Ngala Safari Lodge is an incredible gem of a hotel, belonging to the andBeyond group, located next to the Timbavati, in the north west of Kruger Park. Technically it is private and not part of the Kruger Park, but in reality it kind of is, the animals being free to roam in and out of it, at their leisure.

I had just come here from Kirkmans Kamp, in the Sabi Sands, and was already on a high of luxurious living, and exciting game viewing. It was to be on this level that I “judged” Ngala, so bear in mind: I was expecting a lot!

Well, with expectations set high it was hard… but they were met! Although utterly different in so many ways, Ngala Safari Lodge captured a piece of my heart, albeit a different piece. Upon arriving the welcome was similar (sans the double-hand wave) and we immediately felt like a part of the family, and not the furniture, which was immaculate, I might add. The setting, the bush, the decor, the feeling, the attitude of the rangers – it was all noticeably different, yet authentically similar. Nothing like a franchise, these andBeyond lodges really know how to set a universal tone, yet maintain a unique personality.

The meals were of course again overwhelming. Eight a day. no surprises there. The game drives were longer, the game more visible up north where it was drier, and the trees and sky more of a highlight. Perhaps one of the best things we did here at Ngala was appreciate the general environment for a change, seeing as at Kirkmans we were so often just trying to spot leopards in thick bush. I really think anyone who aims to go to our South African bush does themselves a huge favour by getting multiple flavours of it. I’d recommend the Sabi Sands, something northern like Pafuri or Ngala, Phinda in Natal, and maybe Addo Elephant Park, too.

I haven’t yet said anything near interesting yet, but this place really had a lot to say about itself. Take a look at some of the photos here and stay tuned for instalment two, where hopefully you can see some of the wildlife photos I chucked in for good measure. I have literally never seen anything better in the bush (after many multiple visits) than the nine lions cubs and their two moms dancing their way to a watering hole. Pure. Heavenly. Joy.