We’ve just discovered Nkala and its sister lodge, Ntamba absolute gems in the Black Rhino Reserve, bordering the 55 000ha Pilanesberg Game Reserve. This family owned lodge is set in the private concession, which has five suites and one two-bedroomed family suite, all nestled in a Tamboti forest and linked via weaving wooden pathways sensitively laid between the trees. This is next-level self catering, with sublime bed linen, beautifully decorated interiors and luxurious bathrooms. Gourmet cooks will love the well-equipped kitchen and protected entertaining areas outdoors. In winter, it’s cosy here with electric blankets to keep you toasty, and in summer the pool beckons but there’s aircon for comfort too.
Expect Big Five game sightings – especially in summer when the grass is sweeter on the plains, strikingly beautiful rocky outcrops (the whole area is a fascinating geology lesson) and gorgeous autumnal colours at the moment as the Tamboti trees are late to lose their leaves this year. But some of the most exciting game viewing is right at the lodge because there’s a ‘hide’ at the waterhole. Be sure to skip one game drive and just spend time relaxing here in this thatched sala, located on an ancient game path so most animals head this way as they cross the reserve. Laze in hanging chairs and be surprised, as we were, by endless game passing by – we watched mesmerized as a herd of 10 elephant arrived to schlurp and splash for at least half an hour. Unforgettable!
Ask Ella (Nkala’s wonderful guide who is great with children) to take you on a drive through the mountains and into the Pilanesberg to the Vultures’ Viewpoint. It’s a beautiful route flanked by striking rocky outcrops and with some excellent game viewing on the way. The Pilanesberg mountain was named after a historic Tswana chief, Pilane, and the reserve is set within the Pilanesberg alkaline ring-dyke complex, a vast circular geological feature was created a staggering 1 200-million-years ago. Budding geologists will also be fascinated by the red syenite and green foyaite rocks seen on the game drives.
What we love!
- The hide or viewing deck at the waterhole – hand’s down the best ever because it’s on an ancient game trail. If you sit there long enough, game comes to you! We loved eating lunch at the waterhole and being surprised by the elephant… but it was equally fun to watch the web cam at night when two brown hyaena visited. If you miss any visits you can always catch up on footage and see who has been while you were sleeping!
- The fascinating geology of the area and the beautiful drive to the high Lenong viewpoint (or Vulture’s Viewpoint) where you get a bird’s eye view of the Pilanesberg and Mankwe Dam. It’s part of a very rare formation called an alkaline ring-dyke complex with three concentric rings of hills – not created by a volcano, as most people think, but rather magma cooled under the ground before it erupted, and then later collapsed in the centre, forming a ‘volcano’, now known as the Mankwe Dam. Have a look at the polished sample of tuff (layered rock) at the site – it’s fascinating. The Pilanesberg is one of only three ring-dykes in the world and the largest complex of its type.
What you need to know…
- Nkala is 2.5 hours from Lanseria and 3 hours’ drive from OR Tambo, but you can charter the owner’s private plane if you wish and land at Pilanesberg airport, just 35 minutes from the lodge. Transfers can be booked from Lanseria to the lodge with a professional transfer company
- Max occupancy for Nkala if including children under 9 is 16 guests (12 in beds and four on single sleeper couches)
- From October 2019 a prep chef will be available as well so that chef can help you prepare your meals or does it for you with the groceries you provide. This will be charged at an additional R900 per day (R300 per meal)
- Groceries for your stay can be bought on the way at Hartebeespoort Dam or Rustenburg Waterfall Mall (Checkers and Woolworths). Alternately, pop into Jasmyn, the large and very well-stocked farm store, on the left as you enter Hartebeespoort (look out for the landmark windmill).
Reviewed by Michelle Snaddon