Kruger National Park is South Africa's oldest national park and most iconic safari destination. Visitors come from all over the world in search of an astonishing variety of birds and animals, including the Big and Little Fives. With a total area of 19,633 square kilometers/7,580 square miles, it takes several days (if not weeks, months and years) to explore the park properly. For the most indulgent safari experience imaginable, consider overnighting in one of the park's luxury lodges. There are 13 to choose from, all of them offering a very different experience. Some are built for family fun, while others are intended as romantic retreats. In this article, we look at five of the best as determined by their TripAdvisor rankings.
Rhino Walking Safaris
Rhino Walking Safaris operates out of a 12,000-hectare private concession within Kruger National Park. This means that you can expect exclusive wildlife sightings away from the park's public visitors when you venture out on foot under the supervision of the company's expert guides. The base for the walking safaris is intimate Plains Camp, a collection of just four luxury tents that overlook a waterhole frequented by elephants. Each tent boasts extra-length beds with quality linens, and an en-suite bathroom with running hot water. Other camp facilities include an honesty bar, gourmet dining and a plunge pool for cooling off in between walks. You can even spend a night under the stars on one of the camp's elevated Sleepout Decks.
Hamiltons Tented Camp
Hamilton’s Tented Camp presides over a 10,000-hectare private concession in the western region of the Kruger. A tribute to classic Out of Africa safaris, its six luxury tents are decorated in nostalgic 19th-century style with old steamer trunks, sepia photographs and hurricane lanterns. Despite their nod to the past, the tents also provide every modern comfort including electricity, air-conditioning, an outdoor shower and private decks overlooking the beautiful N’waswitsontso River (a magnet for thirsty wildlife). The tents are all elevated off the ground and linked by wooden platforms. Lodge amenities range from a swimming pool to spa treatments and exceptional meals, which can be enjoyed on the deck or in the bush. Guided game drives and bush walks are offered every day.
Lion Sands Tinga Lodge
Lion Sands Tinga Lodge is located in the southern Kruger National Park, in an area known for its abundant wildlife and frequent sightings of rarities such as leopards, African wild dogs and black rhino. There are nine suites and one two-bedroom villa to choose from. All suites spoil with a king-size bed, an en-suite bathroom and a beautifully furnished lounge; but the highlight is the private deck and plunge pool. Choose the Hi’Nkweni Villa and benefit from the services of a private butler, field guide and safari vehicle. In between game drives, indulge in a massage at the open-air spa sala or sit down to five-star meals served al fresco beneath the trees or around the boma fire. Children aged 10 and older are welcome at Tinga Lodge, which even has a dedicated kids’ program.
Pafuri Camp enjoys a fantastically remote location in the far north of the Kruger, in the Makuleke concession on the banks of the Luvuvhu River. Its riverine setting is ideal for bucket list creatures including leopards and large herds of elephant, while regular sightings of the elusive Pel’s fishing owl make Pafuri a rewarding choice for keen birders. The camp has 19 luxury tents, all with their own private location along the river, opulent furnishings and en-suite bathrooms. Seven of the tents are family tents and sleep up to four people. Communal areas include a comfortable lounge, restaurant and bar, and a crystal clear swimming pool. Pafuri is a full-service camp with morning and evening game drives and three gourmet meals a day included in the price.
Singita Lebombo sits on a private concession in the game-filled southern section of the park. It stands out for its bold, contemporary architecture, which combines organic building materials with breathtaking bush panoramas. The amenities at Singita Lebombo are impressive. Discover a rooftop terrace and wine studio, an espresso bar and deli, and an art gallery. A spa promises moments of pure pampering while the 25-meter lap pool overlooks the plains below. There are 13 glass-walled suites and one luxurious private villa. All boast an open-plan layout and private decks from which to admire the adjacent N’wanetsi River. When you’re not on a game drive or bush walk, sign up for cooking classes, wine tastings or stargazing sessions.