Open grassland, blue skies, running antelope and the “Big Five” attract tourists from around the world to the South African bushveld – and there’s no better way to experience it than to spend some time in one of the many private game lodges around the country.Safari game lodges offer an unbeatable combination of game drives, walks with skilled trackers, and exclusive accommodation in pristine natural surroundings.South Africa’s game lodges regularly win world travel awards and are renowned for a sophisticated elegance imbued with the spirit of the wilderness.Guests can see Africa’s “Big Five” – lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard – while driving in an open vehicle, or simply enjoy the sounds of wildlife from a deck outside a luxurious camp.Lodges are also an excellent way to experience the latest in African earthy interior design. And many have a commitment to environmental upliftment and social responsibility programmes.Quality assuranceThe Tourism Grading Council of South Africa is responsible for the quality control of lodges in the country. It employs a five star grading system and, to ensure credibility and independence, a feedback mechanism to monitor customer expectations. Star gradings are displayed on most advertising material and at hotel entrances.Tourism Grading Council of SAAA Travel Guides offers another quality check for visitors to South Africa. The AA stamp of approval badge on promotional material indicates that a venue is highly recommended.The organisation also runs an annual awards programme based on consumer feedback on some 1 200 AA quality-assured establishments. High-scoring establishments are visited by qualified assessors to verify their scores.AA Travel GuidesAA Travel Guides American Express Accommodation Awards16 OF SOUTH AFRICA’S FINEST LODGESPlease note: this is not an official or definitive list.Thanda Private Game ReserveThis five-star lodge promises “exclusivity, romance and Zulu culture in the heart of the untamed African bush”. Situated in northern Zululand, it boasts over 400 bird species and several travel awards. It has been named Africa’s leading luxury lodge in the World Travel Awards, and is also the only private game reserve in the world to hold exclusive membership with The Leading Hotels of the World. Thanda offers a main lodge perched on a hillside overlooking the bushveld and a safari-style tented camp. Its award-winning wellness centre has a unique Zulu feel, and there are hot and cold outdoor kniepp therapy pools, a reflexology pool, outdoor sala treatment area, steam room and hydrotherapy bath.WebsiteSingita Private Game ReserveSituated in the southeast section of the Kruger National Park, on the border with Mozambique, the locale is a pristine, unexplored expanse of surreal flora, sweeping valleys and breathtaking splendour in the Sabi Sands’ acacia thornveld and riverine forest. The health spa offers conventional European massages, reflexology, manicures, facials and aromatherapy, while the modern gym overlooks the rugged African bush. Two of its lodges, the Ebony and Boulders Lodges, have together been rated the second best resort in the world in the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice survey. Two other Singita lodges, the Lebombo and Sweni Lodges, have been rated the eighth best resort in Africa.WebsiteShamwariThis is the ultimate African adventure and conservation effort coupled with responsible tourism. The reserve has been voted Africa’s leading safari in the World Travel awards, and has worldwide recognition for its conservation efforts. It is situated in verdant bush along the Bushmans River, halfway between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. The 20 000 hectare reserve boasts five eco-systems and a diversity of plant, animal and bird life. Its Bushman’s River lodge has been named the world’s leading sustainable tourism project in the World Travel awards. There are a variety of luxury lodges on offer, ranging from colonial manor houses to tented camps along river courses.WebsiteMalaMala Game ReserveThis legendary safari destination shares a common border of 19 kilometres (12 miles) with the Kruger National Park, with habitats ranging from savannah to riverine thicket. Over two hundred different species occur in abundance. The buildings in the main camp have traditional thatching, spectacular views and are equipped with all the necessary luxuries, while retaining an authentic camp atmosphere. Dinner is served in a reed enclosed boma, while the Buffalo lounge features many artworks. In accordance with conservation policies, only 36 guests at a time are catered for in the 18 luxury rooms. The Sable Camp is an ideal retreat for the more reclusive traveller. It accommodates 14 guests in five luxury suites and has a colonial feel enhanced with modern comforts, including a library with satellite television and internet connectivity.WebsiteSabi Sabi Private Game LodgeSabi Sabi lies within the 65 000 hectare Sabi Sand Reserve, located in the southern section of the Kruger National Park, with the opportunity to see the Big Five as well as smaller creatures that come to drink at the watering holes. This luxury private game lodge is one of the most established, with over 100 years of safari experience. There is a choice of five-star accommodation, from Selati Camp’s colonial era replete with lantern-lit suites, to its Bush lodges that offer a more contemporary feel. The courtyards are artistically designed with spectacular wooden carvings by renowned local sculptors. The Earth Lodge has won international awards for its architecture and decor.WebsiteLondolozi Private Game ReserveFamous for its leopards, this established lodge dates back to 1926. Four exclusive camps and the private Granite Suites are secluded amongst towering trees on the banks of the Sand River. This area