It offered me an ideal setting for reflection and self indulgent relaxation, and an opportunity for peaceful last moments in the bush to wrap up my African itinerary.

Overall Impression Little Garonga was the last stop on a recent extended trip to southeastern Africa. After three weeks of dawn game drives, hectic transfer schedules and all around high voltage excitement, I was feeling somewhat depleted by the time I arrived. I couldn’t have chosen a better place to replenish my flagging energies and gently say goodbye to the wilderness before the long journey home. Set deep into the self contained 22,000 hectare (85 square mile) Greater Makalali Conservancy, west of the world famous Kruger National Park in South Africa, Little Garonga was a relatively recent luxury addition to the long established Garonga Safari Camp.

While sharing some of its infrastructure and maintenance support with its nearby parent property, Little Garonga, with only three secluded guest rooms around a central indoor and outdoor lounge with its own swimming pool and braai (barbecue) area, and with its own dedicated staff, offered tranquil seclusion and friendly service. I could feel myself unwind even as I settled into my serene bungalow. Through the glass wall of its sitting area, the long white canvas hammock strung across my veranda beckoned. My eye caught a tiny sandbox on the coffee table, a message scrolled across it: “Relax.” With the soft neutral palette of its décor echoing the golden panorama of the dry season bush beyond its terrace, my serene room was an invitation to do just that.

Back on the common area deck moments later, I was shown to a table set in the shade of a thatched gazebo at the far end of the pool deck. Lunch was a scrumptious salad of just picked mixed greens, slivers of juicy pear and shaved Parmesan. Later that afternoon, after spending considerable time testing the nap worthiness of my hammock (excellent), it was time for a sunset game drive. At this point in my trip, I didn’t feel game viewing a must, but I participated in three drives during my stay and thoroughly enjoyed the unhurried pace set by my guide, Joshua. He and our tracker, Patrick, were clearly familiar with the habits of the Makalali resident game, and often positioned the vehicle to let wildlife come to us. It was a treat to watch, across the river, a pride of lions slowly emerge from their afternoon siesta, then some time later silently materialize out of the thicket right in front of us and nonchalantly continue on their way; or the next morning, to enjoy the smooth motion of a pair of cheetahs as they sauntered across a large sandy clearing to a waterhole.

I enjoyed the intimate spa in the wilderness atmosphere of Little Garonga. It offered me an ideal setting for reflection and self indulgent relaxation, and an opportunity for peaceful last moments in the bush to wrap up my African itinerary.

Children Little Garonga welcomed children over the age of six by prior arrangement on a case by case basis.

Class Of Accommodation Luxury boutique safari camp.

Connectivity My GSM 3G/4G international cellular phone was operational around the lodge and randomly throughout the park. There was a complimentary WiFi connection around the clock in my room and in the common areas. The connection was reliable, with moderate speed.

Handicapped Access Motion impaired guests could be accommodated by prior arrangement on a case by case basis.

Length Of Stay Two nights

Location Little Garonga was located in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve, a one hour drive northwest of Hoedspruit and Eastgate Airport, or a six hour road trip from Johannesburg.

Owned-Managed The property was owned and managed by Bernardo Smith.

Size The property consisted of three guest rooms, including a two bedroom family suite. It could accommodate a maximum of eight guests and employed a staff of six, including one guide and tracker. There was one game viewing vehicle.

Year Open-Renovated Little Garonga originally opened in 2007. According to representatives, it has been the object of meticulous maintenance ever since.

Lobby And Common Areas The main lodge was an airy rectangular structure located at the highest point of the property. It housed spacious seating and dining areas and a self service bar. Its soaring thatch roof extended toward the deck to include a large entrance veranda that housed an outdoor lounge. A wall of French doors separated the indoor and outdoor spaces. The veranda had two seating arrangements separated by a central walkway. To the left, a mission style wooden loveseat with multicolored pastel striped cushions and four matching chairs sat around a large square coffee table. To the right, a pair of brown rattan rolled arm sofas with toss pillows in assorted brown and white patterns faced each other across small occasional tables. On both sides of the veranda, formal crystal chandeliers hung above the tables. In the evening, the staff set a bar at the edge of the deck.

The interior lounge had apricot plaster walls and tan polished concrete floors. The front wall featured a central built in fireplace framed by floor to ceiling picture windows with a commanding view of the veldt. In front of the fireplace, a pair of contemporary sofas, one upholstered in apricot and white cotton, the other in plain light green with brown and white striped pillows, and two wooden armchairs matching those of the outdoor lounge sat around a rectangular coffee table on a pale oriental rug. The dining area was on the opposite side of the room with rectangular wooden tables surrounded by high back chairs. At the far end of the room, a carved credenza held a full bar set up. There was also a long harvest table that was used for the breakfast and luncheon buffets.

