Durban - South African Tourism has named the top luxury game lodges in South Africa. Compiled by Liam Joyce.
Singita Ebony and Singita Boulders, Mpumalanga
Named after the enormous rock that stood just where the wine cellar was planned, the Singita Boulders Lodge in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve ranks as one of the most romantic bush destinations in Africa.
Space, peace and reflected pools bring a feeling of great tranquillity.
Each of the 12 private suites has its own heated swimming pool, a double-sided fireplace, a sumptuous lounge and an inside and an outside shower. You also have your own viewing deck.
At the main lodge, you’ll find the spa and gym. Incidentally, the boulder that gave the lodge its name is still there. The designers simply created the wine cellar around it.
Motse and Tarkuni Eco-lodges, Tswalu, Northern Cape
Designer Boyd Ferguson took inspiration from the serene beauty of the surroundings and their bright accents when putting together the graceful interiors of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve’s Motse and Tarkuni lodges.
The Oppenheimer family, which owns Tswalu, defines the feel as “barefoot luxury”. Motse shelters in the lap of the Korannaberg mountains.
There are eight legaes (“homes” in Pedi), built out of thatch, local stone and red earth. Each has an open fireplace, luxurious en-suite bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers, a study and broadband wi-fi access.
Marataba Safari Company, North West
The Marataba Safari Company has taken tented camps to a whole new level. It is set in a 23 000 hectare concession area of the Marakele National Park in the Waterberg.
The central building is created from dry stone walling and conical towers mixed with elegant lighting, glass, steel, wood, cow-skin throws and carpets and divans. But it’s the tents that will astound you.
Outside, they seem unexceptional. But once you’re inside, they seem more like opulent works of art created with canvas and stone. You are in the wild heart of Big Five country here, where elephants sometimes sip water from the pool.
Phinda Forest Lodge, KwaZulu-Natal
A day at Phinda Private Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal is like a day in heaven.
This architectural masterpiece lies within a dry sand forest where stilted wooden suites have huge windows that allow an intimate connection with the forest.
Before breakfast, an early game drive will reveal the world of some of the most spectacular wild animals in Africa, including lions and elephants. At noon, you can swim with dolphins in the Indian Ocean, rounded off with a great fishing trip and delicious dinner back at the lodge.
Located between the azure ocean waters and the lush World Heritage Site iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Phinda’s 23 000 hectares comprises seven distinct ecosystems, including the rare sand forest.
The area was re-stocked with lions, rhinos, buffalo, elephant, leopards, giraffe and other big game in Operation Phinda Izilwane, which means “return of the wild animals”.
Londolozi Granite Private Suites, Mpumalanga
Nelson Mandela hailed Londolozi as “the model of the dream I cherish for the future of nature preservation in our country”.
The name says it all: londolozi is a Zulu word that means “protector of all living things”. The camps in the reserve are situated along the Sand River in the 56 000ha Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, which borders the Kruger National Park.
The area is famous for its leopards, along with other magnificent large mammals: lions, elephants, giraffe, rhinos, buffalo and zebra. The success story started in the 1970s when the Varty brothers inherited a hunting lodge on the property.
They have developed it into one of the most famous lodges and exclusive wildlife destinations in Africa.
Ulusaba Rock and Cliff Lodges, Mpumalanga
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, in the Sabi Sand Reserve bordering the Kruger National Park, is owned by Sir Richard Branson.
Clinging to a high hill, the Ulusaba lodges promise incredible views. Rock Lodge set new standards in luxury accommodation when it was built. The style combines traditional and modern African aspects.
Think thatch, leadwood, muslin, the finest linen, wide decks, breathtaking vistas. There are 10 suites, of which three have their own plunge pools.
On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Drakensberg mountains. But if you seek that edge in exclusivity, privacy and luxury, consider Cliff Lodge. There are only two suites here. One has a private pool; the other a Jacuzzi. The views are superb.
Royal Malewane, Limpopo
Sit on your own private deck and watch a bushbuck picking her way through the African thorn trees. Next to you is the soothing water of the rim-flow pool.
You’ve just returned from the morning game drive and you still can’t believe how the tracker spotted that leopard. Maybe you don’t feel like going for breakfast right now.
No problem – your chef will make your favourite meal a little later. The masseuse will be coming round for your daily complementary massage soon. It’s another day in paradise.
Royal Malewane, in Thornybush Private Game Reserve adjoining the Kruger National Park, is perfect for those who love privacy, luxury and the Big Five. All six suites are decorated in neo-classical style, with canopied king-size beds, indoor and outdoor showers and a fireplace.
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Mpumalanga
There is no place like Sabi Sabi’s Earth Lodge. Sculpted into the side of a gentle hill, it awakens your senses at every turn.
It is well named – it is part of the Earth and in harmony with it. So beautifully does Earth Lodge blend into its surroundings that it has been described as the most ecologically sensitive luxury lodge in Africa.
There are 13 suites, each has its own plunge pool, indoor and outdoor shower and sculptures. The Amber Presidential Suite is the pièce de résistance. An astounding sculpture in the bedroom is only part of the attraction. Stay here and you’ll have your own steam room, study, kitchenette, lounge, dining area and butler. You’ll also have your own game-viewing vehicle. Sabi Sabi is certified as a Fair Trade in Tourism destination and has won several environmental awards.
Shamwari’s Bayethe and Lobengula Lodges, Eastern Cape
There is a sunny lightness and warmth about Shamwari Private Game Reserve.
Maybe it has something to do with being in the Eastern Cape, where many of the flowering plants you’ll see in South African gardens originate. In addition to thorn-tree savannahs, you’ll see valley thicket brightened by a variety of flowers. The Eastern Cape’s flora is almost as much of an attraction as its Big Five.
No fewer than five of South Africa’s major biomes are found here and represented in the reserve. Part of the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany global biodiversity hot spot is found in Shamwari.
Shamwari has seven lodges on its 25 000 hectares. All offer five-star luxury, but Lobengula and Bayethe have suites that offer just that little bit more. – Sunday Tribune