Timbavati Game Reserve
Kambaku River Sands
Kambaku River Sands overlooks a waterhole and accommodates you in ten thatched suites adorned in authentic African style. Each suite sports an en-suite bathroom with a spa bath, double shower and outdoor shower. The suites are air-conditioned, neatly equipped with mosquito nets and modern amenities and have private viewing decks.
Kambaku Safari Lodge
Kambaku Safari Lodge consists of eight beautiful thatched chalets and 3 inter-leading family units erected in a semi-circle around a waterhole. You can relax on your private veranda and watch animals coming down to drink. The central lodge areas are built to blend in with the surrounding bush and offers a swimming pool, bar, boma and library.
Tanda Tula Safari Camp
The intimate Tanda Tula Safari Camp is nestled amongst enormous trees on the banks of the Nlharalumi Riverbed and comprises just secluded 12 tents for up to 24 guests. Children older than six years are welcome. Each elegant canvas tent sports a private deck and en- suite bathroom with an indoor bath and outdoor shower.
Umlani Bush Camp
Umlani Bush Camp accommodates guests in traditional African reed and thatch huts as well as an Eco Rondavel, all naturally blending with the environment and providing modern comforts. All the accommodation options have comfortable beds, crisp white linen, soft towels, mosquito netting, insect repellent and en-suite open-air bush showers as well as standard bathroom amenities.
Ngala Safari Lodge
Shaded by a canopy of tall tamboti trees, Ngala is a luxury lodge in the classic safari style. Thatched cottages and permanent safari tents overlook a waterhole in this untouched wilderness. Game drives and walking safaris in the private reserve offer intimate wildlife encounters.
Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is situated in the heart of the Lowveld region of South Africa and one of the most coveted safari destinations in southern Africa. The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve has a total of 18 all-inclusive lodges and 4 self-catering camps, ranging from fully inclusive safari lodges to self-catering camps.
The stylish luxury safari lodges in Timbavati Private Game Reserve, all offer premier luxury and high-end hospitality and superb guided game drives and wildlife sightings of white lions, leopards and African wild dogs, to name but a few.
From these lodges visitors can explore the wonderful African bush, indulge in traditional culinary delights and find luxury accommodation in private safari tents or rustic camps.
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve lies within the Greater Kruger National Park open system, and within the internationally declared Kruger 2 Canyons UNESCO Man and Biosphere System. Biosphere Reserves are regions throughout the world that host important ecosystems and protected areas adjacent to human settlements. They are established to develop and promote ways to conserve biodiversity and its sustainable use, while considering the needs of people around the area.
The Kruger to Canyon Biosphere (K2C) Region is on the western border of Kruger National Park, in the north-eastern part of South Africa and is recognised under the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Programme that was registered in 2001 as a member of the World network of more than 669 sites in over 120 countries. It covers about 2,6 million hectares.
These systems all fall within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), a truly visionary landscape of reserves and habitats working together under a common agreement signed between the countries of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in 2002.
The lands comprising the Timbavati were barely touched through the ages and are still only sparingly inhabited. This part of South Africa’s bushveld region can be viewed as truly pristine and unspoiled, being near to genuine wilderness, very different from land elsewhere, making it one of the most treasured tourism and safari areas in the country.
The Timbavati is home to a number of luxury Safari lodges that cater to local and international tourists, helping to bring a thriving tourism economy to the region and promoting employment within the reserve and in the neighbouring communities.
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is run as a highly professional organisation that protects sustainable populations of many endangered species including black and white rhinoceros, pangolins, saddle billed storks, southern ground hornbills and many others.
The reserve also finances an outreach project, called the Timbavati Foundation, that runs a series of programmes to help neighbouring communities in ways such as providing boreholes, promoting sustainable vegetable farming as well as offering and supporting environmental awareness programmes for the children in local schools.
The White Lions of the Timbavati
The Timbavati is probably best known worldwide for its iconic and mystic white lions. The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve remains the only reserve in the world where wild white lions occur naturally and regularly.
Genetic analysis of the Timbavati lions has indicated that the lion population has high genetic diversity and is not at risk of inbreeding. This is enhanced by the vast ranges available to lions in the Greater Kruger National Park open system.
Much has been said, written and published about the white lions and some people credit them with mythical powers. Some say they are albinos and others that they are leucistic, but research showed that the white lions of the Timbavati are neither.
A few years ago a Timbavati landowner initiated a research project to establish more about the white lions genetically. Apart from the visual differences between tawny lions and white ones, there are some subtle and interesting physical differences amongst the white lions themselves too. Some have blue eyes, pink lips, noses and pads, others have brown eyes, black lips, noses and pads.
