By Rhiannon Taylor, April 2017
There's something in the air as you enter the great Kruger National Park. Birds of all the colours of the rainbow swoop overhead, Giraffes stroll past serendipitously and you start to feel like a blip in the great circle of life. A short drive from Hoedspruit in to Kruger lies &Beyond's luxury property Ngala Safari Lodge. This recently renovated lodge sits quietly on land that is owned by WWF and is also home to Ngala Tented Camp, a luxury camping site for those wanting a quieter, more rustic safari experience.
The lodge sprawls throughout the bush, with a central open-air dining and communal space. Views all point to the sweeping infinity pool that spectacularly plays water-hole to elephants in need of an afternoon drink. Breakfast and lunch is served in the breezy restaurant which serves up family-style buffet tables with artisan produce that is sourced locally. Honey glazed ham, local cheeses, poached fruit and house-made granola with foraged nuts and seeds are wholesome and delicious.
Dinners can be truly magical, set up poolside with twinkling lights. You may even be surprised by your guide after an evening game-drive with an African barbecue in the bush. Communal tables are set up under trees filled with lanterns and game meats smoking over hot coals. It's a fabulous night connecting with travellers from around the globe to the sounds of the African bush.
The games drives are twice daily, starting early in the morning to spot the animals when they are at their most relaxed. Ngala means lion in the local Timbavati language and the property is renowned for it's history of white lions. Sure enough, within a few minutes of our first game drive we're spotting a pride of female lions and their cubs playing. It's quite easy to marvel at this encounter for hours when we spot a lone male lion nearby. He stalks the pride out of curiosity, assessing his future male competition, before dozing to sleep.
The late afternoon drives provide for some more unusual game-spotting with furry jackals bounding past our open-air car, followed closely by hyenas and a herd of antelope. The kudu antelope are curious of humans and watch us as intently as we watch them. It's a strong connection which is only interrupted when birds circle overhead warning them that there is a predator in the area.
If you choose to experience the Ngala Tented Camp, you can expect a laid-back and more intimate safari. With only a handful of tents, guests can truly unwind and reconnect with nature. The tents are more akin to a sophisticated hotel suite, with king sized beds, writing area, closet, freestanding bath and outdoor rainshower.
The staff at &Beyond are the real drawcard. Each member goes through a rigorous training program at the &Beyond academy and it's clear to see they all have a key commitment to the land and animals. &Beyond's priority is sustainability, community and conservation and it's these values that make your &Beyond experience more than just a safari, but an authentic taste as to how you can be an active part of reversing local extinctions. You can find out more about their programs such as Rhinos with Borders here.
THE TURN DOWN
ACCOMODATION CATEGORY: Experiential safari lodge.
ROOMS: The Ngala Safari Lodge rooms are sophisticated and compact with balconies for afternoon relaxing. King sized beds are plush and bathrooms have an indoor and outdoor shower. The Ngala Tented Camp suites have king sized beds, writing area, closet, freestanding bath and outdoor rainshower.
MINI BAR: Complimentary and restocked daily with water, house-made nibbles and wine.
POOL/GYM/SPA: Yes, there is a full service spa and gym at the Lodge. There are pools at both the lodge and tented camp.
TURN DOWN SERVICE: Yes.
RESTAURANT/BAR: All meals are included: Morning snack, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Snacks and refreshments are also served throughout the game drives.
FEEL: Rustic safari.
LOCATION: Kruger National Park, near Hoedspruit airport.
CHILDREN: Yes however we don't recommend the safari experience for young children.
WIFI: Included, however it isn't strong at the lodge. Connection is better at the tented camp.
RATES: Starting at $754AUD per night, per person at the Ngala Safari Lodge.
Starting at $1114 AUD per night, per person at the Ngala Tented Camp.
South African Airways flies internationally in to Johannesburg from a variety of ports, including Perth, Australia. https://www.flysaa.com/
From Johannesburg you can drive to Ngala Safari Lodge easily in 6 hours, with a small fee payable on entrance to the park.
There are flights available to Hoedspruit from Johannesburg and then self-drive to Ngala Safari Lodge which takes approx 1 hour.
I stayed courtesy of &Beyond.