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PREVIEW: review coming soon Spot lions, leopards, elephants and more on this luxury green safari near Kruger National Park in a private ethical game reserve


Overall eco rating

PREVIEW: review coming soon, but here's what we know based on preliminary research. Ratings are provisional.

Garonga has provided us with some information to demonstrate their green practices but we are still awaiting some info.  What we’ve seen so far suggests they merit a place on EcoLuxHotels.com.  Investments have been made in alternative energy sources including a digester for biogas and solar panels while vehicles are fuelled with biodiesel.  Water is treated biologically on site and recycled into the water hole and the conservation credentials are high as one might expect of a safari reserve.


This is the main area we are still investigating with Garonga and so only very preliminary information/rating is available.

  • The camp involves the local community through economic empowerment - employing a number of locals and providing career development opportunities as well as purchasing goods
  • Contribute to charities include UK based Help for Heroes (the owner is a former military man so this is close to his heart

  • We are still awaiting information in this area and so this is a preliminary rating

Animals & nature

The lodge is intrinsically linked to the Greater Makalali Conservation in which it is located – an area of former farmland which is being returned to a more natural habitat.  Garonga contributes to the conservation efforts of the park including elephant contraception research to help manage the population here and elsewhere.

PETA assessment of cruelty free credentials of cleaning products and toiletries to come.

  • The lodge does some work to support management of the Greater Makalali private game reserve, an 85 square mile private game reserve near Kruger
  • Garonga is involved in the elephant contraception work and research being undertaken with the Greater Makalali
  • Use of Green Earth cleaning products reduces harmful effects downstream
  • Vegetarian menus offered routinely

Environment & buildings

Resource conservation and pollution control are Garonga’s strong point thanks to the investment in new sustainable energy and water systems.  The biogas system is one of the more innovative energy systems on this site and one we would like to see replicated and expanded upon.

  • Garonga obtains around 30% of their electricity from solar panels (with the remainder coming from the South African grid)
  • Heat pumps are used to provide hot water for baths and showers – these reduce electricity consumption by ~300% compared to using electric immersion heaters (aka geysers in South Africa) to heat hot water
  • Energy conservation through various means e.g. LED lighting is widely used and air drying of laundry
  • Greywater is diverted, treated and used for watering animals and rainwater is harvested for the same purposes
  • Process and bottle their own drinking water – with reusable glass bottles – instead of purchasing water in disposable bottles
  • Food waste is collected and converted to biogas via anaerobic process and the gas is sufficient to power stoves
  • Recycling according to local availability
  • Organic vegetable garden provides ~30% of food
  • Biodiesel from a local supplier is used to fuel vehicles

Reviewed by Tim Starley-Grainger


Overall luxury rating*

PREVIEW: expert review coming soon, but here's a taster. Ratings are provisional.

The scene

South Africa’s Kruger National Park is renowned the world over, but it can get overrun. Get back to nature with a safari in this nearby luxury private game reserve instead

Just west of South Africa’s world-famous Kruger National Park is this private 24,000-hectare wildlife reserve, with all the Big Five – lion, elephant, leopard, rhino - except the buffalo. You can drive here in around six hours from Johannesburg, or the resort will pick you up from nearby Hoedspruit or Phalaborwa airports.  When not on game drives or nature walks, there’s painting, bush baths under the stars and a open-air spa-treatment sala.

  • In its own private wildlife reserve, so no crowds
  • Lions, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, rhinos and more to see here

  • It’s quite far from Johannesburg, although the drive is scenic

The style

You have two sleeping options at Garonga: the Safari Camp - six raised tents, which aren’t really tents at all but are more like canvas-roofed villas; and Little Garonga, three luxury villas. Of the two, Little Garonga wins in the style stakes, while the Safari Camp wins for eco cred. Earthy, back-to-nature design prevails in both, with tribal-inspired décor and furnishings. The Safari camps six villas, each sleeping two people, are raised on stilts with solid rammed-earth walls, canvas pitched roofs and ensuite bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers. They share a main lodge, where you’ll dine, lounge and swim in the main pool. Little Garonga’s three luxury villas are in a separate part of the reserve and made from tactile rammed-earth walls, but with thatched roofs instead of canvas, and they also share a main lodge for dining, lounging and swimming.

  • The tactile rammed-earth walls and tribal interior decor feel very African outback.
  • Opening the huge windows and doors makes you feel like you’re properly in the bush, even while lounging in your luxury bed.
  • The Safari Camp is grouped around a dry riverbed that still attracts plenty of wildlife, making for great game viewing from your room.

  • The Safari Camps tented villas look a bit uninspired from the outside, and the canvas roof means no air-conditioning.

The facilities

You’re here for safari, and there are game drives aplenty, all included in the price, along with all meals. At the Safari Camp, there’s a swimming pool in the main lodge, while Little Garonga’s luxury suites share a slightly smaller plunge pool. All accommodations have private, ensuite bathrooms with indoor-outdoor showers and hammocks. No matter which you’re staying in open-air spa sala for massages and other treatments. For the brave, you can sleep on an open-air deck up a tree for one night of your stay, or try a bush bath under the stars.

  • Open-air tree deck with bed and picnic for a night under the stars and over the animals
  • Open-air spa sala for massages and treatments
  • Open-air dining on most nights
  • Open-air bush bath for a soak in the wild
  • All villas – whether Safari Camp or Little Garonga – have terraces or viewing platforms and hammocks
  • Air-conditioning in Little Garonga’s suites
  • Indoor and outdoor showers

  • The Safari Camp tented villas do not have air-conditioning, although they do have huge windows and ceiling fans

We love

  • That there’s no single supplement at the Safari Camp
  • Braving a night on the Tree Deck
  • The game drives

You might not love

  • The lack of air-conditioning at the Safari Camp
  • That children under 6 are not allowed

Reviewed by Jill Starley-Grainger

Garonga Safari Camp

Selati 12, Phalaborwa

South Africa
+27 (0)87 806 2080

Standard room rates from €500



"Set in the Makalali Conservancy, west of the Kruger National Park, Garonga’s 12 tented rooms are made for love, with huge draped beds, outdoor showers and swinging hammocks on their decks" The Sunday Times