Suspicions that the white lions with blue eyes, pink noses, lips and pads could be albinos and that those with brown eyes, black lips, noses and pads could be leucistic (partial loss of pigmentation) were proved wrong and it was found that the white lions did not have these mutations.
A white gene, which is a recessive gene for white lions and only expresses itself if this gene is inherited from both parents, was isolated and a differing expression of this recessive gene in different individuals was found to be the reason for the variation in lip and eye colour.
The rare occurrence of naturally occurring White Lions, compared to naturally occurring Tawny Lions, is an indication that the White colouring is not an ideal evolutionarily colour mutation and will not become the dominant colour for wild lions.
History and management
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve was established in the early 1950s when a group of like-minded landowners realised that inappropriate land use could lead to habitat degradation and loss of wildlife for future generations. Working together with the aim of preserving the natural integrity of the area, they formed the Timbavati Association in 1956.
Since then, the reserve has grown and now covers an area of 53 396 hectares with about 50 landowners. The association is a non-profit body bound by a common constitution and exclusively committed to preserving the fauna and flora of the area.
In 1993, an important milestone was reached in the history of the reserve when the fences between itself and the Kruger National Park and other adjoining privately owned conservation areas was dropped. This expansion of the open system initially included Timbavati, Klaserie and Umbabat Private Nature Reserves, and later also the Balule Nature Reserve, adding some 184 000 hectares to form the area what is today known as the Greater Kruger National Park.
Later the fences between the Timbavati and Thornybush, its neighbour to the west, were also dropped, a development that opened an additional 14 500 hectares and further encouraging the natural migration of species.
The Timbavati lands were barely touched through the ages and are still only sparingly inhabited. This part of South Africa’s bushveld region can be viewed as truly pristine and unspoiled, being near to genuine wilderness, very different from anywhere else.
In December 2018, a Co-Operative Agreement was signed between the Kruger National Park (KNP) and all the open GLTFCA conservation and protected areas adjoining the KNP to formalise what is now known as the Greater Kruger National Park. This agreement permits a cooperative, integrated and consistent management and development approach to all stakeholders within the system, which is based on the key management pillars of Governance, Environmental Management, Socio Economic Benefits, Safety and Security and Land Inclusion.
This agreement ensures that the land is protected in terms of the National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act (NEMPAA, Act 57 of 2003) and that healthy governance structures are in place to effectively manage the protected area across the GLTFCA.
The agreement further ensures that national parks, nature reserves and protected environments follow common approaches towards managing nature, and the relationship between people and nature, in the Greater Kruger area.
The agreement safeguards a uniform agenda for the protection, management and sharing of socio-economic benefits within the shared open system and addresses a number of current and anticipated risks facing role players in conservation. All of the stakeholders now cooperate to address significant risks, to develop more opportunities and economic benefits for landowners, management authorities (such as Kruger National Park and Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Agency), and communities living within the GLTFCA.
Through the agreement, Timbavati strives for implementation of best practices on many levels, including the management of endangered species, the eradication of alien plants, maintaining fire breaks, preventing bush encroachment, enabling sustainable tourism and ensuring that neighbouring communities form part of the wildlife economy.
Timbavati Private Nature Reserve also forms part of the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR).
The APNR is an affiliation of private reserves neighbouring the western border of the Kruger National Park in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces of South Africa. The APNR consists of Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, Balule Nature Reserve, Umbabat Private Nature Reserve and Thornybush Nature Reserve.
Together these reserves occupy 184 000 hectares of land solely dedicated to wildlife. The APNR is a co-operative organisation that was established to coordinate the interests of its members and act as a single body when interacting with government entities.
Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and Conservation
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is the site of many exciting research projects aimed at conservation and the preservation of the area’s fauna and flora species.
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve supports research projects and programmes by the Mammal Research Institute of the University of Pretoria (Non-invasive assessment of trace elements to evaluate African savannah ecosystem health), the North West University (The contribution of forbs to the dietary composition of wild herbivores using DNA metabarcoding), the University of University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Endangered Wildlife Trust (Ecology of the Hooded Vulture in the Kruger -to- Canyon Biosphere Reserve), the Nelson Mandela University (The influence of water dependency on the spatial ecology of large mammalian herbivores on the paleo-Agulhus plain) and the North West University (The effect of fire frequency on the size and density of bud banks and belowground organs in semi-arid South African Savanna.)
