Being home to the rare white lion put Timbavati Private Nature Reserve on the safari map, but sharing a border with Kruger National Park gives it some of the most dense and diverse concentrations of wildlife in Africa, from the Big Five to the African wild dog.
One of Africa’s largest reserves — covering 5.9 million acres — Kruger National Park is home to all the iconic safari animals, plus an extra 137 mammal species and over 500 species of bird, as well as the extremely rare white lion. Vast and varying landscapes cover the park: granite kopjes (hills) jut high above the bushveld plains, the Lembobo Mountains rise to the east and a tropical forest sits in the far north.
Flanking the western edge of Kruger, the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve sees much of the park’s wildlife straying across the unfenced border. It was the discovery of the rare white lion in Timbavati in the 1970s that put the reserve in the international spotlight, and today it remains one of the best areas for wildlife-spotting in the region, famed for its large herds of buffalo and elephant.
Makanyi Private Game Lodge
In the southern part of Timbavati, Makanyi Private Game Lodge offers guests all the game-viewing opportunities of Kruger and Timbavati combined. The only commercial lodge in this untamed area of wild beauty, Makanyi prides itself on its authenticity. Shaded by a lush grove of marula trees, the lodge offers sweeping views over a nearby dam, which itself attracts an abundance of wildlife.
For pre- or post-safari respite, guests can stretch out muscles at the gym, swim in the outdoor pool, make a beeline for the spa to try a treatment — Africology products will leave skin silky-smooth — or flake out with an in-suite massage.
Sipping chilled sundowners by the pool offers the perfect chance to marvel at the shifting colours of the African landscape. Once the sun has dipped, guests can relax on one of the comfy sofas dotted around the fire, crackling seductively on cooler evenings.
Later, traditional South African dishes made from locally sourced ingredients are paired with the finest wines from the region. Meals are specifically designed to help guests receive the nutrition and energy needed for safari activities and experiences, and can be served in the large outdoor boma (traditional enclosure) for the ultimate in stargazing dining. Candlelit dinners, bush picnics and private meals can also be arranged. Before heading home, travellers should browse the curio shop to pick out local souvenirs.
Designed to blend in with the surroundings, suites boast exposed stone walls, wooden furnishings and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the surrounding flora and fauna.
Seven open-plan luxury suites (two with pools) house huge beds, a sitting area with a fireplace and an en suite bathroom dominated by a freestanding roll-top bath, complete with decadent Africology products.
At the edge of the camp, the two pool suites, complete with four-poster beds and plunge pools, offer guests complete privacy. Wooden decking looks out onto the bush and dam and includes an al fresco shower and sunloungers. Here, guests can indulge in a secluded dinner for two or enjoy a flower-petal strewn picnic.
A selection of activities at Makanyi aims to help guests make the most of their surroundings, from guided bush walks to game drives every morning and afternoon to maximise the chance of spotting wildlife. Experienced rangers and trackers are on hand to help guests find animals — be it the Big Five or a multitude of other creatures — as well as to teach about the fascinating and indigenous vegetation. The Timbavati is also home to the extremely rare and elusive white lions.
With only a few lodges and just a handful of vehicles in the area, the safari offers an exclusive experience. What’s more, specialist safaris can be arranged in advance: photo safaris led by a professional wildlife photographer teach guests how to take the best pictures of the animals, while art safaris run by local artist Warren Cary help wildlife-artists brush up their skills. Elsewhere, guests can fish in the dam, with a picnic and refreshing drinks to hand. And where better to learn about the African night skies than stargazing up at the never-ending sheet of velvet blue, enjoying unspoilt views of the Milky Way.
For a snapshot of local life in northeastern South Africa, guests can visit a silk farm to witness the silk-making process and browse handmade products. There’s also the chance to take a tour of Shanagana Village to learn about its tribe.
Adventurous travellers can glide above the tree tops in a hot air balloon to glimpse wildlife roaming below, or take a helicopter tour to soak up the landscapes from a different perspective. A visit to the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre gives an insight into the area’s conservation efforts. For real action, guests can soar above the Sabie River valley on a zip-wire, or take a trip to Blyde River Canyon, the world’s third-largest canyon.
For those wanting to refine their skills, book a photo safari with a professional photographer to capture fantastic images of wildlife
Need to know
• 7 luxury suites, 2 with private plunge pools