Kruger’s Secret Safari

Conservation, Travel Inspiration, Wildlife

Imagine a sanctuary where a dazzling array of wildlife wanders freely — and so can you. 

The Marloth Park Conservancy is where the wilderness meets wellness. This tranquil nature conservancy may be 45 years old, but it remains one of South Africa’s best-kept safari secrets.

Where is Marloth Park?

Marloth Park is a nature and wildlife conservation area cradled into a horseshoe loop of the Crocodile River. It shares a 15-kilometre boundary with the Kruger National Park in the Land of the Rising Sun, South Africa’s captivating Mpumalanga province.

This special conservancy lies a short one-hour flight away from Johannesburg. You’ll land at the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mbombela, followed by a comfortable road transfer to a most beautiful bush base.

Warthogs, giraffe, ostrich, zebra, mongoose, francolin, wildebeest and impala rove freely inside the conservancy while the Crocodile River winds lazily by. This is one of the most biodiverse and productive regions of the Kruger National Park. Watch all the action from a bird’s-eye approach on an upper-story deck. To the left, a herd of elephants enjoying the splish-splash of cool water on a hot bushveld day, to the right, busy birds enjoying the ripened fruits of majestic riverine trees. Over 300 bird species have been logged across the conservation estate, which was named after the German botanist Rudolf Marloth. The Aloe marlothii, a succulent plant with striking red flowers found abundantly in the Lowveld, likewise bears his name.

Why should I stay in Marloth Park?

Intimate wildlife encounters. The conservancy is unfenced, so the animals trot about without restriction across 1,500 hectares of indigenous bush. Antelope and other iconic African plains game, such as the curly-horned kudu, handsome nyala and the character-filled warthog meander through Marloth Park.

Here’s how to make the most of your stay.

1. Freedom to exercise

Get up, stand up

Often, guests are strictly confined to the lodge on safari, where the fine wine and sumptuous dining leads to a longing for more movement. Whether it’s a leisurely sunset stroll or a more actively-inclined bicycle ride, there are plenty of tracks to explore the outdoors on your own, which is unique to Marloth Park. Prepare to wheel alongside warthogs or jog with giraffes, but rest assured: dangerous animals such as elephants, leopards, hyenas, buffalo, and lions prefer to stay on the other side of the fence a safe distance away inside the Kruger National Park.

2. Super cycling circuits

Pedal through paradise

Carefully mapped, the best cycling routes depart right from the door of the riverside lodge, Vida Nova Kruger and follow game-rich paths in the park.

The Green Route carries cyclists along a short but charming five-kilometre broad circuit around the lodge. The Blue Route is a longer 18-kilometre ride that straddles the border of the Kruger National Park. The Red Route is the longest trail at 30 kilometres and takes enthusiasts further along the banks of Crocodile River, overlooking the Kruger National Park and back along the border of Lionspruit Game Reserve (which is home to lions, buffalo and more).

3. Crocodile River rambles

A stress-free stroll

Walking provides a refreshed perspective on nature. Plus, slowing down undoubtedly has health-boosting benefits in these high-stress times. An elevated pathway runs along the Kruger National Park boundary so you can safely appreciate the productive shores of the Crocodile River. This wide waterway is frequently blessed with sightings as wildlife gathers at the edges. Enjoy a meditative escape with a slow stroll, notice the little things, and soak up the African bush sounds. All the easier without a pesky car engine running interference. Hippos bathe and whoop in the deeper lagoons while crocodiles love to bask on the sunny sandbanks, and when you’re lucky, even rhinos sometimes saunter down for a drink. It’s a family-friendly adventure anyone can enjoy! There’s also the option of focusing on the animal tracks or learning about different trees on a guided excursion from Vida Nova Kruger.

4. It’s just a 45-minute drive to Mozambique

The bliss of bush and beach

Enjoy the unbeatable combination of golden sands and glorious safari with a trip to Mozambique. Marloth Park sits under an hour away from the border post.

Pair your Kruger trip with the snorkel hotspots and warm waters of magical Machangulo. An intoxicating mosaic of indigenous forest and tempting turquoise seas, Machangulo is a secluded peninsula in southern Mozambique. There is a playground of bountiful beaches, choice watersports, plus a delicious dose of local cuisine in one easy-to-access sanctuary.

Culture-vultures can also experience the vibrant delights of the capital Maputo with a day trip.

5. Perfect proximity to the Kruger National Park

Prime game-viewing country

Last but not least, let’s look to the legendary Kruger National Park. Being based at Marloth Park presents fantastic game drive route variety because there are two easy-access entrance gates to the park. The Crocodile Bridge gate sits 14 kilometres away, and the Malelane Gate is just 35 kilometres. Vida Nova Kruger’s expert safari guides drive spacious Toyota Landcruiser safari vehicles with an expandable roof (ala East Africa) for better wildlife viewing that doesn’t compromise comfort during the 20-minute tar road transit.

Day trips into this iconic game reserve begin early in the morning. This way, guests get front row seats to the best action once animals start to stir in the cool of dawn.

This southern section of the Kruger is known for its excellent big cat sightings. It is famous for its concentration of different prides of lion with varying hunting techniques. In fact, there is an abundance of prides, herds, troops, packs and swarms. Loners too, if we look at creatures like the leopards, likewise seen regularly in the region. This southern circle is also home to the most significant rhino population, upping your chances of completing the Big Five.

After a few hours of ticking off sightings and settling into the bush rhythm, it’s time for breakfast at one of the pretty picnic spots — a sacred Kruger tradition. Coffee and rusks below the trees? Yes, please.

6. A splendid spa-fari

Unwind in the wild

Ngala Spa (ngala means lion in the local language of Shangaan) is the newest addition to Marloth Park. Retreat to the blissful luxury of the spa at Vida Nova Kruger and enjoy a massage to soothe those safari-weary muscles, or enjoy a professional pedicure or manicure from the specialists.

The Best Place to Stay inside Marloth Park

There are many stunning lodges to choose from for a discreet bush retreat with glorious views of the Kruger National Park. Sip a cocktail while overlooking the Crocodile River at sunset or savour coffee with elephants at sunrise. Professional hosts and guides will ensure you experience the very best of the bush.

Expect insightful advice on where to explore on your own two feet or relax and be piloted on a luxury safari through the Kruger National Park. Sunshine, superb dining, safaris, resting during the ample downtime. These are the spoils of your very own private bush home.

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