Hoedspruit is widely regarded as the safari capital of South Africa and one of the major gateways to the Kruger National Park. As a result, the town is packed with a wealth of accommodation options for your African safari, from boutique hotels, luxury bed and breakfasts and cozy guest houses to sumptuous safari lodges and beautiful bush villas. Here is a Top 10 guide to what’s on offer, ranked in no particular order, listing some of the best places to stay while on safari in this charming and vibrant little town…
Khaya Ndlovu Manor House
Located just a stone’s throw from Hoedspruit on the Khaya Ndlovu Game Reserve, the Khaya Ndlovu Manor House has been purpose designed to offer a completely immersive African safari experience. Originally the personal home of wildlife estate entrepreneur Trevor Jordan, Khaya Ndlovu Manor House was constructed on the site of the reserve’s original farmhouse. The name means “home of elephant” or “haven of elephant” in the Zulu language, and yes, as the name implies, there are elephant here, as well as the rest of the Big 5. The manor house has impressive views of the Drakensberg Escarpment with its dining terrace and pool deck overlooking the bush, where wildlife can easily be seen as you cool off in the infinity pool or enjoy a hearty meal.
The decor at Khaya Ndlovu is reminiscent of a bygone age, calling to mind an era of colonial charm, with a collection of original artworks in a variety of genres complementing the olde world furnishings. Richly colourful Persian carpets dress the floors and the atmosphere is one of refined elegance and grace. Accommodation comes in the form of three spacious Garden Suites, three Hardwood Suites (each named after an indigenous African hardwood) and the beautiful Honeymoon Suite.
The Garden Suites are self-contained apartments a short walk from the main Manor House, enjoying uninterrupted views over Khaya Ndlovu’s perfectly landscaped gardens, filled with indigenous plants and birds. One is a family suite offering two bedrooms.
The Hardwood Suites – the Jackalberry Room, Marula Room and Acacia Family Suite – are housed within the Manor House and have access to their own garden terraces. Morning and afternoon game drives are offered on the 1400 hectare reserve, and families can take advantage of a special guided educational adventure which includes track and sign trailing, birding and bird-ringing, bug hunts and other environmental experiences enjoyed on a 60-to-90 minute walk through the African bush.
Vuyani Safari Lodge
Located on the Moditlo Private Game Reserve a short drive outside of Hoedspruit, Vuyani Safari Lodge offers guests the chance to escape the rat race, relax, unwind and experience the calming essence of the bush.
Named after an orphaned elephant who grew to be an ambassador for his species, Camp Jabulani is a place where elephants and people come together in the spirit of the African bush. Built along the banks of a seasonal stream, the camp’s open plan dining room and lounge area are open to the surrounding bush and shaded by a canopy of giant leadwood trees. A suspension bridge over the stream leads to the impressive chalets, each of which has its own private deck complete with plunge pool and views of the bush and the wildlife which inhabits it.
The atmosphere is one of quiet elegance, with rich woods and luxurious finishes combined with artistic flair in each of the chalets. Wooden sliding doors open to the stylish interiors where every comfort is catered for. There is also a completely self-contained unit – the Zindoga Villa – which is located separate from the lodge and which consists of two individual suites connected by a lounge and dining area. One of the suites has two bedrooms and the entire unit can accommodate nine guests in absolute luxury.
The Zindoga Villa has wireless internet connectivity throughout for those who need to be connected to business or home, and is serviced by its own dedicated team of staff, including a ranger (with private vehicle), chef and butler. While elegance is the order of the day at Camp Jabulani, it is the elephants and the experience of being close to them that make it special.
African Rock Lodge
Designed to evoke a sense of harmony and wellbeing in the heart of the African bush, African Rock Lodge is a small, unassuming oasis located on Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate, offering easy access to the Kruger National Park and the breathtaking Panorama Route. Your stay at African Rock Lodge is aimed at reconnecting you to nature, with each of its four suites offering a private patio with views out over the surrounding bush where you can unwind and listen to the calls of hundreds of indigenous bird species and perhaps even spot an impala or warthog as they pass by. Whether you are enjoying breakfast on the sun-drenched terrace, taking a cooling plunge in the pool or trying a refreshing cocktail under the lapa, life at African Rock Lodge is enjoyed at a wonderfully relaxed and indulgent pace. Each suite offers an en-suite bathroom with everything you can dream of, as well as Internet access and thorough cleanliness that one would expect of a luxurious bush lodge. Hosts Sander and Juliet are on hand to ensure that you are well taken care of and that anything you’d like to do is organised for you, whether its a day trip into the Kruger National Park or dinner at one of Hoedspruit’s many great restaurants.
Raptor Retreat Game Lodge
Situated on the Parsons Nature Reserve a short drive from Hoedspruit, close to the banks of the Olifants River, Raptor Retreat Game Lodge is a well-kept secret, tucked away in the heart of the bush which is part of the Greater Kruger National Park. This is where you will find abundant wildlife, spectacular scenery, mountains and waterfalls and a richly diverse cultures. The Main Lodge forms the heart of Raptor Retreat. This is the main gathering point for guests to chat about their exciting day’s adventures in Africa or enjoy a wonderful home-cooked meal under a canopy of stars. An enormous deck overlooks open plains where herds of plains game come to drink at the nearby waterhole and predators wait for the chance for an easy meal. This is where you can relax on one of the lavish leather couches and kick-back, read a book or just enjoy the view in between game drives. There are also two luxurious private lodges – Buffalo Lodge and Elephant Lodge. Each has its own private plunge pool off a private deck with views out over the surrounding bush. Raptor Retreat also offers two self-catering units – Rhino and Hippo – where guests can truly do their own thing. Both units consist of two spacious en-suite bedrooms and their own lounge with satellite television, a fully equipped kitchen, large raised patio, recliners and a splash pool, as well as their own boma, braai and fire pit.
