Bayala Safari Camp – a good-value bush break

South Africa has more luxury safari lodges than you can shake an Instagram-influencer at. But with their hefty rates aimed squarely at pound- and dollar-toting tourists, they’re rarely within reach of the average South African. Not so Bayala, which offers all the memorable game viewing of a five-star safari at four-star rates. That’s thanks to its location in the 30 ,000-ha Munyawana Conservancy in northern KwaZulu-Natal, in the same neighbourhood as Mkhuze and iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

With rooms encircling a spacious lawn, Safari Camp as the of a laid-back family homestead. Image: supplied.

 

Bayala’s 3 ,500-ha slice of the conservancy is home to Safari Lodge and Safari Camp, each offering 24 rooms. But it’s the Safari Camp I most enjoyed after its recent refurbishment. And I don’t mean a quick lick of paint: rather, a major overhaul that has enlarged the rooms, expanded the en-suite bathrooms, revamped the decor and added small private patios for the Camp’s 14 superior rooms (all of which can be made interleading for groups).

safari, Bayala, KwaZulu-Natal, Hluhluwe

Aside from having healthy buffalo herds, Bayala is spearheading conservation in the area. Image: Richard Holmes.

It’s certainly a great escape for families, with the whole property securely fenced and the rooms encircling a large frisbee-friendly lawn. But it was too hot for frisbee during my late-summer visit, so I spent my days in the stylish lounge. This quiet corner – with the best Wi-Fi signal – became my preferred spot to relax between game drives. A large swimming pool links the lounge area to a boma, which glitters to life with paraffin lamps come evening.

There’s Big Five aplenty, but also a menagerie of smaller creatures to beguile you. A close-up encounter with a pint-sized (and endangered) leopard tortoise was just as exciting as watching a pair of lionesses stalk a herd of skittish zebras. When we returned in the evenings, buzzing slap-up suppers were served in the adjoining dining room. And it’s a relaxed affair all-round: no dressing for dinner, and no frills on the plate; just generous portions of delicious homely fare.

safari, KwaZulu-Natal

Subtle safari-chic decor in the lounge and dining area. Image: Richard Holmes.

Best Feature

The opportunity to access this wonderful conservancy trumps even the comfy rooms and home-style cooking. It’s the same landscape traversed by vehicles from the conservancy’s top-dollar five-star lodges, but guests at Bayala get to enjoy it for a fraction of the price.

Cost

From R2,475 per person sharing (R1, 230 for children), including dinner, breakfast and one game drive per day. There’s a daily R99 per person conservation levy.

Contact

0355620498, bayalagamelodge.co.za

Words and photos: Richard Holmes

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