History

Timbavati and The White Lion

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 Hoedspruit 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.

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