Set on the banks of the perennial Klaserie River, Karula is the smallest, most intimate and luxurious of the newer camps in Kapama Reserve. The five superior suites include two luxury family suites and, along with two luxury Meru-style tents make up "the place of peace". The Klaserie River glides smoothly through the Camp and is an attraction to the Big Five, forming sparkling pools that also draw in smaller riverine animals and a myriad of birds in every season making a birders' paradise.
The superior suites are a generous 130 sq metres in size, the family suites 170 sq m with a second bedroom. All offer en-suite bathrooms (2 in family suites) with indoor and outdoor showers, his and hers basins, and a bath. Each has a telephone, overhead fans, air conditioning, and a gas-heated fireplace for cool winter nights. Each suite has a private outside deck with a heated swimming pool and sun loungers for relaxation. Inside you will find a Nespresso coffee machine, a lock-up safe, an international electricity socket, WiFi and an iPod docking station. A minibar is stocked with a selection of fine wines and champagne. The Meru tents are similarly specified but do not have private pools.
The main area - lounge, bar and library - at Karula is modern, with whitewashed wood, expanses of glass and a neutral decor palette creating a contemporary African feel. The open-plan lounge and bar are spacious yet cosy, with skylights drawing in natural daylight and moonshine. The outside wooden deck gives views over the meandering Klaserie River. Spotting leopard from the dining room is not uncommon. In the evening a romantic fireside dinner can be taken in the library. There are free internet terminals for guests.
River Lodge's backdrop of the northern Drakensberg mountains is suitably large in scale as it is the biggest private game Lodge in the Lowveld. It offers luxurious accommodation and, with its generous bed capacity of sixty-four bedrooms, offers the lowest prices on Kapama. It is carefully designed to fit into its beautiful spot on a dry riverbed and minimise its profile to the outside world. It does not seem unduly big when you are there as it is craftily laid out. The clever use of space continues into the rooms which are also surprisingly large and have en-suite bathrooms and a terrace with uninterrupted views of the surrounding Reserve.
The main Lodge includes a large rim-flow swimming pool with sun umbrellas and recliners for lazy afternoons. A long L-shaped relaxation lounge and bar under a double-volume thatch curves around the pool between huge double-sided fireplaces, creating a open-plan yet cosy atmosphere. The Rhino Boma dining area has tables arranged under low thatch in a horseshoe curve, with a roaring outdoor fire in the centre to give a glow to evening meals. Buffet-style meals introduce African flavours using fresh local ingredients featuring specialities such as kudu and impala venison.
Kapama River Lodge occupies a curve of the Kapama. The channel is usually dry but seasonal floods can reach the steps of the Lodge swimming pool. A small permanent water source lies just beyond the perimeter fence attracting animals like antelopes, elephant and buffalo. Watch this truly African spectacle from the warm blue water of the big rim flow swimming pool, or relax in the shade of an umbrella on loungers around the pool. For those occasions when you really want to catch up on world news on cable TV, watch a sports game or entertain the children with a wildlife DVD, pop down to the Kapama River Lodge Media Room. This area is also adapted for small conferences of 20 delegates or less, with breakaway rooms seating 8-10 people.
All suites are air-conditioned, with modern yet distinctly African furnishings and log-beam ceilings under a golden thatch. Step onto your private balcony with an iced drink from your mini bar, and while away free time looking lazily into the bush for animals that may pass by. There's tea and coffee at your disposal too. Bathrooms are all en-suite with his and hers basins, bath and shower. Complimentary amenities are supplied daily.
Twenty of these are Spa Suites in a private setting away from the rest of the lodge. The ebony and ivory colours and the use of frameless glass panels in the bathroom, as well as the 3 metre high doors, ensure you fully enjoy the magnificent views from every corner of the room. Other luxuries include a minibar and coffee and tea making facilities, hair dryer, mini-safe and a built-in international power socket to fit most plugs.
The Family Room here includes three balconies and a separate area with two beds for younger kids This suite is 70+ square metres in size and also ideal for guests who just enjoy the comfort of a large room.
There are two Royal Suites. These larger rooms have a separate lounge and extended balcony with recliner couches. Your en-suite bathroom has bath and a dual shower cubicle looking in to the bush.
