Deep in the heart of the Zululand bushveld, is the tranquil and luxurious Bayala Private Safari Lodge and Camp – an idyllic bush break destination for family holidays, romantic weddings – and of course viewing the Big 5…
Bayala is a family-friendly (and family-run) lodge situated three hours’ drive north of Durban’s King Shaka airport in a non-malaria, Big 5 private conservancy of almost 30 000 ha of unspoiled wilderness.
The setting is magnificent, and the décor gorgeous, but the gracious hospitality of the staff is what makes this one of our family’s favourite safari holiday experiences so far
From our arrival to our departure three days later, manager Judy and her team were always available to greet us with a welcome cocktail after our drive from Durban, coffee, hot muffins and rusks at 6am before we headed out for morning game drives and liqueurs after evening safaris.
Bayala consists of both the lodge and camp – close to each other – and we stayed in one of the 24 newly-renovated thatched-roof en-suite rooms at the camp. Our daughter had her own room and bathroom – with an interleading door to ours – a great family-friendly option that provides much-needed privacy for teens who need their own space.
Our rooms had air conditioning and stylish modern bathrooms, but my favourite feature was our own private patio looking onto the bush. A giraffe peered over the fence early one morning before breakfast to say hello and a late-night glass of red wine with only the stars and the sounds of the bush was a relaxing nightcap on the patio before bed.
Mealtimes are a highlight at Bayala – and dining under a canopy of stars is a unique bush experience
Feast on traditional South African meals prepared with fresh ingredients, homemade bread, quiches and pies baked on the premises, oxtail that falls off the bone, tender fillet at a braai in the boma under the stars, and excellent wines to pair with the food. Pink gin and tonic on tap at the bar was a favourite with our media group, and the perfect poolside accompaniment between game drives.
Game viewing on the open safari vehicles is an incredible – and very special – way to experience the Zulu kingdom and the wildlife who live there
I’ve been on many game drives over the years (one of the perks of my job) and I never get blasé about seeing wildlife in their natural habitat and getting as close as possible to them. But I’m often disappointed when hours of scouring the bush only results in seeing lots of antelope and sometimes a glimpse of a wildebeest. I’ve seen elephant but never a lion or a cheetah, but at Bayala, we saw all those and more – four of the Big 5 and some of them at REALLY close range. (I just didn’t see leopard but I’m planning to go back to spot one next time…)
We saw lionesses lounging in the long grass, got within smelling distance of a bull elephant in musth, travelled alongside a herd of buffalo, and found three cheetahs in the long grass. We drove past fat and pregnant zebra, posing giraffe and various other game (we also got close up with hippo, buffalo, wildebeest, warthog and jackal) with our knowledgeable (and highly entertaining) ranger Sam, who also provided ice cold beer and wine and snacks at sundowner time at the water hole and river each evening.
Bayala offers guests a 5-star game experience at 3-star rates
Prices at some of our leading luxury lodges often means that the safari experience is out of the price range for most South African families. “When we became custodians of Bayala we really saw a need to make the safari lodge experience more affordable for South African travellers,” explains Simone Godfrey, co-owner of Bayala Private Safari Lodge & Camp.
“We are certainly a value-for money destination,” says Judy Veldman, Safari Lodge & Camp manager at Bayala. “But we’re also not cutting corners. We have highly qualified guides who are among the best in the business, a great support team, and offer wonderful hospitality at an affordable rate. Our guests are receiving a five-star game experience, at a three-star price.”
Two similar, yet separate, accommodation options
Bayala Safari Lodge offers 24 rooms set around spacious lawns and a large swimming pool. With an abundance of serenity, Bayala Safari Lodge is an ideal choice for couples seeking some R&R in the great outdoors.
Bayala Camp is ideal for families and multi-generational travellers. Charming thatched rooms encircle the main lodge, ensuring younger travellers are safe to explore the grounds on their own. Some of the 24 rooms offer sleeper couches for little children, while the 14 Superior Rooms are inter-leading and boast small private terraces with uninterrupted views over the bush.
Between game drives, which are offered in the morning and afternoon, young travellers will find plenty of entertainment with the unique Mini-Ranger activities, where Bayala’s qualified guides take youngsters on bush walks to learn everything from animal tracking to bird identification. Bayala Private Safari Lodge & Camp is also proving popular with school groups, who spend up to four days on immersive ecology courses, discovering the biodiversity of the region.
“Our focus is on youngsters because the future of conservation lies in their hands,” says Godfrey. “They need support to understand their roles in conservation.”
Bayala is also a dream wedding destination
Whether you are looking for a romantic reception under the umbrella of the Acacia trees or a traditional African bush affair, Bayala will treat you to the most exquisite wedding imaginable.
For more details visit //bayala.co.za/ and follow them on Instagram on @bayalaprivatesafarilodge/ and Facebook BayalaPrivateSafariLodge/. To book #Bayala online click here, or email [email protected] or call +27 (0) 35 562 0498, 035 562 0420.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +27 (0) 35 562 0498
Sasha Wyatt-Minter and her family were guests of Bayala from 22-25 March for the purpose of a review.