Luxury in the wilderness

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In an increasingly busy world it is important to take time out and re-connect with your surroundings. In this issue we cater for the reader who is pursuing perhaps the most elusive of luxuries: silence and space, two qualities that are found most spectacularly on South Africa’s wide selection of gold-standard safari lodges. We have narrowed it down to just three top picks for when you are looking for a truly refined and secluded break.

South Africa is a land of many faces, from the refined metropolitan city of Cape Town and the rural and idyllic peacefulness of the country’s wine-lands to the unspoilt magnetism of its national parks. And it is these national parks that provide the perfect setting for when you want a real taste of the wild, utter privacy, and luxurious accommodation. The country currently has 22 parks, consisting of over 37,000 km² and accounting for around 4% of the total area of South Africa – a strong tourism pull both locally and internationally for the chance to view the ‘Big Five’ animals. As a result of this, many safari lodges have sprung up to cater to the top end of the market, offering a lavish and relaxing setting from which to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the surroundings. The oldest and most well-known of these national parks is the Kruger National Park. At nearly 20,000 km² it is the largest, most visited safari destination in the country and serves as the backdrop to our first high-class safari lodge pick. With a plethora of luxury facilities to choose from surrounding this hugely popular region, Royal Malewane is perhaps the best of an amazing bunch of safari lodges the discerning visitor can select.

 
ROYAL MALEWANE

In an area with 145 mammal species large and small, and located in prime lion-spotting country on Thornybush Private Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park, Royal Malewane has often been considered the world’s single best safari lodge. Not short of accolades it was voted Best Safari Property in South Africa by the Good Safari Guide, 2014, third Best Hotel on Earth by Travel and Leisure and has won a staggering range of awards – over 25 and counting. The perfect destination for anyone seeking that classic African safari feel and decorated in a neo-classical style with canopied king-size beds, the six palatial suites are decked out with vintage furniture, a private infinity pool and outdoor showers as well as indoor bathrooms and fireplace.
In an increasingly busy world it is important to take time out and re-connect with your surroundings. In this issue we cater for the reader who is pursuing perhaps the most elusive of luxuries: silence and space, two qualities that are found most spectacularly on South Africa’s wide selection of gold-standard safari lodges. We have narrowed it down to just three top picks for when you are looking for a truly refined and secluded break.

The two Royal Suites are extra-luxurious, sleep four and include all of the above as well as a private lounge and dining area. Included in the booking, each group is assigned their own chef, butler, Land Rover and dedicated guide. Rates start at R14,600 pp per night in mid-season for a suite, R15,600 pp per night in peak season. For larger bookings, Africa House at Royal Malewane is an extravagant home that can hold up to 12 guests and is popular with large families, groups of couples and celebrities. For the traditional social South African dining event known as braais, the lodge has a barbecue area and usually hosts an outdoor party each week. Rates start at R138,200 per night for eight guests at Africa house in mid-season, all inclusive. Royal Malewane also has possibly the most extensive spa of any safari camp, with four complementary massages included in the price of booking – a real taste of seclusion and understated luxury. With the Drakensberg Mountains towering in the distance, the incredible biodiversity of the local wildlife and a pervading sense of timelessness and wild splendour, Royal Malewane employs the best animal rangers and trackers to ensure its guests experience the beauty of the national park in all its forms. Game drives are twice daily at dawn and dusk and are tailored to suit your interests, with the opportunity to make use of the lodge’s specialised photographic vehicle if requested.

 
Royal Malewane | www.royalmalewane.com

 
TSWALU KALAHARI

With most travellers heading straight for the Kruger National Park area in the east, a hidden gem and less-visited area of natural beauty is the Kalahari. A top-shelf safari location for wildlife enthusiasts, the Kalahari Desert covers a staggering 900,000 km² across Botswana, Namibia and South Africa and is a semi-desert home to a wide range of animals. In the southern region of South Africa’s Kalahari savannah is Tswalu Kalahari, the largest private game reserve in the country at 100,000
hectares and owned by the Oppenheimer family, founders of DeBeers Diamonds and Anglo American. Not always teeming with life, Tswalu was previously a hunting reserve and was bought by current owner, Nicky Oppenheimer in 1998 who pledged “to restore the Kalahari to itself.” As such most of the work at Tswalu is focused on conservation; coming second to that is the running of its world-class opulent safari lodge facility. Tswalu’s motto is ‘closer to the land, closer to the people’, and with a maximum of 30 guests at any given time, it feels like your own private and vast grassland paradise. But you are far from alone: on safaris and tracking expeditions, meet stately black-maned lions, rhinos, zebras, leopards, and a plethora of other rare species, by 4×4, foot, or horseback. As a guest staying at Tswalu there is the opportunity to see some of the 80 species of mammals resident across the year, and nearly 300 different species of rare bird, all from the comfort of boutique, luxury lodge accommodation. Part of the deluxe Relais & Châteaux association, the lodgings at Tswalu are individual, thatched roof African-style constructions each with beautiful interiors comprising of bathroom, bar, fireplace and four poster bed. The Kalahari is a year-round malaria free zone and guests at Tswalu can enjoy watching the sun set across the unspoilt landscape from the quiet luxury of their large private outdoor deck. As is the norm at luxury safari lodges, all food and drink is inclusive of the price, which starts at around R10,600, but you may want to indulge yourself in some of the extras Tswalu has to offer – the resort has a sumptuous full service spa on site. A place like no other – Tswalu has won over 10 awards and has its own hangers and private and offers its guests subsidized flight transfers from both Cape Town and Johannesburg and for those who have their own Jet, you can fly right in.

 
Tswalu Kalahari | www.tswalu.com

 
MARATABA

The Marakele National park in Waterberg with its nutritious soils that attract a large range of animals is home to our final pick luxury safari lodge – Marataba Safari Lodge. A malaria-free 23,000 hectare private concession within the Marakele National Park, Marataba is just a four-hour drive from Johannesburg and a relaxing base from which to explore the national park in all its splendour. Above the park and dominating the view is the high cliff-face Kraskop, home to what is considered to be South Africa’s largest colony of the rare and endangered Cape Griffon vultures, around 800 breeding pairs. Along with this rarity it is possible to see all the large game species, from rhino and
elephant to the big cats, roaming around the grass-clad hills and valleys of the region. In order to see this, Marataba runs twice-daily safaris, by vehicle or on foot, to give its guests the opportunity to experience the beauty of its surroundings. The lodgings at the resort take tented camps to a whole new level of luxury with décor that echoes African ancient tradition with a modern, opulent twist. Constructed from canvas and stone, each of the tented suites are decorated with impeccable attention to detail. The camp is unfenced and as such there is a real chance of seeing wildlife right from your doorstep – the local elephants sometimes like to sip water from the swimming pool. A Trip Advisor certificate of excellence winner for 2015, Marataba is a favourite with both local and foreign visitors and another example of a luxury lodge that is providing a perfect balance between extravagance and wilderness. Rates at Marataba start from R6,480 per person.

Marataba Safari Lodge | www.marataba.co.za

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