders in Timbavati include:

  • Collared pratincole
  • Harlequin quail
  • Horus swift
  • Kurrichane buttonquail
  • Little bittern
  • Montagu’s harrier
  • Pallid harrier
  • Plain-backed sunbird
  • Southern black flycatcher
  • Southern carmine bee-eater
  • White-headed lapwing
  • Woolly-necked stork

Timbavati Game Reserve Scenery & Vegetation

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Photo credit: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Timbavati Game Reserve forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park ecosystem. Timbavati’s primary habitats include open grass plains and mixed woodland. During the reserve’s summer rainy season, the vegetation tends to be quite thick, however this doesn’t have much of an impact on game viewing as the off-road driving permits allows for great wildlife sightings.

Best Time To Go To Timbavati Game Reserve

Best Time To Go

May – September (Dry season)

High Season

October – March

Low Season

April – September

Best Weather

April – May | September – October (Nice weather & virtually no rain)

Worst Weather

June – August (Chilly mornings & nights) | December – February (Hot & humid)

The Timbavati Game Reserve climate is subtropical, consisting of two main seasons: The wet summer season (October – March) and dry winter season (April – September). Like the Kruger National Park, Timbavati Game Reserve is a year-round destination, but it remains seasonal. Here are just some of the things you can expect to experience during Timbavati’s two primary seasons.

Dry winter season in Timbavati

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Photo credit: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

The dry winter reason is regarded as the best time to visit the Timbavati Game Reserve as it allows for pristine game-viewing opportunities of Timbavati’s vast and diverse wildlife. This is primarily owed to the sparse vegetation, allowing for optimal visibility of wildlife, as well as wildlife gathering around rivers, waterholes, and various water sources.

Dry season highlights

Prime time for wildlife sightings

Optimal visibility due to sparse vegetation

Lovely days with mild – moderate day-time temperatures

Rain is rare with little – no humidity

Malaria risk is low

Wet summer season in Timbavati

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Photo credit: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

As it’s the rainy season, the rain starts in October and typically persists until the end of March. While the excess rain transforms the dry bush and surroundings into a glorious lush green paradise, game viewing becomes more difficult as the foliage grows thicker, and the animals have more cover.

Wet season highlights

Lush greenery and lovely fresh landscapes due to high rainfall

The park is filled with newborn wildlife

Exceptional time for bird watching as migrant birds are present

Wildlife are in excellent condition

Timbavati Game Reserve Climate

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Photo credit: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Dry Season

Winter: April – September

  • Mild – moderate day-time temperature
  • Minimal rain & clear and sunny skies

Wet Season

Summer: October – March

  • Moderately high – very high day-time temperatures
  • High levels of rainfall
  • High humidity
  • Occasional cloudy conditions

How to get to Timbavati Game Reserve

Depending on cost and convenience, there are several ways to get to the Timbavati Game reserve. You can either choose to drive, fly into the closest airport, and have a shuttle transfer, or make use of your own private charter.

Fly to Timbavati

Regular scheduled, daily flights fly from O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) and Cape Town International Airport (Cape Town) to Hoedspruit, which is a 30-minute drive from Timbavati Game Reserve. Most of the lodges collect guests from Hoedspruit Airport and transport them to Timbavati. If this is not the case, there are several car rentals and shuttle buses available to transport you to your desired destination. Certain Lodges in the Timbavati Game Reserve have private airstrips – making for a smooth and seamless process.

Flying is the easiest and most convenient way to travel to the Timbavati. The flights take about 60 minutes from Johannesburg and just over 2 hours from Cape Town.

By Private Charter

Private air charters are also available. Johannesburg is an excellent starting point and guests can fly straight to the lodge or to the nearby Hoedspruit Airport. Transfers to the Timbavati lodges and back can be organised around flight times.

Driving to Timbavati

Driving to Timbavati Game Reserve is a very feasible, enjoyable, and cost-effective option. Timbavati is approximately 6 hours’ drive from Johannesburg. The road is tarred and well maintained for the most part, with clean service stations along the way.