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Wild luxury: 3 of the top safari lodges in the Kruger National Park, South Africa

By Daniella Schoeman on 10th October 2019

Besides Cape Town, the Kruger National Park is one of the most visited places in South Africa. This wild place full of mysterious landscapes and exciting animal encounters draws people from all over the world. It may be an area of wilderness but that doesn’t mean that visitors need to forego luxury just to experience it.

The Greater Kruger National Park consists of numerous private concessions that have lowered their borders to join the famous game reserve. These additions have added an element of luxury that was previously missing in the area.

The Kruger National Park was only equipped with basic accommodations that didn’t cater as well for international visitors. Now, there are plenty of luxury lodges offering guests unique wildlife experiences but with all the comforts they could want.

This includes Sir Richard Branson’s private Ulusaba Rock and Safari Lodges, colonial African luxury at Tintswalo Safari Lodge and experiencing a ‘place of paradise’ at Ezulwini River Lodge.

Ulusaba Rock & Safari Lodge

At Rock Lodge, the views dominate your experience and each spacious suite offers views from every room

Whenever something has Sir Richard Branson’s name on it, you just know to expect extraordinary quality. Ulusaba Rock and Safari Lodges are the epitome of luxury lodges in Southern Africa. The two unique lodges are situated within the Sabi Sands Game Reserve on the western border of the Kruger National Park.

The Ulusaba hills are truly spectacular and offer guests unsurpassed views that you won’t find anywhere else in the area. Ulusaba has 20 rooms and suites that are spread out between the two lodges.

Rock Lodge is the most unique out of the two with all the buildings built along the summit of the hill which results in panoramic views from any spot in the lodge. Safari Lodge is built along a dry riverbed at the base of the hill and protected by a canopy of ancient trees.

Although the natural surroundings and abundance of game are appealing it’s the wow factor that makes Ulusaba worth a visit. At Rock Lodge, the views dominate your experience and each spacious suite offers views from every room. The private suites all have their own en-suite bathrooms with a large shower, deep bathtub and a myriad of Africology toiletries.

The rooms and suites of Safari Lodge are opulently designed to offer space and privacy in the wilderness

Each suite also has a separate living area full of comfortable couches, a desk, a fully stocked bar fridge and more. However, the defining factor for each suite is the private balcony kitted with daybeds and loungers and for some a private plunge pool, all with unbelievable views.

The rooms and suites of Safari Lodge are just as opulently designed to offer space and privacy in the wilderness. Where Rock Lodge has views for days, Safari Lodge is intimately surrounded by nature. This proximity to the trees, riverbed and nearby dam means that guests have plenty of wildlife sightings right from their balconies.

Accommodation packages’ at both lodges also include all meals, all drinks, a constantly restocked bar fridge and two game drives per day. The food is prepared by the talented chef who creates a new menu each night to pair with a range of local boutique wines. Most meals are served in communal settings but can also be enjoyed privately on the balcony or in the wine cellar.

Each guest is assigned to a knowledgeable ranger and tracker team who escorts them on all their game drives, any game walks and even treats them to a stargazing experience at Ulusaba’s private ‘bush observatory’.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge

One of many enchanting surprises to expect when staying at Tintswalo Safari Lodge is the greeting by local elephants

Upon arrival at Tintswalo Safari Lodge, guests are led out to the lunch deck where they are often greeted by the local herd of elephants. This herd is lured to the area by the lush vegetation and love to have a drink next to the deck at the strategically placed hose that gets turned on when they request it.

It is hard not to get excited at this sight, as it feels like the elephants are your own personal welcome party. This is just the first of many enchanting surprises to expect when staying at Tintswalo Safari Lodge. Throughout the stay, it will truly feel as if you’re one with nature, while still being pampered like royalty.

The Tintswalo Property Group in South Africa is synonymous with wild luxury and unique experiences in nature. Tintswalo Safari Lodge definitely lives up to these expectations and adds something special to any trip to the game reserve.

The lodge is located in the game-dense region of Manyeleti Game Reserve, which is also on the western border of the Kruger National Park. With its pristine spot along the banks of a seasonal river, Tintswalo Safari Lodge offers true luxury in the wild.

The Presidential Suite is the ultimate in luxury living at Tintswalo Safari Lodge

Each of the buildings is connected to the others by raised wooden walkways that have you close to the wildlife, while still being safe. The suites are absolutely gorgeous and decorated to match the 19th-century colonial African explorers theme.

There are six suites, one grand Presidential Suite and then the separate Manor House for families or large groups. Each suite is named after a great explorer who left their mark on the African continent. As such, the suites are decorated to reflect this era of exploration with a historic look but modern luxuries.

Every suite has a large comfortable bed, a changing area behind it, an en-suite bathroom with rainfall shower and antique bathtub. The living area looks out towards the private deck equipped with sun loungers and an infinity plunge pool. There is a canopy of large trees that protect the deck and make the suite feel like your own private sanctuary.

As with other luxury lodges, all the meals are included. The setting is also changed daily to keep thing interesting. There are also two daily game drives in the mornings and afternoons with friendly guides.

Ezulwini River Lodge

With wonderful views, abundant wildlife sightings and the soothing lullaby of the river, Ezulwini is the best place to relax in luxury

Ezulwini River Lodge is another luxury lodge that is difficult to forget. The lodge is built along the banks of the large Olifants River and is a real gem in the area.

With wonderful views, abundant wildlife sightings and the soothing lullaby of the river, this is the best place to relax in luxury. A sense of peace washes over you from the moment you arrive and you really feel secluded from the bustling world outside the reserve.

Ezulwini means ‘place of paradise’ and the name is appropriate for the area as it is most definitely a nature lover’s paradise. Ezulwini Game Lodges is made up of River Lodge and Billy’s Lodge; both are unique havens in the wilderness.

Ezulwini is located in Balule Nature Reserve on the North West boundary section of the Kruger National Park. The appeal of this property lies in its seclusion, stunning natural surroundings, expert management, superb food, and knowledgeable guides.

Game drives take place each morning and afternoon with the friendly guides who ensure spectacular sighting for their guests.

There are a number of rooms and suites spread out along the riverbank and each has something special to offer guests. Each suite is stylishly decorated but completely inspired by the natural elements of the region.

Guests can expect all the standard and luxury mod cons as well as unexpected treats. There are four luxury chalets and four superior suites to choose from. All are well-equipped, spacious, have en-suite bathrooms as well as balconies.

The suites are slightly larger with a changing room next to the open bathroom, living room, dining area and a huge balcony with plunge pool and hanging swing chairs. Following in the traditional luxury safari experience, all meals are included.

These take place in various settings across the property and also in the communal fashion. Game drives take place each morning and afternoon with the friendly guides who ensure spectacular sighting for their guests.

Main image – Cliff Lodge at Ulusaba