Journey to South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park and you’ll stumble across the mesmerising Royal Malewane; a luxury safari lodge which sits, serene and beautiful, among wildlife and mystery.
Exuding romance and the beauty of a bygone era, Royal Malewane is like something you’d find in Nat Geo, or as the backdrop of a David Attenborough documentary. Built in December 1999, Royal Malewane was the first of The Royal Portfolio properties and it comprises of six Luxury Suits, two Royal Suites and Africa House, the latter of which is a six- bedroom family villa. Fast-forward twenty years, and The Farmstead, which sits on land owned by the local community, came to be. There, injecting yet more magic into an already astounding setting, you’ll find three Luxury Farm Suites, and The Farmhouse, which boasts light wood, deep verandas and a chic style more contemporary than the other rustic offerings.
Royal Malewane, which allows guests to immerse themselves in Africa like never before, was and is the brainchild of Liz Biden, the Owner and Founder. Discussing the postcard-worthy properties with House of Coco, Liz tells us of how space and privacy gives them an undeniable advantage, making it an understandable hot spot for celebrities.
Liz also went on to say how the hotels are so uniquely designed, with each oozing trademarks of each destination, in the design. Liz and her husband Phil, who both recently celebrated landmark birthdays, believe passionately in investing in Africa and using tourism to drive positive change, and House of Coco spoke to Liz about what makes Royal Malewane so magical, plans to expand, and the things you simply must try upon visiting…
What are some of the main highlights guests can expect while staying at Royal Malewane?
We are fortunate to have the most qualified guiding team in Africa at Royal Malewane – career guides and trackers who constantly strive to improve themselves and those around them. This makes a real difference to our guests’ wildlife experience – not only are the guests in safe hands, but the guides are able to tailor the experience to any level of knowledge or any particular interests.
What stands your luxury safari lodge above the rest? Can guests get up close and personal while staying with you?
Our people make the difference – they are passionate about giving our guests an incredible experience. Our guests feel comfortable and at home and become part of the family.
We have three of only seven living Master Trackers at Royal Malewane. This means that guests can go on walking trails getting close to the Big 5 on foot and gaining precious insights into the finer details of nature. As well of course as game drives on specialised safari vehicles.
How has your business been affected by coronavirus?
We are fortunate that our hotels and lodges have a lot of space and privacy. Luxury safari lodges are socially distanced by their very nature. While we have all had to make adjustments to the way we think and operate, we believe that South Africa will be an extremely desirable post-Covid destination with lots of space, nature, beaches, mountains and wildlife. South Africa offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with nature.
Have you had any famous faces stay at your wonderful lodges?
We have indeed – I think our hotels offer a lot of privacy without being stiff and formal. Celebrities seem to like that.
The décor found inside the lodges is impeccable –– do the interiors match the landscape of the Kruger National Park would you say?
I have tried to make the design of each of our hotels unique to each destination. Royal Malewane certainly has a bush lodge feel to it that befits the Kruger National Park, while Birkenhead House for example is a bright and breezy beach house.
La Residence is far more opulent with a touch of Versailles as it is located in the original French settlement of Franschhoek. The Silo Hotel is more contemporary with a focus on art and design.
How have the lodges adapted with the times? Do you promote sustainability at Royal Malewane?
A few years ago we launched The Royal Portfolio Foundation in order to formalise the community and conservation activities of the group. This has been hugely rewarding for everyone and while the Foundation is focused on projects specific to each hotel’s location, our Three Crown’s Sustainability Framework helps us manage the daily operations of the business in a sustainable way.
For those who don’t know too much about the cuisine in South Africa, what can they expect?
South Africa has a thriving culinary scene. Most visitors are amazed by the quality, diversity and value for money offered at our hotels and in our restaurants. The food scene is really eclectic and cosmopolitan with a focus on fresh local ingredients. Franschhoek is our culinary capital with several of the country’s top restaurants in one small town along with some of our top wine estates.
What’s something you simply have to try when visiting?
Well I’m biased, but our Cape Malay Seafood Curry at the Granary Café in The Silo Hotel offers a real taste of Cape Town. Followed by a sunset drink on the rooftop of course.
What’s been one of the most special moments you’ve had at Royal Malewane?
My husband Phil and I both turned 70 last year and so we invited a whole lot of family, friends and industry colleagues to the lodge for three nights. It was also the 20th anniversary of business. I never imagined it would turn into what it is today. So that was very special for me.