Friday, August 7, 2015

New Frontiers' Off-the-Grid (but accessible!) Series - The Outpost, Kruger NP

The latest property featured in the New Frontiers' Off-The-Grid series is The Outpost, located in the far north of Kruger in the Pafuri region. We love this property for adventurous safari veterans looking for something wild or as paired with a more traditional Big 5 safari experience in Timbavati or Sabi Sands. Read on for the full review and useful selling tips!

Kruger National Park - Pafuri

The Pafuri Triangle or Makuleke Contractual Park lies in the northernmost section of the Kruger National Park. With rocks dating back over 250 million years and early human habitation linked to the Great Zimbabwe ruins, it is an area of remarkable geological and natural heritage interest. The concession, run by the Makuleke people, comprises over 26, 000 hectares and is bordered in the north by the Limpopo River and Zimbabwe and to the east by Mozambique, forming part of the Transfrontier or 'Peace Park'. Scenically different to that of the rest of the Kruger (it contains 80% of the Kruger's diversity!), this is one of the last true wilderness areas left in South Africa - deep gorges, forests of yellow-fringed fever trees, unusually large baobabs, mopane woodland and open savannah. Home to an even greater variety of wildlife, with more unusual sightings like eland and the Sharpe's grysbok, this is also a birder's paradise and a must for walking enthusiasts. Remote and vast, this is nature at her very best.

The Outpost

Access: 40 minute charter hop from Phalaborwa with the professional Kingdom Air (daily flights from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa on SA Airlink). You land outside the park on a local airstrip (Tshikondeni Mine) and are transferred to the lodge in a closed vehicle - another pleasant journey of 45 minutes through local villages. Alternatively transfer by road from Polokwane (+-3 hrs) or Phalaborwa (+-3hrs). Self-drive also available. Guests need to settle the Kruger Park entrance fee at the gate (R280 per adult - subject to change) unless arriving by charter which can then be settled at the lodge.
The Lodge: The lodge is very simple in design - cool concrete, strong steel beams and open plan design allowing for uncluttered exposure to the wilderness around you. Pockets of comfy relaxation areas, dining areas and a full length swimming pool make for the hub of the lodge while the 12 suites extend to each side of this (3 to the left and the remaining 9 to the right). It is the 9 to the right of the lodge that offerthe better views and the very end 'honeymoon' suite (room 12) is the most dramatic, with an extra 'open' side allowing for 270 degree unhindered views stretching across the floodplains of the river below.
The suites are very simple in design, offering a mosquito net clad king/twin bed, couch, desk with chairs and open plan bathroom (with both shower and freestanding stone bath). The most dramatic feature tothe rooms is the openness - the special screens allowing you to see out while not in and mechanically retractable to allow you to open/close them should the weather turn or if you'd prefer to feel cosier and less exposed to the elements.
What to do: Morning and afternoon game drives which are not restricted to park roads; Bush walks - highly recommended, these need to be pre-arranged and are an alternative to a morning game drive; Village tours - by prior arrangement guests can visit the Makuleke community with your local guide; Crooks Corner - the meeting of the 3 countries was a haven for law-dodgers and you can visit this bushy wedge of land along with the spectacular Lanner Gorge during game drive. Thulamela ruins - the walled city, once home to a peaceful tribe 600 years ago can be visited on a morning tour (sadly this is still inaccessible due to the 2013 floods).
Wow factor: The endless views from the lodge and your suite - miles and miles of expansive wilderness which you feel intrinsically a part of.
Hmmm…Although they're private and the screens do come down, some may feel too exposed or overwhelmed by the openness. The open balconies and lack of fences don't make for child friendliness either and even though kids are accepted from 10 years up, families need to be aware there are no TV's and limited Wi-Fi in the central areas only. Game viewing is also an 'organic' process, not assisted by a network of radios and headsets as in the private reserves down south, so don't expect the Big 5 on a platter.
When to go: There is no bad time to visit the area, although the summer months (November - March) are notoriously hot and humid and do bring the summer rains. The winter months (May - September) are generally best for game viewing with warm days and chilly nights (more noticeable with the open-air design of the lodge).
How to sell: This is a solid 4* property, unpretentious and suitable for a really wide variety of clients. Food is wholesome although not fine-dining and service is friendly and informal. Although the game viewing in this area is much improved, it's not ideal as a standalone safari experience, only because its uniqueness is not in chasing after the Big 5. The ideal combo would be as a longer self-drive combining the northern Limpopo (Mashatu; Mapungubwe and Tzaneen) with the Timbavati/Hoedspruit area as a circuit or the more expensive fly-in option doing a combination with a Timbavati or Sabi Sands lodge.
Insider Tips: Combine with another Seasons in Africa Lodge (Kings Camp; Leopard Hills; Madikwe Hills or Tuningi) and receive a free night on stays of 5 nights or more, or 2 free nights on stays of 8 nights.

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