January 18

Senalala Safari Lodge – A safari for all the senses


January 18, 2021

2021, a new year. 2020 is finally over and what a year it has been. A time filled with restrictions, resilience, and remembrance. 2020, I have found, has been a year of tremendous reflection. And what better way to contemplate this complicated era of Covid-19 than to get away from it all – deep within the African wilderness at Senalala Safari Lodge.

To see, or to be? That is the question. Or rather… a curious concept… a concept that I unearthed during a visit to the beautiful Senalala Safari Lodge in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. It is a notion we are all probably familiar with but don’t quite comprehend until we take a step back, quietly reflect, and truly appreciate the ‘little things’ in life that we normally take for granted. 

Plains game at Senalala Safari Lodge
There is something about the giraffe which always puts a smile on my face, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

To See on safari

To experience is to trigger the senses. And the most impactful of these, more often than not, is that of sight – especially when on safari in the Greater Kruger. But don’t get me wrong, sounds and smells can leave a powerful impact too, but we will get to that a little later… For now, what can be seen in Kruger’s glorious world of wildlife is visually unparallelled. After all, there is a reason why the Greater Kruger is known for the best animal sightings on the planet. And the only way to comprehend its wonders is to experience it first-hand.

“Timba! Timba!”, a group of American boys cried as we touched down on the Hoedspruit airstrip –  central to the Greater Kruger region. When seeing wild warthogs along the airport runway –  the young boys, lost in their excitement, accidentally jumbled the names of ‘Timon’ and ‘Pumba’ (yes, those beloved Lion King characters) and blurted out an amalgamated “Timba” instead. 

Mispronunciation aside, we (myself and the other South African passengers) knew EXACTLY what they meant. And, with an exchange of glances, giggles, a sense of rediscovered joy and behind-mask-smiles, we revelled in their raw enthusiasm of being in the African bush for the very first time. What a glorious start to a safari indeed!

A line of Warthogs at Senalala Safari Lodge
“Timba’s” all in a line, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

After landing, we were greeted by our friendly Sable transfer driver with a wonderful welcome sign in hand. He regaled us with tales of the bush as we made our way to our first port of call in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve – the sensational Senalala Safari Lodge. 

Sable private transfer to Senalala
Welcomed by our incredible Sable transfer guide in Hoedspriut, Photo Credit: Katharina Mandy

Senalala Safari Lodge – secluded, serene and safe

Arriving at the secluded Senalala Safari Lodge, we were welcomed by our gracious hosts James and Corlia, a lovely couple who certainly made our stay unforgettable. Before settling in our rooms, the lovely Corlia gave us a tour of the lodge’s beautiful green lawns, comfortable chalets, the library, social seating and dining areas, gym as well as the pool – all overlooking a seasonal riverbed and private watering hole.

Watching an elephant drink right from Senalala's main deck
A thirsty elephant at Senalala’s private watering hole, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

In addition to a sense of solitude and warm hospitality, Covid-19 safety measures were also in place. Temperatures were taken, guest capacity reduced, social distancing adhered to, sanitising stations were aplenty, and every area was not only cleaned but disinfected regularly. Even the rooms had a ‘safety seal’ placed on each door – acquainting me with my properly ‘spruced up’ personal space. 

Safety always Senalala's top priority for guests
Sanitised and sealed for peace of mind, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering
Senalala's welcome kit - sanitiser, water bottle and mask
Welcome to your room – a complimentary water flask, hand sanitiser and mask, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

Nestling into the cool, spacious accommodation, I couldn’t help but wonder; in these times of uncertainty and risk, could this not be the safest possible place for a perfect escape? In the depths of nature, full of fresh air and far from civilisation – I certainly felt at peace.

We had lunch and so did the lions

Once settled and unpacked, we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by marvellous Chef James (yes, another James) at the well-spaced communal dining area. Here, we had the opportunity to get to know our hosts a little better. Being a tad shy, I worried about my ability to make compelling conversation, but James and Corlia (with a myriad of stories and superb social skills) made the experience effortless and enjoyable – my fears completely forgotten! After lunch, an ideal dollop of leisure-time followed, giving us a moment to enjoy the luxurious facilities before embarking on our first safari activity.

Managers at Senalala Safari Lodge, James and Corlia
Mangers of Senalala Safari Lodge – James & Corlia, Photo Credit: Senalala Safari Lodge

Activities at Senalala include both morning and late afternoon game drives conducted in large open-air vehicles. Walking safaris are also a speciality of James. A highly qualified and experienced field guide with more than 26 years of expertise in conservation and safari hospitality, James is just amazing! In fact, at every lodge that we visited (after Senalala), his stellar reputation followed – with fellow Kruger conservation associates singing his praises. All corroborating his accolades. 

