For guests of the Kapama Karula Private Game Reserve, the excitement begins with the first step off the tiny Beechcraft Baron at the Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport and continues as they board one of Kapama's open game-viewing vehicles. The drive to the luxury game lodge is a safari in and of itself, as they're likely to spot plenty of wildlife before they reach their destination.
The five-star, all-inclusive Kapama Karula lodge is located on the Klaserie River in South Africa's northernmost province of Limpopo. Kapama Private Game Reserve is home to over 40 mammal species, including the Big Five — elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhinoceros — as well as over 350 bird species, making way for plenty of once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounters.
The lodge's design emphasizes its surreal surroundings through nature-inspired accommodations and decor such as richly textured fabrics and furs and African artifacts.
"The common misconception about safari lodges is that it caters only for thrill-seeking holidaymakers," explained Melissa Smit, public relations officer at Kapama Private Game Reserve. "But in fact Kapama Karula offers an experience for every personality type to give guests a balance of health, pristine beauty and discovery."
Kapama Karula offers 10 superior suites, each with a housekeeper to ensure that no need goes unmet. Each suite is wrapped by glass sliding doors, offering unobstructed views over the Klaserie River; a private outside deck area, full-size heated swimming pool, and sun loungers; lavish bathrooms complete with two basins, a bath and indoor and outdoor showers; a peaceful living room area with an overhead fan and air conditioning, as well as a fireplace; and a plush, king-size bed.
In addition, each suite features a minibar stocked with wine, Champagne, minibottles of liquor and a Nespresso coffee machine. A pleasant surprise: The WiFi connection at the lodge is better than what I'm used to having in New York.
For those traveling as a family, there are two larger suites that offer an open-plan living room with two bedrooms, one of which is for children and features a flat-screen TV, selection of movies and a Wii game console.
Outdoor dining at the Kapama Karula lodge, located in South Africa’s northernmost province of Limpopo.
Also on property is a lounge and bar, outfitted with a contemporary African feel. Open-air and spacious, few things are more tranquil than taking in a sunset overlooking the river. Nearby is a multipurpose library with two internet stations and space to relax or play a game of chess.
Guests can get in a workout in the upscale fitness center or opt to pamper themselves with a massage or a special treatment such as the Special Elements of Africa Treatment, which involves lying on a heated slab, a full-body exfoliation, and a showerhead body massage.
Each day comes with two game drives where guests get to explore the bushveld while accompanied by a skilled ranger and tracker.
Within 48 hours, our group was able to see the Big Five. Waking up for wildlife-spotting (despite being up at the crack of dawn) is exhilarating. Guests return around 9 a.m. for a full breakfast where the wildlife-spotting doesn't end. Keep an eye out for sneaky Vervet monkeys, as they will do their best to snatch the breakfast right off your plate.
Before heading out with a ranger and tracker for the afternoon game drive, guests can indulge in high tea.
Once back on the game drive, get ready to see the nocturnal animals come out and play. Having an accomplished tracker scan the landscape with a spotlight, which illuminates animals' eyes, while you anticipate nervously what you'll come across is adrenaline-pumping, to say the least.
Within our two-day safari adventure, we spotted incredible, National Geographic-worthy activity, including lion mating rituals, a giraffe grazing with her newborn baby, a rhino protecting its young, herds of elephants and a lion stalking its prey, in addition to spotting the ever-elusive leopard.
Nightly rates begin at about $350, or about $420 during peak season (Dec. 20 to Jan. 5). Visit www.kapama.com.