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5 of the best ultra-luxurious lodges in Kruger

Everyone who goes on a safari will want to have the best possible wildlife experience, however when it comes to the type of lodge or camp that people are looking for we find that going on safari means different things to different people.  Some will conjure up an image in their mind of a simple safari tent, complete with bucket shower and a wooden deck with a couple of canvas chairs where you can sit and relax with a beer as you watch the world go by.  Other might imagine a more solid structure for their room – maybe with a thatched roof, dark heavy wooden furniture, and a double bed draped in mosquito netting with fans whirring overhead. But what if I said on safari you could also stay in a suite which would rival in size a penthouse suite at a top New York Manhattan or London Mayfair hotel, with views over the bush from your private plunge pool, state-of-the-art design features including rain showers and automatic window blinds, a private butler and chef to cater to your every whim and need – and even your own temperature controlled wine cellar.  These top safari lodges are the ultimate in ultra-luxury – where your entire stay is enhanced by tentative and accommodating staff, sophistication is truly the name of the game, and your dining experience throughout the day would rival anything served in a top restaurant. South Africa‘s Kruger National Park offers some of the best wildlife experience on the continent, and below is our selection of 5 of the very best ultra-luxurious lodges in the Kruger area. Cheetah Plains Situated in the heart of the exclusive Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which shares an unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, lies the ‘new’ Cheetah Plains.  Welcoming their first guests in December 2018, this ultra luxurious, brand new safari lodge has a stunningly modern architectural design, complete with stylish interiors which has been developed by acclaimed African designers and leading up and coming artists. Your extravagant suite is housed within one of 3 private exclusive-use Bushveld Houses, which also offer 2 lounges, an inside dining room as well as an outside smoke-free boma area, and a heated swimming pool which is sufficiently long enough to be able to swim a sensible number of lengths to burn off the calories from the delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner ceations prepared for you by your private chef. Unique works of art hang on walls, and your very own wine cellar (temperature controlled, of course) boasts not a few but over one hundred bottles of carefully selected wines.  In your actual suite, sink into the softest pillows and mattress on your kingsize bed, get away from everyone else on your private viewing deck, and wash off the safari dust under your double rain shower or in your deep bath with views over the bush.  If you can bear to drag yourself away from this decadence, twice-daily game drives in a state-of-the-art electric game viewing vehicle with a private guide will get you close up to Africa’s Big Five. Tengile River Lodge Also situated in Sabi Sand, and boasting private traversing rights over a concession alongside established safari brands such as Mala Mala and Lion Sands, you will find the latest addition to the exclusive AndBeyond portfolio of 5* safari lodges – Tengile River Lodge. Also opened for business in December 2018, this outstandingly beautiful lodge with just 9 guest suites is situated on the banks of the Sabi River where the river naturally forms a bend, offering phenomenal game viewing from the viewing decks without having to leave the luxurious confines of this amazing lodge. Determined not to be outdone by any competition, Tengile have pushed the boat out on the suite design. Glass fronted doors showcase the African bushveld, where you can watch the wildlife from your massive kingsize bed.  Leading off the master bedroom is your en-suite bathroom, again with glass doors, and complete with a hugely decadent deep bath for a relaxing soak or an outdoor shower for getting closer to nature. If that is not enough, the suite also boasts a lounge, dining area, a bar, a swimming pool and sunken outdoor seating.  The main guest areas offer a seemless transition from indoors to outdoors, with a mixture of open and private places for guests to discover. Lion Sands Ivory Lodge One of Tatler magazine’s all time favourites over the years, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge now boasts a new, more contemporary look but still retains its individuality. The wow factor here goes without saying. Comprising of just 8 villas, you enter your private sanctuary via a heavy African styled wooden door and find yourself by contrast in a spacious and light entrance hall leading onto your private pool and expansive viewing deck. Choose to go one way into your master bedroom, with glass fronted windows showcasing totally private views of the bush in one direction and an amazingly spacious bathroom in the other direction, which itself leads out to an outside shower garden. Choose to turn the other way and you find yourself in your ultra luxurious private lounge, where in-villa dining can be arranged for those wanting even more privacy and intimacy. With only 6 guests per game viewing vehicle, everyone is guaranteed a ‘window seat’ while traversing across the Sabi Sands Reserve in search of the spectacular wildlife to be found here. Londolozi It is difficult to choose which Londolozi lodge to showcase in particular, as all 5 of them have their own unique and outstanding character, combined with all the luxury you would expect from a top 5* lodge. Worldwide acclaimed, Londolozi was the first game reserve to be awarded the prestigious Relais and Chateaux status back in the early 1990s – and this reputation has seen them year after year continue to delight, excite and encourage guests to return time and time again. If I had to pick just one to talk about now, it would have to be the Private Granite Suites.  Just 3 suites host 6 guests, making this one of the Kruger’s most intimate safari experiences. As the name suggests, granite features heavily in the design and the stylish silver and grey décor acts as the perfect accompaniment. Each suite features a private deck overlooking the Sand River, with a heated pool as well as an outdoor stone bath for relaxing in between thrilling game drives. The main guest areas continue with the contemporary feel, with dashes of white and light grey emphasising the overall feeling of openness and space. Game drives with an experienced ranger and tracker team take you deep into the African bush, traversing their own private wilderness concession of 16,000 hectares. Kapama Karula Stylish and elegant, Kapama Karula in the Big 5 Kapama Game Reserve is beyond luxury. The 10 Superior Villas are each a massive 90 square metres, and feature wrap around glass sliding doors that open onto a private deck overlooking the Klaserie River. Boasting both an indoor and outdoor shower, a full sized heated swimming pool and sun loungers, air conditioning, a Nespresso coffee machine, Wi-Fi, and an iPod docking station, this truly is the pinnacle of a luxurious 5* safari stay. The two Family Villas are nearly double the size – 170 square metres – with an expansive open-plan living room, a private large heated swimming pool and two bedrooms – both en-suite. To keep the kids amused, the second bedroom comes equipped with a flatscreen TV, a selection of movies and even a Wii game console – so parents be warned… it may be difficult to persuade your children to leave the room to go on game drives! Paul Campbell is a Co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers. Travel Butlers are specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Paul Campbell