has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife. There is an ambience of tranquillity and meditative luxury in the design of the camps that ensure an authentic bush experience. The Londolozi Life wellness centre offers yoga, massage and fitness activities. There are game drives, interpretive walks, a library, and a cinematography centre screening films related to the environment and emerging global trends daily.WebsitePhinda Forest LodgeCC Africa’s Phinda Private Game Reserve is situated in the lush Maputaland region in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Bordering the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park – a World Heritage Site – Phinda comprises 22 000 hectares of prime conservation land. Seven distinct habitats shelter an abundance of wildlife including Africa’s Big Five and over 380 bird species, while the marine diversity off the nearby coast is spectacular. Phinda’s seven splendid safari lodges range from glass-encased suites on stilts, to private decks with plunge pools to sumptuous suites among the treetops. The Phinda Getty Lodge is an intimate family lodge overlooking an extinct volcano.WebsiteNgala Private Game ReserveNgala lodge is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels in the World. Ngala (“Lion” in Shangaan) is located Kruger National Park, with exclusive traversing rights over 14 700 hectares of this game-rich wilderness. Ngala Lodge has 20 classic, thatched chalets overlooking a busy waterhole, and Ngala Tented Safari Camp has six luxurious and romantic tented suites on raised platforms. Activities include walking safaris, interpretive Big Five game viewing, and there is a commitment to conserving African wildlife.WebsiteUlusaba Private Game ReserveOwned by Sir Richard Branson, Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is set in the heart of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve that borders the sprawling Kruger National Park. There are over 13 500 hectares of unspoilt, game-rich bush in near solitude. Activities include early morning game drives in open vehicles, a gym, a selection of treatments offered in the Aroma Boma, or the option of a walking safari with an armed ranger and tracker. Sundowners can be enjoyed during evening game drives, followed by a spotlight night drive, searching for those elusive nocturnal animals. Dinner is served under the African skies around a blazing log fire, with tribal dancers and singers to entertain guests.WebsiteWooded Peaks Game LodgeThis five-star establishment is situated in the Tshwene valley in the Welgevonden Private Game Reserve. A teak suspended bridge leading to the main lodge sets the atmosphere from the minute you arrive. There are five luxurious log cabin style bush suites which accommodate two guests each. The en-suite bathroom provides magical bush views, but an outdoor shower an arm’s stretch from the bush is a must. All game drives and walks are led by fully-accredited guides.WebsiteLeopard Mountain Game LodgeThis award winning 4-star lodge is located high up in the wild secluded hills of the 23 000 hectares Zululand Black Rhino Reserve, overlooking a vast stretch of unspoiled bushland and riverine forests. From the Umsunduze River below to the distant Lebombo Mountains, the lodge has one of the most spectacular views in Zululand. Other attractions of the lodge include an abundance of game, a wide diversity of flora and prolific birdlife. Guests can also enjoy a variety of nearby activities including scuba diving, Big Five game viewing, rhino tracking, cultural village visits and tiger fishing. There is also a fabulous rock pool offering fantastic views, and the unspoilt wilderness surrounding it is home to rhino, leopard and giraffe. The luxurious stone and thatch chalets provide a haven of peace and tranquillity and from the deck you can lie in a hammock and watch the eagles soar.WebsiteNedile Game LodgeSituated in the Welgevonden Private Game Reserve this lodge has five exclusive suites with awesome views of the Waterberg Mountains. Welgevonden Reserve is a declared South African Heritage Site of 33 000 hectares and borders the Marekele National Park. The main building has an African theme and consists of a lounge/bar and dining area, all leading out onto seligna decks emphasising the natural environment. A rock boma provides an outside dining area where you can enjoy a traditional campfire. You can see the largest collection of white rhino on private land, as well as the big five, giraffe and antelope.WebsiteHongonyi Private Game LodgeIdeal for the wildlife enthusiast, this private game lodge and wildlife reserve is a safe haven to many of the African antelope species. There are sunrise safaris on foot where you can see the “Little Five” – the Ant Lion, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortois, Redbilled Buffalo Weaver Bird and Rhinoceros Beetle. At night you may see the elusive Bush Baby, Serval, Civet and Aardvark. There are 14 en-suite, twin bedrooms, and a cosy honeymoon suite, surrounded by tropical gardens.WebsitePlumari Game LodgeSet on 4 000 hectares, with over 1&nbps;000 head of game that include rhino, leopard, hippo, buffalo and giraffe, this lodge has 18 luxury suites that overlook a tranquil lake and the majestic Magaliesberg Mountains. Relaxation options include onsite Bella Donna health and beauty professionals specialising in massages, facials, reflexology, aromatherapy and make-up. It has a 4-star grading.WebsiteWhite Elephant Safari LodgeLocated in the Pongola Game Reserve, overlooking the western escarpment of the Lebombo Mountains, Lake Jozini and the savannah woodland of Northern Zululand, the lodge combines an ambience of a bygone era with a rustic, bush lodge charm. Originally built in the 1920s, this 16-bedded lodge has eight luxurious safari-style tents, each with en-suite bathroom, outdoor canvas shower and private veranda. There is a strong eco-tourism tradition with elephant walks, rhino trails, game drives, tiger fishing, sunset lake cruises and bird watching activities.WebsiteForever Resorts Blue Mountain LodgeThis luxury lodge blends nature and fantasy, trading on an “Out of Africa” charm. Set on 200 hectares of indigenous bush, forestry and farmland, the ochre-washed lodge with its deep-set verandas and white fans, has a range of suites to choose from, as well as a chapel. Its manor houses are situated in verdant surroundings and have marbled bathrooms, a mahogany study, kitchen, lounge and dinning room, and a personal chef and maitr’d.WebsiteSAinfo reporterWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material
