Situated in the unfenced 57,000 acres Manyeleti Private Game Reserve in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province, Tintswalo Safari Lodge is the definitive sparkle in this large concession. One of only three lodges that occupy the area, this beguiling 5-star property is just the place to unwind in grand style.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge-Main Lodge Entrance

Herds of elephants frequent the riverbed. Photograph courtesy of Tintswalo Safari Lodge

Meaning ‘place of stars’ in the local Shangaan language, the significance of this translation confirms that the Manyeleti is the luminary on a variety of levels. When the Corbett family decided to build a lodge in the bush eighteen years ago, Tintswalo Safari Lodge was constructed. Through the years, it has been met with great fanfare by local visitors and tourists alike.

A gorgeous lioness looks over her shoulder at her sleeping sister.

A gorgeous lioness looks over her shoulder at her sleeping sister. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

Their adulation for the African bush was an intense and fruitful basis for Tintswalo’s co-founders, Gaye and Ernest Corbett’s, together with Lisa and Warwick Goosen’s foray into the development of a luxury lodge in the Manyeleti, with a vested interest by the whole family. Daughter Lisa embarked on a successful empowerment program adjacent to the Manyeleti, with hard work being rewarded and recognized in a request to tender on a concession, where the outcome was to build a lodge.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge

Each Explorer suite has its plunge pool. Photograph courtesy of Tintswalo Safari Lodge

“With our christening into the tourism industry,” Tintswalo Lodges CEO Lisa recalls, “we had little more than a dream of a safari lodge yet to be realized. Through our travels, I had developed an appreciation for luxury, and managed to convince my parents to upgrade our tented camp fantasies to a 5-star lodge that would offer travelers the opportunity to enjoy every modern comfort and luxury in the heart of wildest Africa. From our tent in the Manyeleti camp, my husband Warwick and I broke ground, and Tintswalo Safari Lodge was born in 2002.”

My welcoming committee of a herd of elephants with little ones having a muddy roll-around. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

My welcoming committee of a herd of elephants with little ones having a muddy roll-around. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

My arrival at Tintswalo Safari Lodge is met by the most spectacular welcoming committee – a large herd of elephants enjoying a drink in front of the lodge’s dining deck. On hot days, the elephants have a wonderful muddy roll-around, especially the younger ones, with the mud acting as a sunscreen and a cooling down process.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge

Meals are served on the outside deck with elephants as passing ‘traffic.’ Photograph courtesy of Tintswalo Safari Lodge

After a delicious lunch, prepared by chef Russell Schmidt and served on the deck by butler Orlando, consisting of a platter selection made up of beef kofta with minted yogurt, chicken Caesar salad, mozzarella & spinach stuffed mushrooms, sun-dried tomato pasta salad, tomato, mozzarella & aubergine melanzanes, and spiced pineapple salad, I am ready to be shown to my suite.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge

The Stanley suite, with a beautiful writing desk and an imposing bed. Photograph courtesy of Tintswalo Safari Lodge

The accommodation options at Tintswalo Safari Lodge consist of six Explorer suites, a Manor House, and a Presidential suite. I am staying in the lovely Stanley suite, in remembrance to Sir Henry Morton Stanley, whose inherent claim to fame was locating the missing explorer Doctor David Livingstone. The now infamous phrase ‘Doctor David Livingstone I presume’ was uttered when Stanley found the ailing Livingstone near Lake Tanganyika on November 10th, 1871. In tribute to this journalistic explorer, guests will appreciate the lavish interiors, which include a beautiful writing desk and an imposing bed.

Talamati lion pride youngsters

One of the Talamati lion pride youngsters looking up at some birds in a tree. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

Before departing on my first game drive, High Tea is presented with delectable treats and beverages in the foyer of the dining area. Ranger Mark Hull introduces himself with tracker Domingo poised to make my safari wishes come true. Heading in a southerly direction, we find the Talamati lion pride just as the sun starts setting. There are fourteen magnificent specimens, ranging in varying ages, with a few rambunctious youngsters wanting to play instead of sleeping like the adults are doing. After dark, they start moving, and we follow them to a nearby watering hole where they line up to drink in groups of four. What an incredible sighting!

Tintswalo Safari Lodge

The dining room is the ideal place to dine on rainy days. Photograph courtesy of Tintswalo Safari Lodge

Guests returning from a game drive have a choice to either freshen up before dinner or head straight to a gastronomic feast. I opt to dine immediately, and the food is superb. I skip the starter choice and am delighted to indulge in the perfectly prepared main course of slow-cooked Springbok shank atop squashed new potatoes, with buttered baby vegetables, topped with fresh herb gremolata. To conclude my meal, the melt-in-my-mouth chocolate fondant with chocolate ice cream is enough to send me to chocoholic heaven.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge

Raised wooden walkways lead to the suites. Photograph courtesy of Tintswalo Safari Lodge

Raised wooden walkways lead to the rooms, and at night, guests are accompanied by a night porter as the area surrounding Tintswalo Safari Lodge is unfenced. We did come across an interesting visitor before supper, in the form of an African rock python. Fortunately, one of the guides removed this large non-venomous snake from the deck, much to everyone’s relief.

