When The Royal Portfolio’s owner and founder, Liz Biden decides to put her stamp on something, you know it’s going to be spectacular. The Farmstead at Royal Malewane is no exception, and this intimate lodge is sure to make an impact on the safari world as well as the community.
Following a very comfortable flight from Cape Town International Airport to Hoedspruit Airport on Airlink’s magnificent Embraer E-Jet with friendly flight attendants and great onboard service, which includes a delicious meal and beverage of choice, I arrive with great anticipation at Hoedspruit Airport. Having always wanted to visit Royal Malewane, I am one step closer to ticking this off my bucket list. Waiting to transport me in complete style to The Farmstead is my guide for the duration of my stay, Juan Pinto.
A new addition to the already extraordinary properties that make up The Royal Portfolio, The Farmstead is situated in a southerly direction from the main lodge at Royal Malewane. It boasts three magnificent stand-alone luxury farm suites and a three and a half bedroom farmhouse. The suites are raised to allow an unobstructed view of the surrounding bush, punctuated by animals meandering past to the drinking hole in front of the dining area. Don’t be surprised to see zebras, buffalo, and the ever-present nyala grazing in close proximity to your room.
Inspired by her travels around the world, Liz is instrumental in creating the plushest space with interspersions of color to navigate the divergence between drab and fab. Breaking from the traditional ‘safe’ safari look with shades of beiges and browns, my suite is swathed in hues of turquoise, blues, and greens, with the essential Ardmore and Clarke & Clarke stylish stamp of bush approval in the shape of the most beautiful fabrics and designer chairs.
My bedroom is significant in size, and doubling the space is an equally proportioned room, which is the most opulent bathroom, with an extra-large shower, and a heavenly freestanding tub, where you can soak the day away while having your gaze transfixed on the outdoor area for the passing game. The walls in the bedroom and bathroom are adorned with colorful paintings and prints.
Arriving in time for lunch always comes with a great prospect, especially when dining options are plentiful, and an indoor or outdoor dining area is at your disposal. My table is set up on the outside deck, and being the only guest at this stage, my menu is tailor-made to suit my palate. Lunch is the best chicken stir-fry I have ever tasted, thanks to chef Leroy and attentively served by butler Ivy.
The time has come for my first game drive, and following Royal Malewane on social media, I have a feeling I’m in for some great sightings. With more than twenty years of experience in guiding and being a master tracker, I cannot be in better hands than in the company of Juan. Tracker Patrick is at the ready to direct Juan in which direction the animals are to be found.
As we start our drive, we stumble upon a large breeding herd of buffalo with loads of babies. The sound is overwhelming when they stampede past us to a nearby watering hole. Further afield, an elephant is having a dust-bath after digging for bulbs in the ground. Her calf is on the receiving end of this cooling frenzy and eventually finds solace under mom’s trunk. The sun sinks in behind the majestic Drakensberg mountains, heralding the most superb sunset and the appearance of nocturnal animals. We hear them before we see them – the Black Dam Pride of lions, stretching, and yawning ahead of getting active in search of prey.
Dinner is a five-course affair and is served on the outside deck, with the firepit ablaze. My menu choice is scalloped for starters, Karoo lamb rack with grilled patty pan, potato fondant & red wine jus for the main course, and for dessert, I opt for poached gooseberries with pouring cream. The food is delectable, to put it mildly.
A great night’s sleep beckons and the only disturbance in the distant whooping of a hyena. We find her the following morning next to her den-site, which she hastily abandons as she’s heard and smelled the Black Dam pride in the vicinity. Another surprise we happen upon is a wild dog den, with full-bellied puppies engaging in a playful roll-around.
My favorite sighting at Royal Malewane is of the gorgeous Saseka female leopard’s cub, waiting for mom to return from a hunt. The youngster is safely ensconced in the dry riverbed, looking at grazing waterbuck on the opposite side of the banks.
After a hearty breakfast, I spend my day at leisure, taking in the superb surroundings from the confines of my sparkling solar-heated private pool on my veranda. I consider indulging in a nap but realize that I could miss out on this once in a lifetime experience at one of the most magical places I have been to. Instead, I take a stroll to the dining area, where I admire the handiwork of what must have been a labor of love.
Every single item that I see is hand-picked by Liz, and the energy she draws from her environment is palpable in her adaptation to suit a certain space. Guests are delighted when setting foot at any of The Royal Portfolio properties, because not only are they vastly different, they leave an indelible mark on your soul, with memories to last a lifetime.
*** Views expressed are the author’s own.
AIRLINK – HOW TO GET THERE
Airlink: Airlink is the largest Regional Feeder airline connecting the major cities of Southern Africa with the smaller towns, cities, and eco-leisure destinations. Airlink is a privately owned airline with more than 25 years of customer-focused experience and a network of over 55 routes throughout the SADC region and St Helena Island.
Route Specific Information: Direct scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Hoedspruit.
Connectivity: Through our alliance with SAA, travelers can connect conveniently, effortlessly, and seamlessly, with SAA, their Partner airlines and other carriers throughout Southern Africa and the world.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Airlink is a member of the South African Airways Loyalty program – Voyager.
Discover more: www.flyairlink.com