The Ultimate Luxury Safari — Ngala Tented Camp

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My African safari in Kruger National Park was one of my absolute favorite travel experiences of recent memory.  A safari, in and of itself, is amazing.  But this one went so far beyond my expectations, it left me reeling.

What made it beyond amazing?  Staying at the Ngala Tented Camp of &Beyond Safaris, in the heart of Ngala Private Game Reserve.

To start our adventure, we jumped on a charter flight at Johannesburg, making the two-hour flight directly to Ngala.

The views over South Africa weren’t bad, either.

Soon, we touched down at Ngala — and were welcomed to Ngala Tented Camp, our incredible oasis in the middle of the bush.

Luxury in Africa

Before arriving, I knew that we would be camping in luxury tents.  As I’ve mentioned here a few times, I’m a lifelong camper from a camping family.  I first went camping at twelve days old.  I took my first steps in a tent.

So continuing to camp around the world has been special to me, especially when I get to do it in unusual tents in unusual places like Wadi Rum.

But nothing — absolutely NOTHING — could possibly top the Ngala Tented Camp.

Meet my tent:

Why, yes.  That’s my enormous bed, my many pillows, and just one part of this incredible tent.

Your typical tent bathroom?  Not at all.

A beautiful writing desk sits behind the bed, complete with leather-bound wildlife guides and a beautiful suede backgammon set.

 

Washing up?  Choose between a giant bathtub and an outdoor shower.

And because it’s an all-inclusive, everything is free.  The multiple bottles of wine in your tent?  Drink them as you will.  That goes for the many bottles of spirits in the refrigerator as well.

(This is one thing I can’t quite get used to.  I’m the kind of girl who will tear the room apart looking for her half-finished bottle of water rather than open a complimentary new one.)

My favorite touch?  Macarons and a sweet welcome note!

Best of all?  THE TENTS HAVE FREE WIFI.  I was ready to move in full-time.

The Safari Experience

We would go on two game drives each day — one at dawn and one at dusk.  Our guides, Lee-Anne and JP, were outstanding, as were our trackers — we were able to see absolutely incredible animals, including an extremely rare cheetah with its fresh kill; a few leopards; some adorable baby elephants; many pregnant zebra, including one where I could see the baby kicking from the inside; and the ever-elusive honeybadger.

One thing people wonder is why the animals never attack people, even though the vehicles have no barriers.  Well, the animals see the vehicle as a giant creature, people and all.  If you get OUT of the car, it’s a different story.  The animals will have no qualms about eating you then.

One night, we followed a lioness for a good 30 minutes.  She was moaning along the way, possibly calling out for her cubs.  Incredible.

I loved seeing the families of animals and how they interacted with each other.

Seeing animals on safari in Africa is an incredibly moving experience, so much that I can’t adequately describe it here.  It feels intimate to see these legendary animals in their habitat, living their lives with each other, and this alone is the reason why a safari is an absolute must for an avid traveler.

At the end of each morning drive, we would drive to an area and relax with the safari special: coffee, hot chocolate, and Amarula liqueur!  We finished our evening drives with a round of drinks and appetizers.

A Halloween Surprise

When I saw that I would be in South Africa on Halloween, I was a little bit disappointed that I wouldn’t get to celebrate my favorite holiday this year.  Halloween isn’t big in South Africa.

Oh, but I needn’t have worried — we DID celebrate!  Cailin planned ahead for us and brought some impromptu costumes!

But at the end of our evening game drive on Halloween night, we were brought to the ultimate surprise: a Halloween Braai!  

The staff at the Ngala Tented Camp had set up a Halloween-themed braii (a South African barbecue) in the brush, complete with decorations, candy, booze, and tons of barbecued baby chicken, boerewors, and kudu.

I mean, they actually CARVED JACK-O-LANTERNS and MADE GHOSTS OUT OF SHEETS — in a country where Halloween is barely celebrated.  It was an incredibly wonderful thing for the team at Ngala to do for us, and I will always look back on this as one of my favorite Halloween celebrations ever.

The whole evening was surreal, amazing, incredibly fun.  And a lone hyena kept trying to crash our party!

Into the Safari Lodge

After two nights at the Tented Camp, we moved to the nearby Safari Lodge — while not quite as stunning as the Ngala Tented Camp, it was the perfect place to spend our final luxurious night on safari.

From here we went on our final game drives.  The piece de resistance?  A leopard in a tree feasting on its fresh kill, as its mother dozed in the shade.  Leopards are unbelievably, unbelievably beautiful.

Going on safari?  Go luxury.

A safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience — or maybe more than once, if you’re lucky.  My advice?  Do it right, and do it up.  It’s so easy to throw your money away on a sub-par safari.  Spend money on the all-around experience.

