Senior Travel Consultant, Lauren Maker, is addicted to Africa and travel. Not only does she love travelling, but she also gets great satisfaction out of creating holidays that showcase the beauty of our country and its neighbours.
Luckily for her, the best way to do that is to experience these places and properties first-hand. Which is why she recently returned from the Kruger Park and Mozambique, where she stayed at three properties: Belgrace Boutique Hotel, Lukimbi Lodge and Massinga Beach Lodge.
Belgrace, Romantic & Luxurious Boutique Hotel
“Belgrace has a peaceful setting on a macadamia nut farm, just five minutes from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA). We were welcomed by Shaun and Belinda, the owners, and their exceptional team of friendly staff. Arriving at this luxurious boutique hotel you walk into a place of opulence and unapologetic romance, yet the overall atmosphere is wonderfully laid back and relaxed.
The rooms are absolutely unique; each with its own décor, features and flair. All the luxuries are there – from king-size beds with exceptional linen to updated modern bathrooms – yet French baroque décor, hand painted furniture and crystal chandeliers give the feeling of another, more glamorous world. I loved the private verandas, each with a Jacuzzi and outdoor daybed. Belgrace also has spacious and comfortable two-bedroom suites, which are fantastic for families.
A real treat is the Rock Fig Restaurant, where lunches and dinners are served under a giant fig tree. During the day I watched paradise flycatchers and kingfishers flit from branch to branch. And at night the tree was lit up with fairy lights, transforming our dining experience into something truly special. All the meals were mouthwatering and beautifully presented, including breakfast the next morning: I highly recommend the eggs benedict! And you have to try their crispy bacon!
As for the location, staying here puts you a 45-minute drive from the Malalane gate of the Kruger National Park, and right on the doorstop of the Panorama Route with its spectacular views (private tours are available in the hotel’s comfortable Mercedes).
This makes Belgrace perfect for a 2-night stay before or after you safari. I highly recommend this boutique hotel to all our Giltedge travelers, and think that it’s a must for anyone wanting a stopover before catching their flight to Victoria Falls or their next safari destination.
Lukimbi Lodge, Safari in Southern Kruger
From Belgrace it was about an hour and a half drive to Lukimbi Safari Lodge, in the southern Kruger. This game-rich section of the park is home to Africa’s Big 5 along with a wide variety of other animals and birds. We were welcomed by a lovely lunch in the dining area overlooking the lodge waterhole, and had only been there about an hour when herds of elephant came to drink. Being metres away from these gorgeous creatures was an instant treat!
Lukimbi is a stunning luxury safari lodge with large and very comfortable suites. I stayed in a Classic Suite which had high windows, a well-appointed bathroom with a deep soaking bathtub looking out over the trees and river, indoor and outdoor shower, and a lounge area opening onto my own private deck. You can’t feel closer to the bush without actually being in it.
After lunch I sat on my deck and watched the waterbuck, impala, a warthog family and a hippo basking in the afternoon sunshine. Then it was time for our game drive. Although the Kruger Park was extremely dry, our game drive was eventful with a highlight being a buffalo kill with five really fat and lazy lions. Our ranger was fun and made the drive really interesting.
That night I lay safely in bed listening to the distant roar of a lion, the true sound of a safari. I slept like a baby and woke the next morning in time for a delicious breakfast. Then, sadly, we said goodbye to the bush and left to begin our next leg of the journey – to the beach.
Massinga, Mozambique Beach Bliss
Back to KMIA for our flight to Vilanculos in Mozambique, where we were met for our two-and-a-half-hour road transfer to Massinga. The road was good and not too busy, and I found the drive fascinating as the driver chatted about Mozambique and his home town.
Since the last stretch is only accessible with a 4×4, we were picked up by staff from the lodge. Our bags were put into the new vehicle and within 20 minutes there was just blue sky, coconut trees and the turquoise sea. One of my most memorable moments. Paradise!
The setting really is spectacular; the thatched rooms and chalets looking down across the ocean. I had my own wooden deck, sun loungers, splash pool and beautiful ocean views. Getting down to the beach is about a 35-minute walk, or you can simply call a shuttle. The beach bar is right down on the sand, and is a great place to spend the day. They serve light lunches, like Prego rolls, and there’s a swimming pool there too.
We stayed at Massinga Beach Lodge for three nights, and by the end were all ready to leave our children, pets, families, husbands and jobs – it was that special! The service was just sublime: the gracious hosting of Suzanne, Les Mills and the manageress Lesley; and the smiling gentlemen that were at our beck and call at all times.
Included in our stay was one of my favourite experience, a homestead tour. Eugenio the Duty Manager owns land in Massinga where he is teaching his family to grow vegetables for the lodge. We were welcomed by his family and many of the chiefs from the area. Then Eugenio with his broad smile took us through his vegetable garden; pulling out carrots, beetroot and butternut for our dinner that night. It was a humbling experience that filled my heart with hope.
We also went on a market tour, which I highly recommend! While walking around the market we met a few of the exceptionally friendly locals, saw how they made peri-peri sauce, bought capaulanas (colourful sarongs) and ate Portuguese rolls straight from the oven. We ended our tour with a beer at a local bar. Such a special experience.
The last night I sat on my massive deck at Massinga and tried to count my lucky stars that I had the opportunity to experience such beautiful properties. But the stars were so prolific that, had I continued counting them all, I’d still be there…
To find our more about these and other lodges, drop us a message.