The starkness of being nowhere Some 2,500 Nagarik Seva Kendras (NSKs) in Assam began issuing claim, objection and correction forms on Friday for people excluded from the complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30.NRC officials could not specify how many forms were collected, but they expect the pace of collecting forms to pick up within a week.‘Insufficient evidence’Nearly 40 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants had been left out of the complete draft because of the lack of sufficient documentary evidence of their citizenship, officials said. They can reapply through the claims form, while those whose names have been misspelt can use the correction form.The objection form is for those who suspect the nationality of a person and feel he or she does not deserve to be on the final, error-free NRC.Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the government had completed only 30% of the work related to the NRC.Also Read “Preparation of the NRC will take a long time, and by the time it is completed, people’s perception about it may change. People should not come to any final conclusion at this juncture, when only 30% work is done,” he said at a function in Agartala on Friday.“People whose names are missing from the NRC can apply again with valid documents. Then there are the courts to file objections later. There is no need to panic or create unrest,” Mr. Sarma said.He advised tribal political parties in Tripura, such as the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, an ally of the ruling BJP, to wait for the “expensive” Assam exercise to be completed successfully before demanding the NRC for their State.Hindi handicapThe Assam Pradesh Congress Committee has asked the NRC authorities to designate officers who can read Hindi and Urdu documents submitted by applicants at the Kendras. “Hundreds of Hindi-speaking people from central and northern India could not find a place in the final draft of the NRC as they had submitted documents either in Hindi or Urdu,” APCC spokesperson Gauravv Somani said.“Various delegations of the Hindi-speaking community met Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to apprise him of the difficulties faced by them in this process of updating the NRC,” Mr. Somani said, clarifying that the Congress was in favour of a foreigner-free NRC.The NRC authorities had sent 5.7 lakh documents to 25 States and Union Territories that had issued certificates to people from those States and UTs residing in Assam. Most such documents were not verified, and those that were sent were not accepted because NRC officials could not read the language, Mr. Somani said.Left suggestsThe Assam State Committee of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has provided the government with a few suggestions for preparing the Standard Operating Procedure for claims and objections pertaining to the NRC Assam. These include acceptance of marriage and migration certificates by competent authorities, and application of the family tree mechanism to include the children of poor, illiterate people who do not have documents to establish linkage with their parents.“Panchayat certificates issued to married women for establishing linkage with their parents were rejected as most panchayats or village headmen do not maintain a register. If the citizenship of other members of the family is proved by same legacy as submitted by the married women, her name should be included in the NRC,” the CPI(M) said in a statement.The CPI(M) also said the Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) should be kept on hold till the NRC is finalised. Assam has 100 FTs where the cases of people declared doubtful voters or suspected as foreigners are tried.“The names found eligible for inclusion in the NRC should be included. Excluded names may be sent to the FTs after the NRC process is over,” the party said, adding that a government-funded DNA test should be done after all measures are exhausted.Soldiers’ pleaFive retired and serving soldiers have written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking his intervention to ensure that Armed Forces personnel are not excluded from the final NRC.“We ex-servicemen, being bona fide citizens of India and natives of Assam, applied for inclusion of our names along with our family members in the draft NRC. Some ex-servicemen and their family members have been dropped from the draft NRC without any perceptible reason despite using legacy data such as the 1951 NRC and voters’ lists up to 1971 as per the guidelines,” the petition signed by retired honorary Captain Sana Ullah and four others said.
A group of disgruntled leaders of Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party announced the launch of a new outfit, accusing the leadership of reducing the party to a “private limited company”.Mr. Paswan played down the development, saying “let them go”. Led by LJP national general secretaries Satyanand Sharma and Anil Kumar Paswan, and treasurer Ramesh Chandra Kapoor, the rebel leaders announced the formation of LJP (Secular).