In the far reaches of far-northern Kruger some 120km from the nearest town, “rooms” at The Outpost are big, unfettered, modern-design spaces crafted from steel, canvas and aluminium. Cantilevered from a rocky mountainside and completely open-to-the-elements, sleeping here – especially in suite 12, furthermost from the main lodge and the most remote – feels like you’re literally hovering high above the lush Luvuvhu floodplain, a visually dramatic terrain plush with acacias, ancient baobabs and palm trees.
These minimally designed, beautifully unfettered spaces have no walls or windows interfering with the drop-away views, so it’s possible (and quite easy) to disappear into rapped contemplation as you meditate on the shimmering horizon, surrounded by nothing but the sheer magnitude of all-embracing nature. There’s even more privacy at Pel’s Post, an exclusive-use satellite lodge that has just four suites to accommodate eight pampered guests. theoutpost.co.za
I’m all for bundu-bashing, but for blowout getaways, nothing beats Singita Sweni, an idyllic safari lodge within a vast 33 000-acre concession in the far reaches of lion-dense eastern Kruger, bordering Mozambique. While it’s right next to the larger Singita Lebombo (where there is a spa and other resort-like facilities, including a gym-with-a-view), its seven designer-chic suites feel impeccably, wondrously tucked away, and are built on stilts so you’re eye-level with trees above the Sweni River.
Gigantic curtains work as room dividers and there’s an earthy, tactile feel to the furniture and décor. Glass walls and humongous sliding doors open onto large timber balconies where you can shower and even sleep outside in summer. Game drives, bush walks, and sumptuous mealtimes are all part of the package, although it’s the sense of being far, far away from the real world, cocooned in a perfect, idyllic universe that really makes this place extra-special. It is possible to feel utterly at one with the wild lands that enfold you, succumbing to the sounds of your heart beating to the rhythm of the bush. singita.com
Royal Malewane, a safari lodge in Thornybush Private Game Reserve, is decadent for all the right reasons. Sure, it’s luxurious and filled with fancy fripperies, larney linens, the dreamiest décor, and even the soap seems to lather in a special way. And from the moment you arrive, you’re treated like visiting royalty. Nothing ever seems like too much hassle. Breakfast served here rather than there? Spa treatment next to the pool? Done, done, done. But the real luxury is the adventure and intimacy you experience when it comes to the business of game viewing. It’s a basic understanding that, no matter how plush your pillow and fast-flowing the champagne, if the actual safari doesn’t measure up, the whole experience is jeopardised.
At Royal Malewane, this principle is taken to the level of assuming every guest deserves a wholly personalised encounter with nature. Prefer to walk in the footsteps of rhino rather than being on the Land Rover for the next game drive? No problem. And despite the careful, perfect planning and execution, the people who take care of you know how to make every moment feel natural and spontaneous.
A “surprise” bush dinner (which involved an entire kitchen and open-air dining table being set up for a mere handful of guests) was orchestrated with astonishing flair and precision, with attention to the smallest detail. But what couldn’t have been planned was the grunting lion that suddenly, unexpectedly, interrupted dessert. Silence fell over the team fawning over me and a playful glint came into the lodge manager’s eye.
“Up for an adventure?” he asked, without the slightest hint that I should rush my crème brûlée.
Of course I was.
He smiled as his team casually began preparations for whatever “adventure” awaited me – just as soon as I’d finished dessert.
Then we hopped onto the Land Rover and someone handed me a blanket to stave off the night cold.
“Right, let’s see what that lion is up to,” said the manager, and off we went.
What followed was an impromptu night game drive aimed not so much at finding the source of the grunts, but uncovering some of the bush’s after-dark secrets. A rollicking introduction to day-shy animals, we stopped to listen to strange scuffles in the blackness, and occasionally peered into the tops of trees where eyes sparkled like stars.
It was an adventure all right, with no rules other that utter respect for the bushveld. And the following morning, well before breakfast, instead of the usual game drive, I was walking behind an armed ranger as we tracked rhino through the bush.
It was, during those moments, impossible to feel more alive, exhilarated, and connected to the earth. royalportfolio.com