Bathroom The bathroom occupied the far side of the room. A black granite vanity top running the length the back wall held two white porcelain washbasins topped with mirrors in leaded mirror frames. Two contemporary sconces of brushed steel and unpolished glass provided the lighting. An ample supply of towels and face cloths was stacked in the corner of the vanity. A deep oval bathtub stood in the center of the room. The open indoor shower with rain showerhead was set in the glassed in outer corner of the room, facing the private deck and the bush. At the far side of the room, a glass door opened onto a vast semicircular outdoor shower (3.5 meters or 11.5 foot in diameter) concealed behind an adobe privacy wall. A separate enclosed water closet was located between the bedroom and the bathroom.

Room Chilton Suite, my 42 square meter (450 square feet) room, was a free standing bungalow with a large open living and sleeping room and a bathroom. It had pale polished concrete floors and tan plaster walls under thatch. Wall size picture windows and glass sliding doors draped in white canvas opened on two sides onto a broad deck that ran the length of the room. It featured a shaded veranda and an open area. With its rattan lounge chair and two armchairs, all with thick cushions upholstered in white canvas that matched a hammock strung across the veranda, its low wooden yoga bed and storage trunk with bench top, the deck was an inviting place to relax, meditate or simply doze off.

The living area was separated from the entrance foyer by a central wall partition. There were built in storage shelves and clothes hanging racks on both sides of the entrance hallway. Along the dividing wall, a long bench served as luggage rack. The sleeping area occupied the rear half of the living space. Under a mosquito net canopy, twin double beds with black head and footboards and matching Parsons bedside tables holding burnished bronze reading lamps stood against the dividing wall.

At the front of the room, facing the picture window, two armchairs upholstered in cream damask and a black rectangular coffee table sat on a tan and cream checkered floor cloth. Against the outer wall, a writing desk covered in black and white herringbone marquetry and a wooden desk chair stood under a long mirror in a whitewashed frame. A mini bar set into a wooden cabinet was tucked in the corner. Wall hangings of intricately carved oriental architectural details completed the décor. In addition to a ceiling fan the room also had a remote controlled air conditioner.

Food The food was excellent, healthful and prepared to perfection from the freshest ingredients. All the vegetables were grown in the organic kitchen garden of the property. Dairy and meat were sourced from vetted local producers. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, although breakfast also included a hearty menu of cooked to order offerings. Lunch included imaginative salads and savory pies. The grilled duck breast and orange salad with arugula was my favorite. The three course plated dinner was served on the candlelit deck under the stars.

Amenities Room amenities included an electronic safe, two each cotton kimono bathrobes and slippers, terry lined bathrobes, kikois (cotton sarongs), a full bar set up including fresh lemon, ice bucket, bottled water, tumblers and stemmed glasses, golf umbrella and room and body insect repellent spray.

Bathroom amenities included facial tissues, cotton pads and swabs, shower cap, hairdryer, hand soap, full size pump bottles of Charlotte Rhys brand conditioning shampoo, body wash and lotion. Meals, all soft drinks and most alcoholic beverages (excluding special wines and champagnes) were included, as were the daily game viewing activities and daily laundry service.

Facilities There was an indoor dining room and lounge, exterior lounge and dining area, gazebo and swimming pool. A massage platform under thatch was located in a secluded area a short walk away from the camp. A resident licensed therapist offered a variety of massages, aromatherapy and reflexology treatments by prior appointment.

Gift Shop A gift boutique at Garonga was available to Little Garonga guests. It carried a small selection of upscale local crafts, tribal artifacts and Garonga branded safari clothing.

Pool The freeform swimming pool was five meters by five meters (16.5 feet by 16.5 feet) at its widest and longest. In was set in a large deck overlooking the veldt. Six dark gray rattan lounge chairs with matching canvas cushions surrounded the pool.

Game Viewing Although the open game drive vehicle could accommodate up to eight passengers, there were never more than four guests on any of my game drives. My guide Joshua Sibuyi and tracker Patrick Mohlala were pleasant and knowledgeable.

Game I sighted included: elephant, rhino, lion, cheetah hyena, giraffe, blue wildebeest, kudu and steenbock.

Birds included: sparrow hawk, African harrier hawk, crested francolin, Cape dove, three banded plover, wire tail sparrow, gray louri and lilac breasted roller.

Activities In addition to twice daily game drives, guided bushwalks were also available. The camp also had a sleeping platform overlooking a waterhole a 20 minute drive from the camp, where evening picnics and sleepovers could be arranged.

Other Electricity was on 220 volt current. There were several outlets in my bungalow, conveniently fitted with universal adapters to accommodate North American and European plugs.

Cleanliness Excellent

Date Of Last Visit October 2013

Reviewers Article and photographs by Josette King

Service My bungalow was serviced twice daily. Every member of the staff with whom I came in contact was friendly and helpful.

Would You Stay There Again? Yes

Contact Information

  • Address:
    • Garonga Safari Camp
    • Postnet Suite #36
    • PVT Bag X3008
    • Hoedspruit, 1380
    • South Africa
  • Phone:
    • Lodge + 27 (0) 79 891 5304
    • Mobile + 27 (0) 71 896 2312
    • Reservations + 27 (0) 83 255 9093
  • Website:
  • Reception :
  • Reservations :