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Situated in the andBeyond Ngala Private Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park, lies andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge, surrounded by the magical bushveld and ancient tamboti trees. This Big Five game reserve shares unfenced borders with Kruger National Park, making your animal viewing fantasies a reality.
Driving through the 36,324 acre reserve en route to Ngala, you are already amongst the animals and should you encounter one, keep your windows and doors closed and don’t attempt to approach them. Should an animal cross your path, they have right of way, so stop and enjoy their beauty.
We are fervently welcomed at andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge by Christina Messham, Kim Waterworth and Beatrice Coetser. Not far behind them is our butler, Emmanuel Makhabula and our ranger Bernard Stiglingh. After a refreshing drink, Emmanuel leads the way to Room 3 and 4, where we will be spending two nights and three days. He unlocks Room 3 and disappears into Room 4 with a ‘let me do some magic’. He unlatches the inter-leading door to reveal two adjoining rooms, carbon copies of one another. Our daughter is so enthralled that she has her own room that no-one is allowed to visit without her permission.
It is time for lunch and a tasty variety of salads, main course and dessert is on offer. We meet Bernard at reception for our first game drive. Following andBeyond Ngala on Instagram and taking heed of the wonderful sightings leading up to our visit, I am eager to see what we can find. Bernard does not disappoint. From vultures waiting to feed on a carcass to the cutest lion cubs – the one plays with his mother’s tail while the other one gets groomed. The highlight for everyone on the vehicle is an African Wild Dog sighting. And this is only Day 1!
Dinner is in the Boma with Bernard as our host. We dine on a selection of salads, vegetables and meat that is grilled on a braai (barbeque). I rush through supper as I cannot wait to get back to the comforts of our opulent suite.
Night has fallen and we are escorted to our room by a security guard, one of the unique features at Ngala, going the extra mile for the safety of their guests as the camp is not fenced. Vigilance at all times is a pre-requisite and many animals can be spotted during the day enjoying the offerings of the camp – you might see tree squirrels, warthogs and bushbuck grazing and elephants coming to drink from the pool. Stay a safe distance from them and rather leave the pool area when the elephants come to quench their thirst.
Colonial chic is apparent in the choice of furnishings while the tiled shower, freestanding bath and double vanities take you back to an era of grandiose style. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows, you can wash the day away in the comfort of your bathroom or serenade the surrounding wildlife from your outside shower, which is exactly what I did. Clean from head to toe, the soft white linen is incredibly enticing. The bed is so enormous that I joke the next morning ‘I had to send out a search party to find my husband’.
Our morning game drive departs at 06:30 and it is overcast. A lone giraffe is feeding on some greenery and a number of hyenas have taken over the runway – the tar surface must be warmer than the wet grass.
A coalition of three cheetahs is on the prowl and two of them take refuge on a termite mound. They suddenly realise they have ‘lost’ a member of the trio and after lots of anxious high-pitched chirping, they are eventually reunited with lots of sniffing and a few ‘welcome back’ licks.
andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge has a slightly different but very effective ranger / tracker system – a ranger and tracker team go in search of animals before the rangers depart, calling in the sightings thus saving time. When we all agree that we would like to see a leopard, we are astounded when Bernard approaches a tree where a leopard is feeding on an impala kill. Watching him disembowelling the dead animal is the fluffiest hyena I have ever seen.
Back at the lodge, breakfast is served, where you can choose between fruits, cereal, continental or warm breakfast. The temperature is pleasant enough to warrant a swim in the sparkling blue swimming pool.
After a hearty lunch, our afternoon game drive heads in an opposite direction; Bernard is intent on finding something different. A lilac-breasted roller is perched on a tree branch and with its beautiful colors, it is easy to see why it is one of the most photographed birds in Kruger National Park. Bernard pauses and picks up his binoculars to get a better look an object in the distance. He takes us closer to what he has just seen – two healthy lionesses and four cubs with mange, a skin disease caused by parasites.
There is sudden excitement from Bernard and he speeds up the vehicle to show us ‘something special’. He cannot find them and sets off on foot to find the tracks. I spot something moving in the long grass and see the unmistakable shape of the ears – Wild Dogs on the hunt! We try everything to catch Bernard’s attention to let him know we have seen the dogs, from calling and whistling to an African Fish Eagle call. He emerges from the bush and veers off in their direction. They are running and playing through the dense grass. Each one has a different pattern and it is so incredible to watch them chasing each other in a playful fashion.
We are dining in the courtyard which is beautifully decorated with lanterns and fairy lights. Dinner consists of Black eye bean soup or Linguine with basil pesto cream sauce, walnut and roast cherry tomato for starters, Lamb rack with Lemon, thyme and honey sauce or Butterfly prawns with coconut and wasabi sauce for Main Course served with vegetables and for Dessert Amarula Tiramisu, churros, chocolate sauce, grapes, fruit cut, nuts, fudge and marshmallow or a selection of cheese with preserve and biscuits.
A giraffe silhouette greets the new day and a rambunctious elephant calf tries to show us who is boss by rolling his trunk like a spring while storming towards us. It is our final game drive on our last day at andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge and in the vicinity where we saw the leopard with a kill in the tree, he is taking a nap in the shade. He opens his eyes, lets out a snarl and rolls over to show off his incredible magnificence. I couldn’t have wished for a better ending to our stay at andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge.
Thank you to andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge for hosting us and for Chloe Hager from Alice Marshall Public Relations for making the arrangements. Views expressed are the author’s own.