Royal Malewane, Thornybush Reserve

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Royal Malewane, Thornybush Reserve

Royal Malewane entrance loungeButter dish

When people mention Royal Malewane, they use the kind of hushed tones often reserved for someone held in high regard. This is because Royal Malewane seems to have effortlessly created a safari lodge at the pinnacle of taste, within the boundaries of timeless, classic elegance. Simply put, it epitomizes all that is luxurious about safari in its purest form.

Attention to detail and quality are paramount in all things at Royal Malewane, and such is their seamless integration into the daily operation of the lodge, that if you were not as nosy as me, you may not notice some of the finer details like; sleeping on Ralph Lauren linen, eating from monogrammed plates, resting your feet on Persian carpets, and buttering your bread from an antique silver dish where the butter has been etched with RM.


Elton John’s favourite safari lodge

The concept of solitude is redefined at Royal Malewane. Suites are so self-contained that I was tempted to remain cocooned in mine and not re-appear into the real world for a good long time. After all I had my own private mini pool and thatched outdoor gazebo, large bowl of fruit, decanters of liquor and minibar full of drinks and nibbles. Exclusivity is taken one step further in the extravagantly proportioned and very private Royal and Malewane suite, which comes with a private chef, private game drives and daily massages. This is where you are likely to find Elton John when he comes to South Africa on safari. His name and others equally as recognizable, scatter the guest book like confetti.

Royal Malewane is well placed for big game too, as it lies along the western boundary of Kruger National Park in Thornybush Game Reserve.


There are no fences separating the reserve and the park, and all the animals (including the Big Five) move freely between the two wilderness areas.

Buffalo face off

Superb Rangers & Trackers

So often, I am disappointed with the quality of guiding – not the level of knowledge but the delivery of it. Here at Royal Malewane, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. My guide, Ryan, was one of the best I have ever experienced. He had no great ego getting in the way, or a khaki-inspired power trip, or bland delivery of facts. His was just expert knowledge delivered at peer level, which invited meaningful interaction. It became quite obvious that Royal Malewane only hires the best, and all their guides have at least five years experience and are highly qualified, with their Head Guide leading the way as an Assessor and Examiner. They even have one of only a couple of Master Tracker’s; Wilson Masiya. Although Royal Malewane can boast that its rangers and trackers have reached the highest levels of proficiency, it refrains from doing so. They do not need to blow their own trumpet. I suppose I am doing that for them.

Bad Food Experience

However, there is one trumpet I cannot blow, for my experience of the food was not good. I am sure they will be horrified to read this, since their executive chef is the bees knees of all that is great about the culinary arts and a Blazon of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, but he was not in situ during my visit, and the food was not just average, it was poor. It all started with the iced tea, which was so highly spiced that it was completely undrinkable. Then dish after dish proved unsatisfactory in one fundamental way or another. I was severely disappointed. Someone must have been having a very bad couple of days in the kitchen and I really believe that this is not the usual experience you can expect from Royal Malewane, since their food is something they pride themselves on. I will endeavour to return and report a much happier culinary experience. What I can commend, is that the pairing of wine with the food was done with great skill and the Overgaauw Sylvaner went brilliantly with grilled fish. But whatever wine you pair with a borewors braai (barbequed thick farm sausage), which was part of the Sunday night boma meal (outside around a fire), never seems quite as appropriate a good ole’ beer drunk out of the bottle.

Best Spa in the Bush
The Royal Malewane Spa is out of this world. It provides the improbable in the heart of the African bush: a serene courtyard indented with treatment rooms, sunken stone baths, an unfeasibly long lap-pool and an air of opulent peacefulness that is absolutely magical.

Most beautiful spa in the bush Foot washing ceremony

Beautiful therapists wash your feet in a calming ritual that precedes each treatment. The whole atmosphere exudes harmony and luxury reflecting everything about Royal Malewane.

If a romantic African honeymoon is on the cards, then the genteel mood and subtle sophistication of Royal Malewane could make you float around in a daze of happiness and set the scene for the future. But don’t get too used to it, unless you have bottomless pockets, as this kind of class doesn’t come cheap.


Safari Satisfaction Index (SSI)
Market: Exclusive Luxury Mid range no frills
Cost: High Mid Low
Basis: Fully inclusive Full or ½ board Self-catering
Child friendly Activities extra
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Wildlife / Nature Experience: ■ ■ ■
Ranger / Guiding: ■ ■ ■
Estimated Star grading: ■ ■ ■
Food: ■ ■ ■ □ □
Game walks ■ ■ ■
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