There is no other word to describe the experience you get at Makalali Main Lodge. From arrival to departure our time there was pure magic and I know that this is one of the best South African safari experiences. Located within Makalali Private Game Reserve, the lodge allows for a more luxurious and modern stay rather than the traditional South African safari bush experience. This 4-star stay is a great option for both foreign travelers and locals looking for a memorable time in the African wilderness.
Makalali Private Game Reserve is situated close to Hoedspruit and west of the Kruger National Park. Our drive from Johannesburg took about 5 – 6 hours including stops. A scenic drive that was pleasant especially passing through picturesque towns and stunning mountain passes. For those not in the mood to drive there is a small airport in Hoedspruit and an airport transfer can be arranged.
Once we reached the game reserve we took a slow drive to the reception and were lucky enough to spot small animals along the way. Your South African safari experience starts from the moment you arrive. At the reception you get asked to leave your car behind, you and your luggage are transferred to a safari vehicle and you get taken to the lodge. By this point it quite warm and the greeting we received at the lodge was a welcome relief – cool towels and a refreshing icy cold drink.
The main lodge area is absolutely stunning and completely different from most other bush lodges. Bathed in natural sunlight because of the big open and airy spaces this contemporary space is a work of art in itself. The sense of space and openness seamlessly blends with the wilderness around it. Conveniently located in the bush but feeling more like a boutique hotel.
The modern area consists of lots of couches and sitting areas, a library, a bar, and large fireplaces. Built with natural materials all sourced from the surrounding environment. As you explore further you will discover the gorgeous pool area – the rim-flow pool overlooks the Makhutswi River and we found that it was a cool place to spot wildlife.
All 30 rooms are immaculate and the special extras left by staff members really ensure your comfort. Such as the hand-written note, mosquito lotion, and robes. The rooms are decorated in stylish neutral colors but your eyes are instantly drawn to the huge glass sliding doors and their view. We just loved sitting on the balcony and watching animals pass by. Each room has a huge outdoor shower and the indoor shower is almost just as big.
The bar fridge had cold water for us to enjoy but we especially loved the jars of jelly beans, the tea station that even had our favorite tea, and the delicious chocolate chip cookies. Another lovely feature is the turndown service which includes a weather prediction card, your schedule for the next day, a bookmark with a cute African story, and a piece of fudge left on your bedside table.
We arrived at the lodge just in time for lunch and after a long drive, we were quite hungry. Their lunch selection was excellent and we enjoyed some ribs, salads, and the best, sweetest bread I have ever tasted. Dinner was served in typical South African safari-style after we returned from our game drive and was a magical experience. The circular Boma was transformed into a beautiful space with a large bonfire and lanterns.
We were seriously impressed with the food and even dared to taste the crocodile meat that they had on offer – tastes like a combination of chicken and fish. Breakfast the next morning was just as good and we started off with some fresh fruit before having a standard meal of eggs, bacon, and toast.
South African Safari Game Drives
The stay at Makalali includes two game drives a day. The drives are exciting, especially in their open-top game vehicles that allow you to get as close as possible to some amazing animals. During our drives, we saw plenty of buck, zebras, giraffes, and also some of the Big 5. We drove alongside an elephant that had just been soaking. And we got to watch four lionesses sleep while their eight cubs played and groomed each other.
The game rangers were such knowledgeable guides that made the experiences even better. The guides in each vehicle worked together very well to ensure that we got to see as many animals as possible. A fun part of the evening drive was the bush bar that served drinks during sunset to enjoy while standing in the middle of the bush. A classic South African safari experience that’s not to be missed.
The Staff and Community
Finally, I want to mention how impressed I was with each and every staff member at the lodge. Their friendly smiles and helpful natures are truly what make the experience magical. From the moment we arrived to the moment we left we were made to feel special and completely spoiled.
Each staff member is knowledgeable and will go out of their way to ensure the comfort of guests. Many of the staff members have been there for a while and come from the neighboring communities. All of them are acutely aware of the importance of tourism and how the lodges’ success will positively affect them. This sense of community and focus on culture is what makes Makalali one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets.
We would like to thank aha Hotels and Lodges for inviting us and Makalali Main Lodge for hosting us. As always all opinions are my own.
Have you been on a South African safari adventure?
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adding to my bucket list. beautiful. I admire you for being able to do things like this. awesome
Thank you for your kind words Karyn! Yes, definitely add this experience to your list… it is such a fantastic place!
Thanks for a great piece of information. I would surely plan this place in this year.
My pleasure, I am glad you enjoyed it! You should definitely make a plan to visit this amazing place.
great pics and information about this awesome location. Keep up the good content. Blessings
Thanks so much Chad, I definitely will!!
Thanks for sharing this article. I am super excited to visit the hotel in this summer. May be I got chance to go with my friends. I will be great place for adventure and fun. Like it a lot.
My pleasure Angela!! Yes it would definitely be a fantastic place to go with a group of friends especially if you are looking for some adventure!!
I’ve been thinking about traveling to Africa. Thank you for good information
Wow, how gorgeous! I love the clean lines of the architecture at the lodge, and your photos are absolutely gorgeous! Would love to visit.
Ahh Africa is a dream of mine. This looks like a lovely place to stay.
What an incredible place this is! The lodge looks breathtaking and being able to spot wildlife in the nearby surrounding: that’s simply amazing! 😀
South Africa is beautiful! I visited Kruger National Park and it was an amazing trip!
Excellent! I love South African safaris because of the morning and evening game drives; my first 3 safaris were around Kruger, at &Beyond lodges, and I guess they spoiled me, because when I went on safari in the Serengeti, I was pretty disappointed. Around Kruger, there are *so* many animals, that we saw such a variety in a pretty small area. In the Serengeti, one must travel large distances, so you just get in the vehicle and drive around all day; it’s exhausting, and you don’t necessarily see even the basic Big 5 much less everything else! And…I like the time after lunch to relax, nap, or enjoy the pool before the evening drives.
I did fly into Skukuza- one of the cutest airports ever! and out of Hoedspruit. Those tiny single engine planes are an adventure in themselves!
I’m thinking that my next safari may be in India…tigers! Thanks for the great photos, and the memories this brought back. ?
Such a lovely adventure. I have not experienced a safari trip yet. Hopefully one day soon. Such an inspiring blog. Will save this for future reference. Thanks for sharing.
Loveeeed South Africa and I can´t wait to go again one day! Have visited all the main spots during my first visit so smaller reserves are exactly what I would like to check out the next time. Definitely saving this post as the place looks absolutely gorgeous, thaks for sharing
This lodge looks so beautiful to stay at, and your photos make the area even more appealing!