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The beauty of being in the bush lies in the extent to which you can soak up the setting and feel removed from all things urban. Here, Pel’s Post, the newest exclusive-use lodge in the northern Kruger, has fulfilled the brief emphatically. Perched above the wide, winding Levubu River (or Luvuvhu in Venda) with 180-degree views of the landscape, it’s the perfect vantage point to watch from, when you’re not in the thick of it. As far as the location goes, the lodge is situated in the Makuleke Concession in the Northern Kruger, also known as the Pafuri Triangle. South Africa’s first successful land claim, the land was given over to the Kruger National Park to manage and boasts some of the country’s most varied, rich and picturesque terrain in a relatively small area.
The lodge design is entirely sustainable (from the construction, which made almost no impact, to the day-to-day running, which includes only solar power) but immensely stylish – innovative use of space and open-plan, stilted suites mean you get to feel the expanse of Africa even when in your room.
There are four of these stilted structures – each sleeps two, but there are extra daybeds in each that can double as extras for children to sleep in the same room as their parents, if necessary. In the suites, mechanised blinds in place of walls retract completely, creating what is essentially an open-air pavilion and immersing you in the sounds and smells of the bush. The chic and contemporary spaces – both the suites and the main living areas – have subtle references to ethnic motifs and an African palette but the overall effect is free from clichés. Furniture and objects are predominantly local, another nod to keeping the carbon footprint light and supporting homegrown talent.
The private villa comes with its own dedicated guide, chef and housekeeping, which gives you the benefit of an in-lodge experience, but with the privacy and flexibility you’d have in your own home – a huge bonus if you want to tailor game drives around your own times, and just have space all to yourself, important because the private villa is somewhere you’ll want to spend sufficient downtime, as both the suites and the outdoor spaces invite relaxation in the most elemental way. Outside, a multilevel outdoor space made up of a wide dining deck, sunken fire pit and pool surrounded by outward-looking loungers gives you plenty of options for areas where you can relax and take in the scenery.
The focus on game drives here extends further than just the wildlife. Guides are really well informed and passionate about the history of the land, its rich habitats and birdlife (which is plentiful), and they take a more organic approach to sightings. You won’t be racing around trying to see everything, but rather appreciating the setting as a whole, so Pel’s Post is best suited to real bush connoisseurs rather than a Big Five box-checker. One of the highlights is the famous Pafuri fever tree forest – it’s a bit of a drive but well worth making it one of your requests to your guide. If you have time, they’ll also set up a picnic here – totally magical. Also worth putting on the list is Lanner Gorge (voted the Kruger National Park’s most beautiful spot a few years ago). This leisurely approach is one of the core reasons Pel’s Post is so perfect for groups who are there to spend time enjoying one another’s company and the stunning accommodation – as well as the spectacular scenery.
What we love!
• The birding is spectacular. The Makuleke Contractual Park was declared a Ramsar Wetland Site in 2007, and the birdlife is prolific. Special sightings include Pel’s fishing owl along stretches of the Luvuvhu River and you may (like me) even be lucky enough to see an African finfoot.
• The many stately baobabs that stud the skyline in Pafuri. These magnificent ancient giants dwarf any pachyderms you may see strolling past.
• Make a point of asking your guide to take you for a picnic in the fever tree forest at Crook’s Corner (where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet). You may even encounter elephant silently grazing in this otherworldly pistachio-tinted forest.
What you need to know…
• Pel’s Post is great for second-time safari goers who appreciate birding and biodiversity as they delve deeper into the many layers of wilderness experience offered in southern Africa.
• It is quite a long drive to Pel’s Post in the Makuleke Concession in the Northern Kruger (also known as the Pafuri Triangle) but it is fairly easy to find. There’s no phone signal in the more rural sections (and there are lots of donkeys, cattle and potholes, so be vigilant), and the last fuel stop is in the Tshipise village (about 120km from Pel’s). Make sure you refuel with enough to get you to Pel’s and back.
• Road or air transfers to Pafuri Airstrip can be arranged on request for those who aren’t self-driving.
Reviewed by Julia Freemantle