Our trip to South Africa was truly the vacation of a lifetime (although I do hope to have the opportunity to repeat it). We spent the first three nights of our trip in Cape Town and then traveled to the Ngala Game Reserve. When planning our trip we did an extensive amount of research on game reserves & we’re happy when we finally booked with Ngala. The booking experience was quite pleasant. All of our emails were responded to in a timely & professional fashion & all of our pre-trip questions were answered.
Ngala did not disappoint. The staff impressed us before we even arrived. We were able to get on an earlier flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. After frantically searching for & figuring out how to use the airport payphones we were able to call the reserve & ask them to pick us up several hours ahead of our planned arrival. When we arrived a Hoedspruit, the reserve transfer was waiting for us – with a cooler full of water!
When we arrived at Ngala (around noon), we were greeted by name & introduced to our butler, Given. He was wonderful! All the staff we encountered were friendly & eager to help in any way possible. We were shown to our “hut” which was quite spacious & nice, although it kind of had a funny smell (but that is really my only complaint about the whole place). We had a tour of the reserve during which time our bags were delivered to our room.
In the afternoon we made our way to the dining area for afternoon tea (cakes/cookies/coffee/juice) & to meet our guide, JP. JP & Sam, our tracker, were absolutely amazing & they knew EVERYTHING about Ngala, Kruger & all the animals, birds & insets we saw. I was continually impressed with their knowledge. All the guides we met were quite friendly but I feel like JP really made the trip for us.
As most of the reviews mention, food is in abundance at Ngala. You will surely not go hungry when you visit. The variety & taste is excellent. We ate & drank very well our entire trip. Be sure to go on the nature walks or for a swim when you are there to get some exercise. The nature walks are a great way to see & learn more about the plants & insects. Although, some of the information can be repetitive on the walks day after day, it’s very interesting to hear the different stories, etc. from the different trackers giving the walk. I highly recommend going as often as possible.
I have to admit I was a bit over cautious when packing for this trip. I used bug proofing spray on our clothes & waterproofed our shoes. I don’t think it was necessary. Although we did wear long pants & shoes during the visit, I felt completely comfortable wearing a tank top during the day when weather permitted. We took Malarone during our stay as a precaution but there has not been a reporting case of malaria in the area for several years. I didn’t even see any mosquitoes when we were there. We brought binoculars with us which were nice to have but not necessary. JP shared his binoculars with everyone else in our vehicle.
As other reviews say, game drives are from like 6am-9:30/10am and from 4pm-7:30/8pm. It’s lots of time in the vehicle. I found it quite comfortable but if tend to get sore sitting for that long a time you might want to considering bringing an extra cushion to sit on. There are only 6 guests per vehicle which I believe was completely acceptable. We had no issues viewing the animals & were lucky to have friendly & personable people to chat with. They provide a wool blanket for each guest in the vehicle as early mornings & evenings did get a little cold.
This was our first (hopefully not last) safari and we were very impressed with all the game we saw. We saw all the Big 5 (buffalo, elephant, rino, lion, and leopard) as well as numerous other animals. We also saw a pack of wild dogs which are very rare with 11 pups so that was a real treat.
I believe a huge selling point for Ngala is that the reserve is not fenced in; animals can come & go as they please. Many of the other reserves are fenced in, so there are few surprises.
Overall, I would highly recommend Ngala. The whole experience was beyond amazing. We truly had an amazing trip & would go back in a heartbeat. Maybe next time we’ll stay at Tented Camp, which is a bit more private & exclusive. We visited & it was really lovely.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The romance and mystery of Africa come alive in 20 thatched cottages tucked under a dense canopy of tamboti trees at Ngala Safari Lodge. Exuding classical safari charm, the spacious veranda, with its wonderfully comfortable armchairs, looks out onto a popular waterhole. For pure indulgence, the Safari Suite offers an elegant sitting room, private swimming pool and exclusive use of a safari vehicle. Mouth-watering meals are served in the shade of an enormous weeping boerbean tree, while a large swimming pool lies on the edge of thick riverine woodland. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Ngala Safari Hotel Ngala Private Game Reserve
- AndBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge Ngala Private Game Reserve, South Africa