Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

Since she opened their first property in 1999 with her husband Phil, turning the family’s South Africa safari lodge into Royal Malewane, Liz Biden has created hotels known for her exuberant, unique design and top of the line service: Birkenhead House waterfront in Hermanus; La Residence in the Cape Winelands town of Franschhoek; the art filled tower The Silo Hotel in Cape Town. But she continued to add on to the Royal Malewane lodges in the private Thornybush reserve next to Kruger National Park. The latest: the opulent, eclectic, vividly colored and perfectly located for wildlife viewing Waterside opened in mid July.

The designs in the 8 freestanding suites (six with one bedroom, one with two and a four bedroom house) mix furnishings that would look right at home in city Presidential Suites with local African artifacts and art. But it’s the bold colors that you notice first starting with intense versions of the golds, greens and leopard prints of the bush blending with corals, reds, hot pinks and electric blues that can be seen on the birds on surrounding fever trees. All have plunge pools heated with sustainable solar technology, expansive decks with views over the bush and are connected to the main lodge and spa by walkways occasionally next to a visiting elephant. With a waterhole on the property and a hide alongside for guests to observe animals using the water without being observed themselves, wildlife viewing is possible without leaving the property. But, naturally, there are morning and afternoon game drives and bush walks offered every day.

Children aren’t always allowed on game drives or in safari lodges overall but they are welcome here; the one stipulation is that guests of the one bedroom suites book a private safari vehicle. Wildlife viewing is exceptional in this area and while no guest can ever be guaranteed a specific sighting, the guides here are among the most knowledgeable and experienced in the region. All of the rangers at Royal Malewane hold the highest professional Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) qualifications for both game drives and bush walks and the lodge employs three of the seven Master Trackers in the world, the only ones in the greater Kruger Park region. Guides can also tailor their commentary on thrilling sightings for younger guests and induct new members into the Royal Ranger’s Club after they learn how to spot animals through Track & Sign lessons, complete an animal checklist and pass a Bush Quiz. While on property, there are other diversions for those guests including a kids’ game room/entertainment center that opens to a firepit with a pizza oven, a jungle gym and arts and crafts.

The adults also have other diversions when they’re not out tracking wildlife. The Reflections Spa has three treatment rooms and a hammam for mind and body soothing; there are also tastings in the cellar of South African and international wines. Gourmets will enjoy sophisticated, modern South African cuisine courtesy of chef Cheslin Cornelissen who just transitioned from Cape Town and his role in the kitchen at The Silo Hotel. Or they could just open a book they haven’t had time to read at home and recline in a seat in the library overlooking the water hole, pausing to look out from time to time when a lion, buffalo or elephant saunters by.

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