Last summer, I enjoyed a phenomenal safari & beach holiday in South Africa and Mozambique, probably my best holiday ever. You can read my reviews here:
- Review: Air France Boeing 777 new Business Class from Paris to Johannesburg
- Review: &Beyond Tengile River Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa (today)
- Review: Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
- Review: Kruger Shalati – The Train on the Bridge, Kruger National Park, South Africa
- Review: Kisawa Sanctuary (Mozambique)
- Review: Air France Boeing 777 new Business Class from Johannesburg to Paris
Today: Review of &Beyond Tengile River Lodge (Sabi Sand, South Africa)
Meaning ‘tranquil’ in the local language, &Beyond Tengile River Lodge is set in the world-famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which shares a 50 km (31 mi) unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park. Built with an extremely light footprint, the magnificent lodge features nine enormous villa suites, with a design that makes the most of space and river views. The spacious suites offers sunken lounges, elegant bedrooms and ensuite bathrooms (with indoor and al fresco showers) that open out into the forest, creating private spaces in the open air. Bespoke furniture, lights and unique décor pieces have been created from skilled local artists and striking fabrics have been masterfully hand-painted. Besides participating in game drives and fascinating bush walks, guests can unwind in the lodge’s beautiful lounge areas, relax in the tranquil spa, and savor on world-class cuisine.
Have you ever stayed at &Beyond Tengile River Lodge? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- &Beyond Tengile River Lodge is one of the best lodges in Sabi Sand, the most renowned game reserve in South Africa. Located on the south-western boundary of the Kruger National Park, there are no restricting fences between the Sabi Sand and Kruger, enabling the animals to roam freely in a vast conservation area that covers almost five million hectares (over two million acres), an area equivalent to the USA state of New Jersey. With no boundary fences between it and the Kruger, Sabi Sand benefits from the great diversity of animals – including the Big Five – and the reserve is particularly well known for leopard sightings. Normally notoriously elusive, the Sabi Sand leopards have grown accustomed to safari vehicles, thereby permitting close-up sightings and extraordinary photographic opportunities.
- Opened in 2019, &Beyond Tengile River Lodge takes the level of luxury in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve up to a new level. The magnificent lodge offers a contemporary take on the safari aesthetic that is a refreshing break with the other more traditional lodges found within the reserve. Nine exclusive guest suites are tucked deep into the riverine forest on the banks of the Sand River. The villas are set around a communal area at the heart of the lodge, which is designed as a mixed selection of open, interactive and private places. The latter comprise an indoor dining room, a magnificent showpiece bar, a library, a safari shop, an ultra-stylish boma (outdoor dining area), and an expansive outdoor deck. All villas as well as the communal areas look out over the river, boasting magnificent views of one of Africa’s most wildlife-rich conservation areas.
- &Beyond Tengile River Lodge features nine enormous, secluded suites, dotted in the dappled shade of the bushveld, each with panoramic river views. The villa’s air-conditioned indoor area comprises a lounge, dining area, fully-stocked bar, coffee station, master bedroom, and ensuite bathroom (equipped with two basins, a shower, and a stand-alone bathtub). Slatted raw wood is used for the villa’s ceiling and extends down onto the walls as cladding to create the illusion of a cabin. The high ceilings create beams of natural light that illuminate the rich interiors. A private lap pool on the villa’s spacious private deck comes complete with another shower and a beautiful sunken outdoor lounge looking out onto the famed Sand River. For families, two of the lodge’s suites are joined by a covered walkway to create a family suite.
- &Beyond Tengile was designed by safari architect Nicholas Plewman, known for his sustainable approach to the environment and for maintaining a strong sense of place. Plewman was also behind the design of other famous safari lodges such as Bisate Lodge in Rwanda (which I reviewed here) and &Beyond Sandibe Lodge in Botswana. The interiors of Tengile were created by Michele Throssell, who choose for a color palette of dark greens with shades of rust and black. The overall result is a bold & glamorous design that delivers a stupendous wow factor. Throssell also called on local designers to add some colorful and authentic touches. For example, the lights, couches, beds and chairs are all locally designed, as are the screen designed and shop fittings. The fabrics for curtains and upholstery are individually hand-painted by a group of artists in Cape Town and feature wildlife prints and elements of nature.
- In keeping with &Beyond’s ethos of sustainability, Tengile River’s lodge stunning design makes use of a great deal of repurposed material with a connection to the setting and local area. For example, stone from the Selati Railway – which used to run through the area, connecting the gold mines of Johannesburg with the port city of Maputo – has been used to create the terrazzo floors. The stones have been carefully laid out to make the most of the contrasting colors, including dark greens, shades of rust and black. The roofs have been covered in sand from the site itself, which means that, when viewed from overhead, the lodge site has minimal impact on the area. The lodge’s color palette has also been chosen with the setting in mind, utilizing shades and hues that may be found in the surroundings. Other sustainability elements at the lodge include thermal efficiency, a minimal ecological footprint through careful environmental auditing, as well as state-of-the-art waste water and sewer treatment systems.
