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Visiting the Kruger in summer means lots of water and flowing rivers, as well as loads of vegetation, game and birdlife! In February Go2Africa managing director Maija de Rijk-Uys and I went on a 4-day journey to South Africa’s famous Kruger region. In addition to the Kruger National Park, we visited two private reserves that share unfenced borders with the park - Timbavati and Simbavati.

We also saw spotted hyenas during our first game drive. Two females had a fight (hyena society is matriarchal and the females are dominant, which is not something you see very often in nature), and they also had a baby with them that was nagging the mother for milk!

Where did you travel to and where did you stay?

We travelled from Cape Town to East Gate Airport in Hoedspruit to visit the northern part of the Kruger National Park on a 4-day self-drive trip. We spent time in three different private concessions: Thornybush, Timbavati and Singita. We were lucky enough to spend our first evening at Ngala Safari Lodge in Timbavati, which is ideal for families and offers child-friendly activities and family suites that have a connecting door. It has a beautiful shaded swimming pool that overlooks the popular waterhole where you often see large herds of elephant.


Ngala Safari Lodge has very comfortable and spacious suites that are contemporary with touches that hark back to a bygone era.
Elephant families are regular visitors to the waterhole, strolling past the swimming pool to quench their thirst.

The game viewing at Ngala Safari Lodge was spectacular; we saw three members of the Big 5 during a morning game drive – elephant, rhino and lion – along with various other game such as giraffe, hyena, wildebeest and loads of antelope.

Guides at Ngala Safari Lodge use open game-drive vehicles and are helped by a professional tracker who is skilled in spotting wildlife by paying attention to everything from spoor and broken vegetation to droppings and bird calls.
Spotted hyenas have unusual characteristics: for example, the females are much bigger than the males. Contrary to popular belief, they aren't true scavengers but do kill much of their own prey that they eat.
Rhino populations across Africa are under intense pressure from poachers to supply the illegal wildlife trade with their horns - it is always a privilege to see these awe-inspiring creatures in the wild. Click here to see how Go2Africa is helping save South Africa's rhinos.
The sub-species of giraffe found in Kruger is the Cape or Southern African giraffe - look out for them nibbling the tops of trees in open woodland.
Lone elephants are almost always males - they are driven from their maternal herds when they reach sexual maturity, living mostly solitary lives.

The last two nights of our stay were spent at Singita Lebombo in Kruger. This afro-chic lodge has a perfect location in the Lebombo mountains overlooking the K’wanetsi River. Each private and spacious loft-style suite is elegantly designed to ‘touch the earth lightly’ to chime with Singita’s philosophy. There were always special touches when we got back to our room – from candles being lit after dinner, or a bottle of Amarula liqueur if you were in the mood for a nightcap under the stars, to a note about the following day’s weather, or a bed made up on your private deck (under a mosquito net) if you felt like sleeping outside.

Built into the cliff face and surrounded by indigenous forest, the suites at Singita Lebombo are very private and have magnificent views.
It is magical to sleep outdoors, listening to the gentle gurgling of the river below.

What did you do?

During our trip we had the opportunity to visit other lodges in the area. On our first day we went for a delectable buffet lunch at Thornybush Game Lodge located in their own private game reserve. The lodge offers many child-friendly services and activities like the ‘bushbaby spa treatment’ or the ‘Ranger in training’ pack children receive on arrival.

The lounges at Thornybush Game Lodge open out onto the wilderness, giving you plenty of options for game viewing directly from the comfort of your armchair!
Lodges in Kruger often offer lavish buffet spreads for breakfast and lunch - eating delicious food is a major part of a safari vacation. Fortunately being out in the fresh air sharpens the appetite.

We also popped in at the Simbavati Lodges – Simbavati River Lodge and Simbavati Hilltop Lodge – and enjoyed lunch on one of the decks with sweeping views of the bush and riverbed. An elevated location gives Hilltop Lodge unrivalled vistas of the sunset over the Drakensberg Mountains. The main lodge’s bar area has a 360-degree views – the perfect spot for sundowners!

The end of another beautiful day in Africa... Simbavati Hilltop has breath-taking views of the sunset.

At Singita Lebombo we were able to swim a few laps in their 25-metre- / 82-foot-long swimming pool (they also have a 22m / 72ft heated pool if you visit the lodge during winter, from about May to September). They took us on a beautiful guided walk where were saw much of the smaller fauna and flora you may miss on a game drive.

