Tucked away on the banks of the Olifants River in the Limpopo province, Mpala Safari Lodge is part of the Greater Kruger National Park — the largest game reserve in South Africa, with a history stretching back more than a century.
Borrowing its name from the local Sotho tribe’s name for the impala antelope, the Mpala Safari Lodge is an exclusive resort — just 12 guests can stay at one time — in the African bush. Danish owners Per and Helle Grunert embarked on their first safari back in 1989, living in tents without any luxuries. After a return visit in 2000 with their children Ole and Annelise, they decided to create their own African haven.
Per, a construction engineer, oversaw the building of the lodge, while Helle planned the interiors — the result: a unique mix of African architecture and Scandinavian comfort. Arranged around a gnarled trunk that supports the wood-panelled ceiling, the main lodge is a cosy mix of open fireplaces — crackling seductively come winter — polished floors and wooden furniture, dotted with animal-print rugs and patterned cushions. Each with a verandah overlooking the snaking river, the three duplex chalets are decked out in a soothing neutral palette and come with canopied four-poster beds.
Each stay lasts for a minimum of five days, and includes game drives in safari vehicles (one at night) or on quad bikes, bush walks, singing and dancing performances from the Sotho tribe and a visit to the Diphuti school that Mpala sponsors. There’s also a two-day trip to Kruger National Park, home to the Big Five, plus over 500 species of bird, 2,000 of plant and some of the world’s oldest trees.
Come night, guests can savour South African dishes and local wines on the terrace looking out over the river-threaded landscape or in the boma (traditional enclosure). One evening meal is served at a candlelit table in the bush, in the style made famous by Out Of Africa, Karen Blixen’s account of life in Kenya, which was later adapted into a film. The chef prepares dinner in cast-iron pots, juicy steaks are grilled on an open fire and Champagne is served as a sundowner. After all, as Blixen said, “A safari without Champagne is not a real safari.”
Experience the magic of floating serenely over treetops in a hot air balloon with views of the majestic Drakensberg mountains
Need to know
· 6 en suite rooms in 3 duplexes
· Outdoor dining terrace
· Swimming pool
· Viewing tower