Travel Guide: Timbavati Game Reserve
The Timbavati Game Reserve, also known as Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, is a heaven on Earth for nature lovers and admirers of the unique species native to the African plains.
Timbavati is the Tsonga word for 'the place where something sacred came down to earth', referring to the region's remarkable and equally elusive white lion. These beautiful creatures, as well as the other large mammals of the African big five: African buffalo, African elephants, black rhinoceros and African leopards, roam these lands freely. The reserve is also home to over 40 mammal species, over 75 reptile species, nearly 50 fish species, 85 different types of trees, and an astounding 360 documented species of birds.
History of the Timbavati Game Reserve and strength in numbers
Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is composed of 50 privately owned farms, whose owners (all belonging to the Timbavati Association), decided to combine their land in 1956 to create a singular space dedicated to land and species conservation.
The history of portions of this land is common across Southern Africa: once technology allowed access to deep water reservoirs, human populations settled and began to use the land for monoculture farming and raising livestock. The effects were detrimental to the soil, native plants, and animal species that once roamed the land. Dams were created to redirect natural water sources, and the once wild and pristine landscape was vastly transformed. Luckily, the harmful impact of livestock and monoculture practices was limited to specific areas of this region, and the large majority was left relatively untouched by man throughout history.
The founding of the Timbavati Association was driven by the movement to reclaim land to protect beautiful wild habitats for generations to come and to avoid the harmful impact of farming and domesticated livestock. A huge milestone in their efforts to create a wildlife haven occurred in 1993 when neighbouring Kruger National Park decided to remove its bordering fences to encourage species to migrate naturally. Additionally, the private nature reserves of Klaserie, Umbabat (now Balule) and Thornybush were also opened up, adding a whopping 198,500 hectares of protected land to the Greater Kruger National Park.
Conservation Activities in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
Many activities are continuously conducted with Timbavati Reserve to promote long-term sustainable conservation of the land. This includes vegetation management in the form of plant and soil sampling and analysis, and fire management to simulate the natural occurrence of periodic bushfires to regenerate plant growth and promote the diversity of species. Invasive plant species are regularly identified and removed to promote the growth and spread of native species. Additionally, researchers conduct an annual aerial census of animal populations. Their data analysis supports the management of these species’ population in a sustainable way.
Best time to travel
Timbavati Game Reserve has a comfortable climate all year-round. The summer months (October - March) reach around 32 °C during the day and lower to around 23 °C at night. April to September, the South African winter, brings about temperatures capping off at 26 °C and cooling down to 12 °C. The highest amounts of rainfall occur between the months of November and March. This region receives around 550-600mm/year of rain.
There is never a bad time to visit Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. However, a popular time among eco-tourists and travellers is during South African winter. During this time, temperatures are cool and comfortable, the climate is dry, and the reduction of blooming vegetation is conducive to better wildlife spotting. In these dry months, you can watch the landscape come alive and observe the behaviour as animals gather at the river’s edge and at watering holes.
For travellers who choose to visit during the wet summer months, a whole different landscape awaits you. All different shades of green dot the horizon, and if you are lucky, you may witness newborn animals following close behind their adult parents. Migratory birds are an incredible sight during this time period.
The Uniqueness of Timbavati Game Reserve
Timbavati is home to an impressive array of unique species. Black and white rhinoceros, southern ground hornbills, pangolins and saddle-billed storks are a few of the endangered species that are slowly reaching sustainable population sizes, thanks to the Reserve’s conservation efforts.
Within Timbavati Nature Reserve, you can find 18 all-inclusive lodges in addition to four self-catering camps, all directed towards local and international tourists and supplying a healthy amount of employment opportunities to local and surrounding communities. Timbavati does its best to give back to the community in more ways than one: by supporting the Reserve, you are supporting environmental awareness educational programs, sustainable shaded vegetable farms and the creation of boreholes for water supply in addition, of course, to ongoing land and species conservation.
Reconnect with nature and yourself walking through the Kalahari and keep watch while on sleep-outs in this raw and remote area
Become active in preserving endangered wildlife and unique ecosystems as a volunteer in South Africa