White lions and tigers are some of the rarest and most endangered species in the world and South Africa has the privilege of providing sanctuary to both of these incredible animals. So which would be at the top of your list to encounter out in the wild?
In 2018, it was estimated that there were only 13 white lions left in the wild and around 300 in captivity. White lions are often falsely labelled albinos but they actually have a recessive gene that gives them their white coats and piercing bluish eyes. They are unique and incredibly beautiful animals that should be protected for generations to come.
The good news is that there are three prides of lions known to have the white recessive gene in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve, which we hope will grow in numbers with every passing year. There is also a population of white lions in Pumba Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape and Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Western Cape. All of these reserves are home to a number of luxurious lodges and camps and each offers an exclusive safari experience.
Bengal Tigers, on the other hand, are not native to South Africa and are primarily found in India with smaller populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. It is said that there are fewer than 2,500 Bengal Tigers left in the wild due to forest destruction, trophy hunting and the belief that specific body parts of a tiger have medicinal properties.
Tiger Canyon Private Game Reserve nestles in the Great Karoo and was established as a means of conserving these incredible creatures. The tigers on the reserve live wild and are free to establish their own territories and family groups. There are currently 18 Bengal Tigers and three white tigers living on the reserve.
The reserve is also home to free-roaming cheetahs, who have been absent from the Free State since the early 1900s due to the encroachment of sheep farming.
Tigress Julie Lodge is the only accommodation offered on the reserve, comprising of three opulent suites that overlook a breathtaking canyon. The solar-operated lodge offers its guests incredible Karoo cuisine and plenty of exceptional photographic opportunities during game drives.
For travellers looking to see both white lions and tigers, a visit to Tiger Canyon and Pumba Private Game Reserve is possible, or alternatively travellers can fly from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg and then into Hoedspruit for a safari in the Timbavati.