Lavish, beautifully designed, hotel-lodge
Thornybush Private Game Reserve Hoedspruit, South Africa +27 15-793-0150 www.theroyalportfolio.com
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At a Glance
There’s no place like Liz Biden’s hotels, in large part because they all started as her family’s vacation homes. In 1999, the former fashion entrepreneur transformed the Bidens’ property in Thornybush Private Game Reserve into Royal Malewane, and hospitality in South Africa had a new star. La Residence, in the Cape Winelands and Birkenhead House, on the coast, followed. While the properties—and their locations—are distinctive, what’s consistent is the personal touch in both the design of the spaces and the service. Royal Malewane’s intimate boutique lodgings seem as transporting as its location—the uber-stylish, privately owned bush camp more closely resembles a luxurious six-star hotel than a safari lodge.
The Standout: Taking over the six-bedroom Africa House or three-and-a-half-bedroom Farmhouse with a chef and butler
Don’t Miss: A bush walk with Africa’s most qualified guiding team or a visit to the Conservation and Research Center to see Kruger wilderness conservation at work
- The lavish décor designed by design maven Liz Biden, who also created the La Residence in the Cape Winelands and Birkenhead House in Hermanus
- Personalized service, which makes Royal Malewane feel more like a home than a safari lodge
- The award-winning spa, a serene escape after a long day in the bush
Royal Malewane Review
From the moment you drive up to Royal Malewane and are welcomed with cool drinks and warm greetings, every detail conspires to make your visit feel like a stay with your dear friends from forever who just want to spoil you. Owned by Liz Biden (who also owns the fabulous La Residence in the Cape Winelands and Birkenhead House in the Western Cape), Royal Malewane is a jewel of a property in Thornybush, a private 11,500-acre game reserve on the southwest edge of Kruger National Park. The property is made up of a main lodge (with just eight suites) and a private six-bedroom villa called Africa House. All guests have use of the marvelous award-winning spa, which has a lap pool, private casitas for relaxation or treatments and a fitness center. The warm and ever-accommodating staff is but one of the ways the property is special–most have worked at the lodge for many years and will make you feel right at home.
Set in the woodland savannah (aka the bush), Thornybush Game Reserve is an intimate setting for incredible game viewing, and Royal Malewane offers twice-per-day game drives in open-top Land Rovers. One of the few locations where extensive off-roading is allowed, Thornybush enables safari-goers to have up-close-and-personal encounters with the animals. This is a rare and special occurrence that often trumps the fact that most game drives share the experience with vehicles from neighboring camps (Thornybush is home to 11 separate lodges). Royal Malewane’s team of highly skilled trackers and guides—the most qualified and experienced team on the continent of Africa—make the safari experience utterly unforgettable; guests are basically guaranteed to see the Big Five up close.
People who like properties full of personality will feel supremely at home here. Couples will adore the luxury rooms, which are equipped with fireplaces, outdoor daybeds and plunge pools that are heated in the winter, while families or couples traveling together will love the two-bedroom royal suites, which offer enormous living rooms and swimming pools. Larger groups will find Africa House, the six-bedroom former home of the Biden family, ideal. Africa House is designed to ensure a sense of safety and seclusion as the high, fortress-like walls and hand-carved Tunisian wooden doors surround the villa, offering protection from game, so children can roam freely in the courtyard. Each bedroom is individually decorated with artwork and furniture from various different cultures: African beaded necklaces are strewn around Japanese screens while British botanical prints and Chinese porcelain share shelf space–yet somehow it all works perfectly. All accommodations have been decorated by the revered Liz Biden, with wonderful touches that allow the uber-luxe rooms to still have a sense of place.
Who Should Stay
Oriental-meets-Colonial interior design aficionados and picky couples, families and groups looking for a remote, but supremely luxurious vacation.