If Kruger National Park was not fascinating enough, there’s a train hotel being built at the iconic South African attraction.
Thebe Tourism Group revealed the plans at Africa’s Travel Indaba this week. The Kruger Shalati Train on a bridge is being hailed as a unique luxury accommodation experience that will open in December 2019. The new initiative pays tribute to the history of Kruger when visitors to park once arrived by train.
The project incorporates the iconic and still original old Selati railway bridge at Skukuza Camp, where the KNP’s first warden, James Steven-Hamilton, welcomed visitors nearly 100 years ago. At night, these same guests would retreat into the train to sleep, before it moved on to its next destination the following day.
Looking to recreate the magic of these early visitor encounters, the project will see the restoration and upgrading of a train that will permanently rest on the original tracks running across the bridge, high above the waters of the Sabie River.
The train, in its stationary position with an external walkway attached to the bridge structure, allows the Kruger Shalati rooms to be much larger than the expected traditional train compartment-style room - complete with floor-to-ceiling windows welcoming the unsurpassed views from atop the Sabie River into the room.
An old block-house next to the bridge will be used as the base for an innovative pool deck designed with overhanging pool meters above the river where travellers can, hopefully, catch a glimpse of the Big 5.
Immersing guests in the comfort of an Afro-chic boutique hotel experience, the train itself will offer 24 en-suite rooms able to sleep 48 guests, with another 7 rooms in adjacent Kruger Shalati Bridge House accommodating 14 beds on land next to the bridge. All rooms will offer guests a high-star rating luxury experience and will be accompanied by fine dining and other leisure experiences on site.
Judiet Barnes, Concession General Manager of Kruger Shalati said the project was an opportunity to revitalise and recapture an important part of Kruger’s history.
“Not only have we not seen anything alike in our country, but neither is there anything similar in the world. This is a ‘must experience’ destination will entice visitors locally and from across the globe to experience a very important part of our Park’s history,” said Barnes.
She said the surrounding communities will be empowered through world-class training, skills development initiatives and job opportunities with the project. The Kruger Shalati team is working very closely with SANPARKS to ensure minimal disruption to the park.