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Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Reserve Review: Luxury Safari in the Sabi Sands
Chitwa Chitwa is a lodge in the Sabi Sands area of Kruger National Park, South Africa. It’s comprised of 6 bungalow suites ( ranging from 130-180 sq meters), a Charlsy Suite ( 2 bedrooms), and a Chitwa House ( 2 suites, kitchen, a private pool – perfect for a family or two couples). The bungalows all have plunge pools, outside showers, and large decks that face a very size-able watering hole that always had animals in it. In fact, on our last day, we saw hippos get bullied out by elephants, who then moved away to allow a small pride of lions to make their way past, all the while a crocodile just sun bathed on a small island watching – unreal.
A safari had always been a bucket list item for the entire family, and when the opportunity could be seized…well, we seized that opportunity like we a had warrant!
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How did we pick Chitwa Chitwa?
I trust other bloggers and especially TripAdvisor to give a real assessment of properties vs relying on website information in general. So, after much research, Chitwa Chitwa was tops of the list. The lodge provides EVERYTHING while you are there. Food, beverage, laundry, snacks, etc are all a part of the package. It also includes all of your activities, whether they be drives or nature walks, and visits to the small town – it’s all included.
There are loads of lodges in the Sabi Sands and for that matter, Kruger, and what was the most appealing about Chitwa Chitwa was the level of luxury provided with the attention to service without some of the “uppity-ness” that can be associated with Singita or Londolozi. Nothing against those reserves and they are absolutely world class, but we encountered guests of those reserves at other properties during our trip and it just felt like keeping up with the Jones’
Londolozi and Singita do have their own private reserves and you certainly pay for that, whereas Chitwa Chitwa shares a private game reserve with several other lodges, of which you only rarely see when out on a drive, and it’s very apparent that Chitwa is in another league purely by the vehicles used, and how quickly our guides and trackers found animals.
How the process works
I emailed Chitwa Chitwa to ask about rates. They actually don’t manage their own bookings directly with clientele and rather refer you to a travel company. We were referred to Bianca Johnstone at Icon Expeditions. She was incredible throughout the process and I would highly recommend working with her if you’re planning a tour. We explained our needs, the points we would be using to cover costs of some portions of the trip, and also our desire to take the Blue Train, see Cape Town, and visit Victoria Falls. She worked with us with great ease, competence and kept everything within the budget we’d discussed.
We flew into Nelspruit from Cape Town on South African Air ( which has incredible food, even in coach) and met up with a tour guide coordinator. As an aside…when Bianca was making reservations you have a choice on how to get to the lodge: car or plane. We chose plane…and it is a small, single engine, unbelievably exciting event that we celebrated as such. We were jammed shoulder to shoulder with our bags stacked all around us – it was nothing short of thrilling.
In order to accommodate this we had to actually repack our bags and store the rest of our luggage. Nelspruit has storage facilities at the airport and we had a wonderful attendant, Percy, who helped us facilitate the repack and storage. We chose the Eagle Creek medium duffel bag and it held up great.
The Flight to Chitwa Chitwa
I think we flew at an altitude of somewhere between 8000-10000 feet and it took roughly 30 mins. As you can see the land is fairly barren, as we took the trip in late June, and it’s winter in South Africa. It was on the descent that we knew we in for a treat. Andries, our guide was waiting with a superlong, open air, Land Rover on the dirt airfield and we were whisked off.
The Lodge: Chitwa Chitwa
Both of our hosts, Kevin and his wife Melanie were awaiting our arrival. Hosts basically take of everything during the safari, and, well, they host you – like you are a member of their family or friend group staying at their house. The personal experience and attention to detail is second to none. We were given DELICIOUS welcome drinks moments after we exited the land rovers. We were then escorted to a quick welcome meeting where they run each person through the rules of an “open” lodge and other safari safety guidelines.
Open lodges mean exactly what they sound like they do: they are open for wild animals to roam freely through the camp, and they most certainly do. In fact, members of the staff escort you any and everywhere on site once it’s night, and every night there was some sort of animal between the main lodge and the bungalow: once was a leopard!
We were the very first Bungalow to the right out of the lodge and it was stunning. Everything is organically blended into the natural habitat and beautifully executed. It was me, Miles, and Dave and I couldn’t stop talking about how luxurious everything was, and that we were literally in the middle of nowhere. To anyone who thinks that safari is synonymous with roughing it…well if this is roughing it then holy schmoly I’d love to see the standard at which you normally live. The staff can not do enough for you, is eager to please, and ALWAYS has a smile. I just love South Africa in general, but this is a whole new level.
We litereally dropped our bags that first day and within a cumulative 20 mins of arrival, guideline review, and check-in we were loading back up on the Land Rover and were out on a drive. NO IDEA what to expect. We were giddy just seeing Hippos in the watering hole adjacent to the Lodge, little did we know what we would encounter on the next few days. The first dose was a Lion pride…THE FIRST! Insanity!
I could go on and on with pictures. I think I took over 1000. There were tons of “mcnuggets” the various breeds of antelope that the predators catch and eat. We also saw wild dogs, hyenas, jackals, the list goes on and on.
Little Drive add-ons
At the end of each drive, whether it be morning or evening we stop. Take a breath. Have some coffee, biscuits, juice, tea, and talk about the drive and get to know eachother. In the evening, we pop bottles of beer and Amarula…which my mom now loves more than Bailey’s ( and she’s part IRISH?!?)
Makes you want to eat it uncontrollably. I’m not even joking. It’s incredible and all sourced from local farms. Ugh…writing this makes me want to go back and hang out again. So special.
I could add so many other aspects of the food, events, and experience, but then it would erode some of the special moments anyone visiting Chitwa might possibly have, and the surprise of things was as much a part of the experience as the amenities and the animals.
I can not stress how moving this experience truly is for the soul. You are remote, connected to your travel partners and the wild, learning about culture and nature, and gain a knowledge that has seriously changed the way I think about time, relationships, and travel. Life truly is too short not to take a trip here. I urge every single person reading this post to figure out a way to do it…we used points and miles to get there and then splurged on unique experiences in Africa, but I can guarantee you will be more fulfilled, better rounded, and spiritually developed by taking a trip here then you would ever be with a brand new flat screen tv, purse, etc.
A big special thanks to both Kevin and Melanie for an outstanding experience that they tirelessly shared with us and hosted.
And to Andries and Ransen! They spent a lot of time with us our on drives and were just exceptional both at their jobs and to us pseronsally.
And then we were off!