Singita Lebombo has both heated and unheated communal lap pools - perfect for cooling down on a hot summer's afternoon or working off a few of those extra helpings at lunch!

What did you eat?

Our lunch a Thornybush had some of the best sticky pork ribs I have ever tasted, homemade beef lasagna, various salads, freshly baked breads and pastries, and extensive dessert spread. Simbavati Hilltop Lodge had a refreshing and healthy lunch with thick chunks of biltong (a cured, dried meat that is not the same as jerky), feta-and-butternut squash salad, and smoked chicken wraps with a saucy slow-cooked beef stroganoff on the side.

At Ngala Safari Lodge we were treated to an á la carte buffet menu during our first evening around the boma fire. Their breakfast spread was also very exciting with something for everyone. There was fresh and dried fruit, roasted nuts, yoghurts, a selection of cured cold meats and artisanal cheese, freshly squeezed juice, breads and spreads, cereals and oats. They also had a delicious menu packed with breakfast favourites, like omelettes and bacon.

A boma (pronounced 'bow-mar') is an outdoor area where evening meals are taken around the central fire. Based on traditional homesteads, it is a place where singing, dancing and feasting take place in good weather.

Singita treated us to breakfast including freshly baked croissants with spreads, roasted nuts and yoghurt, muesli and fresh fruit – and this is while you wait for your actual cooked breakfast! Poached eggs, green juices, omelettes and smoothies are also on the menu.

Eggs benedict in the middle of Africa? No problem!
Items like perfectly poached eggs, fresh salmon and exotic mushrooms are not unusual at Kruger's top lodges, which are generally able to cater for most dietary requirements with advance notice.

Your favourite travel moments on the trip?

A stand-out moment was definitely on our last evening when we enjoyed the bush dinner at Singita Lebombo. There was a guest birthday that evening and they organised a Shangaan choir who entertained us with traditional song and dance around the boma fire. The sky was lit by stars and the weather was perfect. We sat at a table with the couple who joined us during our game drive and our ranger, Walter. Earlier that day the staff at the lodge also wished the birthday guest – click here to listen to them singing Happy Birthday! After chatting to some of the staff around the boma I found out that they had spent the entire day planning our dinner, and driving all the furniture, kitchenware, bar and fresh ingredients to this secluded open space in the middle of the bush!

Celebratory song and dance is still a major part of culture in South Africa - lodge choirs, made of up of dedicated staff, are often extremely talented.

The fact that it was so green and lush throughout the entire Kruger region was also special. After hearing how dry it was there during the 2016 drought, we were very happy to see all the rivers were flowing and the animals all looked healthy and content.


Guided nature walks generally take you on a gentle meander through the bush surrounding the lodge: your trained and experienced guide will look out for butterflies, lizards, tortoises, termite mounds, flowers and the myriad other details that make up Kruger’s intricate ecosystem.


We also saw spotted hyenas during our first game drive. Two females had a fight (hyena society is matriarchal and the females are dominant, which is not something you see very often in nature), and they also had a baby with them that was nagging the mother for milk!

Favourite things about or highlights of your accommodation?

The outdoor shower at Ngala Safar Lodge and its pool area were very nice! The special highlights at Singita Lebombo were the personalised notes left in your room, slippers next to the bathtub when you returned to your suite after dinner and the bed made on your deck if you chose to sleep outside.

One of the boons about travelling in Green Season is that the warm weather allows you to make the most of extras like outdoor beds and showers.

Top travel tips

Always use the full written-out directions supplied by your African Safari Expert if you are doing a self-drive trip. GPS co-ordinates in the bush often direct you to the reserve but not always to the correct location or entrance of the lodge.

Be sure to wear long trousers for a nature walk, especially during summer when the grass is long and the vegetation is lush. Always have extra camera batteries handy! You don’t want to see your favourite member of the Big 5 during your last game drive and have a dead camera. Be sure to give any dietary requirements to your African Safari Expert so that the lodge can plan your meals in advance.

Want to know more about Africa’s secret places and incredible wildlife? Sign up to our newsletter for insider info on African travel. If you’re ready to start planning your dream adventure, get in touch with a friendly African Safari Expert today. 

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