The Timbavati Game Reserve is most famous for its white lions, which are still spotted in this area from time to time. The Timbavati is a collection of privately-owned game reserves which share an unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park. It is a vast Big 5 game reserve situated to the west of Kruger, and to the north of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The bush and game viewing in the Timbavati is similar to what you will find in the Kruger National Park.

  • Privately-owned game reserve
  • Part of the greater Kruger National Park
  • Big 5 game viewing
  • Open vehicle game drives
  • Off-road driving and night drives are permitted
  • Bush walks are possible, tracking rhinos on foot
  • Selection of luxury and budget safari lodges

The Timbavati Game Reserve is similar to the Sabi Sand in that it is privately-owned land that forms part of the greater Kruger National Park. By mutual agreement, the landowners have dropped their fences with each other and with the Kruger National Park, allowing unrestricted movement of the animals through the reserve.

Big Five game viewing

Its immediate neighbours include the Kruger National Park to the east, Umbabat to the north, and the Klaserie and Thornybush reserves to the west. Although the vegetation and scenery differ slightly from the Sabi Sand, the game viewing is very similar and you will find exactly the same diversity of wildlife in the Timbavati, including the famous Big 5; lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant.

Timbavati Game Reserve South Africa Aerial view Wynand Uys I Unsplash

Large herd of buffalo in Timbavati Game Reserve

(Image: Wynand Uys I Unsplash)

What really sets Timbavati Game Reserve apart from its neighbour, though, is that it is the only reserve in the world where the incredibly rare wild white lion occurs naturally.

Safari activities

There are fewer private game lodges in the Timbavati than in the Sabi Sand, which means there are fewer game drive vehicles around. The game viewing is excellent and off-road driving is permitted. Night drives and bush walks are also conducted at most of the lodges in the Timbavati.

Game drive Timbavati Game Reserve South Africa Thabamati Luxury Tented Camp

Off-road game viewing

(Image: Thabamati Luxury Tented Camp)

Accommodation options in Timbavati Game Reserve range from affordable tented safari camps to luxury safari lodges. A daily conservation fee is payable by all guests staying in the Timbavati, similar to that of the Kruger National Park.

Getting there

By road - Timbavati Game Reserve is a six-hour drive from Johannesburg. If you're staying at Timbavati and would like to visit Kruger Nation Park, direct access isn't possible. You will have to exit the Timbavati gate, drive around and enter Kruger at Orpen Gate.

By air - You can take a scheduled flight to Hoedspruit's Eastgate Airport

Below is a map showing the Timbavati Game Reserve and many of the lodges in the area.

Umlani Bush Camp
Elephant Guests Umlani Bushcamp, Kruger

Umlani Bushcamp provides a rustic bush experience that will give you a unique safari in the Timbavati Private Reserve. It offers simplistic luxury and 'getting away from it all’. The camp operates without electricity, wifi and air conditioning: allowing you to simply soak up the sounds, scents and sights of the surrounding bush.

Kambaku River Sands
Kambaku River Sands - Timbavati Private Game Reserve - South Africa

Perched comfortably on the banks of a perennial river, Kambaku River Sands is a luxurious but affordable safari destination in Timbavati Private Game Reserve. The camp is unfenced and shares unfenced borders with Kruger National Park, so wildlife - large and small - are free to roam through the camp and the reserve as a whole.

Kambaku Safari Lodge
Suite Interior

Kambaku Safari Lodge is located in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. This rustic yet luxurious lodge accommodates only 16 guests, which allows for an atmosphere of relaxed intimacy. Guests can watch game drinking from the waterhole at the lodge. Open-vehicle game drives afford great game viewing opportunities and a chance to spot the Big 5 in the unspoilt bush. The lodge offers a choice of family, double or twin suites.

Motswari Game Lodge
Motswari Private Game Reserve Giraffes Nest

Motswari Lodge is in the Motswari Private Game Reserve, part of the pristine natural habitat that is the Timbavati Game Reserve. The boundaries of the Timbavati are open to the Greater Kruger National Park. Motswari is a traditional, established lodge. Reasonably-priced, this inviting lodge offers spacious accommodation in 15 luxury en-suite bungalows. Visitors can experience up-close game viewing of the Big 5 on daily games drives and bush walks.

Simbavati Hilltop Lodge
Feature accommodation south africa simbavati hilltop lodge

Simbavati Hilltop Lodge is an exclusive, river-facing luxury lodge set in the private Timbavati Game Reserve which shares unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park. This allows the Big Five and many other animals to move freely over more than 20,000 km² of pure wilderness.

Simbavati River Lodge
Feature Simbavati River Lodge Timbavati South Africa

Simbavati is a family-orientated safari lodge, situated in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. The lodge offers a choice of six luxury safari tents, two tented pool suites and three luxury, two-bedroom chalets, all air-conditioned, privately situated with en-suite facilities and ideal for those wanting to experience an authentic but affordable African safari experience. Open vehicle game drives afford guests great game viewing opportunities and a chance to see the Big 5, as well as the elusive white lion in its natural environment.

Kings Camp
Kings Camp - Timbavati Game Reserve - South Africa

Kings Camp is a luxury lodge situated in the Timbavati Game Reserve in South Africa. The lodge lies on the boundary of the Kruger National Park and is known as one of the top safari destinations in South Africa. Kings Camp offers luxury accommodation, world-class cuisine and various game activities.

Ngala Safari Lodge
Ngala Cottage

Ngala, meaning 'lion' in Shangaan, is situated at the junction of the Mopane forests and the Timbavati flood plains, sharing unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park. This gracious, colonial-style safari lodge provides an unbeatable family safari experience.

Ngala Tented Camp
Guest Area

Ngala Tented Camp is a luxurious tented safari camp, with just nine spacious tents featuring wooden decks. The chic and modern camp fuses effortlessly with the surrounding bush. Ngala is situated inside the Timbavati Game Reserve, sharing unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park, offering superb game viewing opportunities.

Bateleur Safari Camp
Game Drive At Bateleur Camp

Bateleur Safari Camp is situated in the game-rich Timbavati Private Reserve. All fences between its famous neighbour, Kruger National Park, have been removed so the game can freely roam across this vast wilderness area. It's home to the Big 5, a huge variety of antelope and plains animals, predators, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and over 500 bird species on a 10,000-hectare diverse and scenic traversing area. Unhurried, uncrowded and unscheduled, Bateleur offers a unique, personalised safari experience, with a mix of game drives and bush walks.

Tanda Tula Safari Camp
Tanda Tula Safari Camp, Ellies

Tanda Tula Safari Camp offers bygone-era luxury in 12 East African-style tents. Situated in lush riverine surrounds, Tanda Tula overlooks the Nharalumi river bed in the Timbavati Game Reserve, which shares unfenced borders with the famous Kruger National Park. It's a game-rich area famous for the White Lions of the Timbavati.

RockFig Safari Lodge
Feature Rock Fig Safari Lodge Timbavati South Africa

Located in the heart of the Timbavati Game Reserve, RockFig Safari Lodge is a luxury, waterhole-facing private game lodge. With six spacious chalet-type suites and a maximum of four guests per safari vehicle on game drives, RockFig Safari Lodge offers guests an intimate, boutique-style bush experience with a twist. RockFig's swimming pool is regularly visited by thirsty elephants.

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