Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


Kruger National Park: The gem in the heart of Africa

Kruger National Park has been described as a perfect combination of the most breathtaking natural splendour.


As all indications signal a glimmer of hope for domestic and international travel, South Africa’s most celebrated game reserve the Kruger National Park is back again as a tourism hotspot.

The Kruger Shalati Concession team has been gearing up for the much-anticipated opening of the Kruger Shalati, the Train on the Bridge, and the complete opening of the new Kruger Station precinct – a proven instant hit.

Kruger Shalati: The Train on the Bridge

Like so many other Kruger visitors, I was fascinated by the detail and thought put into the individual carriages, with their sense of calmness and relief. If you are a bush enthusiast, or just see yourself waking up to the sounds of nature and crocodiles, hippos, buffalos, and elephants swimming in the river below – then the Kruger Shalati Hotel in Skukuza is the perfect location for a wildlife breather, your style.

The hotel, which is a near 100-year-old train, that sits on the Selati suspension bridge spanning a river in the heart of the Kruger National Park, is an elevated personal sanctuary of note. I sampled the 31 rooms, including 24 carriage rooms and seven bridge-house rooms, with smart décor and contemporary spacious carriage-style accommodation.

Kruger National Park
Picture: iStock

Think en-suite bathrooms with walk-in showers, so you can take a long shower while watching the sun go down. I must say, apart from the Kruger Shalati Hotel being the most innovative public accommodation in the country, it is a perfect combination of a wildlife viewing deck and a swimming pool on the other side of the tracks.

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In the words of cabin manager Justice Muchinya: “A perfect combination of Africa’s most breath-taking natural splendour combined with well-deserved luxuries.”

Kruger Station: 3638 Restaurant

A stone’s throw away from the Kruger Shalati Hotel is the Kruger Station – an artisanal food, beverage and edutainment hub, which also offers the most amazing meals, drinks and vibes for any occasion – from birthday parties, and family dinners to business meetings.

Perhaps the most prominent jewel in the Kruger Shalati, the Kruger Station 3638 has a Grab ’n Go Deli, ice cream cafe, Round in 9 bar, and the innovative Kruger 360 Cinema with rotational chairs for a mindblowing experience.

Apart from the screening of the BIG 5 movie – a virtual reality education experience that informs educates visitors about Africa’s famous big five animals – the lions leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo – travellers can also enjoy some top innovative and tasty dishes, to see why the 3638 restaurant lives up to its hype.

Small touches make up the ambience – such as their unique combination of different spices. Among the vibrant food is the juicy marinated beef and lamb espetada – marinated for 48 hours in olive oil, coarse salt, garlic, grain mustard and rosemary and then chargrilled the South African way on open flames.

Picture: iStock

Diners can also expect food unique to South Africa such as the game “shisa nyama” sharing platter – pork ribs, crispy fries and wings, and wood-fired pizzas. Visitors have a full view of the chefs as they work, and an additional free wine tasting will help you better identify what goes with your chosen meal.

Restaurant 3638 sits within the new Kruger Station precinct, with the station structure built in the 1980s to house the heritage train currently parked in Skukuza. And to top it all off, diners will have the privilege of meeting the consulting chef, local celebrity Andrew Atkinson.

Rhino Walking Safaris Plains Camp

There is so much to experience at the Kruger National Park (KNP) – from guided/self-game drives to night drives, boma dinners, bush walks, bush braai and more. For a different adventure, one can enjoy the adventure of walking in the pristine wilderness while staying at the KNP’s private concessions.

The Rhino Walking Safaris Plains Camp is one of the private concessions which offer walking safaris from the early morning before brunch, and late afternoon after high tea. Here travellers experience bush life first-hand and some even get to sleep out under the stars. Rhino Post Safari Lodge is situated at the southern end of the 12 000 hectares private wilderness concession in the Kruger.

Picture: iStock

The concession shares a 15km unfenced boundary with the famous Mala Mala and Sabi Sand Reserve.

There are many more private camps which also offer tourists the experience of being immersed in nature – such as the Hamiltons Tented Camp, Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge, Lukimbi Safari Lodge and Shishangeni Private Lodge and more.

Skukuza Golf Course and Airport The Skukuza golf club is situated on the outskirts of Skukuza rest camp. Surrounded by rich wildlife, a huge variety of birds and countless animals, the setting conspires to provide you with a harmonious close-to-nature golfing experience.

The magnificent nine-hole (18- tee) course was recently refurbished with a bar and restaurant which serves delicious, affordable and casual cuisines and finger foods. The airport in the KNP, which is set within the bush of the Sabi Sands gives travellers plenty of fun trying to spot game as they land.

It is also the easiest and fastest way to travel to the Kruger, allowing more time to enjoy the holiday.

Skukuza Safari Lodge

For those who have never been to the Kruger and cannot imagine life outside of the city, Skukuza Safari Lodge is for you. It feels like a little town that has every basic need you could ever come up with, a hidden gem.

I could easily spend the whole day in the hotel room or just the lodge. The local spa, gym, pool area, bar and restaurants offer you anything a city does. It is literally a dreamy bush escape away from the bush, with all the amenities of an upmarket hotel.

The lodge is situated inside the Skukuza camp, located 12km from the Kruger gate. The first huts were built in 1928, followed by tents and then stylish rondavels. Skukuza Safari Lodge pays homage to local art and culture in its décor. Many features make up the experience.

There is the photographs taken by young locals, as part of Wild Shots Outreach. And SANParks’ Wild Card Skukuza Project. The handmade decorative beadwork to be found in the bedrooms give you that luxurious hotel feeling but is combined with being homey and classy. – reitumetsem@citizen.co.za

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Kruger National Park (KNP) Local Travel