Simbavati River Lodge enjoys a unique setting on the banks of the Kruger Park’s Nhlaralumi River in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. One of its winning charms is the popular waterhole right below the dining deck, much loved by elephant. Between game drives, you could enjoy a game-viewing experience of note just sitting on the deck as wildlife comes and goes from the water.
This lodge has a broad appeal, with a traditional safari ambience but with a relaxed contemporary twist in terms of décor. You have a choice of tented or chalet accommodation. It caters well to couples and honeymooners with a safari spa and fully equipped fitness centre. Whilst its two-bedroom chalets and Cubs Club kids centre are popular with families.
The Timbavati forms part of the Greater Kruger Park and offers exceptional game viewing including all the Big Five, most notably leopard, and also wild dog.
There are three family chalets. Each has a main bedroom with king-sized bed, second bedroom with twin beds and one bathroom with bath and double indoor rain-shower. Please note that the bathroom is accessed via one of the bedrooms. Each has a beautiful game viewing deck with a riverfront view.
Tented Luxury Suites
Six luxury tented suites have a king-sized bed (which can be converted to twin) and a beautiful game viewing deck with either a river or bush view. There’s a spacious en suite bathroom and dressing area with ample storage space, shower, double vanity, enclosed toilet and door out to an outdoor rain-shower as well.
Tented Pool Suites
Two spacious and airy Tented Pool Suites are in a more secluded location. They have a king-sized bed (which can be converted to twin) and a beautiful game viewing deck with a solar-heated plunge pool. (These can prove quite popular with the elephant.)
There’s a good-sized en suite bathroom and dressing area with ample storage space, indoor shower, double vanity, enclosed toilet and door out to an outdoor rain-shower as well.
Two-bedroom Family Chalets
There are three two-bedroom family chalets. Each has a beautiful game viewing deck with a riverfront view. Each has a main bedroom with king-sized bed, second bedroom with twin beds and one bathroom with a bath and double rain-shower. Please note that the bathroom is accessed via one of the bedrooms.
And you don’t have to have young children to use the family chalets. Families with adult children can use them as well (with a discount for the 3rd and 4th adults). Just as long as you don’t mind sharing a bathroom. However each two bedroom chalet is configured slightly differently.
Chalet 1 (Buffalo) has one twin-bedded room and one king or twin-bedded room which has direct access to the deck. The bathroom is accessed via the twin-bedded room.
Chalet 2 (Rhino) has one twin-bedded room, with the main bathroom accessed from this. Beyond is a triple room (one king bed and one single) which has direct access to the deck.
Chalet 3 (Elephant) has a larger bedroom (with king bed) with the main bathroom accessed from this room, and direct access to the deck. Then a smaller twin-bedded bedroom, which also deck access.
We are inspired by our natural surroundings at Cederberg Ridge – the smells, textures and tastes of the Cederberg. From farm to table, or in our case, from ‘Berg to Plate’, our food incorporates fresh farmed produce from the area, local flavours and unique cooking techniques.
Plus we’re also all about homemade goodness (and goodies)! From freshly baked breads, croissants and Danish pastries, to sausages, macaroons and gelato, our chef creates homemade, fresh food on a daily basis.
You can expect a seasonally changing menu with a choice of starters, mains and dessert. As we are small and personal, we try to cater for special diet needs. So there are always two vegetarian dishes on offer at dinner. Vegans are also welcome. Plus we’ll happily offer other options if you are staying longer.
Simbavati River Lodge is probably our most family-friendly lodges. As well as our two bedroom family chalets, we also have the Cubs Club kids centre. This is an ideal place for younger kids to hang out with games, bean bags and craft opportunities.
On request, someone can entertain your kids after breakfast with various activities from cupcake decorating, bug/treasure hunting, making animal face masks, colouring in, board games, wildlife DVDs and scrap-booking and more.
Your guide may also teach your older child the skill of archery. Or lead a short walk looking at animal spoor around the lodge. This allows parents some quiet time for reading or a visit to the spa.
Boma & Campfire dining
Several times a week, dinner in the camps is a more hearty, campfire style meal served under the stars in a ‘boma’, a circular enclosure originally made from branches. The cosy, lantern-lit ambience recalls the early days of safari pioneers.
Another authentic safari experience is dining out under the star in a boma (an enclosed circular dining area) around the campfire. This usually takes place every 2nd night. The gentle flicker of lanterns, candle-light and a welcoming open fire truly conjures up what is magical about a safari.
Traditional African Delicacies
This is a convivial affair with traditional South African dishes cooked over an open fire. Most of the dishes will be recognisable, but you are welcome to try some traditional African delicacies such as pap and chakalaka. Naturally this is a meat-eaters delight. But vegetarians are well-taken care of as well.
Sunset drinks are an integral part to being on safari. Your guide chooses a suitable beautiful spot and you have time to climb off the vehicle to stretch your legs and enjoy a drink or two. Yes, it’s one of the iconic African memories of a safari. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t work its magic every time.
Spa & Wellness
Why does a safari spa experience work quite so well? It’s probably because the intoxicating mix of being surrounded by nature and pampering relaxation. Together, they entice a restorative effect on your well-being.
Plus the relaxing and unhurried hours between game drives are the perfect time, with few other distractions. Though the lure of a siesta on your bed with a good book, could come a close second.
Rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit
To pay homage to our unparalleled cultural heritage, our highly skilled therapists offer a selection of traditional African massages and other treatments. All are aimed to relax and rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit.
