Home Accommodation Palala Boutique Game Lodge: a surprise at every corner
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Palala Boutique Game Lodge: a surprise at every corner

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By Gavin Prins

Located next to the Limpopo River bordering Botswana, Palala Boutique Game Lodge is the perfect bush break-away. The weather (chilly at night and warm during the day), the food (elaborate presentation), the spa (relaxing, need we say more?) and the wild animals (a huge variety including lions) are just some of the elements that make up this amazing experience.

I think game drives and living in the bush are among the most incredible experiences we city slickers can have. However, I will let you in on a little secret. I am scared of wild animals but addicted to the thrill of coming close to lions, crocodiles, lizards, bokkies, and giraffes.

As I stopped at the gates of Palala, John, the security greeted me and instructed me to drive at 20-30km/h. As I entered the grounds, I understood why when I saw a bok stare at me from the bush. About 5 minutes on, a little warthog crossed the road. I finally stopped at reception. Ops manager Nandipha greeted me. Never (his name) grabbed my luggage while another Ops manager, Garth, took my car to park it somewhere on the property. Someone else checked me in while I was offered sparkling wine to make my check-in smooth. 

The room was fit for a king. I was staying at “The Nest,” which is generally a honeymoon suite. It has two bathrooms, a massive lounge with a flat-screen TV, and a bedroom with a fireplace and another TV. The bigger bathroom has an oval bath, shower, and twin vanity area. The vast windows make your view of the bush even better.

You have probably been to other 5-star safari experiences, but Palala has it all for me. First was a picnic with owner Maria Du Plessis next to the Limpopo River. She said this was a family farm turned into a game lodge, with management always looking for something to improve. “Everything seems so perfect”, I exclaimed. As we sat on the grass, a metre-long lizard walked by. “He is not going to do anything to us,” she smiled as she saw the panic on my face. In front of us was a wide variety of gourmet meals from chicken to lamb and biltong. To wash it all down, Durbanville Hills white wine.

The following day, at 7 am, a driver picked me up, and off we went on a morning game drive. Note that it might be cold, but they provide hot water bottles and a blanket. The guide was incredibly knowledgeable about animals and even trees, showing me the famous Marula tree and some of the trees used as medicine by African tribes. 

Palala loves surprises. The staff have been trained to surprise guests. As we drove past the crocodiles (babies, thankfully), I saw a picnic table waiting in the middle of the bush with one of the waiters welcoming me. On the table, Amarula Cream, sparkling wine, and cheese. I immediately dove in. Ten minutes later, we continued driving into the bushes, even along the border.

At 11 am, the Sediko Bush Spa awaited me. After a brief tour by Karen, she took me to one of the rooms and took out every stress knob I might have had on my back in an hour-long Swedish massage. After the massage, she did a full consultation to advise which products I need to use to keep my skin moist. But the experience was not over yet. Another surprise was in store: a Merlot bath (a bath full of wine) awaited me outside. Next to the tub was a bottle of Merlot and biltong, cheese, and fruit. Next to it was Sibusiso, the barman, who advised how to pair the foods with the Merlot. But be warned, after this experience, you will want to nap.

I skipped lunch as I was still too full from the drive and the spa. At 4 pm, a driver came to fetch me for the boat cruise on the Limpopo River. We saw hippos and crocodiles. Inside the boat, various foods (all presented in 5-star style) and drinks were served. Our guide, Riley, was armed with knowledge of crocodiles, even taking us close to a 2-metre crocodile catching some sun along the riverbank.

Back home, it was time for supper. Ops Manager Garth joined me and told me how much he enjoyed nature and that the animals have become part of Palala. Chef Danny outdid himself with a leek soup and salmon starter and fried rice for mains. There was no room for dessert. As I announced I needed to leave at 5 am the following day, Garth made sure I had breakfast to take with me. Check-out was smooth and effortless. Inside the breakfast box were little elements of surprise: chocolate, fruit, juice, and a muffin. 

As I say goodbye, Nandipha insists on driving with me to the main gate to ensure I am safe, even Garth and Maria calling to find out if I arrived safely at my next destination. Maya Angelou’s words immediately came to mind: people will not remember what you said but will always remember how you made them feel. IB

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