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Mention the word Timbavati and the rare white lion comes to mind. It was here that the recessive gene of the African lion showed itself in the 1970s and to where all of today’s white lions are ancestrally linked. A number of books have been written on the subject of the white lion, which is believed to differ from albinism.
Timbavati, roughly meaning ‘fall to the ground’ in Tsonga, is a private nature reserve in the Limpopo Province consisting of a series of farmland pooled together in the 1950s by farm owners to form a 54000ha nature reserve for the continuation of animals such as the endangered rhino, and to allow predators to safely roam the vast reserve. Hunting is not allowed in Timbavati and animal populations, specifically giraffe and elephant, are thriving. In 1993, the fences between the Kruger National Park and Timbavati came down, giving animals a wider dispersion range.
Timbavati covers 6 different landscape types and the summer rains bring greenery, teeming bird life and swollen rivers, while in winter the leaves fall, the rivers dry up and animals are readily seen at water holes.
The many lodges and rest camps in the Timbavati Nature Reserve offer accommodation facilities ranging from ultimate luxury to affordable tents, and each provide exciting and diverse game viewing options.
Top 6 reasons to visit Timbavati Nature Reserve
1. Take an exciting open vehicle game drive to see the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) and possibly witness predators hunting. Most of the lodges and camps offer both day and night game drives.
2. Accompany a tracker following a specific animal to gather information on the creature’s preferred habitat and food gathering routines. Animal tracking requires patience and stealth, and is an exciting way of viewing game.
3. Take a safari on foot: walk through the reserve guided by an experienced game ranger. Expect to see many of the smaller, interesting animals often missed on a game drive.
4. Several dams are located in the reserve with bird hides to enjoy the prolific birdlife resident in the area. Timbavati is a renowned birding hotspot.
5. Chill at a waterhole watching the hippo and croc activities and when the day gets too hot, return to camp for a dip in the pool.
6. The clear Limpopo night skies are ideal for stargazing, surrounded by a silence rarely experienced anywhere else. Occasionally the silence is broken by the eerie laugh of the hyena or the piercing boom of a lion’s roar, heard for miles around.
Some of the reserves within Timbavati have their own airstrips, ask your host for more details. Hoedspruit has its own airport, Eastgate Airport, for flights arriving from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban and is approximately 50km away. The Hendrik Van Eck Airport in Phalaborwa is an alternative airport, roughly 100km from Timbavati. Car hire is available from the airports or ordered online. There are limited shuttle and tour services in the Timbavati area, rather hire a car, preferable a 4x4 vehicle.
Did you know?
Game rangers and trackers sometimes mentioned the word pugmark. This is an animal footprint, the word pug meaning foot in Hindi.
Several centuries ago, a local Tsonga royal, Queen Numbi, named the area Timbavati after her and her followers witnessed a bright star that fell to the ground. The queen was sick at the time, possibly with a bout of malaria, and was believed to have made a miraculous recovery immediately after the event. The area is considered sacred ground by the Tsonga.
Malaria is a minor threat in the northern parts of South Africa, take the necessary precautions before visiting.