Kapama River Lodge offers three different dining venues: Rhino Boma is the most popular buffet dinner venue where a delicious variety of dishes is eaten under an open-sided thatch around a crackling fire. The riverbed is a romantic place to dine, with a star-studded African night sky above you and the sand underneath your toes. Siyatla Lounge is designed for larger groups and has its own bar and lounge with two fireplaces with chimneys extending up to the open-beam thatched roof. Huge wizened leadwood trunks create a truly African feature inside the hall. Concertina glass panel doors open the space completely to let the sounds and smells of Africa in.
Dishes are prepared with seasonal local produce and fresh herbs grown at Kapama River Lodge. Ethnic dishes and accompaniments like mielie pap (African-style polenta) and chakalaka (a hot and spicy relish) are used to give the taste of Africa, but more familiar food is also on the menu. Safari game drives have the habit of giving you a raging appetite so blow the diet and dig into specialist dishes like warthog stew and kudu casserole, impala sausages and mild oxtail curries. Fish eaters get an option on the menu and vegetarians are well catered for with fresh African vegetables like sweet potatoes baked in their skin, wild spinach and feta cheese, spiced zulu cabbage and steamed gem squash.
African pots, stools and artefacts grace the illuminated recessed alcoves in the L-shaped lounges and bar of Kapama River Lodge. Chairs are softly upholstered in reds and golds and the high yellow thatch reflects a warm light back into the beamed lounges. A wide chimney divides each lounge area, and the dual-facing fireplaces throws light and warmth into all areas. Wooden-framed glass concertina doors can be pulled closed to keep it cosy or opened up completely for views beyond the rim-flow pool into the sandy riverbed. Straw-clad plaster walls blend the indoors with the out.
River Lodge has a large wine collection with three big plate glass windows letting you peer into the humidified cellar storing more than 600 bottles of fine wine. Apart from some French Champagne, all the wines and Cape Classique fizz are from South Africa's finest Cape vineyards.
Southern Camp is the newest of the Lodges, offering fifteen suites, making it the second smallest Kapama Lodge and more intimate. The rooms are large abd have full en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning, minibars and tea and coffee stations. Picture windows allow you to enjoy the surrounding scenery and birdlife.
The most recent additions at Southern Camp are the 85 square metre Luxury Suites, each with a private lap pool, inside and outside showers, large minibar, espresso machines and a romantic fireplace open to the bath and bedroom.
There are three Family Suites, each with a separate connected bedroom for children with its own bath, shower, double vanity and outside patio. These have their own lap pools for relaxation with the kids.
Breakfast and lunch are served in the elegant dining room, open-sided to give you a view in to the bush. Decor is contemporary, understated and inspired by the surrounding nature. The wine cellar is a focal point in the room, with the fine South Africa estate collection showcased behind frameless glass. Dinner is served in traditional outdoor boma, weather permitting. Illuminated by firelight and starry skies, you will enjoy diverse and tasteful cuisine prepared by chefs on open fires in front of you.
Buffalo Camp is the best and most expensive of the Karula Lodges. Inspired by expeditions into the wild in a bygone era, Buffalo Camp is a proper tented Safari experience. There are just ten suites built on stilts on an elevated riverbank among tall shady trees, with a seasonal river below. Built from natural stone and wood, the whole Lodge has an old world, slightly decadent atmosphere but caters for all your modern creature comforts in your plush tented suite with its white cotton linen and African design throws.
There is air conditioning for summer and heated underblankets to keep the cold at bay on winter nights. Everything you would expect from a luxury safari Lodge is here, including a well-stocked minibar, Nespresso coffee machine and lock-up safe. Wooden floors, leather and dark wood finishes give the tents a nostalgic air. At night, oil lanterns illuminate the wooden walkways connecting the suites and Lodge to create subtle light and ambience.
The communal areas of Buffalo Camp are surrounded by wild gardens of aloe and euphorbia. An intimate lounge nestles under a vaulted thatched roof with ceiling fans, which create a welcome breeze in summer. It's a great place to sink into a comfortable sofa and bird watch, while enjoying refreshments from the Buffalo Bar. A sleek, elevated rim-flow pool offers views directly into the forest canopy. Sun-dry on the loungers before taking a lazy nap in the shade under a wide canvas umbrella.
A la carte dinners are served in a fashion suited to the style and setting of the Lodge, usually in the boma around an open fire. The roar of lions and the calls of jackals and hyenas as natural background accompaniment. Breakfast and lunch are taken under a canopy of thatch.