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It was on my first Tanda Tula safari walk in the Timbavati with Civilized (widely known as Civ) that I experienced the best-ever sinus remedy after a winter flu. A few whiffs of dry elephant dung smoke did the trick – akin to a strong hit of wasabi! We were following a herd of elephant who were headed right for our breakfast spot on the river, only to discover that a young male charged just before we got there, virtually scattering the team who were gently stirring scrambled eggs and frying bacon to surprise us on arrival. It was a hot breakfast to beat all others that week, with turmeric potatoes, butternut with roasted pumpkin seeds and even chicken livers to keep us going right through the day. It was a great start: I’d just seen more leopard and lion within two game drives than I’ve seen on many trips to the bush, and Civ kept me endlessly fascinated with his impressive knowledge of trees. We had spent time looking at the marula, a favourite with elephants for their vitamin-rich fruit, but also used to make the proudly South African Amarula liqueur. Easily identified by the flaky, disc-like bark layers that peel off to reveal a vivid pinkish-brown bark skin underneath – a colour that’s traditionally used to dye baskets – the marula is also widely known for being a malaria prophylactic and a remedy for spider bites.

Tanda Tula remains one of my favourite Timbavati lodges because of its location. Each of the luxury tents overlooks the dry Nhlaralumi riverbed, as does the main dining area, so there’s always game drifting into the garden, some of them on their way to the waterhole just in front of the pool. I’m a big fan of luxury tented camping – the sounds of the night are so much more exciting under canvas, especially when you’re tucked up and cosy in bed! One evening was filled with the roar of hungry lion hunting wildebeest literally the other side of the water hole… followed by the haunting cry of hyena. Dawn is welcomed with a plunger of filtered coffee delivered to your deck – the best wake-up call. And if your tent isn’t wild enough, you can choose to set out after dinner for a ‘sleep out’: your home for the night is a mosquito-net-clad bed set high up on a platform above the treetops. Not many camps offer this unforgettable experience – definitely worth doing!

Tanda Tula’s Field Camp is next-level in terms of privacy: imagine a luxury tented camp set up entirely for you in a remote location on an exclusive concession and traversing area, where walking with experienced guides allows you to truly get close to nature and the Big Five. There’s no better way to safari.

What we love!

  • The gift on arrival of a refillable water bottle (just add filtered water before your game drive and start saving the planet) and a stylish felt bag.
  • That respected wildlife photographers Chad Cocking and Luke Street are both available to join professionals and enthusiasts on game drives, and give advice on angles and editing back at the lodge. It’s worth reading their informative blogs before your trip.
  • An impressive selection of locally distilled gins is offered on the game drive.

Need to know…

  • There’s no aircon in the tents – only fans, but we prefer it that way.
  • Tent 4 is wheelchair friendly and tents 10, 11 and 12 are more tucked away.
  • Tanda Tula’s closest airport is Hoedspruit , a mere 2.5-hour direct flight from Cape Town so you can have one last beach swim in the morning and be on a game drive just after high tea.

Reviewed by Michelle Snaddon


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