Not sure where to even start when it comes to Singwe. This place redefines amazing. My husband and I drove from the Johannesburg airport to the lodge, which took about 6 hours (with a stop or two) and got there after dark for a 3 night stay this November. As soon as we got there, Peter, the game driver/ranger, met us on the road in his vehicle to make sure we arrived safely at the lodge, since the road is a bit rugged and in the dark it was pitch black other than our headlights while driving to the lodge. Once we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by the lodge manager, Shirlene, and the rest of the staff. Shirlene had cold drinks ready for us at the checkin desk and promptly showed us to our room and had the staff bring our bags and park our car for us. (we were on a 2 week trip, so we had a good amount of luggage, souvenirs, etc with us).
The room was beautiful with cold A/C, a super comfortable bed with crisp linens, a large bathroom with tub and separate shower (which we loved, as the entire bathroom is made out of natural stone and very cool), and was spotlessly clean. Perfect for a romantic getaway or just pure relaxation. There was also a turndown service each night, which included fresh bottled waters and chocolates for each of us.
Now to the game drives- Peter is an amazing ranger. He's grown up nearby and literally knows everything about the park and it's animals. He's never intrusive to the animals and gets very close when safe, without harassing or disturbing anything for the most part. He and his tracker, Cassi, found 4 of the big 5 for us. In addition to that he can tell you about hundreds of birds as you drive along, and even pointed out different insects as well in the park. The game drives were never cut short, and we thoroughly enjoyed Peter and Cassi's hilarious stories and professional behavior. They were quite a joy to spend each morning/evening with on the drives. Also, the animals in the park are thriving and you can go off the trails here, unlike Kruger where you have to stay on them- so you have a better chance of seeing/following the animals in Balule.
As for the food at the lodge, it's amazing as well. It's freshly made each day and was never anything but exceptional. My husband and I couldn't believe the quality of the food or the large portions they brought out for each meal. Breakfast usually consisted of cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt, and also a plate of cooked meats and eggs. The lunches were either a hearty salad with grilled meat, or a piping hot dish of something like beef over rice with sauteed veggies. Dinner was always 3 courses that included items like lamb stew with fresh veggies, potatoes, and fried mushrooms that were to die for. They even did a traditional bbq one night for us outside with grilled steaks and filet mignons. Dessert was also exceptional and included items like homeade chocolate mousse or a traditional south african tart. Since you're in the middle of nowhere for the most part, and will never want to leave the hotel grounds once you arrive, the food is very important in our opinion. We never once disliked any of the meals, and when we arrived Shirlene was sure to ask us if there was anything we didn't like to eat or that we preferred to have at a meal. Peter and Shirlene also come by after dessert each evening to chat and have coffee while making you feel very at home.
The grounds in the lodge are fenced in, so it's safe to walk around in the evenings for the most part. The shade trees over the patio outside made dining al fresco a real treat for us. The river is a beautiful backdrop, and we watched countless monkeys, baboons, and impalas drink from it daily while we lounged by the pool and edge of the river.
Overall this is an amazing place to stay. The staff is so warm and friendly that you feel like you're visiting good friends and family rather than a hotel. We hated that fact we had to leave after only 3 nights and will surely return again.
Also, this lodge is one of the best values in the area based on the amazing rooms, food, grounds, and service. Other lodges are much more costly and commercialized. This one would be great for small weddings (we had a destination wedding ourselves in another country) or family reunions as well.
The only thing you might want to consider is that there is really no internet at the lodge- we didn't mind because you're not really there to do business or email, text, etc. but this may bother some- though not us! Just enjoy the property and the countless animals on the drives!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This magnificent property situated in Balule Reserve, a 40,000 ha reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park, is built on the banks of the mighty Olifants River, which provides many opportunities for game viewing even while in camp ... watch families of elephants who have come down to bathe, lazy hippos surfacing for a yawn, a skittish herd of impala drinking nervously ... and listen for the cry of a fish eagle. At Singwe River Lodge we provide a memorable and affordable luxurious Big Five game experience in a low-risk malaria area, with excellent accommodation in a luxury lodge, delicious food and warm African hospitality. We pride ourselves on the personal attention that each guest receives. Shaded by giant fig trees, the beautiful, tranquil game lodge has accommodation for up to 12 adults in a Manor House and three thatched riverside chalets, a large swimming pool and rolling lawns which extend down to the banks of the Olifants River. Our dinners are served in our African Boma under the night sky around a roaring fire. Alternatively, we serve our meals in our thatched dining area or on the wooden decks overlooking the river.Children of all ages are welcome and a child-minding service is available if parents wish to dine alone or go on a game drive. Singwe is easily accessed with daily flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban to three international airports close by. The nearest, Eastgate International Airport at Hoedspruit, is about 37 km from Singwe. We can arrange road transfers from the airport to the lodge, as well as from Nelspruit, Phalaborwa and OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Singwe River Lodge South Africa/Balule Private Game Reserve