Most people fail to realise the full extent of the things to do when visiting a game reserve, especially if the chosen destination happens to be one the size of South Africa’s first and largest national park – the Kruger. Known throughout the world, it has been a destination not just for the average citizen with a fascination for wild life, but also for the rich and famous from all countries and walks of life, and even for kings and queens, emperors and all manner of national leaders and their families.
Since it was first formally established as a protected wildlife habitat ninety years ago in 1926, it has earned an iconic status that is more than justified, and to encourage the flow of visitors, it has established numerous facilities for them within its boundaries. Among the very best of these are the luxury safari lodges. They represent a trend that is equally prevalent in many of the nation’s smaller reserves which, in many cases, are privately owned. That these establishments offer the traveller considerably more comfort than a bushveld campsite is, of course, a given.
While, in most cases, that added comfort takes the form of spacious en-suite rooms, tasteful décor and plush furnishings, it can also include some attractive extras, such as a private patio with scenic views and perhaps the use of a well-maintained swimming pool. Some will even strive to go above and beyond, offering their guests facilities for fine dining, a gym and perhaps even the chance to enjoy some relaxing spa treatments. In the midst of such unaccustomed luxury, it can be easy to forget that the prime purpose of a visit to a safari lodge is to experience the beauty of the surrounding terrain, and to encounter some of the fascinating creatures to which it is home.
In the Kruger National Park and depending where, within its vast 19 485 square kilometre area, your accommodation may be located, there are innumerable opportunities to experience both the incomparable beauty and the sheer diversity of flora and fauna that has made this corner of Africa the favoured destination of millions, and provided them with a plethora of unforgettable experiences.
Almost invariably, at the top of the lists of most of the park’s visitors will be the determination to experience an encounter with the lions, leopards, water buffaloes, rhinos and elephants that have become known universally as the Big Five. However iconic these creatures have become, these are but five among hundreds of mammalian species that, along with innumerable reptiles, birds and insects, occupy an equally diverse landscape that shifts between savanna, tropical forests and mountain ranges, as one travels within its boundaries. In fact, view sites and picnic spots abound within the park and despite all the comforts that may be enjoyed at any of its luxury safari lodges, no visit to the Kruger National Park can be regarded as truly complete without taking in at least one or two of them.
The park is home to a number of dams and many of these are set in stunning surroundings that make them favoured viewing spots, while also providing water for the park’s thirsty inhabitants and a chance for visitors to observe them as the various species put aside their rivalries for a moment to share in the life-giving liquid. The Engelhard Dam on the Letaba River is a great place to spot lions and waterbuck, while its approaches are commonly shared by elephants and buffaloes. For yet another of the Big Five, the appropriately named Renosterpan provides a watering hole regularly favoured by the local rhino population.
Should you happen to fancy an al fresco meal and may be looking for an attractive picnic spot, the reserve offers some attractive options. Beginning with Pafuri in the park’s extreme north and close to the Luvuvhu River, there are six others between it and the Afsaal site located in its south-western corner, and not far from the Malelane gate, one of nine that provide entry into the Kruger National Park.
Also within easy reach of that same gate is Lukimbi Safari Lodge, a firm favourite among those seeking an experience that goes beyond that which most might expect from a luxury safari lodge. Fine dining, a well-appointed gym and an extensive range of spa treatments are just some of the features that have earned us the status of an exception wildlife destination.