The Southern Ground Hornbill Programme
The Southern Ground-Hornbill Research Programme began in 2000 and is run by the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, to create a better understanding of the breeding ecology and home range use of this breeding species.
During the breeding season, the programme monitors natural and artificial nests in the Timbavati, Klaserie and Umbabat to determine the success of each breeding attempt to determine why certain groups are more successful at breeding than others. Second-hatched chicks are also harvested and hand-reared for wild-release and breeding programmes.
With the use of satellite transmitters attached to an individual in each group, movements are tracked, and home range size and habitat use calculated. This information help to understand what habitats Ground-Hornbills favour or avoid and why.
Panthera Leopard Research
The Timbavati Leopard research project is based on broad co-operation between the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, researchers and private partners.
The leopard is listed as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red list and may soon qualify for “vulnerable” status, making it imperative to address the many threats posed to the species.
The research project intends to increase the understanding of the species and address some of the threats against them. The project is non-invasive to the animals but based on still shots and video footage from camera traps throughout the reserve.
EWT Hooded Vulture Programme
The Timbavati has the largest vulture nesting colony in the APNR. A vulture nest monitoring project is done in collaboration with the Endangered Wildlife Trust of South Africa with two main aims – first to monitor permanent marked nests in terms of yearly use and secondly to monitor elephant impact on trees used by vultures.
Vulture chicks are marked, and visitors, guides and staff are invited to record their location.
The Timbavati runs a scientifically formulated impala culling programme and allows limited professional hunting activity, then making a portion of carcasses from these activities available to vultures, hoping the birds would stay safe in the protected areas.
For many years, Elephants Alive (EA) has been studying African Elephants to ensure their survival and promote harmony with humans. EA works in the Greater Kruger region and has collared more than 100 elephants and created a database of more than 2 000 individual elephants to understand their movements and population dynamics, as well as to identify poaching hotspots.
Elephants Alive has produced, an Elephants ID Guide for the members and lodge owners of the Timbavati, detailing the unique characteristics and stories of 30 iconic elephants that roam freely across the APNR.
Elephants Alive believes that conservation success is ensured by empowering, informing and involving local impoverished communities, hence they run outreach programmes with the local communities and government schools, an approach that complements that of the Timbavati Foundation.
Through education, the love and passion to want to protect wildlife is developed and grown.
Other reserve activities
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is proud of its ecosystem support and monitoring projects, including the following:
Flora and Fauna Monitoring
Vegetation management being one of the most important aspects of wildlife management, an extensive survey of the vegetation on the Timbavati area was done and formal sampling performed at sample sites on the reserve.
Fire management on the reserve is aimed at increasing the heterogeneity of the landscape as well as the rejuvenation of the grass sward. The Timbavati uses a fire regime known as the Patch mosaic fire regime that simulates natural fire occurrence. This type of fire naturally burns high biomass areas and dies out on areas that would not under natural circumstances have burnt.
This increases the potential of diversity in terms of species richness.
The reserve keep track of its animal populations by conducting an annual aerial census.
Alien Plant Treatment and Eradication
Alien plants are the next greatest threat after habitat destruction because they grow quicker than their indigenous counterparts, consume more water and have no natural predators.
Regular programmes are run to locate and remove alien plants from the environment with local communities being employed in these programmes. The programmes stimulates the local economy and educate members of local communities about the need to preserve and protect the natural environment.
Soil erosion has been going on throughout the ages, but vegetation forms a protective layer to hold the soil in place and protects it against erosion.
An aerial census in 2004 identified more than 800 erosion sites in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve which were caused by historical overgrazing by cattle and game and construction of roads and dams, with incorrect road drainage. These effects have been addressed on most sites since.
The Timbavati now engages with a soil specialist to ensure the prevention of soil erosion in future and to protect areas already affected.
The Timbavati conducts a malaria control programme and during the wet summer months all camps are sprayed regularly to reduce the probability of visitors contracting malaria.
Lodges and camps are located in areas of low risk and guests are advised to consult their doctors before visiting.
Intergrated Learning Student Programme
Each year, the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve welcomes two students from South African universities to give them a learning experience to grow in the wildlife management sector.
The students get an opportunity to complete university tasks and assignments and can undertake a research project on which they could build to increase their understanding of the natural environment.
The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, through its Foundation, seeks to unlock potential within the local communities and instil a conservation culture.
The Timbavati environmental school is actively involved in sustainability programmes in neighbouring communities and in outreach and educational programmes in primary and high schools.
Timbavati creates economic benefit by creating jobs and internships for trainees in the communities on its southern boundary and provides community-based natural resource management programmes in the areas.