Garonga Safari Camp & Little Garonga, Makalali Nature Reserve, South Africa

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Luxury & Romance in the African bush

Garonga Safari Camp and Little Garonga are luxury camps set high above a dry riverbed in the 22 000 hectare Greater Makalali Private Nature Reserve west of the Kruger National Park. Garonga has six luxury tents and the luxurious bush camp, Little Garonga, has three suites. They both offer spectacular views of the green grasslands, trees and wild animals passing by.

The focus is on a holistic safari experience – safari for the soul. The soul safari experience includes bush walks in complete silence, meditation in the untouched wilderness, exciting game drives to see the Big Five, taking a bath in the bush or under the stars, massages and the “Sleep Out” – spending a night on your own in the African bushveld.

“May the ancient dust of Africa settle in your heart.”

The safari camp is perfect for couples and honeymooners who would like to experience nature and the soul of Africa up close. It can accommodate a maximum of 12 people and only children above the age of 12 are allowed.

We visited both camps at the end of summer, and the end of the rainy season. Since the region was blessed with abundant rainfall again this year, it was quite lush, a rather unusual picture of Africa!

In 1997 The Englishman, Bernardo Smith, opened Garonga Safari Camp. Ten years later, Little Garonga with three luxurious thatched suites opened its doors. Both camps have pools with great views of the wilderness.

“Unwind, Sleep Deeply, Be Yourself”

The camp has been refurbished recently and now boasts an authentic African atmosphere in warm, neutral tones, with beautiful decor and loads of cozy furniture.

The heart and soul of the camp is its staff. The 37 employees look after guests, affectionately and with a sense of fun and joy. They are all locals, and the staff village has just been renovated and now offers even more comfort.

Safari Tent

On the way to the tents, wild animals can cross your path. After all, you are in the middle of the bush and surrounded by beautiful nature. That’s why you cannot wander around alone at night.

In the spacious canvas tents, between the rough-plastered walls, there is a large bed with a mosquito net, a desk and a bathroom with an indoor and outdoor shower.

From the large open platform deck complete with comfortable chairs and a hammock you have a fantastic view overlooking the riverbed.

The tents are modern, luxurious and furnished with a lot of African charm.


In the morning and afternoon, meals can be enjoyed at private tables. In the evening there is usually a big communal round table. 

At lunchtime, delicious snacks, like salads, cheese, appetizers, etc. are served. In the main lounge, there is a help yourself bar and an air-cooled wine cellar with excellent South African wines.


As is customary in Africa, safari drives take place early in the morning and late in the afternoon. You never know what to expect and which animals you might see. That’s precisely what makes a safari so exciting – the anticipation! Makalali is a Big Five nature reserve outside the Kruger National Park. In addition to the Big Five, you can also expect to see cheetah, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, antelopes, and gazelles among others.

Protection & conservation of rhinos 
South Africa has a massive rhino poaching problem. Since 2014, the rhinos at the Makalali Reserve have been protected by an anti-poaching unit with great success!

Garonga’s philosophy, Safari for the soul, offers a casual and intimate encounter with wildlife, time for reflection and inspiration in nature.

Thanks to the experienced trackers, the rangers usually know where the animals are or in which direction they are heading. Exciting!

A few nervous looking impalas indicated that predators might be around.

And there they were – lions with a freshly killed kudu antelope. You do feel sorry for the poor kudu, but in their defense, it was the first meal in four days for the lions and their cubs. 

Afterward, stuffed, they were happy and cuddled.

At a game drive there is a lot of time to let the animals work their magic – just sitting there, watching them, absorbed in the moment. Fantastic!

We came across this herd of elephants. At first, it was only a few, but then another herd joined them. 

We sat quietly in our jeep and watched them, when all of a sudden, they moved – in our direction! After they had a good look at us, they strode along reasonably close to us! Simply brilliant!

