by Matthew Sterne on September 2, 2011
5 min read

Royal Male-Wow!

If there is one thing Africa is blessed with, it is diversity of wildlife, and as the recent Conde Nast Traveller Awards have shown, we have no shortage of World Class properties either.

In search of the ultimate bush and beach adventure, my latest safari trip took me to the wonders of Royal Malewane in the Thornybush Game Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park, before jetting off to Mozambique. There are few lodges that can offer the safari goer such quality leopard sightings, but there are even fewer that can almost guarantee (this is still the wild) Black Rhino sightings. Royal Malewane certainly leads the crash here. With a healthy population of both Black and White Rhinos, the quality of game viewing even took an avid safari goer like me by surprise.

Look out for ellies

Royal Malewane forms part of the 11,500 hectare Thornybush Game Reserve, which, while fenced, is adjacent to the Greater Kruger National Park.  You would never know that it was fenced – as it certainly does nothing to diminish the game-viewing experience, on the contrary it enhances it. Bearing in mind that being adjacent to the Greater Kruger, the fence serves to prevent the larger mammals from crossing the divide but allowing Leopard and Wild Dog to move as they please.

Plans are afoot to join the Thornybush Reserve to neighboring Timbavati and Kruger National Park. Given that I am an activist, for “more land under wildlife” one really has to question if in this case it is indeed the right time, and if the fence is not protecting both the animals and ensuring a quality game experience for guests to Royal Malewane.

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

In this climate of poaching, together with the tuberculosis that is spreading through Kruger’s Buffalo and Lion populations, the fence provides much needed protection. Unlike properties within the greater Kruger, where traversing size is the key to a successful game experience, as one is wholly reliant on what is on that property during your stay, Royal Malewane offers all guests equal opportunities.  This is however no zoo, and just like any other Kruger properties, some days you simply have to work harder than others.

Spot black and white rhinos at Royal Malewane

On safari

Our game drive experience was second to none, and certainly one of the best I have ever experienced, and I’ve been on a few… Within the space of 4 hours, we had seen Black and White Rhino, Lion, Elephant, Buffalo and everything in between. What made the drive unique was that we got to experience the bush like few do.  We watched intently as a pride of Lions, having made a buffalo kill in the early hours of the morning, were chased off the kill by a group of about 12 Buffalo Bulls.

Spot giraffe at Royale Malewane

Tick off the Big 5 here

What happened next was extraordinary. The heavens started raining Vultures – they appeared from nowhere. 60 plus Vultures took to the carcass before three large Hyenas’s arrived to claim the prize. For the next two hours we sat in awe as we watched these two ancient enemies taunt one another.

Take your binoculars along to view the birdlife

More than just a place to rest your head

Back to the lodge it was for a well-deserved and scrumptious breakfast. Royal Malewane is definitely up there with the Singitas and Londolozis of the Safari World. Which ever you were to chose to visit I can assure you, you won’t leave disappointed. What makes the Royal Malewane lodge unique is that it is nestled in the heart of the bush, as opposed to along the banks of a river like Londolozi or Singita Sabi Sand.

Sleep in luxury The exclusive Africa House is a must

The sounds of the bush are just incredible, as are the beautiful suites, which make up the main lodge. We were privileged to stay in the Royal Suite, which truly is fit for a King, and will have you wanting for nothing. Just when I thought “I had arrived” and life couldn’t get any better, I was whisked off to see Africa House. There are bush villas and then there is Africa House, which sets a new bar for African Chic and luxury for the family looking for a bush escape. With 6 bedrooms (I should say suites) accommodating 12 guests, you would be excused for not wanting to ever leave this masterpiece in bush luxury.

Sleep like royalty Catch the sun set over Royal Malewane

Royal Malewane’s crown jewel has to be their spa. There are few lodges that can compete with the Spa at Royal Malewane, and this in itself would have me sold. The rooms, spectacular food and wonderful game viewing are all just added bonuses. Having spent 105 days on Safari in 2010 alone, I have had the privilege over the years of staying in the vast majority of Africa’s top hotels and lodges. Some call me a “safari snob”; I prefer to call myself a “safari connoisseur” – either way Royal Malewane, much like her sister property La Residence in the Cape, has captured my imagination and has certainly been added to one of my favorite places to visit.

Relax and be rejuvenated at the spa

How to get there

Odie Air flew us to Royale Malewane from Kruger International, and given the location and transfer times the one recommendation I would make is to be sure to get your consultant to add the lodge hop. While not inexpensive, the 25 minute lodge Hop on Odie Air out of Kruger Airport certainly beats a 4-hour road transfer. Alternatively, transfers are available from Johannesburg, either via Hoedspruit on a 35 minute drive, or direct to the lodge. Whichever way you chose to get to Royal Malewane, your Rhino Africa Consultant will be able to assist you with everything you need to know about this magical place in the African bush.

About Royal Malewane

Together with La Residence and Birkenhead House & Villa, Royal Malewane forms part of the Royal Portfolio. Visit all three if you can – you’ll love them! Africa House at Royal Malewane is an exclusive use Villa that comes complete with your own Game Ranger and Private Chef. It’s Full Board, meaning all food and local wines, beers and soft drinks are included in the room rate. So from the moment you arrive, simply kick back and indulge without worrying about running up an extortionate bill. And your in-room mini bar is totally complimentary. Contact us to book your stay!

Read a previous blog post about our last trip to Royal Malewane here.