When I was in South Africa on my safari adventure I visited three luxury lodges. Two of them were well-known in the travel community and came highly recommended. When I spoke to some other bloggers though in South Africa, they told me about a place called Tintswalo Safari Lodge. Upon further investigation with my friend who is a travel agent (we’ve become friendly through him booking my travel arrangements) I learned that Tintswalo was a hidden gem–so I couldn’t wait to check it out.
There are several different ways you can get to Tintswalo Safari Lodge for your five-star South African safari experience. One is to fly into Hoedspruit (HDS) airport through Johannesburg (JNB) or from Cape Town (CPT) It’s a short flight, about an hour or two depending on where you’re coming from. Once you arrive to HDS you have about a 30-minute drive to the hotel (they’ll come pick you up). Tintswalo also offers private charter flights to its own airstrip (minimum of two passengers required). There is also actually the option of flying into Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport (Nelspruit) as well but then you have a two and a half hour drive to the lodge.
What to Expect
I’ve written about the usual safari schedule in my previous safari lodge reviews and this lodge is no different. If you want to hear about a typical schedule of when you’ll be waking up, eating, etc. then be sure to check out this post here. As for what’s included in the room rate at Tintswalo Safari Lodge, it includes all meals, snacks, drinks and two safaris each day with a ranger and tracker in a luxury safari vehicle.
As for what to expect in terms of animals you might see, while there are no guarantees, I will say this. We saw the Big Five within the first two hours that we were here. While they have assured me we were just very lucky (I think they didn’t want me giving false expectations to my readers–if they could see me now, oops!), this area definitely seems to have great game-viewing. The guides were very professional and extremely adept at tracking the animals. Staff was certainly on par with the universally recognized ‘creme-de-la-creme’ safari camps of Royal Malewane and Singita Lebombo. Here are a few photos from my safari–I took these pics and all images are copyright Travelingpanties.com.
Tintswalo Safari lodge lies within the private Manyeleti reserve, which is located along the unfenced western border of Kruger National Park, nestled between Sabi Sands and Timbavati reserves. It’s considered to be part of the Greater Kruger National Park. The area is renowned for optimal game viewing because there are few other vehicles–making for a great authentic safari experience.
The lodge itself is very luxurious and is situated right above a local watering whole where local game come to drink–you can often observe them while you’re having a meal on the deck. We were told that sometimes in summer the local elephants come by and stand under a local little fountain on the hotel’s property and cool off. What a sight to see!
Front Entrance to Tintswalo Safari Lodge
Lovely sitting area where we had cocktails after the evening game drive.
There are six suites and one grand presidential suite. There is also one manor house, which has four bedrooms, which is great if you’re a family or group of friends. Each suite is named after a famous African explorer from the 19th century. We were in the Livingstone suite.
Rooms are warmly decorated to reflect the 19th century. Each suite is appointed with lovely luxury amenities like a private plunge pool and deck, which offers sweeping views of the Sycamore groves and a seasonal river, which is frequented by local game. Rooms also have modern conveniences like air-conditioning, hair dryers, and separate en suite bathrooms.
Four-poster beds, Persian rugs and ornately carved wood make for quite an opulent effect. These rooms are certainly on par with the best of the best luxury safari camps in the area.
Closet/Dresser Details? There is a nice little area behind the bed where you can store luggage, unpack a bit and have it out of the way.
Charging Situation? They had adapters available in the room.
Turn-Down Service: Yep! And they’ll even draw you bubble baths, etc. without you having to say a word.
Bottled Water? Complimentary. As much as you want. You aren’t supposed to drink the tap water here FYI.
Coffee maker? Yes but also a lovely selection of South African teas.
White Glove Inspection: Beyond met my expectations.
Dual sinks and an oversized, stand-alone soaking tub set the tone in the huge bathrooms.
Towel quality? Great
Shower? Great water pressure. Floor to ceiling windows give you shockingly close views to game outside. There is also an outdoor shower.
Wow Factor? The tub in the center of the room, which overlooks the bush just beyond the floor to ceiling window. At night they draw a warm bubble bath filled with rose petals for you, which awaits you after your dinner.
Food and Drink
The hotel’s culinary experiences center around a sense of community and getting to know not only fellow guests but also the staff members. Sophisticated African-inspired cuisine is served in several dining areas around the property–whether you’re in the bush under the stars or in their ultra-romantic wine cellar, you can’t go wrong with these romantic dinners.
