Everyone who goes on a safari will want to have the best possible wildlife experience, however when it comes to the type of lodge or camp that people are looking for we find that going on safari means different things to different people. Some will conjure up an image in their mind of a simple safari tent, complete with bucket shower and a wooden deck with a couple of canvas chairs where you can sit and relax with a beer as you watch the world go by. Other might imagine a more solid structure for their room – maybe with a thatched roof, dark heavy wooden furniture, and a double bed draped in mosquito netting with fans whirring overhead.
But what if I said on safari you could also stay in a suite which would rival in size a penthouse suite at a top New York Manhattan or London Mayfair hotel, with views over the bush from your private plunge pool, state-of-the-art design features including rain showers and automatic window blinds, a private butler and chef to cater to your every whim and need – and even your own temperature controlled wine cellar. These top safari lodges are the ultimate in ultra-luxury – where your entire stay is enhanced by tentative and accommodating staff, sophistication is truly the name of the game, and your dining experience throughout the day would rival anything served in a top restaurant.
South Africa’s Kruger National Park offers some of the best wildlife experience on the continent, and below is our selection of 5 of the very best ultra-luxurious lodges in the Kruger area.
Situated in the heart of the exclusive Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which shares an unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, lies the ‘new’ Cheetah Plains. Welcoming their first guests in December 2018, this ultra luxurious, brand new safari lodge has a stunningly modern architectural design, complete with stylish interiors which has been developed by acclaimed African designers and leading up and coming artists.
Your extravagant suite is housed within one of 3 private exclusive-use Bushveld Houses, which also offer 2 lounges, an inside dining room as well as an outside smoke-free boma area, and a heated swimming pool which is sufficiently long enough to be able to swim a sensible number of lengths to burn off the calories from the delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner ceations prepared for you by your private chef. Unique works of art hang on walls, and your very own wine cellar (temperature controlled, of course) boasts not a few but over one hundred bottles of carefully selected wines. In your actual suite, sink into the softest pillows and mattress on your kingsize bed, get away from everyone else on your private viewing deck, and wash off the safari dust under your double rain shower or in your deep bath with views over the bush. If you can bear to drag yourself away from this decadence, twice-daily game drives in a state-of-the-art electric game viewing vehicle with a private guide will get you close up to Africa’s Big Five.
Tengile River Lodge
Also situated in Sabi Sand, and boasting private traversing rights over a concession alongside established safari brands such as Mala Mala and Lion Sands, you will find the latest addition to the exclusive AndBeyond portfolio of 5* safari lodges – Tengile River Lodge. Also opened for business in December 2018, this outstandingly beautiful lodge with just 9 guest suites is situated on the banks of the Sabi River where the river naturally forms a bend, offering phenomenal game viewing from the viewing decks without having to leave the luxurious confines of this amazing lodge.
Determined not to be outdone by any competition, Tengile have pushed the boat out on the suite design. Glass fronted doors showcase the African bushveld, where you can watch the wildlife from your massive kingsize bed. Leading off the master bedroom is your en-suite bathroom, again with glass doors, and complete with a hugely decadent deep bath for a relaxing soak or an outdoor shower for getting closer to nature. If that is not enough, the suite also boasts a lounge, dining area, a bar, a swimming pool and sunken outdoor seating. The main guest areas offer a seemless transition from indoors to outdoors, with a mixture of open and private places for guests to discover.
Lion Sands Ivory Lodge
One of Tatler magazine’s all time favourites over the years, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge now boasts a new, more contemporary look but still retains its individuality. The wow factor here goes without saying.
Comprising of just 8 villas, you enter your private sanctuary via a heavy African styled wooden door and find yourself by contrast in a spacious and light entrance hall leading onto your private pool and expansive viewing deck. Choose to go one way into your master bedroom, with glass fronted windows showcasing totally private views of the bush in one direction and an amazingly spacious bathroom in the other direction, which itself leads out to an outside shower garden. Choose to turn the other way and you find yourself in your ultra luxurious private lounge, where in-villa dining can be arranged for those wanting even more privacy and intimacy. With only 6 guests per game viewing vehicle, everyone is guaranteed a ‘window seat’ while traversing across the Sabi Sands Reserve in search of the spectacular wildlife to be found here.
It is difficult to choose which Londolozi lodge to showcase in particular, as all 5 of them have their own unique and outstanding character, combined with all the luxury you would expect from a top 5* lodge. Worldwide acclaimed, Londolozi was the first game reserve to be awarded the prestigious Relais and Chateaux status back in the early 1990s – and this reputation has seen them year after year continue to delight, excite and encourage guests to return time and time again.
If I had to pick just one to talk about now, it would have to be the Private Granite Suites. Just 3 suites host 6 guests, making this one of the Kruger’s most intimate safari experiences. As the name suggests, granite features heavily in the design and the stylish silver and grey décor acts as the perfect accompaniment. Each suite features a private deck overlooking the Sand River, with a heated pool as well as an outdoor stone bath for relaxing in between thrilling game drives. The main guest areas continue with the contemporary feel, with dashes of white and light grey emphasising the overall feeling of openness and space. Game drives with an experienced ranger and tracker team take you deep into the African bush, traversing their own private wilderness concession of 16,000 hectares.
Stylish and elegant, Kapama Karula in the Big 5 Kapama Game Reserve is beyond luxury. The 10 Superior Villas are each a massive 90 square metres, and feature wrap around glass sliding doors that open onto a private deck overlooking the Klaserie River.
Boasting both an indoor and outdoor shower, a full sized heated swimming pool and sun loungers, air conditioning, a Nespresso coffee machine, Wi-Fi, and an iPod docking station, this truly is the pinnacle of a luxurious 5* safari stay. The two Family Villas are nearly double the size – 170 square metres – with an expansive open-plan living room, a private large heated swimming pool and two bedrooms – both en-suite. To keep the kids amused, the second bedroom comes equipped with a flatscreen TV, a selection of movies and even a Wii game console – so parents be warned… it may be difficult to persuade your children to leave the room to go on game drives!
Paul Campbell is a Co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers. Travel Butlers are specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean.