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Wednesday 6 June 2018

A facelift for one of South Africa's most gracious safari lodges

Few travel experiences can compare with the thrill of game safaris in Africa and one of the most exclusive safari lodges in South Africa has just been upgraded.

Royal Malewane, the exclusive safari lodge that is part of The Royal Portfolio (a collection of iconic hotels and private residences in South Africa owned and managed by the Biden family), has just completed an extensive refurbishment with some new additions for its well-heeled guests.

The extravagant lodge, which has played host to Hollywood actors, pop stars, royals and presidents since it first opened in 1999, is located in the Greater Kruger National Park and accommodates a maximum of 20 guests in only eight one- to six-bedroom villas. 

The refurbishment covered major structural work including new floors, doorways, walls, decking and thatching, as well as resurfacing of the swimming pools.

Liz Biden, co-owner of The Royal Portfolio, has added "exquisite" pieces of furniture and exotic new fabrics including a few vibrant flashes of colour to the lodge. The two Royal Suites were enhanced with new gazebo entrances and the kosher kitchen was redone.

A highlight of the refurbishment is the opening of the Masiya Bar on the site of the old boma. 

This contemporary gin and whisky bush-bar is a tribute to the Master Trackers of Royal Malewane. Wilson Masiya was the first of three Master Trackers at Royal Malewane. He sadly passed away in 2015 but his legacy lives on at the lodge through his contemporaries Jonas Mhula and Juan Pinto.

The Masiya Bar is a space for guests to relax around the fire and share the stories of the day. It also provides a new private dining option for guests.

Liz Biden said: “The refurbishment has given the entire lodge a lovely lift while retaining the classic safari style and relaxed atmosphere that our guests have enjoyed for nearly 20 years.”

Royal Malewane provides safari experiences with what it claims are South Africa’s most qualified guiding team, as well as the award-winning Waters of Royal Malewane Bush Spa. 

In the evenings guests enjoy nightly feasts under the African stars and a regular bush dinner under a marquee in the heart of the African wilderness. 

Royal Malewane is accessible by road from Johannesburg in under six hours. For those wishing to fly, South African Airways operates daily flights from Johannesburg or Cape Town to Hoedspruit Airport, an easy 45-minute road transfer away. 

Be aware, however, that storms can close Hoedspruit Airport leaving you trapped - it has happened to me in the past.

The lodge also has a private airstrip for those wishing to charter flights.

Royal Malewane was recently included in Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the Best Resorts in the World and is on my bucket list. 

If you need to ask how much it costs, then it is probably out of your range. Room rates are seasonal but start from R24,500 (around $2500) per person in a luxury suite, inclusive of meals and two game drives daily.

For further information and special offers visit

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