It was literally teeming with elephants. They can sometimes be dangerous, as we learned shortly afterward. Derrick, our ranger had to scare some of them away, off the road so we could get out of there! Talk about an adrenaline rush!

Dinner time

In the evening, after an eventful day of wildlife sightings, guests can enjoy a drink by the warm, open fire in the lounge.

Drinks are followed by dinner at individual tables or the large communal table. Weather permitting, dinner is also sometimes served at the Boma with a romantic campfire atmosphere. 

Little Garonga

Little Garonga is located right next to the Safari Camp. The three suites can accommodate a maximum of eight people (including two children). The lodge has its own host, chef, waiter, and housekeeper. And if you want to, you can even do yoga in the gazebo next to the pool.

The main building serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In good weather, you can enjoy dinner by the pool with a bonfire. Alternatively, you can also join the other guests at the Safari Camp for dinner. 

The Hambleden Suite is perfect for couples with children or families. This suite has an indoor and outdoor lounge, mini-bar, open-air shower, a spacious bathroom with a copper bathtub, and a private pool with sun loungers, hammock and a magnificent view of the riverbed.

The Chiltern and Buckingham Suites have a platform deck with a hammock, a freestanding bathtub, an indoor and outdoor shower, a mini-bar and a beautiful lounge area in front of the large panoramic window.

Little Safari

At Little Garonga Phineas and Bongi escorted us on our game drives.

On this game drive, we saw also lions and lots of elephants.

Before the morning game drive, there is always coffee, tea, and snacks on offer. During the game drive, there is time for coffee in the middle of the bush, and afterward, back at the camp, a hearty breakfast is served.

The food is fantastic at both lodges! It leaves nothing to be desired.

Honeymoon & Wedding

Garonga is a perfect place for a bush wedding and ideal for a nature lover’s honeymoon. What could possibly be more romantic than a candlelight dinner in the bush or spending a night under the stars? The Sleep Out is a viewing deck with a four-poster bed where guests can enjoy a private dinner and spend the night alone in the bush. 

Honeymoon Special

  • A 45-minute massage per the couple
  • A bottle of champagne on arrival
  • Free roundtrip transfer from  Hoedspruit and /or Phalaborwa (when staying four nights)

Wedding Package from 880 EUR

  • Minister’s fee
  • Single tier wedding cake
  • Pressing of wedding outfits
  • A rustic bouquet of wildflowers
  • A bottle of champagne
  • A 45-minute massage for the bride and groom (when staying three nights)
  • A private dinner on the wedding night
  • Decorated setting for your wedding ceremony
  • A decorated open safari vehicle for transfers to and from the wedding ceremony
  • Airport transfers (Hoedspruit/Phalaborwa)

The Sleep Out

The Sleep Out offers couples the chance to spend the night under the stars, dining alone in the bush and sleeping in a four-poster bed on the viewing deck. A not-to-be-missed experience! 

Bush & Star Bath

At Safari Camp you have the opportunity to take a Star Bath. Little Garonga offers a Bush Bath. With a glass of sparkling wine, you can enjoy a warm bubble bath after a safari under the starry skies. We even heard a few hyenas nearby. Adventurous!

Massage Sala

Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the spa overlooking the riverbed, but some of the other guests told us they were thrilled!

Garonga’s recommendations

Ants Nest / Ants Hill (Waterberg region), situated on the edge of a gorge, sustainable tourism in individual bush houses for couples and families,
Jaci ́s Safari Lodges (Madikwe North West province),   exclusive Starbed Suites, Tented Suites, Family Suites, and safari-style treehouse suites,
Savanna (Sabi Sands), 5-star lodge with luxurious suites and colonial tents with Big Five Safaris,
Makakatana Lodge (KZN Wetlands), owner-managed game lodge on the shores of Lake St. Lucia in the World Heritage iSimangaliso Wetland Park, one of the few natural wonders left on earth,
Olivers Hotel und Spa (Near White River), a noble estate with a mixture of Austrian and African flair with a golf course and spa,
Three Tree Hill (Drakensberg), this Fair Trade Certified Lodge,   places great emphasis on sustainable, responsible tourism,
Fugitives Drift Lodge, luxurious cottages and thought-provoking tours of the battlefields of the Zulu War,


