The Lion has ruled over the African Savannah since the beginning of time. Regarded as the kings of the animal world, lions have a royal quality that not even humans can imitate. One look into the fierce stare of a lion reminds us of where we could have been, or maybe should have been, on the food chain.
There is something about the prospect of an African safari that can divide even the most composed and professional adult’s age in half. As we paid our access fees and entered the kingdom of the lion, a mighty silence descended and two pairs of frantic eyes searched from bush to scrub, afraid to miss anything.
We were on our way to Ngala Game Reserve, a private game reserve that shares borders, but not fences, with the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and the world renowned Kruger National Park. Like most South Africans we have been to the Kruger before on self-drive safari with beskuit (rusks) and droëwors (dried meat, a South African delicacy) on the backseat. What awaited us at Ngala (which means lion in the local Shangaan language) was an experience of a completely different nature.
Ngala Safari Lodge is well camouflaged and we stumbled into the friendly smiles of the staff who knew who we were before we could even speak a word. Our car was escorted to secure parking and our luggage carried to our room. In a short orientation we were informed that the camp was unfenced and we were asked to not walk alone at night. In a flurry of handshakes we were introduced to our personal butler, Juvy, and the two people who would ensure that we truly enjoyed a safari: our game ranger, JP, and tracker, Sam. Although we took it in with as much grace as we could muster, on the inside we were screaming: “We have our own butler?!”
Each of the 22 chalets have been handsomely furnished in simplistic fashion. Beautiful wooden furniture evokes the Bushveld atmosphere while the indescribably soft bed, ample supply of toiletries and numerous other luxuries guarantee that your stay at Ngala Safari Lodge will be a very comfortable one. The invisible housekeeping fairies keep the rooms immaculate and ensure that not only do you return to a well-lit room at night, your complementary supply of South African snacks never runs dry. The only thing you have to do yourself is to ensure that your room is secured at night – to keep the baboons out, of course.
A day in the life of an Ngala Lodge guest starts at half past five with a gentle knock on the door. Warm drinks and rusks are served to awaken your senses. When you hop onto the open-top safari van, a blanket and warm water bottle helps to keep the early-morning cold away. The drive is only interrupted with a refreshment break when guests can stretch their legs and wrap their hands around a warm cup of hot chocolate. The morning drive, which lasts for about four hours, is followed by a scrumptious breakfast which could be served at a number of locations (even in the middle of the bush). Midday can be spent lazing around the pool, playing games in the recreation room or reading. We recommend the latter, in combination with dozing off in the sun. A children’s programme also guarantees that parents get some much-needed rest from their baboons.
Although there is no lunch served, the buffet-style high tea ensures that you don’t leave for your afternoon drive on an empty tummy. Having the same ranger and tracker for the duration of your stay means that you get to tap into the well-informed team’s extensive knowledge of the bushveld. Besides providing guests with a great learning experience, the ranger also knows how to position the vehicle in order to achieve the perfect photographs of your sightings. Ask your ranger about the possibility of a bush walk – you might even be able to track an elusive animal on foot!
After enjoying a leisurely bath, you can make your way to the dining area – this is determined partly by the weather and partly by the type of African cuisine that is served on a particular night. You might find yourself huddling around a cozy bonfire or enjoying a romantic dinner served under lantern-dotted trees. Whatever the case may be, the food is absolutely divine.
One of our fondest memories and Ngala was hearing an elephant munching on leaves just outside our cottage after returning from dinner one night. Being that close to nature reminds you of our responsibility to protect and preserve this treasure for the generations to come.
Throughout our stay, the family at Ngala made us feel like their family. On the morning of our departure when we received the keys to our considerably cleaner car and a goodbye pack filled with water and snacks, we were sad to leave. It wasn’t only the fantastic game viewing, delicious food or comfortable room – we truly felt at home.
Ngala Tented Camp
Also situated in the Ngala private game reserve, is the Ngala tented camp. Offering the same luxuries as the safari lodge, the six permanent tents provide discerning travellers with an exclusive safari experience.
– Independent review by Klein Companions, Francois & Shané Barnard
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