- In between game drives, guests of &Beyond Tengile River Lodge can relax at the wellness center, which is located adjacent to the main building. Overlooking the river, the wellness center includes a gym (fitted with state-of-the-art Technogym equipment) and a full-length lap pool which is empty most of the time (since most guests prefer to use the private pool of their villa). Next to the pool is an intimate spa with two massage rooms as well as a deck with some sun loungers where guests can enjoy the tranquil surrounding while awaiting their treatment. The spa offers a range of treatments with natural and ethically formulated Africology product. Africology is one of South Africa’s leading natural, eco-friendly and holistic spa and skincare companies, specializing in natural ingredients that are bio-identical to the human biology.
- All meals & drinks at &Beyond Tengile River Lodge are included in the room rate and they can be taken almost anywhere, from the suites’ private verandas to the main dining room to the boma or bush. Special mention should be made of of the lodge’s chefs and culinary team who create some of the most delicious cuisine I’ve ever been served at a safari lodge. Breakfast is a feast of seasonal fruit, local jams and honey, homemade bread, pastries, granola, yoghurt, smoked salmon, local cheeses, and a wide variety of egg dishes. Lunch options include light bites such as roasted parsnip soup, pumpkin orecchiette pasta and miso broccoli, egg & quinoa salad. For dinner, multi-course tasting menus and a boma dinner (a traditional South African barbecue served around a fire pit) are part of the experience, always paired with the best South African wines. Dietary requirements can be catered for at the lodge with enough advance notice.
- Wildlife magic is the focus of any stay at &Beyond Tengile River Lodge. Twice daily game drives, as well as interpretive bush walks, are part of the safari experience and included in the room rate. Early morning and late afternoon, guests set out in an open 4×4 safari vehicle in the company of a ranger and tracker, who will attempt to spot the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo). The lodge has access to 10 500 hectares of prime wilderness in the less-crowded south-east of Sabi Sand, and exclusive traversing rights on parts of neighboring Lion Sands Game Reserve and the Charleston area. Game drives in this vast area are able to go off road in search of exceptional sightings. Vehicle limits also ensure that wildlife is minimally impacted by the presence of safari trucks. Afternoon game drives also continue after sunset, with a specially filtered spotlight used to illuminate wildlife that remains active at night.
- Tengile River Lodge is managed by &Beyond, one of world’s most exclusive travel companies. Established in 1991, &Beyond strives to make the world a better and greener place by combining conservation efforts with sustainable tourism. The company has established an intimate relationship with some of the world’s last remaining unspoiled natural places and the communities that surround them. In combination with highly-skilled guides and rangers, this allows &Beyond to deliver extraordinary guest experiences that feel profoundly meaningful. As of today, &Beyond owns and operates 30 extraordinary lodges and camps in iconic safari, scenic and island destinations in Africa, Asia and South America, enabling the company to positively impact more than 9 million acres of wildlife land and 2000 km (1200 mi) of coastline.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- &Beyond Tengile River Lodge is not fenced off, so guests are required to be vigilant at all times. Leopards, lions, buffalos, and elephants, as well as venomous snakes and scorpions are present in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, and there is no physical impediment to them entering the area around the lodge. Under no circumstances are guests allowed to walk around the lodge at night, unless accompanied by a staff member. Do not worry though as it’s all part of the excitement of being immersed in a true African safari.
- &Beyond Tengile River Lodge is situated within a low-risk malaria area. The risk is almost zero during the the dry winter months (May to September) but the illness is more prevalent in the wet summer season (October to April). Medications can be used to prevent the chances of contracting malaria, especially during the wet season. For advice on the use of any malaria prophylaxis, you need to contact the health authorities or your local travel clinic prior to your travels. In addition to any prophylactics, the following mitigation measures are recommended: cover your arms, legs and feet in the evenings and apply a mosquito repellent containing DEET.
- The suites at &Beyond Tengile River Lodge are tucked away deep into the lush river-side vegetation, and consequently, their outdoor decks do not get a lot of sunshine during the day. There’s a bit more sun at the main pool area, located right next to the main lodge, but during the winter months, when the sun is low at the horizon, the sun deck around the pool is also in the shade for most of the day (because the deck faces north and the spa building behind it throws it shadow on the deck). Of course, guests of the lodge book a stay here for the exceptional wildlife viewing, not to get a tan, but it would have been nice nonetheless to relax in a sunny spot in between game drives during the colder winter months.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 10/10
- Wow factor: 10/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 9,4/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like &Beyond Tengile River Lodge (and/or receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit &Beyond Tengile River Lodge really depends on your personal preferences – nature has something to offer throughout the year. Incredible game viewing can be experienced at any time and there is not really a ‘best time of year for game viewing’. The Sabi Sand Game Reserve enjoys high temperatures, frequent rains and dramatic thunder storms in the summer months (October to April). The vegetation is lush and verdant attracting incredible bird life while many new borns appear at this time of year. The winter months (May to September) are drier and cooler – the vegetation is sparser resulting in improved visibility for game viewing as the animals make their way to the watering holes for hydration.
HOW TO GET THERE
&Beyond Tengile River Lodge is easily accessible by road from Johannesburg in under 5 hours. Most guests though will prefer to travel by air, by making use of a commercial flight to one of the two nearby airports:
- The tiny Skukuza Airport – the only commercial airport within Kruger National Park – is located about 20 minutes from the lodge and offers daily flights from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.
- The distance to the other airport in the area, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport near Nelspruit, is approximately 110 kilometers (68 miles) and it takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to the lodge
Below is a selection of my photos of &Beyond Tengile River Lodge in Sabi Sand, South Africa. To view more photos (including food and game drives), click here.