I have to say, compared to some of the other lodges I stayed at, while the food was delicious for dinner and breakfast was quite good as well, the afternoon snacks and lunch were a little less than stellar. Things just seemed like they maybe had been sitting out for a little while and I didn’t really find them to be very impressive. That said, other things–like their sundowners cocktails in the middle of the bush, around a fire was one of my favorite experiences I had in the bush our entire experience. It was truly the best sunset I have ever seen in my entire life (see above). And the experience around the fire getting to know everyone was really wonderful. We met such interesting adventurers that we still are in touch with. When we got back to our vehicles we each had a blanket and hot water bottle waiting for us for the chilly ride back.
Breakfast was also eaten with the people in your safari truck. I highly recommend the homemade granola and infused waters.
Classy Hotel Bar? There wasn’t really a bar but everyone had cocktails around the lobby together. Be sure to try the Amarula liqueur–have them mix it in an after dinner coffee, it’s heavenly.
No big deal, Zazu is just perched on my chair at breakfast. Just another day…
There isn’t exactly a full-service spa, it’s just a small treatment room set somewhat apart from the main lodge, but it’s all you need. There are actually complimentary 15-minute massage teasers built into your room rate.
The Little Things
Did I feel truly welcome by the staff? Yes. And instead of feeling like they’re just waiting on you hand-and-foot I felt more like I was part of a very generous family. When we had our barbecue under the stars our guide, Rory joined us and while he was the one to get up and get us more wine, etc. it felt like he was more of a gracious host than a staff member. It was really lovely and I loved getting to know him and learning about his life on the bush.
Wi-Fi? Yes, though it’s only in the main lodge and it’s a little dicey at times. There is a computer though in the main lodge to check email on as well that seems a bit more reliable.
Good For Families: Kids are allowed but can only stay in Manor House or the Presidential Suite.
Where do Most Guests Hail From? The people we met were from South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.
Packing: The rooms have plenty of bug spray and sunscreen available so you don’t really need to worry about lugging your own. Things you mustn’t forget though are comfortable shoes, a hat and sunglasses. You also need a camera with a decent zoom. The photo opportunities are simply too amazing to miss. Although staff will go off road and get you close to the action, zooming in a little further will be worth the weight in your camera bag. You’ll kick yourself forever if you don’t get some of these shots. As far as clothing goes, pack for comfort–no one is dressing up at this or any other safari lodge. You’re in the wilderness–heels/ fancy jewelry are not necessary. It can get cold at night so bring lots of layers and a warm jacket and even boots or thick socks.
Tipping: It’s never easy (for me anyway) figuring out what an appropriate gratuity is. After speaking to a couple hotels and travel agents this is my best estimate of what you should leave.
Guide & Tracker: About $20-$30 USD per person per night
Lodge staff: About $12-$20 USD per guest per night.
Use your judgment but least this at least gave us a place to start.
Room for Improvement: My only complaint was that the food for lunch and tea snacks could have been a little better.
The Wow Factor(s):
My most memorable experience was our sundowner cocktail hour in the bush at sunset. This is something I will remember forever.
The Bottom Line: Would I recommend it? Am I coming Back?
Absolutely. Not only is it a fantastic luxury safari lodge but it’s extremely affordably priced compared to other luxe accommodations in the area–nearly $1,000 USD per person less per night! I’m not saying it’s a budget honeymoon of course, this is still quite expensive–but it’s totally a once in a lifetime type of experience and this makes things at least a little more do-able for couples looking to splurge.
It’s a very authentic safari experience with well-qualified rangers/trackers. You’ll be blown away by all the amazing things you see. What makes Tintswalo so special is how comfortable guests feel and how unpretentious the entire vibe is. They really go out of their way to do so many special little extras like hot water bottles and bubble baths that top luxury hotels do. I loved it! Travelingpanties approved!
Tintswalo Safari Lodge Information
Address: 5 Lynx Road , Treesbank, Kruger National Park, 1686
Phone: +27 (0) 11 300 8888 or Make an Equiry online here.
Cost: Rooms start at R 6,645.00 ($618 USD) per person sharing a suite.
*Disclaimer* As is common in the travel industry, writers are provided with complimentary services for review purposes. I sought out this hotel on my own though after much thorough research and was not part of a press trip. Although I didn’t pay for my room (for 1 night), I wasn’t compensated in any other manner. All opinions herein are my own. You can’t buy the love here.