EastGate Airport History

A magical event happened in 1975 when two tiny white lion cubs were born here in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. They were discovered by Chris McBride who was working here at the time.

He went on to write and publish a book entitled “The White Lions of the Timbavati”. At the time there was only one commercial lodge in the Reserve. Sohebele is no longer operational but there are currently eight very busy luxury lodges which all meet the demands of the discerning traveller. There are also three self-catering lodges more suited to the keen bush loving South African market.
The growth in the Reserve over the years has in part been due to these two little cubs ~ one male, one female born almost 30 years ago. They were creamy white with either golden or blue eyes. The whiteness is caused by a recessive gene and is not albino-ism. In the hope of preserving these two special creatures, they were captured and taken to the Pretoria Zoo. Their progeny can still be seen there today. A third female cub (Phuma) was born the same year and was allowed to roam like any other lion. Tourists started flocking to the Reserve in the hope of seeing this rare and beautiful creature.

After that, the white gene seemed to become less strong and only a few cubs were born from time to time. One female lived for several years and was seen often hunting with her pride. Sadly she was killed in a territorial fight in 1993 and no white lions have survived since then. The gene is still in the Reserve as very pale golden lions roam the territory. There is always great excitement when a pale lioness is pregnant and the cubs always eagerly awaited. Scientists say that the gene could pop up at any time.

The opening of Eastgate Airport has seen a further increase in tourism to this very special Reserve and there is always hope that maybe a white cub will be born.

Distance to Hoedspruit from:

Johannesburg 452 km
Nelspruit 158 km
Hazyview 102 km
Phalaborwa 74 km
Kruger Park (Orpen Gate) 68 km
Sabie 160 km
Graskop 111 km
White River 135 km
Tzaneen 124 km
Aconhock 38 km
Bushbuckridge 72 km


The local currency is the rand (R), with 100 cents (c) equalling R1. Notes come in R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200 denominations, whilst coins are minted in R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c. All major commercial banks and Foreign Exchange Bureaus provide foreign exchange services. American Express, Diners Club, Master Card and Visa are welcome and can be used at most ATM’s. Most commercial banks are open from 09:00 – 15:30, Mondays to Fridays and from 08:30 – 11:00 on Saturdays.

Shopping Hours

Shops are open from 08:30 – 17:00, Mondays to Fridays and from 08:30 – 12:30 on Saturdays. However, major shopping centres are abuzz till later on Saturdays and are also open on Sunday mornings.


The amount of South African currency brought into the country is restricted to R500. Duty will be levied on the first R1 000 over this allowance.

Entry Requirements

Most visitors only need a valid passport when entering South Africa, but some may require a visa as well. If you intend travelling to neighbouring countries and back to SA, apply for a multiple-entry visa.


Positioned in the Southern hemisphere, South Africa enjoys its peak summer tourist season from November through to March (during the Northern American and European winters). Most of South Africa enjoys a pleasant, warm climate year-round, with annual average rainfall less than 10 inches in the west and 40 inches in the east. Check with your travel agent when the best time is to visit the various provinces.

Disabled Services

Most of the country’s hotels and the majority of the rest camps in the National Parks offer facilities for the disabled. You can rent wheelchairs and other aids in most cities and the larger car rental companies can provide vehicles with hand controls.


In Southern Africa, driving is on the left, and pedestrians should therefore look right, then left before crossing. Any valid driver’s licence is accepted in South Africa, provided it bears the photograph and signature of the holder and is printed in English. The country has a network of multi-lane roads and highways, some of which may require tolls. The speed limit on city roads is 60 km/h, whilst on national highways, it is 120 km/h (75mph). Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory, driving under the influence of alcohol is considered a serious offence, and traffic laws are strictly enforced.


You can buy duty-free goods at the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban airports.


Ensure you bring a converter and adapter. The electrical current is generally 220/230 volts AC, 50 cycles, except in Pretoria, where the current is 250 volts AC.


The national emergency number for the police is 10111; and 999 for an ambulance.


While South Africa maintains excellent medical facilities, there is no national health system, so you should take out travel insurance for your stay. Unless otherwise signposted, you can drink the tap water and eat all fresh produce in the country. Whilst you can swim safely at beaches along the entire coastline, you shouldn’t swim in rivers and lakes in the eastern and northern regions, as the bilharzia parasite may be in the water.
However, warning signs are usually posted. Before visiting the game reserves and parks of the Northern Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, you should take malaria tablets as a precautionary measure. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice and dosage.


Whilst English is the language of administration and is widely spoken, South Africa has 10 other official languages. These are Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.


Crime is noted for being a problem in South Africa and tourists are advised to undertake normal precautionary measures. Be observant throughout the day and night and do not draw attention to yourself by flashing an expensive camera, jewellery or large amounts of cash. Rather deposit your valuables in your hotels’ safety deposit box. Don’t walk the streets alone after dark, and keep your car doors locked and windows closed at all times. It is preferable to keep personal items and luggage hidden in the trunk rather than visible on the seat of the car. Remember to park in well-lit areas and to not pick up strangers.


The country code for South Africa is 27. When dialling from outside South Africa use 2711 (or code relevant to province) and 011 (or code relevant to province) when dialling within the country. Public phones are either coin or card operated and phone cards are available at post offices and airports.


In South Africa, tipping is expected for services that you may take for granted back home. The norm is to tip petrol attendants, waiters and taxi drivers 10 per cent of the bill unless a service charge has already been added.

Value Added Tax

A 15 per cent Value Added Tax is added to the price of most items and services. However, if you retain your receipt of purchase, you can claim the VAT back on goods priced higher than R250 at the airport of departure, various harbours and customs offices. You will also need to produce a VAT refund control sheet, your passport and the items purchased.