Picture an African safari and so many images swirl around. Perhaps zebras galloping into the distance, elephants locking trunks at a waterhole, or the flowing mane of a grandiose male lion? Or maybe your safari daydreams feature hippos along the river, giraffes wandering past the vehicle, or a leopard hiding high in a tree? Timbavati responds to all these preconceptions and much more. Located on the western side of the Greater Kruger ecosystem and sharing an unfenced boundary with Kruger National Park, this is a game reserve that offers a wonderful diversity of wildlife. Such a varied roll call of animals makes it a perfect first-time safari destination. Even on the game drive from the airstrip to the lodge, you’re likely to encounter many of the animals from the top of your wish list.
Your international flight lands at O. R. Tambo International in Johannesburg, Africa’s largest airport. After clearing immigration, you transfer onto a local flight to the Timbavati Airstrip, where you’re picked up in an open-sided safari vehicle. It’s a thrilling journey to your luxury safari camp accommodation, one that may even include the complete Big Five. Sit down to a sumptuous lunch then spend an hour or two relaxing in your suite. Then an afternoon game drive continues the relaxed unraveling of wild Africa, leading you past elephants, lions, buffalos, zebras, and giraffes. Returning for sundowners, you’ll already know how to recognize up to half a dozen different antelope species. After dinner in the traditional boma (covered meeting place), you drift off to sleep, already excited about tomorrow’s game drive.
Today you settle into the atmosphere and rhythm of a luxury African safari. Wake to the sounds of nature, hippos providing a sonorous bass to complement the tropical birds. Fresh tea and coffee are delivered to your private deck, along with a light snack to get you going. Early morning is the prime time to explore the bush, as many of the predators are on the prowl before the heat of the day kicks in. Spend an hour seeking out lions, cheetahs, and leopards, with an expert guide and tracker revealing their intimate knowledge of the landscape. They know where particular prides hang out, or where a leopard likes to hunt wildebeest.
Then enjoy a hearty breakfast beneath a majestic bushwillow tree, a chance to energize, stretch your legs, and listen to the chirping of the endemic birds. On each morning, there’s an option to continue the safari adventure in the safari vehicle, or on foot. It’s your choice, as the program is fully flexible to your interests. You return to camp in the late morning. Relax and unwind on the viewing deck, take a snooze or check out the library, then indulge in an excellent lunch.
When the heat of the day is dissolving away, you head out for a late-afternoon game drive. Explore at leisure, stopping for canapés and refreshments as the wonders of wild Africa gradually reveal themselves. Relatively unique to Timbavati, the game drive will continue after sunset, giving you some time to spot nocturnal animals. Whenever you’re ready, the guides will then head back to camp where a romantic dinner is waiting. It’s accompanied by fine South African red and white wines (chosen from an extensive list), along with the animals that roam along the savannah beneath the camp. Relax, indulge, drift off, and get ready to repeat this atmospheric day tomorrow.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3 - 4
Each day on your Timbavati safari follows the same rhythm. But no two days are even remotely the same. One morning, you might spend an hour following a leopard, admiring the stealthy hunter, perhaps watching her take down a springbok. Sometimes you see the lions lounging lazily beneath a tree. At other times, you find lionesses on the prowl, or a pride tearing apart a zebra carcass. On every game drive, you’ll encounter hundreds of buffalo. But that’s nothing like seeing hundreds of buffalo congregating in one giant herd, with the guides getting you close enough to hear their hissing, exhaled breath. In such an abundant landscape, every few moments are going to bring fresh and exciting scenes.
Game drives allow you to get close to the giants and the predators. This is when you see the most revered of safari scenes, such as the hunt, or animals mating. The guided walks move at a very slow pace and help you experience flora and fauna from a new angle. You’ll track different antelope, like kudu, springbok, and eland, along with gaining a detailed understanding of how each animal move. It’s all very safe, and like everything on the safari, runs according to your pace and mood.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After three days of early morning starts, you can sleep in this morning, before enjoying a leisurely breakfast on the patio. A short game drive transfer takes you to the Timbavati Airstrip, for the short aerial safari to the Sabi Sands. Exclusive and enchanting, the journey above the Greater Kruger gives you a new impression of one of the world’s largest and oldest protected areas. A short game drive then introduces you to the Sabi Sands, which is arguably Africa’s most famous private game reserve. The Sabi and Sands Rivers have attracted an astonishing density of wildlife, and it’s even possible to see the Big Five on the drive from the airstrip to the lodge. Upon arrival, you enjoy refreshments and lunch, before an afternoon game drive continues your immersion in Africa’s wonders.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6 - 7
Over the three days in the Sabi Sands, you continue the relaxed safari program, with a private guide and tracker tailoring the timings to your needs. Like in Timbavati, early morning and late afternoon are when the savannah is at its most active and you can see the most thrilling safari scenes. Stop beside a bushwillow and gaze up at a leopard that’s draped across the highest branches. It returns your gaze, resplendent blue eyes shining through the foliage. Then it descends, bounding down the trunk and heading off on a hunt. You follow at a respectful distance, goosebumps rising on your arms as the spotted hunters attack a herd of wildebeest. Sometimes it’s a success, and the leopard emerges carrying a carcass. At other times a sentinel raises the alarm, and you watch a herd scatter in fear.
