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Minutes into our early morning game drive, a pair of zebras darted across our path as we rumbled along the bumpy dirt road in an open-topped safari vehicle. Led by our skilled driver-guide, Bethuel, and our eagle-eyed wildlife tracker, Freddy, we stopped to watch giraffes strip leaves from a tree with their long tongues. Later, we spotted a group of enormous horned Cape buffalo heading straight toward us.
Bethuel put the Land Cruiser in reverse, pulling off the road to allow the lumbering beasts to pass.
“Buffalo are very dangerous animals,” he said. “More dangerous than elephants or lions.”
We observed many more mesmerizing animals throughout that morning, but it was a magnificent herd of elephants toward the end of the safari that stole the show. And while viewing wildlife was a highlight of my trip, it was only one of many memorable experiences during my stay at Becks Safari Lodge, where dramatic landscapes, exquisite wildlife and luxurious accommodations make for an unforgettable South African adventure.
From Johannesburg, it’s a one-hour flight to Hoedspruit, where a Becks guide met our group at the airport and drove us through the countryside and into the wildlife-rich Karongwe Private Game Reserve. Offering sweeping views of the Drakensberg mountain range, the some 22,000-acre game reserve is home to five safari lodges. Becks opened in 2017 and is the flagship property of the Karongwe Portfolio. Serene, stylish and supremely comfortable, it welcomes travelers 12 and older.
Becks has 10 guest suites constructed of brick, metal, canvas and wood, connected by a walkway. I entered my spacious digs to find the bed adorned with petals and leaves arranged to read “welcome.” Suites feature a sitting area with comfortable armchairs, a plush bed surrounded by mosquito netting, a writing desk, ample closet space and a bathroom with twin sinks, a soaking tub and a separate shower. Big glass doors open to a private deck, perfect for watching nyala (an African antelope) and other animals graze nearby.
Just a short stroll from the suites is the main lodge, outfitted with a mix of traditional and modern furnishings for an eclectic yet elegant vibe. Local touches include South African art and decorative objects crafted by area artisans. Guests can kick back on deep-cushion sofas, sip drinks at the bar, lounge on the veranda, indulge in facials and massages at the spa and take a dip in the pool overlooking the bushveld. A small but well-stocked gift shop tempts shoppers with its selection of hats, scarves, jewelry and other goodies.
Becks offers twice-daily game drives with close-up wildlife opportunities, and there are guided bush walks, too. Mornings begin at 5 a.m. with a gentle knock on the door, followed by coffee and tea in the main lodge before setting off for a 3.5-hour safari.
Located near Kruger National Park, the vast Karongwe reserve is home not only to the Big Five but also cheetah, hippos, impala, crocodile, wildebeest, diverse plant life and several hundred bird species. Our tracker and guide shared information about the local flora and fauna while pointing them out.
Meals are served in the main lodge’s dining room, and the food is delicious. Breakfast options include fresh fruit, yogurt, made-to-order eggs, pancakes, cured meats, buttery croissants and more. Lunch is a casual affair, with a scrumptious array of savory and sweet bites served on the veranda. Four-course dinners might include velvety green-pea soup, prosciutto with melon, pasta and decadent chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream.
One night, our group dined alfresco in the boma (open-air eating room), where a roaring fire provided a warm glow and cozy ambiance. We gazed at the starlit sky while feasting on traditional South African dishes paired with fine wines.
Back at my suite, turndown service included a piece of chocolate left on my pillow, along with a little slip of paper wishing me a good night and hakuna matata. The Swahili phrase means “no worries” — exactly what my stay at Becks delivered.
The DetailsBecks Safari Lodgewww.karongweportfolio.com