|One of the open lounges at the main lodge|
What is your definition of luxury? For me, it is close contact with nature from a bed of fine white linen or a deep bubble bath – where the contrast between the natural and the finessed somehow enhances each experience. It is about a balancing act of creative décor and an earthy respect for the environment, a celebration of all that is quintessentially local. However you choose to experience luxury, you will find it here at Royal Malewane Safari Lodge in Limpopo, South Africa (www.royalmalewane.com).
Literally host to royalty and A-list celebrities, it doesn’t get better than this. Individual thatched open-plan suites, more like private villas, overlook the African bushveld. With infinity edge swimming pools, indoor and outdoor showers and Victorian baths it is easy to stay cool even in the summer heat. Usually a prude, even I walk freely between these aquatic pleasures in my natural state, so discretely designed and well placed are these villas. There are three outdoor seating areas on my deck – sun loungers, an al fresco dining area where private dinners may be served, as well as a thatched shaded lapa.
Colonial Afro-Zen fusion is expertly achieved with antique furniture, Persian carpets and the finest fabrics. My suite has a cream couch and a fern-print armchair facing a bank of glass doors outwards and an indoor fireplace. A grand four-poster bed is draped in a white mosquito net and said silky white linen.
The main lodge overlooks a water hole, with beautiful indigenous reeds back-lit by the setting sun. The safari-style lodge is a vast open-plan structure with four different lounge areas, each decorated with Liz Biden’s dramatic flair. She manages to make creamy white couches, oversized regal arm chairs, ornate vases and rich carpets somehow work seamlessly in this open-air bushveld setting.
|Waterhole overlooked by the main lodge|
I say it again – the Royal Collection deserves its own 6-star rating from the South African Tourism Board. The enthusiasm to please goes well beyond tick-box duty. Around every corner there are thoughtful touches, and every day reveals a surprise of some unique African bushveld experience in which the staff take genuine delight in their guests’ reaction.
All luxury aside, one also wants to have close encounters with diverse game when on an African safari. Set in a Big 5 game reserve bordering Timbavati and Kruger National Park, your chances of seeing interesting game are greatly increased here by the private game reserve setting and the guides who are as passionate about their Royal Malewane animal family as they are about pleasing their guests. Genuine naturalists, each one is plotting their own personal wildlife expeditions, including gorilla trekking in Rwanda and tiger safaris to India. They have become international consultants on how to coordinate game viewing experiences in a way that fulfills their guests’ hopes while respecting the animals’ safety and comfort.
|Morning munch at Royal Malewane|
I find myself a little above my usual station in life at Royal Malewane, and so I decide to drink everything, even this humble juice, from the beautiful crystal champagne glass I find in my suite. I do this as I lie in a deep bubble bath overlooking my private infinity edge plunge pool, onto African bushveld. A family of monkeys is using my day spa bed in the thatched lapa, the babies cuddling up to mom for a nap, while the teenagers fight. Clearly they are used to this level of luxury.
I feel a little silly about my indulgence and have a twinge of guilt at my lazy appreciation of the afternoon, but I am learning to recognize this as a defence against sinking into a realness of presence. Remember how impressed and intimidated we were with that New York style frenzied busyness and assertiveness? Already, that aggressive lifestyle has become “so 90’s” and we have seen through the emperor’s clothing of bluster and bragging to the insecure vulnerability it masked. A new brand of post postmodern soulfulness is emerging, where we recognize real luxury to be about the gift of free time, connectedness with self, family and friends and the privilege of being able to contribute to the protection of our natural heritage. A restlessness of spirit, combined with a deep love for the environment draws us increasingly to stillness and mindful appreciation of the natural world. Kindness to self, others and our environment is replacing the currency of domination and competition.
|Good hair day at Royal Malewane|
And this is what I find at Royal Malewane – a soulful rootedness in their pristine game reserve setting, dedication to preserving their unique, unspoilt corner of the earth, a warmth and humility in their service, an openness in the architecture and a softness in their décor. While lavishly generous, there is no ostentation here, only a shared enthusiasm for the outdoors, rare game sightings and all that Africa has to offer its privileged guests.
|Another tough day in Africa|