Situated in the unfenced 57,000 acres Manyeleti Private Game Reserve in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province, Tintswalo Safari Lodge is the definitive sparkle in this large concession. One of only three lodges that occupy the area, this beguiling 5-star property is just the place to unwind in grand style.
Meaning ‘place of stars’ in the local Shangaan language, the significance of this translation confirms that the Manyeleti is the luminary on a variety of levels. When the Corbett family decided to build a lodge in the bush eighteen years ago, Tintswalo Safari Lodge was constructed. Through the years, it has been met with great fanfare by local visitors and tourists alike.
Their adulation for the African bush was an intense and fruitful basis for Tintswalo’s co-founders, Gaye and Ernest Corbett’s, together with Lisa and Warwick Goosen’s foray into the development of a luxury lodge in the Manyeleti, with a vested interest by the whole family. Daughter Lisa embarked on a successful empowerment program adjacent to the Manyeleti, with hard work rewarded recognized in a request to tender on a concession, where the outcome was to build a lodge.
“With our christening into the tourism industry,” Tintswalo Lodges CEO Lisa recalls, “we had little more than a dream of a safari lodge yet to be realized. Through our travels, I had developed an appreciation for luxury, and managed to convince my parents to upgrade our tented camp fantasies to a 5-star lodge that would offer travelers the opportunity to enjoy every modern comfort and luxury in the heart of wildest Africa. From our tent in the Manyeleti camp, my husband Warwick and I broke ground, and Tintswalo Safari Lodge was born in 2002.”
My arrival at Tintswalo Safari Lodge is met by the most spectacular welcoming committee – a large herd of elephants enjoying a drink in front of the lodge’s dining deck. On hot days, the elephants have a wonderful muddy roll-around, especially the younger ones, with the mud acting as a sunscreen and a cooling down process.
After a delicious lunch, prepared by chef Russell Schmidt and served on the deck by butler Orlando, consisting of a platter selection made up of beef kofta with minted yogurt, chicken Caesar salad, mozzarella & spinach stuffed mushrooms, sun-dried tomato pasta salad, tomato, mozzarella & aubergine melanzanes, and spiced pineapple salad, I am ready to be shown to my suite.
The accommodation options at Tintswalo Safari Lodge consist of six Explorer suites, a Manor House, and a Presidential suite. I am staying in the lovely Stanley suite, in remembrance to Sir Henry Morton Stanley, whose inherent claim to fame was locating the missing explorer Doctor David Livingstone. The now infamous phrase ‘Doctor David Livingstone I presume’ was uttered when Stanley found the ailing Livingstone near Lake Tanganyika on November 10th, 1871. In tribute to this journalistic explorer, guests will appreciate the lavish interiors, which include a beautiful writing desk and an imposing bed.
Before departing on my first game drive, High Tea is presented with delectable treats and beverages in the foyer of the dining area. Ranger Mark Hull introduces himself with tracker Domingo poised to make my safari wishes come true. Heading in a southerly direction, we find the Talamati lion pride just as the sun starts setting. There are fourteen magnificent specimens, ranging in varying ages, with a few rambunctious youngsters wanting to play instead of sleeping like the adults are doing. After dark, they start moving, and we follow them to a nearby watering hole where they line up to drink in groups of four. What an incredible sighting!
Guests returning from a game drive have a choice to either freshen up before dinner or head straight to a gastronomic feast. I opt to dine immediately, and the food is superb. I skip the starter choice and am delighted to indulge in the perfectly prepared main course of slow-cooked Springbok shank atop squashed new potatoes, with buttered baby vegetables, topped with fresh herb gremolata. To conclude my meal, the melt-in-my-mouth chocolate fondant with chocolate ice cream is enough to send me to chocoholic heaven.
Raised wooden walkways lead to the rooms, and at night, guests are accompanied by a night porter as the area surrounding Tintswalo Safari Lodge is unfenced. We did come across an interesting visitor before supper, in the form of an African rock python. Fortunately, one of the guides removed this large non-venomous snake from the deck, much to everyone’s relief.
I’m finally able to admire the stylish interiors of my suite and relax on my sofa before having a cleansing shower with the fragrant Africology products. Retiring for the night under the soft white bedding and draped mosquito netting, I dream of what delights could be in store for the following day.
The threat of rain seems like it might abate, but halfway through our game drive, I ask Mark if he would mind returning to the lodge. The animals have also found shelter, even though it’s quite humorous that on this dreary day, all the grey animals would make their appearance – elephants, warthog, buffalo, and to break the gloominess, a giraffe emerges out of nowhere!
Breakfast is served inside the dining area, and even the elephants, who are usually at the watering hole in front of the lodge, only arrive once the rain has stopped. Following lunch and High Tea, four guests join us on the afternoon drive, and this time, we spot vultures, a pregnant zebra, and the once-in-a-lifetime sighting of the Orpen male lion mating with the Koppies female. Dinner is once again a palate-pleasing affair.
It is my last morning, and everyone is very quiet on our morning drive as we have seen so much, what else could we possibly encounter? As we turn the corner, she comes into view, the Nompethu female leopard, her rosette coat in stark contrast to the tree stump she is climbing to elevate her vantage point. She notices a few impalas in the distance, but they have already sensed her and make a hasty retreat.
Back at the lodge, it is time to leave, but not before marveling at my exquisite surroundings. After eighteen years, the interiors still look pristine. How have they not become dated? “Tintswalo Safari Lodge is decorated in our signature style,” Lisa explains. “It’s all about the comfort of our guests, and we do like to combine African designs with a touch of glamor, which includes luxurious fabrics, Persian rugs, and crystal chandeliers. It is a traditionally styled safari lodge and, therefore a more ‘classic’ design, which does not date easily, but we do update the soft furnishings and objet d’art from time to time to keep the design fresh.”
*** Views expressed are the author’s own. Thank you to Janie van der Spuy from Fivestar PR for arranging our stay and to the Tintswalo Safari team for their kind hospitality.
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