Tshukudu Game Lodge
Tshukudu Game Lodge is located on a private 3800 hectare game reserve just outside Hoedspruit, bordering the Kruger National Park and offering a true Big 5 experience. Here, 17 individually decorated chalets offer all the comforts of home combined with a generous amount of good old-fashioned hospitality. There are fantastic views of the Drakensberg Escarpment and a long list of exciting activities to choose from, with morning bush walks and game drives in the morning and afternoon in open safari vehicles. Tshukudu specialises in rehabilitating orphaned wild animals and is involved in the education and environmental awareness, offering programmes that allow guests to contribute to conservation initiatives.
It also prides itself on its sustainability, especially where recycling is concerned, as the lodge recycles more than 50% of its waste and sources products from local suppliers. Most of the vegetables and herbs used in its menu of mouth-watering home-cooked dishes are also grown in the lodge’s very own gardens.
Tucked away on the 9000 hectare Karongwe Private Game Reserve a short distance from Hoedspruit, Kuname Lodge is a small, unashamedly exclusive, luxury safari lodge, surrounded by lush riverine vegetation. This is where you will find a variety of wildlife and indigenous plant life, as well as breathtaking views of the Drakensberg Escarpment and the diverse landscapes this Big 5 game reserve is renowned for. With just four luxury suites and a honeymoon suite, Kuname is the epitome of the phrase “great things come in little packages” and the ideal venue for a romantic getaway. There is also Kuname Manor House, surrounded by big Weeping Boer Bean and Jackalberry Trees, aimed at bringing you closer to nature and reconnecting you to Mother Earth. This is a great place to feel, touch and smell the wonders of the African bush and completely escape the rigours of every-day life. Kuname Manor House offers three beautiful bedrooms on the banks of the Kuvenyami River, where game viewing continues all day as you sit on your deck admiring the view of the river bed and a nearby waterhole.
Bush Baby River Lodge
Bushbaby River Lodge on Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate has been designed as the perfect getaway for couples, small groups of friends, families and honeymooners. Surrounded by a wonderful bushveld garden with wildlife on its doorstep (and sometimes in the garden too!) this charming little lodge is only a few minutes drive from the centre of Hoedspruit town. With a handful of tastefully decorated and marvelously appointed rooms, the lodge offers accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis but can also offer lunches and on a Wednesday and Saturday night offers a traditional South African brazil (barbecue) for a minimum of four guests (bookings essential). The lodge is located on the banks of a dry riverbed, with a marvelous canopy of huge riparian trees overhead, and is in a prime position for game viewing without having to break a sweat, with giraffe, zebra and a variety of antelope species regularly seen from the viewing deck. There is a lovely pool area with comfortable loungers and sala day beds. Picnic baskets can also be arranged for day trips and adventures out into the nearby Kruger National Park.
Situated at the base of the Drakensberg Escarpment with unrivaled views of these towering mountains, umVangati House is all about understated elegance and warm hospitality combined with the natural beauty of the African bush. umVangati is the Swazi name for the kiaat tree, whose timber has been used throughout the house and suites in beautiful hand-made doors, cupboards, vanity units and furniture. It’s an intimate, owner-run establishment, offering first-class service in a retreat-like environment. It’s a place dedicated to rejuvenation, refueling and re-energising and is designed to destress and relax. As such, umVangati is an adult-only destination, not accepting guests younger than 16 years old. It’s a beautifully simple place, with wooden walkways minimising impact on the environment leading to three luxurious Mountain View Suites which have been positioned purposefully to take advantage of privacy and the dramatic mountain views which dominate the skyline. There are also two luxury guest rooms next to each other at the main house. Each has a private entrance and views of the surrounding bush, and have been designed to embody the spirit of the mountains and the simple tranquility of nature.
eKhaya Bush Villa
One of the newest and most exciting accommodation options to come out of Hoedspruit, eKhaya Bush Villa is located on Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate, a short distance from the centre of this bustling little town but a lifetime away from the hubbub of the concrete jungle. eKhaya means “our home” in the Zulu language, and this is fitting as this charming bush villa is a veritable home from home – somewhere you can put your feet up and forget about the rest of the world while you focus on the beauty of the African bush and the thrill of being surrounded by wildlife. Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate is home to a variety of wildlife, from kudu, impala and waterbuck and other antelope species to leopard, honey badgers and other small predators. The estate is roughly 750 hectares in size and a good 50% of this is dedicated to wilderness areas with game drive loops winding their way through the pristine bush. It is safe to walk and cycle along these loops as well as out on the tar roads which provide access to the homes on the estate. eKhaya Bush Villa operates primarily on a bed and breakfast basis, but additional meals can be arranged and are regularly offered to guests. There are six en-suite bedroom suites in total and all are beautifully decorated and equipped for maximum comfort during your stay. The decor at eKhaya is fresh and exudes an atmosphere of understated elegance. With a comfortable lounge area and wonderful outside deck overlooking a small infinity pool, there’s ample space to kick off your shoes and soak up the African sun. Spa treatments can be taken in house or locally and a host of tours and activities can also be arranged, from guided day tours into the Kruger National Park in open safari vehicles to microlighting over the Drakensberg Escarpment. Manager Mike Lawrie is one of the most engaging hosts in the safari business and will have you fascinated with his bush knowledge and stories of the history of Hoedspruit and the surrounding area. Chef Reginah has also become something of a legend with her sumptuous breakfast spreads and wonderful home-baked delicacies. This is the perfect place from which to explore Hoedspruit and the Greater Kruger region, as well as the Blyde River Canyon, Panorama Route and other tourism attractions in the area.