In the heart of the South African Lowveld sits Makanyi Private Game Lodge, a lodge so spectacular, that I felt the need to visit for a second time, bringing my daughter along on this occasion.

Packed and ready to go, we arrive at Cape Town International Airport ahead of our Airlink flight to Hoedspruit Airport. Today, we are flying in the impressive Embraer 190 E-Jet, which is configured in 6 business class 1 by 2 seats and 92 economy 2 x 2 seats. Choosing our seats before departure and checking in online is straightforward on the Airlink App – no more printed boarding passes; you only have to scan the QR code on your smartphone. We opt to SkyCheck our luggage as we know they will be offloaded at our arrival airport and waiting for us on the tarmac. 

Makanyi Private Game Lodge
Our luxury pool suite is perfect for those hot summer days. Photo courtesy of Makanyi

Collected at Hoedspruit Airport by Trophy Vehicle Rentals, Transfer & Tours, we make our way to Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, where our final destination is Makanyi Private Game Lodge. Welcomed by lodge managers Carmen and Rico, we feel right at home and will be spending the next two nights in the homey luxury pool suite.

Makanyi Private Game Lodge
The beautiful welcome area at Makanyi. Photo courtesy of Makanyi

Makanyi is a wonderful success story, purchased in 2014 by astute Anglo-Italian businesswoman Jessica Gold. “After a long period of preparation and hard work from all our team members,” Jessica tells me, “Makanyi opened its doors in June 2015, and it has been like a dream come true. I visit as often as I can – it’s the fulfillment of my passion project. We are committed to being responsible custodians of this inspiring land and helping our guests to share our vision and values. This is not merely a holiday destination, it’s a way to expand horizons and help our planet.”

Makanyi Private Game Lodge
There are lots of plush spaces at Makanyi. Photo courtesy of Makanyi

The design of Makanyi is the culmination of nature and the wildlife that occupies it. Coupled with the rawness of the Timbavati wilderness, Jessica wanted an authentic look and sense, capturing a true feeling of being one with the wild. “With families of elephants, prides of pot-bellied lion and stunning tessellated giraffe roaming the reserve in all directions, we needed to think out of the box to create something special to rival the splendor of this backdrop.”

Makanyi Private Game Lodge Food
The cuisine at Makanyi is delicious, complete with a view of the dam where animals come to quench their thirst. Photo courtesy of Makanyi

Offering sweeping views over a magnificent dam where a myriad of wildlife come for a drink, the marula trees offer both protection and shade. Inspiring a sense of wonder, one would be content to sit out on the deck, enjoying the passing scenery, as well as the delectable cuisine masterfully crafted by a team of chefs.  

Makanyi Private Game Lodge
The main lounge area at Makanyi is the ideal place to relax with a book in hand. Photo courtesy of Makanyi

The stylish décor connects the lodge to the land, blending form and function with subtle elegance. Careful consideration was given in making a seamless transition between interior and exterior, with interior designer Bianca Black creating a pared-back Scandinavian feel. This included lightening the color scheme and moving away from the typical safari-lodge shades of browns and beiges, instead, a more holistic palette of linen, celadon green, and splashes of saffron was embraced. 

Makanyi Private Game Lodge
What dreams are made of – the suites at Makanyi have a contemporary feel. Photo courtesy of Makanyi

With a contemporary feel, the seven stand-alone thatched suites become a home-away-from-home. The beds are enormous, bound in crisp white linens and enveloped in mosquito nets at night. A separate lounge with leather armchairs and a fireplace is the perfect antidote to those cooler winter evenings. The bathrooms at Makanyi deserve a special mention – with their large shower and roll-top bathtub, refreshing after a busy day is definitely done in style.

Stunning male lion by Makanyi Private Game Lodge
A gorgeous male lion, part of a coalition of six, finding shade under a tree. Photo by Heléne Ramackers

What would a visit to an exceptional safari lodge be without some game viewing? Offering twice daily game drives, guides and trackers at Makanyi cover a large traversing area through the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. During our stay, we encountered a herd of zebra coming for a drink, a lone lion at sunset, a huge herd of buffalo on the plains, a coalition of six male lions finding shade under a tree, a variety of bird species filling the air, and my personal favorite – a leopard strolling through the bush. 

Makanyi Private Game Lodge
The photographic hub at Makanyi, where guests can receive tips about improving their photography. Photo courtesy of Makanyi

For guests seeking photography expertise or to best capture their very special stay at Makanyi, resident photographic specialist Anja will make magic happen, with her photographic services available for the duration of a stay. She skillfully captures every aspect from game drives and wildlife sightings to special candid moments so that guests don’t have to worry about picking up their cameras at all. A dedicated area upstairs from the main lounge operates as a comfortable photographic hub, where guests can chat with Anja about how best to improve their photographs and get valuable tips on editing images. “We offer guests the added benefit of printing their images as fine art prints,” Anja tells me, “Which they can take home with them, creating lasting memories.”

**Views expressed are the author’s own. 

How To Get There
Airlink is a privately-owned, independent premier regional airline offering the widest route network and connectivity to more than 45 destinations in 13 countries in Southern Africa and St Helena Island. Experience More –

With more than 60 regional jetliners in the fleet, Airlink has been ranked as South Africa’s most punctual airline, based on its 97% average on-time performance year to date. This is a clear indication of their determination and commitment to remain synonymous with customer centricity, punctuality, service excellence, and reliability.

Travelers can also enjoy the benefit of their intra-continental style business class service on select routes operating our magnificent Embraer E-195 / E-190 / E-170 regional jets. Discover More – 

How To Get There:  Direct scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Hoedspruit.

Book direct on, the FlyAirlink app, or your favorite travel agent.