Know what other A-listers such as Elton John, Justin Bieber and French President Sarkosi know about the best safari experience and head to Royal Malewane.
With a guiding team referred to as the Harvard of the Bushveld on account of their over 300-years combined experience, and being the most qualified team in the bush, you know your game viewing will be unrivalled. Here, in the Greater Kruger National Park, you are in classic Big Five territory and, in addition to two game drives a day, you have the opportunity to follow the elephant highway on foot, and other paths in the bush created by the animals that use them.
You may have been in the bush many times – or this will be your first – but the experience and depth of knowledge these guides have will bring something new and special. In all things here, safety comes first, be they protecting you from dangerous game or Covid-19. As the name suggests, as a guest you and yours are royalty.
If you are travelling as a family there are two choices of exclusive-use villa accommodations: Africa House, accommodating up to 12 people in six luxury rooms which has place for your pilot or security detail or The Farm House, a three-and-a-half bedroomed villa. There are also two, two-bedroomed Royal Suites in the main lodge too.
As a guest in one of the villas, your package includes a butler, private chef, exclusive vehicle and game guide. While every guest at Royal Malewane can tailor their days to their wishes – as a villa guests the timetable is entirely your own. In summer, early-morning game drives typically leave by 5.30am before the heat of the day sets in.
While an early start is recommended if you want a chance of seeing the big cats return from the night’s prowl or the first rays of the sun reflect off the colourful Lilac-Breasted Roller’s plumage, even in the midday sun there is something special to see in the bush and your team will decode the sounds and smells for a heads-up of what is likely to happen next.
Typically, the afternoon game drive leaves after a hearty afternoon tea and will be timed for a spectacular sunset stop and cocktail. While the adage that in the bush every tree is a lavatory, what makes Royal Malewane standout is they have built, in the most eco-conscious way possible, bush bathrooms in key places for your comfort.
What sets Royal Malewane apart from many other lodges, even those at a high price point, is that every detail of what will make your experience even more special is considered and catered for. From professional-grade binoculars for your use on the game vehicle to a telescope being set up at night to gaze at the stars.
Founder and owner Liz Biden has decorated all Royal Portfolio properties in her high-glamour style that is a little quirky and adventurous but always elegant and comfortable. At the Main Lodge at Royal Malewane this includes the high-thatched roof covering, more hand-knotted carpets and rugs than you’d find at an Eastern bazaar, burnished bronzes, glittering crystal and oversized seating covered in python-green velvet.
The Farmstead, about 12-minutes away from the main lodge, is more recently built and a dramatic departure from the traditional bush lodge design ethic. Here, accommodations are based on the H-form of a traditional farmhouse with a corrugated iron roof and a deep stoep or verandah with a hanging bed-bench overlooking the bush. You are at the pinnacle of the game-lodge experience, where there is no such thing as standard.
Even an entry-level room will have its own pool which you may be called upon to share with a thirsty elephant, raised timber walkways between rooms and the main lodges where you may encounter a leopard and almost certainly some of the curious Nyala antelope. More than any other one thing, Liz Biden has changed what we think we know about a bathroom.
In all Royal Portfolio properties the bathroom may well be the same size as the bedroom and sitting room and will always feature a soaking tub with a view. Here, in the bush, bathrooms extend to provide outside showers and opening doors to be at one with nature. Of course, there are fireplaces and air conditioning throughout so whatever the climate, you will feel beyond pampered.
With an all-inclusive rate, beverages, with very few exceptions, and fine feasting are included. But, in a departure from some pretentious lodges that offer 15-course tasting menus, here the experience is tailored to you and your guests. A bush dinner under the stars, breakfast in a dry riverbed under a Jackalberry tree and lavish afternoon teas or in-suite dining all to your taste. To keep fit, the gym has the newest equipment and there is a long, long, long lap-pool at the Waters at Royal Malewane, their award-winning spa, to really stretch out those muscles.
As part of their recent upgrade which included replacing the timber walkways, re-thatching, and other under-the-hood improvements, there is the new Masiya Bar with its concrete-reinforced roof that can take the weight of a family of elephants. The new hanging “seed-pod” chairs overlooking the fire pit, waterhole and horizon beyond are perfect to game-gaze as you gently sway in the breeze.
Named after Master Tracker Wilson Masiya, one of the lodge’s first and most acclaimed trackers, this is now the space in which to meet other guests and share stories from the bush and enjoy over 50 whiskies and artisan gins.
And, at the end of day, knowing that ownership of this business will revert to their staff from the local community, where you choose to invest your vacation funds will have a continued and positive impact. Consider La Residence in Franschhoek, Birkenhead House in Hermanus and The Silo Hotel in the V&A Waterfront as part of your trip.
Author: Brian Berkman