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January 8, 2019updated May 03, 2019

Elite Review: Royal Malewane, South Africa

By Lauren Jade Hill

Royal Malewane has been ranked among the world’s most luxurious safari lodges since it opened in 1999, winning a multitude of awards over the years and being placed on numerous best hotels lists.

Now benefiting from its recent renovation, the lodge is right at the top of people’s wish-lists, with the upcoming opening of its exclusive new lodge, the Farmstead, already garnering widespread attention.

This luxurious lodge combines the appeal of its decadent lounging and dining areas on decks built around acacia trees, standalone luxury suites, and a serene spa, with exceptionally close contact with the wilderness. Here in Thornybush Private Game Reserve of Greater Kruger National Park, breakfast comes with a view of elephants drinking from the waterhole — you may even see them reaching their trunks up to drink from your private plunge pool — and nights are filled with the distant sound of lions roaring.

Royal Malewane sits amid bushveld where animals roam freely. So, while it’s true that there’s always an element of luck in seeing wildlife in its natural setting, at Royal Malewane you’re almost guaranteed sightings of predators and their prey each time you set out on a game drive — when your chances are heightened by the expertise of skilled trackers and guides — and even without leaving the lodge.


With its design led by owner of The Royal Portfolio, Liz Biden, Royal Malewane retained its classic safari style through its 2018 renovation, with modern design elements and splashes of color giving it a fresh lift. Four-poster beds, Persian rugs, fireplaces and antique furnishings feature in each standalone suite, with freestanding bathtubs, indoor and outdoor showers and African artwork. Stay in one of the two sprawling Royal Suites, or six-bedroom exclusive-use villa, Africa House. From May 2019, you’ll be able to book accommodation in brand-new lodge, The Farmstead, too — choose one of the three Luxury Farm Suites or three-and-a-half-bedroom private villa, The Farmhouse. All suites come with terraces and private pools and each exclusive-use villa comes with a private chef, housekeeper and butler, as well as safari vehicle, ranger and tracker.


The culinary experience here is different every night, with each meal made to feel like a celebration. You could find yourself at a lantern-lit bush dinner with singing and dancing beneath the stars, or dining by candlelight on the deck of the open-sided lodge. Masiya Bar is one of the additions made to the lodge during the renovation. This contemporary open-air bar, which was named after the late master tracker Wilson Masiya, specializes in gin and whisky. The lodge has more than 60 different whiskies to try and an extensive collection of South African fine wines. Notably, Royal Malewane also has a Kosher Kitchen for which the highest quality kosher ingredients are sourced.


The Waters of Royal Malewane, Bush Spa, sits in harmony with its natural surroundings. Private casitas, treatment rooms, a gym, steam room and hot and cold Africa baths flank the leafy courtyard with sunlounger-lined lap pool. Reminding you how close you are to nature, elephants come by to drink from the water feature separating the bush and this courtyard. Signature spa treatments include the Royal Thaba Massage — a deep tissue massage in which the African knobkerrie stick is used to revive muscles and relieve tension. You can combine your choice of facial and body treatments for your own personalized 120-minute African Journey.


It’s easy to fall into a routine on safari. Each day begins at sunrise with a morning game drive, and this is followed by breakfast, lunch, time spent relaxing at the lodge and afternoon tea, before setting out on an afternoon game drive with sundowners and indulging in a long drawn out dinner. There are, however, a series of other activities on offer here.

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Visit Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre for close encounters with eagles, owls, vultures, wild dogs, lions and leopard, among other wildlife species. And if you’re feeling adventurous, charter a scenic helicopter flight over Blyde River Canyon, God’s Window and the Pinnacle, and factor in a visit to Skyway Trails for the Aerial Cable Trail experience — the cable trail takes you down into the valley basin via 10 elevated platforms.

Alternatively, tee off at the Gary Player-designed golf course of Leopard Creek Country Club on the southern border of Kruger National Park; follow the horseback trails of Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate; and take a private cruise on the Blyde Dam.


Royal Malewane’s brand-new lodge, The Farmstead, which opens May 1st, is a 12-minute drive from the main lodge on an elevated patch of land overlooking the National Park.

This new space will have a central area for lounging and dining, and a spa treatment room and gym, along with three Luxury Farm Suites and the three-and-a-half-bedroom Farmhouse, which, just like Africa House, is exclusive-use. Each suite has a private pool and deck looking out over the bush. Tuck into breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner in the Farmstead’s central lodge, and gather around the fire-pit after dark.

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