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Review: Pel’s Post at The Outpost Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa

The Kruger National Park is South Africa‘s biggest park, encompassing a staggering 2 million hectares of wilderness. The majority of the visitors travel to the South of the Park, leaving the North largely untapped and decidedly quieter. The northeastern corner of the country and Park is Pafuri – is home to some outstanding landscapes, flora, and fauna. The Outpost Lodge is one of only two lodges in the area – when I first visited in 2019 I boldly declared it my favourite lodge in South Africa. Five years, and having visited a further 40 lodges, The Outpost still sits firmly at the top position. 

The welcome

After the six-hour drive from Johannesburg, it was pure joy pulling up at the Kruger National Park’s Pafuri Gate. After paying the entrance fee, it’s a short 15-minute drive to the main lodge. The staff greet you with a lavender and orange-scented refresher towel, and then a glass of refreshing homemade ginger ale. Check-in is then done on the poolside couches, and before you know it a game vehicle whisks you off to Pel’s Post. Here there’s another warm welcome from the staff and an orientation of the smaller lodge and accommodation, along with an explanation of the daily safari rhythm of two game drives and the dining programme. 

The room

Undoubtedly one of The Outpost’s hero features is the architecturally designed suites, or as they’re called at the lodge, ‘spaces’.  They’re aptly named that – as you enter there is a portable remote, and by touching a button, both front and sides swiftly lift. What you’re left with is a truly remarkable accommodation space, totally open to the wild. With the elevated position of the spaces you’re safe from the wildlife so can also sleep with the sides lifted. 

Entering the space there are two day beds, alongside a vanity table with a tea and coffee station.  In true safari style, the four-post beds are equipped with elegant white nets to keep away any unwanted critters at night. An enclosed loo is followed by an indoor shower, and then a glorious outdoor shower. The veranda sports a table and chairs, and then also two loungers for sun soaking. Within minutes of arriving, we’d lifted the sides and sat here with a glass of wine from the fully-stocked bar fridge. 

The Outpost is rather well-known for the freestanding bathtubs that grace the accommodation spaces. The main lodge features oversized stone tubs, and at Pel’s Post classic white tubs – and with the lifting of the space sides, from your tub you’re able to gaze out over the Luvuvhu River. My suggestion is to forfeit one of the evening game drives, draw a bath at sunset and watch a hundred shades of sunset colouring the sky. 

The facilities

During COVID, extension renovations were carried out on the lodge, giving it a fresh feel. Wooden paths carry you between each of the accommodation spaces and lodges, winding their way through the natural vegetation: a rather enchanting experience at night when they are lit up and guide you back to your bed. The main lodge space includes an inside dining area with a fireplace, lounge space, and then the bar. Chic interiors offer a modern feel, but also homely enough that in the evenings we felt comfortable sitting in front of the fire with our feet up, playing board games. The outside deck also offers alfresco dining options if the weather allows. The pool has a string of inviting lounges with views for days, a sala for those seeking reprieve from the sun, and adjacent to the pool is the firepit always ready to welcome you after an evening game drive.

With the accommodation spaces offering such unparalleled views, The Outpost has no need for a separate spa area. Rather, in the comfort of your own space, portable beds are set up and the therapists begin to work their magic on your tired body.  Treatments are available as single or couple massages, with many options on offer. One of more unique of these, being  the two-hour ‘African Spice Celebration’ – an incorporation of traditional spices and traditional healing therapy to stimulate the body and Illuminate the skin. The treatment includes an exfoliation, body wrap, and full body massage. 

The location

While in North of Kruger, the focus shifts from chasing Big 5 checklists, there is still plenty of wildlife to be seen. On our first drive, we saw leopard, wild dog, hyena, elephant, and a host of antelope species. Impressive even by Southern Kruger standards. The area is also a Mecca for birders – not surprising then that the region is home to an astounding 80% of Kruger’s biodiversity!