His knowledge and passion for nature was evident from the get-go as we departed on the late afternoon drive in search of Klaserie’s treasures. And boy were we lucky! Along with a plethora of animals, big and small, we spotted a pride of lions: mommies, toddlers and teenages. Only meer metres in front of us, the pride seemed slightly unsettled –  focussed on something in the distance. 

Pride of lions on the move at Senalala Safari Lodge
Lions on the move, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

In an instant they were off, headed in the direction that absorbed their interest just seconds before. And so we followed! Arriving just as they took down a blue wildebeest (or gnu) –  a magnificent feast for the feline family and what a sight to behold!

Lions on a wildebeest kill at Senalala Safari Lodge
Feline family feast, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

To Be on safari

Sharing unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park, Klaserie offers spectacular gaming viewing in Big 5 territory, so lion sightings are not at all uncommon. However, a lion kill is definitely a sighting worthy of bucket list proportions. But safari is so much more than what can be seen. And this is where sound, smell, touch and even taste are awarded to a sense of Being.

As dusk approached we stopped atop a hill overlooking the vast Klaserie landscape. Giving our legs a good stretch, we watched as the sun set while sampling delicious snacks and refreshing gin infused tonics. It was the perfect time to be still, appreciate our surroundings and dive deeper into other sensations. As hyena yelped yonder (aware of the feast being had), a warm breeze greeted us, cooling down our sweat-glistened skin. It brought aromas of distant rain, earthy elephant smells and herby scents of wild basil.

Individual, hand-packed game drive snacks at Senalala
Individually packed snacks for each guest, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

We made our way back as darkness fell over the wilderness – resulting in a macrocosm of nocturnal life and noises. Returning to the lodge, we were greeted by a warm, crackling fire and lingering smells of spiced meat sizzling on the braai (barbeque). Beneath a star-studded sky; buzzing bugs, croaking frogs and chirping crickets provided us with a delightful symphony as we enjoyed an exquisite supper and exchanged stories of the eventful day passed.  

Elephants playing in the water at Klaserie Game Reserve
Elephants enjoying a swim, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering
The colourful moping worm
The colourful mopani worm, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

An Unforgettable Experience

Senalala with its beautiful grounds, luxurious facilities and exclusive location – along with the genuine, down-to-earth personalities of James, Corlia, other James, as well as the rest of the wonderful staff – my experience with them will not be forgotten. Thanks to them, I embraced what it means to be on safari. It is more than what you see. It’s about what you smell, hear, taste and touch too. So I ask again: to See or to Be? The answer… is both. A truly unforgettable and immersive experience should engage all five senses. So in these strange times as the world seemingly slows down, I challenge you to escape into the wild, take a step back, quietly reflect – and no matter what your primary sense is – make sure you award the time to the other four – they play an important part too.

Senalala Safari Lodge Highlights

  • Klaserie Private Reserve forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park;
  • Authentic Big 5 African safari experience with game drives and walks;
  • Intimate lodge providing an exclusive experience away from the crowds;
  • Social seating and dining areas, wine room, outdoor pool, gym and library;
  • Covid-19 precautions in place providing complete peace of mind;
  • Overlooks a seasonal riverbed and a private watering hole;
  • Personable and down-to-earth staff makes for a memorable experience;
  • James Steyn is a highly qualified field guide with a stellar reputation.

Senalala is perfect for…

Seasonal Safari Goers

You’ve been there, done that, and gotten the stereotypical safari t-shirt. Senalala Safari Lodge is the perfect place for seasoned safari goers to get away from the crowds and marvel at the more unnoticed wildlife in the Greater Kruger region.

Bird Lovers

Birding enthusiasts can take delight in the vast variety of birds that flock the area, including the endangered southern ground hornbill and white-backed vulture.

Family and Friends

Personally hosted, Senalala feels like home. It is an extremely private experience with a maximum of only 12 guests making it ideal for family or social gatherings.

Solo Travellers

Managers and hosts, Corlia and James, are experts at making you feel part of the Senalala family –  adapting to any social dynamic. 

The Creatives – Photographers & Painters

James has a flair for the arts! Studying Fine Arts myself, I was pleasantly surprised to find that James has a similar passion. So find yourself immersed in hours of “creative” conversation.

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About the author 

Michelle Welvering

Growing up, Michelle always wanted to become a world-renowned artist, a kickboxing-champion and an eccentric explorer – aka a Kickboxing Exploring Artist! After pursuing an education in Fine Arts and opening her own Kickboxing gym in Pretoria, an unexpected twist led her to a six-year stint as a travel consultant in South African tourism. She believes that all things happen for a reason and, driven by adventure, she was eager to find a more “wild” and cultural space to call home. This led her to wander the Western Cape coastline, fall in love with the city of Cape Town and, of course, her workplace, Rhino Africa.

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