LUXURY RESORTS: Royal Malewane,
Thornybush Reserve Hoedspruit
Scene: Opulence in the bush
Seen in the lobby: Well pressed, well-heeled Americans, A-list celebrities
One of Elton John's favourite places on earth is the Royal Suite at Royal Malewane. So you can imagine that we're not talking your average common or garden safari destination here. We're not even talking your average five star luxury safari destination. This is a safari camp with bling. All be it bush bing of a very sophisticated variety.
What you'll encounter here is opulence. Opulence in the middle of the dry African bush. It's a tantalizing combination. They don't do things by halves at Royal Malewane: think exotic Persian carpets, antiques, Chinese vases, wide wooden verandahs, four poster beds draped in snowy white and claw-footed baths in bathrooms as big as most New Yorkers' whole apartment, and (in the case of the two top suites) shower recesses large enough to park a safari jeep in. Think gourmet food too as the lodge boasts a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Blazon for cuisine. No wonder Elton John and his partner David Furness have been frequent visitors
Royal Malewane is in the heart of Thornybush Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park in the Limpopo Province, yet it is also home to one of the most extravagant spas in Africa. The kind of palatial spa you'd expect to see in a five star luxury resort, not in the bosom of the bush. It was voted one of the 101 Best Spas in the World by Tatler UK (2008). So at the end of a day bouncing around in the back of a 4WD you can ease those dusty, dirt road-weary limbs with an indulgent treatment or ten. There is something surreal about relaxing on an open-air massage bed with the roar of lions in the distance.
Given the high standard it is no surprise that Royal Malewane is brought to you by the people that also run the luxurious La Residence in the heart of the Franschhoek wine valley and the much-awarded Birkenhead House on the coast road between Hermanus and Cape Town.
This is a safari camp with BLING, all be it bush bling of a very SOPHISTICATED variety
However for all its luxury connections and elegant excess you still feel part of the surrounding bushveld here. Decks are open and shaded by Acacia trees and the main restaurant is built over a busy waterhole, although the elephants have been known to reject it in favour of the fluid they can suck out of the Royal Suite's swimming pool.
The guides at Royal Malewane aim to please. We all know that going on safari is not about seeing particular animals, it is about letting the game drive unfold, nevertheless it is a mark of a good guide and tracker is when they try and accommodate their client's desires. So once we bemoan the fact that we haven't yet seen any elephants close-up they bush bash into the scrub and bring us face to face with an impressively large bull elephant. Then, knowing cheetah have been spotted at the furthest reaches of the reserve we belt along sandy tracks to be rewarded by the site of two graceful slender animals padding through the bush. On the way back several giraffes sail across our path, swaying gently as if blown by a gentle breeze. I can't help wondering as we bounce along the dirt track what Elton wore on the drives; a rhinestone studded safari suit perhaps or a touch of leopard print?
The day we leave the Limpopo I am sitting on the deck minding my own business when a long wrinkled trunk curls over into the pool and sucks. I am not about to argue with a creature that weighs up to 6,500 kilos and is known to intimidate lions and I'm not about to go for a swim either. There is such a thing as getting too closed to the wildlife and this elephant is wild, not a circus trickster. Instead I sit enthralled and very, very still; too scared to back off. I am so close I can see its eyelashes and the grain of its wrinkled skin.
David Furness wrote "bliss, bliss, bliss" in the Royal Suite's visitor's book after one visit and I'm inclined to agree. I wonder as I idly flip through the exalted names running through its pages if Elton will ever stop on my name and exclaim in delight at the prospect of having shared an experience with me? Somehow I doubt it.
|Check in: Royal Malewane, P.O. Box 1542 Hoedspruit 1380, South Africa. Tel: +27 (0)15 793 0150, firstname.lastname@example.org
|Ultimate Luxury: Sinking into a clawfoot bath in a bathroom the size of Liechtenstein in one of the two top suite, Royal or Malewane.
|Most Indulgent Moment: Having a treatment at the palatial spa in the heart of the African bush.
|Insider Secrets: So many celebrities have stayed here it is easier to spot them than leopards.
|The Little Things: Silver and crystal in
|Junior Luxies: Families do stay in the top suites away from other guests and have their own private guide and vehicle but really children would have more fun elsewhere - think of the Chinese vases.
|Dress code: Pressed safari gear from the best US outfitters with American-style zips and pockets. Khaki is de rigueur here and people do change for dinner.
|Perfect luggage: Ralph Lauren designer leather. Sandstorm Deluxe Adventurer Travel Bag hand made by Luo tribesmen from Lake Victoria in Kenya (well, it's a talking point).