Choose from a range of massages, facials, hand and foot treatments, manicures and pedicures, all using luxurious Healing Earth products. Note: Guests at Amani and Homestead can be taken to the spa at Camp George which is only 5 mins drive away.
Honeymoons & Romance
Sometimes your time away is also to celebrate a special time for you as partners. Our lodges lend themselves perfectly to these romantic occasions, whether it’s enjoying a private candlelit dinner or the simple magic of being in the bush with your loved one.
So tell us if you are celebrating your wedding, or a special anniversary, as we love to make a romantic and intimate experience. (But that’s all we’re saying!)
Timbavati Game drives take place in the early morning and late afternoon when the animals are naturally most active. Key to the experience are your English-speaking guide who , works closely with a tracker from the local Shangaan community.
This duo pool their knowledge, experience and fresh observations to maximise your wildlife sightings. Not only in terms of how much you see. But how rewarding, informative and fun the overall experience is. Your guide is often a keen photographer and will be conscious and considerate if your mission is to capture sightings on camera.
Open-sided 4×4 game vehicle
Your mode of transport, (or chariot as one of our guides likes to call it), is an open-sided 4×4 game vehicle with 3 rows of comfortable bucket seats in tiers. You generally head out with a maximum of 8 guests. This offers safe, yet close wildlife encounters.
Guests sit up high for the best ‘spotting’ of birds and animals. There are no sides to inhibit your views and you naturally feel more in tune with nature. In the summer month, a shade top is added to protect against the African sun, but in winter it is open to the skies for the best bird-viewing and for stargazing.
Your guide helps you to interpret what you see. They also communicate with other vehicles by radio in order to keep in touch with sightings nearby.
Tune into the sounds of the bush…
The tracker, seated in the hot seat at the front of the vehicle, tunes into clues offered by the bush. It may be the spoor of a big cat on the hunt. Perhaps a fresh scent mark on a shrub, a muddy patch on a tree left by an itchy rhino, or a tell-tale sign where a kill has been dragged into the bush.
But it is not just about game-viewing. You’ll start to tune into the sights and sounds of the bush, traversing the land and soaking it all in whilst you stop for a morning coffee or a sundowner in a beautiful spot.
Our vehicles come equipped with blankets, bird books, binoculars, water and refreshments. However, we do recommend that you bring your own binoculars for maximum enjoyment.
The Timbavati Private Game Reserve offers an exclusive safari wilderness. There are never more than two vehicles at a sighting. So you don’t have to jostle for position as you may do in a national park.
Guides are also allowed to take the vehicles off road on occasion, to follow some of the Big Seven (for example rhino, lion, leopard or wild dog). This allows you to enjoy up close and personal encounters.
Currently over 40 mammal species are to be found in the Greater Kruger, including the Big 5 of Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Buffalo and Elephant. The Timbavati is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, as many as 360 species of bird life have been documented here.
Night Drives & Star-gazing
Night drives continued after the sun goes down, using a spotlight to search for a glimpse of a nocturnal hunter in the beam. Or one of the shy nocturnal animals which only operate after dark.
This may include some of the smaller cats such as civets and genets. Or the extremely rare and surprisingly aggressive honey badger. You may even encounter one of the predators starting their night-time hunt.
While following a predator is always a thrill, sometimes one of the greatest joys can be sitting in the darkness with the engine switched off, as your guide points out some of the constellations and stars of the Southern hemisphere. Our night skies are beautiful, especially in the dry season months, with very little light pollution.
Throughout the year the constellations are constantly moving. But the one that stays year-round in the Southern Hemisphere is the Southern Cross! Learn how to find True South with the Southern Cross and witness a couple thousand stars and even some planets with the naked eye.
Spending time together in the wild is a great way to connect as a family. It’s a rare youngster who doesn’t leap at the incredible opportunity to encounter favourite animals from screens and books, but in their home territory. And what adult isn’t overcome with emotion to see kids encounter charismatic species in the wild for the first time?
The safari experience captivates all age groups and, with a tracker and a guide leading the game drives, parents are relieved of the responsibility to “entertain”. Parents get a real break, to do something that is undeniably educational – but everyone thinks is a thrilling treat.
We believe the African bush is an incredible natural classroom. It introduces kids and young adults to the complexities of ecosystems while they just think they are having an amazing adventure.
The joy of a Simbavati safari is that you don’t just get to pay for Summer Camp; you get to share and bond with your family as they develop an affinity for nature. Everyone is learning (with not a whiff of worthy self-improvement) and you’ll find your guide often exclaims about some new observation too.
On game drives, because a safari guide is the leader of the temporary game spotting “team”, parents are relieved of much of the responsibility to “entertain”. The whole family gets not only a real break but one that gives rise to recounted tales for years afterward.
If parents DO fancy some quality adult time, River Lodge is most suitable for smaller humans who may need some extra family-friendly facilities. The Cubs Club kids centre is an ideal place for younger kids to hang out with games, bean bags and arts and craft opportunities.
On request, we can offer someone to entertain your kids after breakfast with various activities from cupcake decorating, bug/treasure hunting, making animal face masks, colouring in, board games, wildlife DVDs and scrap booking and more.
Your guide may also teach your older child the skill of archery or to do a short walk looking at animal spoor around the lodge. This allows parents some quiet time for reading or a visit to the spa.