Pafuri is home to some of the country’s most magnificent trees. Driving along the Luvuvhu River first it is the introduction to the giant first Nyala and Jacklebery trees.  Later on our drive, we arrived somewhere magical – the largest fever tree forest in the world. Hundreds of the yellow trees make for a truly enchanting setting. Perhaps the most impressive of all, are the millennia-old Baobab Trees in the region. These ancient sentries stand out tall with arms reaching over the underlying bush…

After visiting close to 80 lodges over the years, I always delight when one of them surprises me with something new or innovative. Returning from our last game drive, we noticed a warning side up ahead. On closer inspection our eyes changed from alarm to excitement as we read the small text underneath – we were about to approach a gin drive-through! 100 meters down the road we came alongside a table laden with gin paraphernalia, and an enthusiastic “Welcome to our gin drive-through. Please choose your drink from the menu.” Several options were available, and once we’d placed our orders the mixology began, and minutes later we were handed bush ‘sippy cups’ with our drink of choice. 

The Outpost Lodge falls under the Rare Earth Collection and one of the properties in the collection just happens to be Kay & Monty Vineyards – a wine estate in South Africa’s Garden Route town of Plettenberg Bay. It makes sense then that these sensational wines are the house offering at The Outpost. The white, red, rose and sparkling wines enticing options on the drinks menu, and come with the novelty of having their provenance in one of the country’s smallest and least-known wine-producing regions. Thanks to the region’s unique terroir the wines are also lower in sulphates – helping to reduce any unwanted reminder of the evening’s liquid spoils the following morning. 

The cost

The rates for the Outpost vary based on the season and also the length of stay. In addition to that, similar to many other lodges in South Africa the lodge also runs permanent special rates for SADC (Southern African Development Community) – the rates are particularly good for last-minute space. Regular rates cost £400pp. Bear in mind Pel’s Post only sleeps eight, and then booking all of the accommodation spaces there is no additional charge for the ‘exclusive use’ of the lodge.

The best bit

Traversing rights over sections of the Kruger – means access to certain sights that no one from the public can visit. This section of Pafuri (known as the Makuleke Concession) can only be accessed by guests from two lodges, of which the Outpost is one. Of these exclusive sights, none is perhaps as astounding as Lanner Gorge. Over millennia the Luvuvhu River has carved out the Gorge that is in parts 150 meters deep. The age of the gorge verified by the presence of dinosaur fossils found in the sandstone cliffs! It is no exaggeration at all, to say that this is my favourite place on earth – and with the privilege as a travel journalist of having seen some spectacular places – I say this with some authority. After a sundowner’s experience at Lanner Gorge, other sunset experiences will pale in comparison.

The final verdict

There is simply no better place to unravel the wonders of the North of Kruger than The Outpost Lodge – and combined with the intimacy of Pel’s Post, an exceptional bush escape for friends, family or a solo/couple’s trip – where you have feel that you’ve the lodge and generously sliver of African paradise to yourself. 

Dislcosure: Our stay was sponsored by The Outpost Lodge.

Jared Ruttenberg

Jared Ruttenberg is a freelance travel journalist who enjoys connecting people and experiences through word, image and social media. Read more at www.jaredincpt.com

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15 Comments

  1. I do love the sundowner stop on safari. And I like the sunrise coffee break / breakfast stop too.

  2. Of all the safaris that I’ve done, all in all the ones in the Kruger have been the most enjoyable.

  3. That design of the remote to lift the sides of the accommodation could really catch on in the Safari world. It’s a great innovation.

  4. Six hours seems some drive to me, then I’m from the UzK and we don’t g in for that sort of thing.

    Can you fly to get yourself any closer to take some hours off the journey?

    1. Excellent question Bob. There is a service (Fireblade) that flies directly to the camp – it’s pricey but does save the longer drive. Alternatively, the drive can be broken up with a stopover on route either way. There are other lodges that are much more easily accessible, but sometimes the extra distance is worth it for such a unique experience!

  5. Unfortunately I’m not a travel writer even though I would have loved to have been if I’d had the talent. Luckily, I have been able to travel a lot for work and holidays and my favourite place on the planet changes by the hour. It all depends on what photos I look at and what my memories are. Sometimes I think my memories get confused with what I’ve read from travel writers. I think you’re lucky to have one place that consistently stays in your head as your favourite.

    1. True – the memories do blend – which is why I find as a journalist documenting the places (in word, video and picture) helps, so I can revisit and reimmerse myself in the experience – and this is something anyone can do :)

  6. Over Sunday lunch we got into a very interesting discussion on the greatest holiday. I wouldn’t say that there was a majority for African safaris though it’s probably fair to say that the African safari had more fans than any other single holiday.

    1. I love those lunch conversations – and while I’m biased – yes I think a safari for many stands out because of the outstanding biodiversity that is often not seen elsewhere.

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