As enthralled and excited as I was to be watching a cheetah give chase to a herd of wildebeest while I was sitting in an open game vehicle in the African bush at sunset, what moved me more was the fact that my three-year-old and eight-year-old sons were sitting next to me, completely captivated.
Bayala Private Safari Lodge & Camp is situated within the Munyawana big-five game reserve, which borders the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Visitors to Bayala have the unique opportunity of exploring the park’s more than 10 000 hectares of exquisite African bushveld.
And explore we did. In the three days we were at Bayala, we spent more than 12 hours on game vehicles traversing the bush – not something we would’ve thought possible with two busy young boys in tow.
But that was before we had met the phenomenal team of game rangers at Bayala, all of whom are passionate about imparting their bush-knowledge onto young minds. They kept our kids engrossed from the moment we left the lodge and whether we were looking at giraffe, lion, rhino or little terrapins in muddy ponds, they made sure every part of the experience was an exciting adventure.
From the moment we arrived we realised that Bayala is a unique luxury game lodge. For starters, it is completely family-friendly without compromising on its promise of a five-star experience. Bayala is also affordable and their ‘three-star rates’ are worth a mention for those looking for a great family getaway that won’t break the bank.
If game viewing is something you love then this is the place to do it. With two game drives a day, you are almost guaranteed to see the Big Five during your visit (we missed the elusive leopard sighting by a day), and the rangers will go out of their way to try and find whatever animal you are hoping to see. “I want to see the daddy lion please,” says the 3-year-old.
Having transformed from what was once a hunting farm to a luxury safari destination and wildlife haven, Bayala has two accommodation options – the 24-room lodge and the Bayala Camp, which is where we spent our visit. More suited to couples, the rooms at the lodge sleep two and are set around spacious lawns and a large pool. The camp, slightly more modern, offers families the option of either staying in one of the charming thatched rooms with sleeper couches or the superior rooms which have inter-leading doors and quaint, private terraces facing the bush.
Simple and understated, the newly refurbished rooms are clean, comfortable and contemporary and offer everything you need, including aircon, lovely large showers, ample cupboard space and a tea and coffee stations.
The communal areas are stylish and comfortable and when we weren’t on game drives our kids spent most of their time frolicking in the pool (which has a large shallow step, perfect for smaller kids).
The food at Bayala is well-thought-out and tasty, with a wholesome breakfast buffet ready for you after your early morning bush adventure (during which you can have tea, coffee and rusks). The lunches are light (think quiche or pies and salad or cheese and biscuits with all the trimmings), followed by sundowners and snacks during your afternoon game drive and yummy fireside dinners under the stars at the boma.
What makes this game lodge even more incredible is the fact that Bayala owners, the Godfrey family, are passionate about wildlife conservation. So much so that they have created their own registered charity called The Cycle of Life, which uses cycling tours as a fund-raising tool to support conservation initiatives in the local area. The funds raised are also used to assist in fighting ongoing rhino poaching in the area. It’s inspiring and deeply moving stuff.
Just a couple hours’ drive from Ballito, Bayala Private Safari Lodge & Camp is certainly unlike any game lodge we’ve visited in the past and the experience was a memorable one for each member of our family. When, just ten minutes after we had left the camp at the end of our stay, my son asked me whether I thought the game rangers were missing them yet, I knew we had found a special place that we would most certainly be returning to in the near future.
Things you need to know:
Bayala’s rates are flexible and range between R2475 to R2775 per person per night sharing a superior room. Single occupancy is between R3710 and R4010 and kids under 12 stay for R1230 per night. Kids under two are free. Rates include dinner, bed, breakfast and one game drive per night. Additional game drives and bush walks are R909.
Details: www.bayala.co.za / [email protected] / 035 562 0498 / 035 562 0420.
Text: Leah Shone | Main photograph: www.beingmaddiesmom.com