An African safari isn’t about seeing animals in isolation. By spending seven days, you’ve become engrossed in their world, settled into the ambiance of a landscape untouched by man or time. The experience isn’t about spotting and photographing an elephant. It’s about watching a herd interact as you take breakfast in the bush. It’s about snoozing on your balcony as zebras splash gleefully in the lake below, or hearing two lions roar then spotting the lioness they’re fighting over. Each visitor to the Greater Kruger will be treated to different scenes and that’s why this is unlikely to be your last safari. After a first-time adventure, you’ll already be planning when to return, when to continue the journey through an untamed land.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The Sabi Sands Airstrip provides a convenient departure from the wilderness. Two daily flights depart for O. R. Tambo International in Johannesburg, and you’ll enjoy full use of the lodge’s facilities before the departure. For the airstrip transfer, a final game drive leads you through the bush, dropping you beside the runway as elephants and buffalos disappear slowly into the distance.
An African safari provides a dreamy vacation. It’s much better than the wildlife documentaries portray. This is where elephants and buffalos roam in massive herds, the sun glistens off lions’ manes, and rhinos wander elegantly across the savannah. The profusion of life is staggering, and the diversity responds to everyone’s reveries. Zebras galloping, hippos bathing, leopards draped across iconic bushwillow branches; an African safari responds to the imagination and then adds many layers of unimaginable surprise. You’ll see big cats hunting, herds congregating at the waterhole, and dozens of different animals you’ve probably never heard of before.
The only challenge for a first-time senior visitor is that Africa isn’t seen as a common destination. Despite its wonders, this isn’t a continent that’s established itself on the mainstream tourist trail, which is great, because the experience continues to be as authentic as it promises to be. Many who haven’t visited Africa before are concerned about the quality of the accommodation, amenities, food, and service. There’s a desire to discover the beauty of wild Africa and all its fabulous big game, without jumping too far from the comfort zone and ending up in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
This safari has been carefully crafted for senior travelers on their first visit to this magical continent. The private reserves of the Greater Kruger are ideal destinations, able to offer all the Western luxuries without interrupting the charm of big-game Africa. You’ll enjoy silver service dining in the bush, with elephants and giraffe dappled along the horizon. Relax in the spa as hippos bathe in the waters below. Enjoy decadent suites with fabulous indoor and outdoor bathrooms, along with private patios with scenic views over the animal-filled plains. Your two bush lodges are of an exceptional standard and can be compared to boutique five-star accommodations anywhere in the world.
After connecting planes at O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, you’ll fly to Timbavati Game Reserve, a beautiful enclave that shares an unfenced border with Kruger National Park. It’s a compact yet diverse reserve, helping you see a huge variety of wildlife on relaxed game drives. Big cats, the Big Five, the Little Five; these first four days will deliver a full array of wild animals and scenes as you follow a pleasant program of morning and afternoon game drives. There’s plenty of downtime at the lodge, where you can watch the animals roam by, and enjoy a whole host of luxurious extras. Think bush breakfasts at different locations within the reserve and short safari walks tracking antelopes.
Following a short aerial safari, you spend the final three nights in the world-famous Sabi Sands Game Reserve, where your lodge offers a refined opulence in the heart of the wilderness. You uncover the dreamy scenes, like lionesses out on a hunt, impressive males battling for dominance, and dazzling birds of prey circling in the air. Watch the wildlife show from your private rim-flowing swimming pool and viewing deck, which overlook a waterhole that’s busy with animals throughout the afternoon and evening. Like in Timbavati, the daily game drive program is flexible and can be tailored to your interests and preferences. Sabi Sands has its own airstrip, which makes for an easy departure, with a short journey back to Johannesburg that connects with your flight back home.
$6395 per person (excluding international flights)
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