Babanango Game Reserve is proud to announce the planned opening of its newest ultra-luxury tented lodge, Madwaleni River Lodge, in September 2023. This addition marks the fourth and most prestigious lodge in the spectacular 20 000 hectare Big 5 Game Reserve and is perfectly positioned along the banks of the iconic White Umfolozi River.
Nestled in the heart of Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal; Madwaleni River Lodge features 12 luxury tents, accommodating a maximum of 24 guests. Located in the middle of the reserve, far from any signs of development, the lodge allows you to completely escape the modern world and immerse yourself in its unspoiled environment. These luxurious safari tents, which set a new standard for comfort and style, have received award-winning distinction for their unparalleled design.
“The lodge itself has unique design features requiring innovative engineering and a ‘first of its kind’ steel frame structure, winning awards for the project and the architecture.” said Andrew McGill, Product Manager, Babanango Game Reserve.
The lodge takes its name from the isiZulu phrase meaning “The place of the rock,” paying homage to the picturesque granolithic mountains found in the reserve. Madwaleni River Lodge possesses a wealth of history, not just through the individuals who have traversed its grounds, but also within the very essence of the land it occupies. The landscape surrounding the lodge boasts some of the oldest geological formations on Earth, with some rocks dating back 3.4 billion years.
Each luxury tent features a private heated plunge pool, with indoor and outdoor lounges boasting breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness. The air-conditioned rooms, along with the custom-made beverage cabinets, are complemented by elegant copper fixtures in the bathrooms. The lodge includes a fine-dining area, bar, lounge, library, gym and large infinity pool – each positioned with sweeping views of the rolling valleys of Babanango.
The library offers a tranquil retreat furnished with large leather couches and shelves adorned with captivating old photographs, maps, and history books. In addition, Madwaleni River Lodge boasts a magnificent 2000-bottle wine cellar with a curated selection of the finest, rarest, and most unique wines from the Cape region of South Africa.
Guests are hosted by experienced safari guides for two game drives a day to explore the diverse landscape and wildlife of Babanango Game Reserve.
The architecture and interior of the lodge have been thoughtfully crafted to encompass the diverse array of cultures that have walked the land on which the lodge stands. KwaZulu-Natal boasts a captivating history, with a diverse array of travelers from Portugal, Central Africa, Britain, and India, imprinting their legacies upon its soil. By intertwining these cultural influences with the profound presence of the local Zulu heritage and the battles fought on this very soil, the lodge encapsulates a seamless integration of diverse narratives.
The architectural design, created by Luxury Frontiers, skillfully transforms cultural symbols into modern interpretations. Drawing inspiration from the Zulu warrior shield, the design incorporates elements such as the slender yet robust spear, the bold yet graceful curvature of the shield, and the rhythmic movements of the river. Through this architectural expression, Luxury Frontiers has managed to tell the story of the people, the sense of place and passage of time the lodge embodies, paying homage to the collective experiences it has witnessed.
“We captured and translated the rich cultural symbols, stories and traditions that have been woven into the landscape of the site over time, in the design throughout the lodge. Madwaleni River Lodge is a project we at Luxury Frontiers hold close to our hearts. It is an embodiment of our values to promote conservation and sustainable development while enriching remote communities through tourism projects.” said Graeme Labe, Managing Director & Principal for Luxury Frontiers.
Babanango Game Reserve
Babanango Game Reserve, established in 2017, is one of the largest private rewilding projects in South Africa in the last 30 years. Approximately 74% of the land has been invested by three Community Trust Landowners – a partnership that is not only vital for the long-term conservation success of the reserve but in the economic well-being of the surrounding communities in the region.
The reserve is committed to ecological restoration and wildlife conservation with over 2500 large mammal species sensitively reintroduced into the reserve to roam freely. Some of these endemic species include the critically endangered Black Rhino, rare antelope such as Oribi and the iconic ‘King of Beasts’ the lion to complete our ‘Big Five’ status in the reserve.
“It is a great pleasure to have such a wonderful and unique state of the art lodge built on a greenfield property belonging to the Emcakwini Community Trust. The development is a great achievement for the Babanango Game Reserve and a direct benefit to all affected stakeholders, including the three Community Trusts who are the majority owners of the Land. It is also helping the surrounding communities in the restoration of their dignity as disadvantaged people of the area (through the creation of job opportunities, skills development, and small business creation) including the little misty town of Babanango (a place which was nothing, but something now). This rural village is now forever associated with the Project, which is the second biggest employer in the Ulundi Municipality. Our dream is about to be fulfilled by establishing the Project.” Kenneth Buthelezi, Chairman of Emcakwini Community Trust.
Madwaleni River Lodge is a remarkable destination where history, conservation, community, and architectural excellence converge to create a truly unique experience in the heart of Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal.
Going beyond providing an unmatched immersive safari experience, the lodge exemplifies a commitment to both guests and local communities, and stands as a shining example of how responsible tourism can drive positive change and make a lasting impact.
Press release compiled by Love Africa Marketing with Babanango Game Reserve – images Sven Musica
Read about a previous visit to Babanango Game Reserve HERE