Of all the national parks in South Africa, Pilanesberg is in my top three.
Not only have I seen leopards here TWICE, but it’s where I took a terrible photo of one with a kill in a tree!
While I don’t have any spectacular photographic evidence of the experience, it’s still one of my coolest safari sightings to date!
So when we sat down to plan the first Wild x Wanderlust Retreat, Pilanesberg was front of mind. I knew it would deliver on unforgettable game drives and gorgeous accommodation.
Enter: Nkala Lodge.
A luxurious family-owned lodge that wouldn’t know how to take a bad photo even if it tried!
So, if you’re on the prowl for a bush getaway you’ll rave about for years, read on for my full review of Nkala!
Psst…Want more South Africa safari travel inspiration? Check out these other posts:
- What It’s Like to Go on The Wild x Wanderlust Retreat
- Visiting Kruger National Park: Everything You Need to Know
- Babanango Game Reserve: Where Conservation & Community Meet
- The Ultimate iSimangaliso Wetland Park Travel Guide
- How to Visit Addo National Park: A Complete Self-Drive Safari Guide
- 10+ Spectacular Road Trips in South Africa You Can’t Miss!
- Top Romantic Getaways in South Africa
Table of Contents
Nkala Lodge: An Introduction
Set on the outskirts of an ancient volcanic crater (how cool!?) is the Big 5 Black Rhino Game Reserve.
The reserve is part of a private concession within Pilanesberg National Park. A sprawling 55 000 hectare reserve and one of the top safari destinations in South Africa.
Here is where you’ll find the spellbinding Nkala Lodge. An exclusive self-catering escape into the bush where you can rent the ENTIRE place for yourself.
Say goodbye to those awkward conversations with strangers on game drives and at the dinner table. All you need to do is bring along your nearest and dearest for a weekend (or week) of ultimate bush luxury!
The Location: The Perfect Safari Destination from Johannesburg
When planning a safari weekend getaway, choosing a location is the most important item on your to-do list.
After all, you don’t want to drive for hours on end.
The location needs to be within a day-trip distance, which is why Pilanesberg and Black Rhino Reserve are two of the best safari destinations near Johannesburg.
The malaria-free reserve is an easy 2-hours drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria and only 35-minutes from the iconic Sun City.
Valley of the Waves anyone? 😉
And if you’re feeling EXTRA bougie, you can fly into Pilanesberg International Aiport (NTY). There are two flights a week from Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and OR Tambo International (JHB).
Once you touch down, you can hire a car and take a scenic 43-minute drive to Nkala Lodge.
The Lodge: What to Expect
I’ll be honest.
Nkala Lodge looks picturesque in its photos, but it’s even better looking in person. From the architecture to the decor and the spectacular setting – it’s spellbinding.
The Main Lodge
As mentioned earlier, when you make a booking at Nkala, you get the entire place to yourself, including the main communal area.
You’ll have access to a fully equipped open plan kitchen with everything you need to whip up a delicious meal.
Not in the mood for cooking? You can hire a private chef for your stay!
There is an indoor and outdoor dining area with a massive boma. 12/10 would recommend packing some marshmallows and roasting them around the fire.
Just don’t forget the wine!
Other features include:
- A TV lounge with a live feed of the nearby watering hole (so you can keep an eye out for thirsty elephants!)
- A swimming pool
- A bar
- A gas braai (if you want to take the easy way out)
The Luxury Suites
I had the pleasure of spending two incredible nights at Nkala Lodge as part of my first-ever Wild x Wanderlust Retreat.
Jemma (my co-host) and I checked into the Elephant Suite, and the rest of our group stayed in the other four free-standing luxury rooms.
Each suite is decked out for the Gods and is a bush lovers daydream come true!
Fall sleep in a giant king-sized bed with Egyptian cotton sheets (or swap it out for two singles). Cool off from the heat of the day inside a giant tub, or the gorgeous outdoor shower.
There are no TVs in the rooms, which is something I absolutely love!
Luxury Suite Amenities:
- Private patio
- International plugs & USB points
- Tea & coffee station with a Nespresso machine
- Electric blankets
- Ensuite bathroom with two showers and a free-standing bath
- Complimentary toiletries
- Free Wi-Fi
- Double basins
- Double wardrobes
- Bar fridge
- Daily housekeeping
Game Drives at Nkala Lodge
The best part about staying at Nkala Lodge? The game drives!
As part of your daily rate, you get two private safaris a day.
Nkala Lodge has traversing rights to the whole of Pilanesberg National Park as well as the protected Wilderness Area increasing your chances of seeing the Big 5!
Our guide took us out on a 5-hour morning drive. Yes, you read that, right! That’s the longest I’ve ever been out on a safari, and it was incredible.
We saw herds of elephants, rhinos, giraffes, buffalo, wildebeest, impala, jackal, hyena and a smorgasbord of birdlife.
On our evening drive, we spotted a lone lioness and slowly followed her for an hour before making our way back to the lodge. With not many game reserves offering night drives, it’s a unique safari experience and a chance to see a side of the bush most miss.
Nkala Lodge: The Final Word
In case you can’t tell, I am obsessed with Nkala Lodge.
There is absolutely nothing I can fault them on.
The staff are wonderful humans who went above and beyond. The chef served delectable-after-delectable meal. The rooms are stunning and ooze bush luxury at its finest.
And the game drives? Unforgettable.
Pilanesberg’s scenery is truly unmatched and visiting in “emerald” season is the cherry on top. We saw so many adorable baby animals, I thought my heart might explode!
And when you throw in elephants having a drink right by the lodge, it really doesn’t get better than this!
12/10 would recommend.
Would you go on a safari getaway at Nkala Lodge? Got any tips for spotting leopards? Let me know in the comments!