One of the best things to come out of this whole pandemic for me, has been the re-introduction of local travel. We’ve always tried to travel locally throughout the years, but I must be honest in saying that we didn’t do it enough, and international travel always took priority over exploring locally. I’ve always said that South Africa is such a beautiful country with so much to see and explore, and we have managed to explore a few local gems in the last year, which I am so grateful for. Last month we discovered the Nkomazi Private Game Reserve when we were invited for a two night stay there, and what a local gem it is!
Surrounded by towering mountains, the Komati River and one of the most magnificent terrains that I’ve ever seen, Nkomazi Private Game Reserve is a real local treasure. This game reserve stretches out over 15 000 hectares and is home to a diverse ecosystem that supports both Highveld and Lowveld game species, as well as an abundance of birdlife. The reserve is home to the Big 4(excluding the Rhino), cheetahs and a variety of different game. This game reserve is incredibly exclusive, as only the guests of the lodge are allowed onto the property, so you feel like you almost have this entire 15 000 hectare space to yourself when you are on game drives!
Nkomazi Game Reserve is definitely a very high-end luxury experience, and I felt it before we even arrived at the reserve when the lodge manager got in touch with me to make our arrival arrangements, send me directions and check our lunch order preferences a couple of days before our trip. I don’t know about you, but the personal touches are always what adds to the experience for me, and Nkomazi absolutely nails it! Upon arrival you can either drive up to the lodge yourself (only recommended with a 4×4 vehicle) or get a transfer on one of the game vehicles. Once you get to the lodge you are greeted with a warm towel, a delicious welcome drink and a smile from the staff- pure bliss! The staff at Nkomazi is incredibly welcoming and friendly, and over the two days of our stay there, we felt very spoilt and treated like kings- what a life! 😉
What really takes your bush encounter at Nkomazi to the next level, is the luxurious accommodation! There are only 14 tents on the property, so you are guaranteed a private and relaxing experience. I cannot even begin to describe the glamping experience that you get at Nkomazi, but I will try my best. There are 3 types of tents available for you to choose from: the deluxe tent, the family tent, and the honeymoon tent. We checked out all 3 options and honestly, they are all amazing, it just depends what you are looking for. Every tent is equipped with a splash pool, an outdoor shower and the dreamiest outdoor bath.
Even though we visited in winter, I couldn’t resist taking a bath outside and I did not regret it! The feeling of getting into a hot bubble bath with a cup of coffee in my hand, in the chilly winter afternoon is something else! 😊
The deluxe tents include a beautiful bed, a little closet area, and a bathroom while the honeymoon tents also include a gorgeous lounge area. The outdoor deck is bigger in the honeymoon tents, and both the honeymoon tents are located right on the Komati River.
The tranquil sound of the river flowing is enough to put anyone into a glorious sleep, and for both nights at Nkomazi we slept like babies. A lot of people asked me if the tents were cold- not at all! All tents are equipped with air conditioners, so we were nice and toasty inside the tents for the night.
The food and drinks are served in the main restaurant, and all meals are catered- no buffet here! The breakfast consists of a delish little platter of pastries, smoothies, cold cheese and meat, and a hot dish of your choice- perfect after a chilly morning game drive.
For lunch we had burgers and wood-oven pizzas, and dinner is a 3-course affair. I cannot rave enough about the food that we had at Nkomazi, the highlight being the roasted pork belly with mustard sauce and the coconut cheesecake for me. The highlight of the dinner was also the local bush baby named Maurice, that comes around in the evenings looking for his cookies! He comes really close to the restaurant, so you can really see him nicely, and I have never seen a bush baby so close up before. You can also arrange a picnic style lunch with the manager beforehand, for a special occasion, or if you just feel like treating yourself.
Of course, the main activity to enjoy at Nkomazi are the scenic game drives, that happen twice a day. In the winter months the morning game drive starts 6:30AM, with just enough time to catch the gorgeous sunrise. The staff really spoil you with some hot coffee and snacks before you take off and then pamper you with a hot water bottle and blankets on your ride. The highlight of a morning game drive for me is always the coffee stop, because who doesn’t want to enjoy an Amarula coffee and homemade biscuits while overlooking some of the most beautiful sights that this world has to offer?
We had the most amazing game ranger, Gerhard, show us around, and he really took us to some beautiful spots for our drink breaks. This was the gorgeous view that we enjoyed on our first morning ride, on a beautiful rock that the staff jokingly call “Pride Rock”, because it sure feels like it was the inspiration for the Lion King movie! We also enjoyed viewing some Rock Art that Nkomazi houses, it’s just a rare and cool sighting to add to your experience.
The afternoon game drives take off around 3:30PM, once you’re finished with your lunch. The sundowners on a game drive are of course, magnificent. I am a firm believer that South Africa has the most beautiful sunsets in the world, and our last game drive at Nkomazi proved my theory yet again- just look at these pictures!
Afternoon game drives includes a drink of your choice as well as a variety of snacks, and on average every game drive lasts about 3 hours. Honestly they all flew by so quickly for me, because I was just enjoying the bush, spotting animals and hearing Gerhards bush stories so much.
Besides the game drives, Nkomazi also offers a variety of other awesome and unique experiences to their guests, so don’t feel like there is only one thing to do! There are options to book a Birding Safari if you are an avid bird fan, you can do some fly-fishing and something that I want to do on our return there one day soon, is the stargazing that is led by the reserve’s “star rangers”. Given the clean air and the fact that very little unnatural light competes with the brightness of the stars in this region, the sight of the night sky is truly spectacular. Of course, there is also the Riverside Retreat Spa for when you want to wind down with a little massage, and I so wish that I had time for that. From my experience, 2 nights is not enough at this magical place, and a minimum 3-night stay is recommended, so you can fully enjoy the activities and the luxurious rooms.
So, what was my overall feeling of Nkomazi Private Game Reserve? I thought it was the perfect romantic and secluded escape in one of the most beautiful regions in South Africa. I highly recommend this for all couples who are looking for something special, whether it be for an occasion or not, because Nkomazi just oozes romance! It’s the perfect spot to celebrate an intimate event like a small wedding, a birthday or even a family reunion, and you are guaranteed a fabulous time. Steve and I have already started planning a getaway with a couple friends here at the start of summer, because Nkomazi is also a great place to enjoy and share with friends.
I LOVED the luxurious tents, the friendly staff and the terrain of Nkomazi and I cannot wait to go back. Current rates are R4770 per two-sleeper tent per night Sunday to Thursday, and R5300 per two-sleeper tent per night Thursday to Sunday, which includes all meals and 2 game drives a day (however rates change so make sure to check over here). Rates go up based on the tent of course, so keep that in mind. For the luxury that you get, this is the best priced game reserve that I’ve come across in a long time so don’t miss out on it.