Timbavati Nature Reserve(Greater Kruger) Safari Guide
Timbavati is a private nature reserve with open borders to the famous Kruger National Park. It is part of the Greater Kruger ecosystem, which offers an authentic wildlife experience. All of the Big Five animals are easily spotted including the elusive leopard. The park is famed for its rare white lion.
Pros & Cons
Good wildlife viewing with all of the Big Five present
Day and night drives and walking safaris available
Off-road driving in open vehicles
Part of a very large ecosystem
Several lodges and self-catering camps to choose from
Less busy than Sabi Sands
Emphasis on ticking off the Big Five species
Big cat sightings are not quite as good as in Sabi Sands
Wildlife & Animals
Timbavati is part of the Greater Kruger ecosystem, where animals roam throughout the bordering parks and reserves. This means all main safari animals can be seen. Timbavati is the closest competition to the better-known Sabi Sand Game Reserve, but it is a bit quieter and wilder. All of the Big Five can be spotted, and sightings are of the highest quality.
Timbavati is known for its large herds of buffalo, while lion and elephant are found in good numbers as well. The reserve's claim to fame is its white lions, but pure white lions haven't been seen for a long time. You might be able to see some very pale individuals that carry the gene. Cheetah and leopard are seen less often than in nearby Sabi Sands.
With more than 350 bird species recorded, Timbavati is a birders paradise. On game drives, the emphasis is mostly on mammals, and birders sharing a vehicle with non-birders might well be in for a disappointing experience. Serious birders should consider booking private activities. The combination of open vehicle drives and walking safaris is ideal to check off many species, while night drives might offer a few nightjars, coursers and owls. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Best Time to Visit
The dry winter months of May through September are the best time for a trip to Timbavati. Wildlife viewing is superb as rivers and waterholes become gathering places for animals. The wildlife viewing improves as the Dry season wears on. This fact, coupled with warmer weather, makes September an excellent time to visit.
May to September – Dry Season
Wildlife viewing is slightly better
Rain is rare, and the skies are sunny
Days are mild with little humidity
Malaria risk is low
The bush is very dry
Warm clothing is needed for early morning and evening game drives
October to April – Wet Season
Landscape is fresh and green
Newborn animals can be seen while adults are in healthy condition
Birding is excellent, and migratory birds are present
Wildlife viewing is not quite as good as during the Dry season
The heat and humidity can be unbearable
Antimalarial medication is recommended
Weather & Climate
Timbavati’s winter and summer are opposite to the seasons in Europe and North America. The Wet season occurs during the summer months (October to April), while the Dry season occurs during the winter (May to September). The summer is hot and humid. Winter is dry and mild, with it cooling off substantially during the night. Warm clothing is essential for game drives.
Dry Season – May to September – Winter
Humidity is low, and there is virtually no precipitation during the winter months. Permanent water sources attract animals as there is little water in the bush.
May – This is a month of transition marking the end of summer. Temperatures typically cool off to 12°C/54°F in the morning and 27°C/81°F in the afternoon.
June, July & August – Game drives in open vehicles will be cold in the morning, as it averages around 10°C/50°F. It would be wise to bring warm winter clothing. The afternoons are clear and pleasant with an average temperature around 25°C/77°F.
September – The first rains bring comfort to the drought-like conditions, and the temperature builds to an average of 28°C/82°F in the afternoon. Mornings become warmer with an average temperature of around 14°C/57°F.
Wet Season – October to April – Summer
Humidity can make the heat insufferable during the summer months. Though daytime temperatures average 30°C/86°F, it is not unusual for peaks to reach well over 40°C/104°F. Afternoon thunderstorms occur but seldom last all day.
October & November – Rain frequency increases, primarily in the afternoon. Temperatures between 17°C/63°F in the morning and 30°C/86°F in the afternoon are normal.
December, January & February – Torrential rains during the afternoon are normal, making humidity very high. These months are the hottest and the wettest of all. Afternoon temperatures average 31°C/88°F, but temperatures as high as 40°C/104°F are not unusual.
March & April – Rainfall subsides as cooler weather sets in. The month of April has pleasant, clear weather with very little humidity. Nights cool to around 16°C/61°F, but are still temperate. The daytime average is 29°C/84°F.
Visitors from abroad usually fly into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) at Johannesburg. From here, Federal Air flies twice-daily to Timbavati.
Alternatively, you can take a connecting flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit Airport (HDS). The reserve is only about 15km/9mi from the airport, which makes a transfer to the reserve very easy.
Renting a car in Johannesburg and driving to Timbavati is another option. The reserve can be found on the R40 near Hoedspruit, and west of Kruger National Park. The 450km/280mi drive takes nearly five hours.