Paul Campbell is a co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers, specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean. Paul’s love of independent travel was first cemented when he spent 9 months doing the classic back-packing route across Asia, Australia, and North America when he was 20 year old. Over the following 30 years or so he has returned to these destinations many times, and also travelled for extended periods in central in South America as well as making countless trips to destinations across Europe. His first trip to Africa was nearly 20 years ago, and he fell in love with the continent instantly. After a few more trips (including spending a month training to be a field guide in the Sabi Sands), Paul and his wife Tracey decided to leave their jobs in marketing to form Travel Butlers. Their aim was to provide a friendly, professional, and knowledgeable service to help visitors find the very best experiences in Africa. The company was formed in 2003, and initially focussed on just South Africa and Namibia. Over the years they have taken on more staff and expanded to cover a dozen countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean. They still travel regularly to Africa both to find new destinations and experiences to offer their clients, and to check-up on old favourites.

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  1. I am impressed. Tengile River Lodge really is ramping up the luxury. Staying in bed and watching the game go by is raising the stakes considerably. This place is definitely up there in the ultra luxurious category.

  2. One of the problems that I have found is that inevitably there has been a move towards the mass market. Some of the lodges have become bigger than is ideal and sometimes the game drives become congested. In no way could you level those criticisms at those five uber luxurious lodges. If you want privacy and seclusion they will certainly provide it.

    1. That’s a great point, Graham… The size of some lodges can dilute the feeling of being out in the wilds of Africa, but that is definitely not an issue with these places.


  3. These lodges are right to introduce the touches of luxury. In my early days of going on safari the lodges were often really camps and they gave the impression that you were passing through.

    For me that was the wrong way of doing things. Many guests had travelled thousands of miles to Africa then been bussed to the ends of the earth. I did one game drive last year within 15 minutes of arriving at the camp.

    What I like about these lodges is that you can relax into your surroundings and take time to appreciate the environment. After all for most of us a safari is a holiday. At the other end of the market sometimes it is more like an endurance survival test. I would advise investing in the ultra-luxurious.

    1. Hi Karen,

      I have to say that I do still enjoy a simple camp if it is well run rather that being an endurance challenge…having said that, I’ve never regretted paying for luxury at any hotel or safari lodge, and these places really are the best of the best!


  4. First rule of the safari: go for a swim at least three times a day. It’x hot and dusty work.

    Second rule of the safari: Check that they do ice cold beers.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Totally agree! There is nothing like an ice cold beer at the end of the day on safari… Or earlier in the day fur that matter!


  5. How do you possibly choose just one of these places if you’re looking for somewhere in Kruger to stay? They’re all dream like! I like that they show attention to detail to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, rather than just making a big statement with the exterior and neglecting the rest of your stay, which I’ve found quite quite a few hotels in the UK. The art, good bedding, quality food, welcoming staff, luxurious baths. The architecture is just incredible, and I can see why many of them make such good use of open fronts and large glass windows and doors, because the views are breathtaking.

    1. Hi Kelly,

      I agree that it can be hard to pick between them given they are all so amazing…of course one solution would be to split your safari safari between 2 or more lodges! They are all within driving distance of one another, and transfers would be easy to arrange :-)


  6. The Tengile River Lodge is surely the most luxurious for me. Hope to experience a luxurious stay there.

  7. There are two things that instantly pop into my head whenever I read articles or reviews about wildlife experience: bonfire and tents. However, it seems that some have already upgraded the experience by combining luxury and wildlife. I would love to stay in one of these amazing villas if I go on a vacation with my family because it looks like it can accomodate 3 to 5 people. The ammenities of the villas offer the comfort of home and the adventurous feature of the safari.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for the feedback! Some of the lodges do indeed have villas for 5 or more people set up with several en-suite bedrooms, a shared living area, and private deck and pool. A truly great way to experience Africa with your friends and family.


  8. For most of us this type of lodge is really a once in a lifetime experience, so it’s a big decision that you want to get right. Ideally, it should be an unforgettable adventure and a source of fond memories.

    In many ways this is a very helpful post as it gets you to the shortlist stage but it would still be difficult to chose between these five. If someone put me on the spot, then I’d probably opt for the Private Granite Suites – but its still early days, more research to do before I make a booking. To be honest I almost enjoy the research as much as the trip.

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