Four luxury tented suites, eight guests and 6 000 hectares of wilderness to explore. Thabamati is Out of Africa re-imagined in the 21st century, just better. Fresh faced and thoroughly environmentally conscious, it all seems impossible that such exquisite luxury is ‘green’ – yet it is. In the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Thabamati is magnificent, drenched in light and serenely calm; yet a special vibrance lives here too. Maybe it’s the intimacy of a small camp, the romance of canvas, that you’re in the deep heartland of iconic wilderness. Likely it’s all three, plus warm African hospitality and impeccable service.
Meaning ‘mountain and water’, every suite at Thabamati has unpunctuated views of both: a renowned dam that magnetically draws wildlife throughout the day, and the distant foothills of the majestic Drakensberg. The camp is fenced to keep elephant and buffalo at bay, but other wildlife does wander through on occasion; resident hippos in the dam provide daily entertainment and birdlife is, well, simply beautiful. Long-legged herons stalk around the dam fishing, pied and woodland kingfishers are easily spotted, and then there are still another 365 or so more species to look out for. So bring your binos for sure.
What’s special about the tented suites in that they are arranged so that no matter where you are inside there’s a view directly over the water – even from the bath, definitely from the bed and private deck. You can see the wildlife world go by, lion and buffalo interactions, plenty of antelope and maybe even leopard if you’re lucky. That’s all before embarking on a game drive.
The Timbavati is vast and game rich, and everyone aboard the game viewing vehicle has a window seat. When you’ve spotted the large animals, maybe stretch your legs and see the smaller, shyer ones on a guided morning game walk. Dip in the pool or enjoy a spa treatment on your private deck, before a decadent high tea and heading out on an afternoon game drive in magical golden light. When you return on dark, the nocturnal bush residents will be on the move offering unusual sightings.
Chat around the fire, enjoy a fine dinner served with finesse and watch the night sky come to life. With a stargazing telescope, a knowledgeable guide, and the classic constellations clearly mapped out, you will quickly be star struck. Gazing across time and space to twinkling stars and other worlds, from a place of bush nirvana. This is living the good life. Naturally, authentically and with only the lightest touch.
Reviewed by Keri Harvey
What we love:
- that it’s family owned and run
- everything runs on solar and gas
- old world animal prints and the brass wash basins of yesteryear in suites
- the unusual shape of the infinity pool, with animals drinking at the dam just beyond
- the vast red leather sofa in the main lodge
- knowing that your visit has minimal environmental impact
- tree trunks behaving as roof supports in the main lodge
- feeling instantly at home on arrival
- those incredible bush breakfasts during morning game drive
Need to know:
- the camp is fenced, though not predator proof
- malaria precautions should be taken
- children over 12 years old are most welcome
- with exclusive use of the camp, children of all ages are welcomed
- Getting there: the camp has its own airstrip used by Federal Air charter flights. Or fly on Airlink or Cemair from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Hoedspruit, and then a 90-minute road transfer to the lodge. The transfer from Nelspruit’s KMIA Airport is 3.5 hours. It’s a 6.5 to 7 hour drive from Johannesburg.