Lepogo is one of the few places left in the country where guests can see rhinos — black and white — that have not been dehorned (done for their own safety to deter poachers). It is one of a handful of safari lodges across the African continent that is entirely not-for-profit; all profits go to projects that aid the conservation and protection of Lapalala, its wildlife and communities.
The newly opened Melote House is an exclusive-use property perfect for large groups or families. It sleeps up to 16 guests and comes with a spa and rooftop pool. In keeping with Lepogo Lodges’s ethos, the house has minimal impact on its surrounding environment, with green roofing and solar panels as standard.
The cliffside Noka Camp is best suited to couples and small groups, with four private villas that sleep two guests each as well as the two-bedroom family villa. Each of the villas comes with its own private outdoor lounge area and infinity plunge pool — or, in the case of the family villa, a large infinity pool that looks out across the river to the wilderness of Lapalala.
Noka Camp is ungated, which means that at any time of day or night it can be visited by the wild inhabitants of the reserve. Baboons have been known to play with laundry when it’s out on the line, and it is not uncommon to spot animals of all shapes and sizes drinking at the river’s edge below. This should not cause worry, however; guest safety is paramount at Lepogo and, after dark, guests are escorted to and from their rooms by a guard.
From an environmental perspective, Lepogo Lodges is pioneering. Only 1% of the villas touch the ground beneath them, and the lodge is completely carbon neutral. This is in part thanks to its on-site solar walkway — the first in South Africa — from which the lodge gets all of its electricity. Lepogo Lodges is also strongly connected with the surrounding local communities, with local craftspeople making everything from place mats to the unique botanical oils and serums found in guest bathrooms.
Local produce, including from the lodge’s organic garden, is showcased alongside classic dishes. Guests will find themselves admiring the view from the dining room, perched on the side of the cliff above the river — and they might even spot animals below that emerge from the bush to have a drink at thewater’s edge.
Meals are not restricted to the dining room, however. There is an abundance of offerings when it comes to dining spots, from surprise breakfasts and evening cocktails at scenic lookout points to luxurious tea breaks by the safari vehicle while your tracker walks the bush looking for the next animal sighting.
Lapalala is home to Africa’s Big Five — lion, leopard, buffalo, black rhino and elephant — but also has a plethora of other animals to spot, including the white rhino, giraffe, cheetah (thanks to Lepogo’s successful reintroduction scheme) and countless bird species. Herd animals such as zebra, impala and warthog are easily spotted; it’s not unusual to see them grazing on the plains as you drive past on the way to discover the more elusive game. Other activities on offer at Lepogo Lodges include a water safari, where guests have the chance to cruise along the river in the hopes of spotting hippo or crocodile.
Historically minded guests can tour nearby Iron Age settlements or visit the reserve’s original Bushman paintings, which are up to 1,000 years old. For a truly wild experience, guests can follow in the footsteps of Lapalala’s forefathers with thrilling bush walks and even a magical sleepout under the stars.
From $850 per person. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, +27 605 747 117, lepogolodges.com