It’s an exceptional part of the earth. Steep and dramatic views of the ravine are offered from each of the suites, that sit along the hillside, connected to each other and the central lodge by a winding 500-metre wooden walkway. Every walk to and from your room gives you an opportunity to take in the vastness and immense power of this landscape.
Accommodating only 24 guests in 12 open-plan suites, The Outpost is a standout too for the views you get of the landscape from your bed. Your entire suite faces onto the ravine, with 180-degree views offered once you have pressed that button that powers the remote-controlled blinds to open up one entire side of your accommodation to the elements. There are no windows here. The bath has thoughtfully been built on the very edge of the deck, making it the place you’ll want to retreat to for a sundowner, or even for some stargazing.
A six-and-a-half-hour drive from Joburg, the route to the northernmost park access at Pafuri Gate leads you deep into Limpopo province, the roadside scenes as you head north shifting to stalls offering chicken dust, outdoor fruit and vegetable markets, and further into landscape dotted with those distinctive succulent baobab trees.
Said to be one of the most ecologically diverse areas of the Kruger Park, known as the ‘northern biome” Pafuri is a bird watchers paradise – nowhere in South Africa offers the range of tropical birds you might spot here. There is also an established leopard population along the river, as well as hundreds of hippo and crocodile. The area of Maluleke, of which the lodge is part, is said to be the winter home of elephant from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Kruger.
The river last flooded in 2000 and you might spot the flood markers showing the high-water point (around an astonishing 8 metres). But in the dry season when we visited there was no hint of this abundance of water. In some ways this is a ‘no man’s land’, the territory set between three borders – where Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa meet. This spot where the Luvhuvhu River and Limpopo mingle (creating natural borders between the three countries) is called Crook’s Corner and earned its status around 100 years ago as a place of outlaws.
Today it’s more well known as a place of baobabs, an incredible fever tree forest and for spotting rare birds. It’s also a place where we found that a walk in the Kruger will yield a lot more sightings than a drive. It’s a place of slowing down, of stopping yourself from ticking off a checklist of sightings, and instead appreciating the tiny shoots pushing themselves through the earth in Spring, the otherworldly stillness of the fever tree forest and the sound of a single woodpecker tapping against a tree.
This is also a pristine territory not well traversed by tourists so much of the time, even on game drives, you rarely encounter other travellers. Once back at the lodge you’ll find yourself in a setting that is all about understated luxury, cossetted by three delicious meals a day and friendly and welcoming service. A morning and afternoon game drive or walk, afternoon tea and sundowner rituals are all part of the game lodge experience.
The shared space of The Outpost is all outdoors, and the contemporary steel, wood, stone and concrete structures designed for this eco-lodge by architect Enrico Daffoncio who also added his signature to the Maboneng precinct in Arts on Main, blend into the landscape.
An added reason for us to stay at a property like The Outpost, part of the Rare Earth Collection, is its consciousness about the world it inhabits. It would be easy for a luxury property like this one to make a break from the outside world, but it doesn’t. When you book a trip there, you’ll see on their website that the lodge is a member of Pack for a Purpose, an initiative aimed at enabling travellers to make a lasting impact in the community at your travel destination. The Pack for a Purpose project keeps records of supplies needed for community projects that you can contribute to on your trip.
The Outpost is also the result of one of the most successful land claims processes in South Africa, the reclamation of land by the Makuleke people who were dispossessed of 24 000 hectares in 1969 by the apartheid government. The victory – which took many years and much back and forth to achieve – has meant that they now have full commercial rights to this land and benefit from the two lodges that have been built here – according to an article by SA Tourism the Makuleke have never sought to move back to this land but instead have electrified three villages, built a school and upgraded others. The ownership has changed many lives and continues to have a profound impact. And when you visit, you become part of that story.
The Outpost also has a sister property Pel’s Post, designed for family stays, nearby.
NEED TO KNOWRates at The Outpost and Pel's Post are all-inclusive and include all accommodation, meals and game viewing activities. The lodge has some incredible specials that offer up to 50% off usual rates. See the latest specials and book online here.
Getting there The Outpost is located in the far north of the Kruger Park. The closest gate is the Pafuri Gate. Remember you may not access the park, even if you are staying inside the park, if the gates are closed. Gates close at sunset and open at sunrise.