Do your research — MUCH more research than you would do for an ordinary trip.  Research the lodges and tour companies — but also the game drives and vehicles, the group sizes, the regions, the wildlife they have on hand, and the time of year as well.  (Believe me, you don’t want to end up like the lady who thought she had booked her dream tiger safari — and didn’t know until her first game drive that there are no tigers in Africa.)

Ngala is a place that I can recommend wholeheartedly.  You will have such a great time here.

Essential Info: Fully inclusive rates per person per night start at 3,995-7,495 rand (app. $451-847) for the Ngala Safari Lodge and 4,595-7,495 rand (app. $519-847) for the Ngala Tented Camp.  Food, beverages, entertainment, and two daily game drives are included.

Many thanks to &Beyond and Visit South Africa for hosting me on this unforgettable adventure.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

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35 thoughts on “The Ultimate Luxury Safari — Ngala Tented Camp”

    1. Not bad, huh? 🙂

      We did two game drives per day and each lasted around three hours. We were probably directly with animals for two thirds of the time. LOTS and LOTS of animal time. Staying three days was good — it gave us the time to see nearly everything we wanted to see. Everything but male lion and hippo (excluding nose poking out of the water).

  1. While I agree that everyone should safari in Africa a least once in their life, I do not agree that a safari needs to be luxury travel. I have been on multiple economical safaris for fewer days (in Kruger, Mikumi and others) and seen many of the same animals you saw and more. I do not agree that the money you spend has much to do with the quality of your safari, do your research before you go and save the cash.

      1. Whilst you can make significant savings by going to cheaper parts of the Kruger and other South African parks, what you get with Ngala is a balance between far too many vehicles surrounding one poor lion and the huge costs of staying at somewhere like Mala Mala or Londolozi.

        On the whole Ngala looks very good value for what you get and more importantly what you don’t get.

  2. This looks BEYOND amazing! When I do eventually make it to Africa, I hope I can afford a safari half as nice as this one.

    I also love that they put on a little Halloween celebration for you all! How nice!

  3. This looks incredible, what great personal touches and gorgeous, luxurious surrounds. We did a camping safari when we went to Africa in 2009 and loved camping under the stars, however this would be an awesome experience! Thanks for sharing the pictures and including the price- I’m always curious about that.

  4. Your so lucky to experience that kind of beautiful and wonderful safari life.The pictures are awesome.I love it.South Africa has many lovely places and I wish to visit there too.The luxury tents were amazing.

  5. Hey Kate, I was hoping this South African post would be about affordable options and how we can travel Africa without remortgaging our houses. Though the experience looks amazing, it’s a little un-relatable for us keen travelers without freebies or a trust fund.

    1. I understand that, Alissa, and that’s why more than 90% of my content isn’t luxury-based. This was by far the most luxurious blog trip I’ve ever been on, but even so, the majority of my South Africa content is about the destinations themselves — their beauty, affordable activities, and stories that will get people more interested in considering South Africa as a travel destination.

  6. Wow! What an amazing post. I have just booked for Kenya including the safari (Tent included) and this has got me so excited!

    Thank you for an amazing post and wonderful pictures 🙂 x

  7. Great stuff, but… What is this obsession with things being free? If you don’t pay up front either the cost is built into the flat rate you paid or someone else is paying for it (like the taxpayers). There is no ‘free’. Free health care is the biggest oxymoron in today’s society. WiFi is not ‘free’ – it has to be paid for.

    1. Creighton, to this day, it’s commonplace for luxury properties to charge huge amounts for wifi. It’s ridiculous, as the vast majority of budget hotels and hostels will provide quality wifi for free. That’s why it’s notable here.

  8. I’m travelling to Africa in March for work. I will be working in the Congo but will be travelling through South Africa. I plan on taking a few days for personal travel, but I will be traveling solo. Did you feel safe? Would you recommend this for a solo female traveler?

  9. Hi! Great post! Do you have any information on what vaccines/ medicines need to be taken before going to Africa?

    Thanks!

    1. Kim, you only have to be vaccinated for Hipititis A and Typhoid plus Malaria pills. There is no yello fever in SA. We just returned home last week without a mosquito bite

  10. Hi,

    Did you see snakes or hear of them? I know this seems silly, but I am terrified of them and am just curious!

    Thank you!

  11. So what was it like staying at an unfenced lodge? Were you nervous about predators coming to close to the lodge?

  12. Hi Kate! We are looking into staying at Ngala for our honeymoon, and when I googled it your article came up! You are one of my favorite travel bloggers and I respect your honest reviews, so I was thrilled to see your report of staying at the Ngala properties! <3

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