We can honestly not say, we prefer one camp above the other. They each have their own unique charm. At Little Garonga, you have more peace, privacy, and even more luxury. But we also loved staying in a luxury tent right in the middle of the bush. The two main buildings are beautifully decorated in African style. Both camps offer lots of romance, beautiful pools, and attentive, friendly staff. The food is great. Whether you prefer it a bit wilder or more luxurious, there is something to suit everyone’s taste. The safaris were exciting, thrilling and very interesting. It was an extraordinary experience!

Room: Six luxury tents at Safari Camp and three suites at Little Garonga
Flight: Flight non-stop from Frankfurt to Johannesburg (10:30 hours) with South African Airways. Connecting flight to Hoedspruit with SA Express or Federal Air (about 50 minutes) or to Phalaborwa with SA Airlink (Garonga’s favorite);   Flight from Cape Town or Durban to Kruger Park Airport;   Flights with Federal Air directly to Garonga (90 minutes) or to other lodges
Transfer: From Hoedspruit or Phalaborwa it is about an hour and a half’s drive to the lodge (63 EUR per person, 112 EUR per person return). From the Kruger, Park Airport is about a three-hour drive to the lodge.
Air Temperature: 25 – 40 degrees Celsius in summer, 5 – 25 degrees Celsius in winter
Time difference: None
Best travel time: Summer is from September to April. It can be very hot with high rainfall. Winter is from May to August, although it does not rain, it gets considerably colder at night.
Vaccinations: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis A, rabies and hepatitis B (for long-term stays), anti-malarial precautions are strongly recommended.
Price: From 420 EUR per person per night at Safari Camp, and from 530 EUR per person per night at Little Garonga. The price includes all meals, tea and coffee, game drives, bush walks, Sleep-out experience, bush bath, all beverages including house wines) laundry service and wireless internet access.
Special offers: Extended Stay Package: Based on a minimum of 5 nights stay, the guests will receive: One-night complimentary accommodation, road transfers (Phalaborwa or Hoedspruit), and a 30-minute massage per person.
Note: Only children above the age of 12 are allowed at Safari Camp, at Little Garonga children above the age of 6 are welcome.
Specialties: beautiful location in the African bush, luxurious tents with spectacular views, delicious food, friendly, attentive service, amiable owner, private luxury at Little Garonga
Perfect for: Couples, peace seekers, romantics, nature lovers, animal lovers, friends, and families

Garonga Safari Camp & Little Garonga
Telefon: +27 (0)87 806 2080 / 083 255 9093
E-Mail Bernie:

Classic Safari Camps of Africa
TripAdvisor – 2019 Travellers’ Choice Winner
TripAdvisor – 2018 Certificate of Excellence and Hall of Fame
TripAdvisor – 2018 Travellers’ Choice Winner
Africa´s Fingerst – Best of the Best Award
Winner “Best Safari”
Echo Star Award

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Please note: Our stay was sponsored by Garonga. Thank you so much! Nevertheless, the opinions expressed in this article are 100% our own!  

Monique De Caro

Monique De Caro

Luxury Travel Blogger & (Wedding) Photographer at Monique De Caro | Photography & Design
Hallo, ich bin Monique #lebensfrohe Weltenbummlerin #Fotografin #Travel Bloggerin und die Schreiberin dieses Blogs. Da ich selbst Hochzeitsfotografin bin und ich meinen Mann Marcus am Strand Anse Source d´Argent auf den Seychellen geheiratet habe, möchten wir euch vor allem Tipps für wunderschöne Flitterwochen, die eigene Hochzeit am Strand, Luxusreisen, einzigartige Hotels oder die romantische Auszeit zu zweit geben.
Monique De Caro
- 3 years ago

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