Tintswalo Safari Lodge Stanley Suite-06

A bath with a view! Enjoy a bath any time of the day, with or without bubbles. Photograph courtesy of Tintswalo Safari Lodge

I’m finally able to admire the stylish interiors of my suite and relax on my sofa before having a cleansing shower with the fragrant Africology products. Retiring for the night under the soft white bedding and draped mosquito netting, I dream of what delights could be in store for the following day.

The elephants return to the lodge for a drink once the rain has stopped. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

The elephants return to the lodge for a drink once the rain has stopped. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

The threat of rain seems like it might abate, but halfway through our game drive, I ask Mark if he would mind returning to the lodge. The animals have also found shelter, even though it’s quite humorous that on this dreary day, all the grey animals would make their appearance – elephants, warthog, buffalo, and to break the gloominess, a giraffe emerges out of nowhere!

The Orpen male and the Koppies female post-mating. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

The Orpen male and the Koppies female post-mating. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

Breakfast is served inside the dining area, and even the elephants, who are usually at the watering hole in front of the lodge, only arrive once the rain has stopped. Following lunch and High Tea, four guests join us on the afternoon drive, and this time, we spot vultures, a pregnant zebra, and the once-in-a-lifetime sighting of the Orpen male lion mating with the Koppies female. Dinner is once again a palate-pleasing affair.

The stunning Nompethu female, scanning her surroundings for prey. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

The stunning Nompethu female, scanning her surroundings for prey. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

It is my last morning, and everyone is very quiet on our morning drive as we have seen so much, what else could we possibly encounter? As we turn the corner, she comes into view, the Nompethu female leopard, her rosette coat in stark contrast to the tree stump she is climbing to elevate her vantage point. She notices a few impalas in the distance, but they have already sensed her and make a hasty retreat.

My suite’s exquisite interiors. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

My suite’s exquisite interiors. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

Back at the lodge, it is time to leave, but not before marveling at my exquisite surroundings. After eighteen years, the interiors still look pristine. How have they not become dated? “Tintswalo Safari Lodge is decorated in our signature style,” Lisa explains. “It’s all about the comfort of our guests, and we do like to combine African designs with a touch of glamor, which includes luxurious fabrics, Persian rugs, and crystal chandeliers. It is a traditionally styled safari lodge and, therefore a more ‘classic’ design, which does not date easily, but we do update the soft furnishings and objet d’art from time to time to keep the design fresh.”

*** Views expressed are the author’s own. Thank you to Janie van der Spuy from Fivestar PR for arranging our stay and to the Tintswalo Safari team for their kind hospitality.

Airlink’s stylish Embraer E-Jet at Hoedspruit Airport. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

Airlink’s stylish Embraer E-Jet at Hoedspruit Airport. Photograph by Heléne Ramackers

Airlink – How to Get There

AIRLINK – HOW TO GET THERE

Airlink: Privately owned and financially independent, Airlink services over 55 routes and offers the widest network and choice of flights in Southern Africa and St Helena Island. Airlink is customer-centric, reliable, and committed to punctuality. Consistently 95% on-time across 60 000 flights servicing some 2 million customers per annum. Travelers can also enjoy the benefit of intra-continental style business class service between Cape Town and Hoedspruit on the magnificent Embraer E-190.

Route Specific Information: Direct scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Hoedspruit.

Connectivity: www.flyairlink.com or book direct: https://www.flyairlink.com/destinations/flights-to-hoedspruit or through your travel agent. Airlink will operate independently under its flight code 4Z from 11 June 2020.

About The Author

Helene Ramackers

Heléne Ramackers is a freelance journalist who enjoys interviewing local and international celebrities but thinks she has found her calling amongst the travel writing fraternity. A creature comfort girl at heart, she loves all things opulent. Her first taste of the bushveld was all it took to get bitten by the ‘bush-bug’, an absolute life-altering experience. She now longs for the expanse of wide open spaces, a pollution-free sky and the roar of a lion lulling her to sleep. When she’s not fantasizing about her next leopard sighting, she thrives on taking photographs of her family and loves capturing the beauty of sunrises, sunsets, rainbows and the magnificence of the full moon. Born and bred in Cape Town, this wife and doting mother love visiting the beauty that is right on her doorstep – the splendor of Table Mountain, the crashing waves at Bloubergstrand and the alluring scenery of the Winelands. To add Upscale Living to her portfolio is a dream come true!

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