|Dent in the platinum:
Hilary Doling 30/3/10
- LUXURY RESORTS: Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey's Resort, South Pacific
- LUXURY RESORTS Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, Caribbean
- LUXURY LODGES andBeyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge
- Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort & Spa,
- LUXURY RETREAT: Aro Ha, New Zealand
- LUXURY RESORTS: MarBella Corfu, Greece
- LUXURY RESORTS: The Oberoi Lombok, Indonesia
- LUXURY RESORTS: The Oberoi Bali
- LUXURY RESORTS: The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, Maldives
- LUXURY RESORTS: The Palace at One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai
- THE MOUNTAIN RETREAT: Alila Jabal Akhdar, Oman
- LUXURY RESORTS: Quamby Estate, Tasmania, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Bay of Fires Lodge, Tasmania, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Sheraton Noosa Resort & Spa, Queensland, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Rancho Valencia, San Diego, USA
- LUXURY RESORTS: Point Yamu by COMO, Phuket, Thailand
- LUXURY RESORTS: Laucala Island Resort, Fiji
- LUXURY RESORTS: Hayman Island, Queensland
- LUXURY RESORTS: Evian Resort, Lake Geneva, France
- LUXURY RESORTS: Alpenresort Schwarz, Mieming, Austria
- LUXURY RESORTS: Discovery Shores Boracay
- LUXURY RESORTS: Mukul, Rivas, Nicaragua
- LUXURY RESORTS: Maison Noosa, Noosa Heads, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa, Noosa, Queensland
- LUXURY RESORTS: Spicers Tamarind Retreat, Maleny, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Casa Las Filippinas de Acuzar, Bagat, The Philippines
- LUXURY RESORTS: Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort, SINGAPORE
- LUXURY RESORTS: Palmer Coolum Resort, QLD, Australia
- LUXURY RESORT: Como Shambhala Estate, Bali
- LUXURY RESORTS: Uma Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Peppers Broadbeach, Gold Coast, Queensland
- LUXURY RESORTS: Westin Siray Bay Resort and Spa, Phuket, Thailand
- LUXURY RESORTS: Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa, Sicily
- LUXURY RESORTS: Whare Kea Lodge and Chalet, Wanaka, New Zealand
- LUXURY RESORTS: Mahogany Springs Lodge, Bwindi, Uganda
- LUXURY RESORTS: Semara Luxury Villa Resort Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Alila Villas, Uluwatu, Bali
- LUXURY RESORTS: Ten Bedroom Residence, Alila Villas Soori, Bali
- LUXURY RESORTS: InterContinental Bali, Bali
- LUXURY RESORTS: The Palace of the Lost City, South Africa
- LUXURY SAFARI: Lewa Downs, Kenya
- LUXURY RESORTS: Hotel Almenara, Sotogrande, Spain
- LUXURY RESORTS: Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa
- LUXURY RESORTS: Split Apple Retreat, Tasman, New Zealand
- LUXURY RESORTS: Matakauri Lodge, NR Queenstown, New Zealand
- LUXURY RESORTS: Kauri Cliffs, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
- LUXURY RESORTS: Lupita Island, Tanzania
- LUXURY RESORTS: Lake Crackenback Resort, Crackenback, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Pangkor Laut Resort, Perak, MALAYSIA
- LUXURY RESORT: Cameron Highlands Resort, Cameron Highlands, MALAYSIA
- LUXURY RESORT: Tanjong Jara Resort, Kuala Terengganu, MALAYSIA
- LUXURY RESORTS: Aman in Indonesia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island
- LUXURY RESORTS: Amanfayun, Hangzhou, China
- LUXURY RESORTS: Shangri-la Resort & Chi Spa, Yanuca Island, FIJI
- LUXURY RESORTS: Le Meridien, Isle of Pines, New Caledonia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines
- LUXURY RESORTS: Arajilla Retreat, NSW, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: Indigo Pearl, Phuket, Thailand
- LUXURY RESORTS: Londolozi, South Africa
- LUXURY RESORTS: Nam Hai, Dien Ban, Vietnam
- LUXURY RESORT: Earth Lodge, Sabi Sabi, South Africa
- LUXURY RESORTS: Bovey Castle, Dartmoor
- LUXURY RESORTS: Ulusaba, Sabi Sands, South Africa
- LUXURY RESORTS: Aldermar Royal Mare Thalasso Resort, Crete, Greece
- LUXURY RESORTS: Gaia Retreat & Spa, Australia
- LUXURY RESORTS: The Garland, LA
- LUXURY RESORTS: The Kildare Hotel at the K Club
- LUXURY RESORTS: Ashford Castle
- LUXURY RESORTS: Dromoland Castle
- LUXURY RESORTS: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
- LUXURY RESORTS: Myconian Avaton Resort, Mykonos, Greece
- LUXURY RESORT: Bürgenstock Resort, Switzerland
- LUXURY RESORTS: Capella Singapore
- LUXURY RESORT: Almar Jesolo Resort & Spa, Jesolo, Italy
- LUXURY RESORTS: Baraza Resort & Spa, Zanzibar
- LUXURY RESORT: The Tongsai Bay, Ko Samui, Thailand
- LUXURY RESORTS: Six Senses Douro Valley
- LUXURY RESORTS: Royal Malewane, South Africa
- LUXURY RESORTS: Soneva Fushi, Maldives