The Timbavati area is home to rare white lions, but these exquisite cats are seldom if ever seen – unless you visit andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge. Here, along the iconic Timbavati River, lives the Birmingham pride with two blue-eyed white lions in it, and they are magnificent. Wild dog also den in the area, and add another rare species to the game viewing list.
Ngala means ‘lion’ in local Shangaan, so the lodge honours the regal cats of the area. Lion colours also inspired much of the lodge’s contemporary décor, which reflects lion coat colours. A classic safari lodge under thatch and tucked into a mopane forest, andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge is ideally suited to families or groups, with three of the 20 cottages having interleading rooms. The WILDchild programme of age-appropriate activities for children also ensures young guests have just as much fun as their parents.
Aside from white lions and wild dogs, general game viewing here is prolific and awe inspiring. But birding is just as excellent. Bateleurs, Verreaux’s and Marshall eagles, southern ground hornbills and magpie shrikes also live here, so remember to pack your birding binos to see them up close. But photograph them too, from specially adapted photographic vehicles with trained drivers and guides – who themselves are also avid wildlife photographers. Just imagine, nobody gets edgy if you spend an hour waiting for a lion to wake up or the light to be just right in his eye.
With a waterhole at arm’s length beyond the lodge deck, you can also recline in comfort and game watch all day – breakfast, lunch and tea close at hand. Dinners are always a surprise. Not just the superb cuisine, but where it will be enjoyed. Maybe fireside in the boma, candlelit alongside the pool, in the cosy courtyard or main roomy restaurant, possibly in suite if you choose, or even in the bush circled by lanterns to create an enchanting protected space. Then, to connect closely with nature and pure romance, sleep out for a night in the four-storey luxury tree house. Alone in the bush, surrounded by wilderness and wildness – yet safe as can be high in a tree.
Reviewed by Keri Harvey
What we love
• that there’s not much chance of seeing another game viewing vehicle on a drive
• lion head prints on the backs of bar stools, which look like a pride has gathered at their watering hole
• big lion welcome mats
• such incredible hospitality
• the surprise of where dinner will be each night
• wood, thatch and copper lanterns that reflect classic old Africa in a contemporary setting
Need to know
• the lodge is not fenced
• communal pool is uncovered
• there is a spa and fitness sala
• the treehouse is for adults only
• malaria precautions should be taken
• Getting there: Daily Airlink flights from Johannesburg direct to andBeyond Ngala Private Game Reserve airstrip. Or a six-hour drive from Johannesburg on excellent roads.