South Africa’s famous game-filled national park: easy to access, great tourist facilities and Big Five almost guaranteed.
Recommended place to stay:
Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa|www.theroyalportfolio.com|
Official star rating:
This small, opulent game lodge, in a private game reserve outside the western Kruger National Park, is for those who want to see the ‘Big Five’ while staying in extreme luxury.
The food is gourmet, the wine lists extensive and the guides renowned – not to mention the spa, which is one of the best anywhere in the bush.
Dinners can be set up by the boma (fire pit), on private decks, or in the bush – ideal for honeymooners.
The setting isn’t particularly special and no real views; guests go for the camp, not the views. Although an opulent lodge, this was built to blend into the bush, using thatch, stone and wood. Spacious indoor and outdoor living areas feature beautifully designed interiors: Persian carpets, African art, four-poster beds and lavish bathrooms.
There are two accommodation options: the main lodge (6 rooms, including two Luxury Suites) which is more classic and grand in style, and The Farmstead (4 rooms) which is more intimate and contemporary.
Each of the main lodge’s six grand suites has private plunge pools, spacious indoor and outdoor living areas, and sumptuous interiors – think Persian carpets, African art, four-poster beds and lavish bathrooms.
Each suite has a big terrace with a pool, for private game watching and service is top-drawer, from butlers to spa therapists, with a ratio of four staff to each guest. The Royal Suites are particularly grand, with private dining, butlers, guides and chef.
Game & game viewing
All the big game is here: the Big Five plus cheetah, wild dog, crocodile and hippo. The game is wild, but very used to vehicles, so feels tame. Plus the reserve is home to a few lodges, so the game experience is far from private. Twice-daily game drives are included in the price.
Get a bird’s eye view of the African wilderness – the camp can arrange helicopter flights, taking in the canyons and waterfalls. Those of a calmer disposition can opt for a hot air balloon ride instead.
You can also try your hand at a round at the Leopard Creek Championship Golf Estate – just watch out for hazards like the crocodile, hippo and wild boar often found on the course.
Royal Malewane hires local people, so the community can benefit from the park’s success. The Weavers Community Tour visits the Mapusha Weavers in the nearby village of Acornhoek. The women sell rugs, tapestries and bags, hand-woven and dyed by themselves, to support their families.
The lodge is half an hour’s drive from Hoedspruit Airport, or about five hours’ drive from Johannesburg.
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