With no fences between Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and Kruger National Park, wildlife is free to come and go, making this one of South Africa’s richest wildlife areas. Being centrally situated in Timbavati, RockFig is ideally located for exploring both the northern and southern reaches of the reserve.
Founded in 1956 by conservation-minded local farmers, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is a visionary endeavour. The fences separating it and adjoining Kruger National Park came down in 1993, a time during which barriers were tumbling throughout South Africa; with no unnatural obstacles to impede wildlife movement, the quality of the safari experience is now unparallelled, allowing visitors to reconnect with Nature in vital and meaningful ways.
Timbavati’s best-known residents are undoubtedly its white lion – the result of a naturally occurring recessive gene that causes leucism, a partial loss of pigmentation of the skin (as opposed to albinism, an absence of colour-giving melanin that affects the skin, feathers, hair and eyes of animals).
A recent uptick in white-lion births has reminded many old Kruger hands of the origin of the name Timbavati: it derives from a Shangaan expression meaning ‘the place where something sacred came down to earth from the heavens’. It could be said that the lions have come home: the varied, undulating landscapes, seasonal rivers and low density of lodges make Timbavati the safari equivalent of heaven on earth.
The relative scarcity of vehicles (but certainly not of wildlife) means that visitors to RockFig Safari Lodge can typically spend more time at each sighting, whether a Big Five encounter or an incandescent sunset. While other vehicles are in short supply, the terrain is wonderfully diverse, from open plains to thorny bush savannah and stands of mopane trees.
The 3,500ha area around RockFig is shared with just one other lodge, while the total traversing area of some 12,500ha underlines that this is true ‘free range’ conservation – the antithesis of a zoo. Sightings of predators are a noted feature of Timbavati game drives, from wild dog to descendants of the original RockFig leopard.
As if the density of wildlife weren’t enough, the game-viewing experience is further amplified by the ecologically sensitive approach taken by RockFig, with off-road driving limited to Big Five and other special sightings (because, yes, Timbavati is home to the Big Five!). Much of the tracking is done on foot for a more authentic experience.