With its heady mixture of Big 5 safari luxury and rich cultural heritage in a novel railway setting, Kruger Shalati is on the right track.
Visiting the Kruger National Park in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, has been at the top of my travel list for a really long time. Visuals of its beautiful landscapes, wildlife and magical sunsets constantly play out in my head. And when the opportunity to shoot this Women’s Month issue cover star, Bonang Matheba, at the Kruger Shalati arose, it felt too good to be true.
My journey there was long, as it began with an early morning flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The team and I then drove to the Kruger National Park at about 2pm. The drive was scenic and beautiful, and about six hours long. We arrived there by nightfall...to the most beautifully lit full moon I have ever seen. This was a sign of a magical experience we were about to encounter for our two nights there.
The Train on the Bridge is an exciting new offering in the iconic Kruger National Park. A perfect combination of Africa’s most breathtaking natural splendours with well-deserved luxuries aboard a newly refurbished train that’s reminiscent of African excellence. Permanently stationed on the historically-rich Selati Bridge above the Sabie River, Kruger Shalati offers the most unique luxury accommodation in a re-envisioned train that pays homage to the guests who explored the park nearly 100 years ago. When the first Kruger visits were permitted in the early 1920s, the train would park overnight in the exact spot where Kruger Shalati is positioned.
The way the interior of the train has been refurbished is impressive and functional. The decor looks and feels luxurious, including the soft, super-comfy bed. From the bath and the small balcony, you can look out to the Selati River, where Hippos and Elephants roam free. The train’s name is inspired by Shalati; an African warrior queen. According to oral tradition, the origins of Shalati’s ruling can be traced back to the 19th century. Shalati was one of the first female warrior chiefs of the small Tebula clan, part of the Tsonga tribe that lived in the bush around the Murchison Range in the present-day Limpopo Province. Shalati warrior hosikati (queen) was no ordinary woman, while most queens wanted a brave king to come and save them, she wanted a bayonet war axe so she could save her clan. She was a warrior for her clan as well as humanity. During her chieftainship, she learned how the world worked, but had a vision of a perfect world; one without crime, war and inequality. I learned about this interesting history on the day of our shoot and I was blown away as this was the narrative we wanted to tell about our cover shoot. Bonang is a force to be reckoned with and has achieved so much in her career. She has set a bar in African entertainment that is high and everything she touches, from her business ventures to her digital presence is gold. She embodies the energy of Queen Shalati and therefore it was no coincidence that we ended up with Kruger Shalati as our location.
Situated adjacent to the Skukuza Camp, as a gateway to the Kruger National Park – where the Big 5 roam freely – Kruger Shalati off ers an express entryway to freedom, relaxation and a meaningful connection to nature and wildlife. The guests have convenient access to all that the park has to offer and a diverse range of other major attractions in the area. During our stay we had a delicious buff et style-lunch at the Kruger Station which is within walking distance of Kruger Shalati. All the meals were beautifully presented and so flavourful. Dinner time at the terrace was my favourite time there. Eating under the stars while basking in the warmth of the heaters and nearby fire was a memorable experience. The staff were superstars, catering for all our needs with warm smiles. The team at Kruger Shalati explains, “When we created Kruger Shalati we focused not solely on frivolous spending or acquiring expensive goods to enhance our lodge’s luxury. Instead, we thought of you, our esteemed guest. We envisioned how to extend the warmest welcome upon your arrival after your long journey.
We thought of how to delight you with the first glimpse of our beautiful interiors; and how to take your breath away as you enter your carriage suite or Bridge House land-based room.
True luxury is defined by thoughtfulness and care, values we hold dear. At Kruger Shalati, we capture not only luxury through our exquisite decor but also through the genuine smiles of every staff member. Your experience at Kruger Shalati is a testament to genuine authenticity, embodied by the passion of our game rangers who eagerly share their knowledge of the bush, like pausing to explain how the Red-billed Oxpecker warns a large mammal (Elephant, Buffalo or Hippo) when danger is nearby. It manifests in how we assist you in decompressing from the outside world, allowing you time to embrace nature and all it has to offer. It permeates every delectable bite and tantalising sip you relish. It reveals itself in the beauty of each sunrise and sunset, a hippo’s distinctive call, and a lion’s mighty roar. It is the feeling of complete tranquillity and extraordinary delight that envelops you.”
Every aspect of the rooms has been thoughtfully considered – from the placement of the fluffy towels when you step out of the bath overlooking the serene Selati river, to the artful opening of the curtains, the comfort of the swivel chair, and the pleasure of savouring a drink while immersed in the captivating sounds of Africa.
Even the selection of artwork and materials was a deliberate choice, showcasing South African artisans’ immense talent and allowing you to connect with their unique creations. In addition, the distinctive handmade dining chairs crafted by local women make one feel truly special.
Kruger Shalati is a five-star hotel that offers a genuine essence of African-flavoured luxury, and this rating is a testament to their high standards and how you feel when you are there.
The background sound of the flowing Selati River, the sounds of wildlife going about its day, and the chirping of birds is permanently stored in my happy memories and I can’t wait to visit again.
The Game Drive Experience
Game drives at Kruger Shalati are undertaken by passionate and professional rangers who are eager to share their in-depth knowledge and stories of the fascinating wildlife and the surroundings.
For more information visit; krugershalati.com.
Read more in our August/September Women’s Month issue. Grab your digital copy here.
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