Nambiti Game Reserve, South Africa

Esiweni Safari Lodge

Price per night from$1,108.47

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (inclusive of taxes and fees) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (ZAR20,400.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Pride of place

Setting

Nambiti clifftop

Living up to its Zulu translation of ‘cliff edge’, Esiweni Safari Lodge surveys the vast and varied animal kingdom that roams Nambiti Game Reserve from its gravity-defying perch. Big Five-inspired suites cling to the rocky bushveld, seamlessly blending indoor-outdoor spaces for greater roaming. With two daily game drives and all your meals included, savannah vistas to soak up from the infinity pool, and cocooning canopy beds to sink into, you’ll soon relax into the wild and carefree rhythm of this remote safari stay.

Smith Extra

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A collectible hand-painted African doll or painting by an Ndebele artist

Facilities

Photos Esiweni Safari Lodge facilities

Need to know

Rooms

Five standalone suites.

Check–Out

11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 1pm.

Prices

Double rooms from £842.62 (ZAR20,000), including tax at 15 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of ZAR200.00 per person per night on check-out.

More details

Rates are full board (excluding drinks other than tea and coffee), and include two safari excursions a day.

Also

The suites are accessed via steps or stony pathways, sadly making this stay unsuitable for guests with mobility issues.

At the hotel

Panoramic terraces, organic garden, charged laundry service, and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: Bluetooth sound system, underfloor heating, ceiling fans, private patio, Nespresso coffee machine, tea-making kit, yoga mat, and Africology bath products.

Our favourite rooms

Each earthy-yet-elegant suite is named after one of the Big Five, clinging to the rugged cliffside above the Sunday River (so the views are as jaw-dropping as you’d expect). If a post-safari soak is on your wishlist, we’d recommend the Lion Suite for its freestanding tub on the outdoor deck.

Poolside

Eagle-eyed swimmers can spot wildlife roaming the savannah and bush from the hotel’s clifftop infinity pool, which seemingly merges with the winding Sunday River below.

Spa

Wellness is on the wild side here, with no spa as such – but a resident yoga instructor on hand to lead sunrise and sunset classes on the panoramic terrace, as well as ‘safari detox’ packages which include two yoga and meditation sessions a day, plus a slow-food nutritional programme aimed at rebalancing the body. In-suite massages can also be arranged on request, delivered by Africology therapists, using all-natural and ethically made essential oils drawn from South Africa’s natural landscape. There’s also a glass-panelled gym where you can combine workouts and wildlife-watching.

Packing tips

Most rangers have binoculars to borrow, but bring your own if you don’t want to miss a moment of animal action. Keep your camera at the ready too, ideally with a sharp zoom lens if you’ve got one. Bring lots of layering options in neutral tones and practical materials – leave the catwalk to, well, the big cats.

Also

You’ll be staying on a malaria-free reserve, so unless you plan to venture further afield, medication isn’t a must.

Children

Over-sixes are welcome, and an extra bed can be added to several suites. The Rhino and Buffalo suites can be combined to sleep families of up to six.

Sustainability efforts

Alongside its rewilding, biodiversity, and anti-poaching programmes, Esiweni Safari Lodge works closely with Nambiti Game Reserve to support the Zulu Senzo’kuhle Nkos Unodada locals. This community leases the land to the hotel and surrounding lodges – and in return, the solar-powered reserve offers employment and training opportunities to locals. The hotel also donates materials to a school in nearby Bongela, organising visits for Zulu lessons and educational workshops.

Food and Drink

Photos Esiweni Safari Lodge food and drink

Top Table

Ask for a table to be set up in the bush and dine by candlelight with wildlife surround-sound.

Dress Code

It’s all pretty off-grid, so you can kick back in your khakis.

Hotel restaurant

Drawing on flavours from her Cape Town childhood, chef Crystal Wentzel champions African ingredients with a French twist. Safari-fuelling snacks through to full tasting menus can be rustled up whenever (and wherever) you’d like, using ingredients from the lodge’s organic garden and honey from Esiweni’s own bees. The dining deck is perched right on the cliffside with views over Sunday River and the surrounding plains, with boma-style seating around a firepit for chillier evenings.

Hotel bar

Lay your safari hat on the linen-swathed seating by the roaring fire and swap stories from the day’s sightings over the lodge’s homemade gin. Bringing the wildness of the outdoors in, animal prints are paired with natural materials and neutral tones, and those breathtaking views from the wraparound terrace are just a few steps away if you’d like to sip some South African vintages en plein air. Early morning tea and coffee is also served at the bar before game drives – you’ll want to feel as wide awake as possible for those wildlife sightings.

Last orders

Timings are wonderfully relaxed – all-included meals are served throughout the day.

Room service

The kitchen is open from 6am to 11pm for all your between-meal requests.

Location

Photos Esiweni Safari Lodge location
Address
Esiweni Safari Lodge
Nambiti Private Game Reserve
Ladysmith
3370
South Africa

Esiweni Safari Lodge is perched on a cliff in the private Nambiti Game Reserve, near the small town of Ladysmith and KwaZulu-Natal battlefields.

Planes

King Shaka Airport in Durban is the closest, around three hours by car from Esiweni Safari Lodge. It’s mostly a domestic hub, with connections to Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Lanseria. International arrivals should aim for Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport, which can be reached directly from London Heathrow and is a four-hour drive away. The lodge offers transfers from ZAR26,000 (both ways).

Automobiles

You’ll be driven around the reserve and taken out on twice-daily safari trips by experienced rangers, so there’s no need to bring your own wheels.

Other

Helicopter transfers and private jet services are available on request.

Worth getting out of bed for

You’re staying in the heart of Zulu country on the private Nambiti Game Reserve, the only one in the area where you can spot the Big Five (including the Thombi lion pride) as well as cheetahs, and 280 bird species. The daily game drives leave each morning and evening for three hours, led by knowledgeable rangers in open-air 4x4s. Esiweni Safari Lodge can also organise outdoor yoga and meditation classes, alongside stargazing, hot air ballooning, fishing, and mountain biking. Drakensberg Reserve is an hour’s drive away, and is home to two of South Africa’s most scenic golf courses (nine-hole Cathedral Peak and 18-hole championship Champagne Sports Resort). Horse-trekking through the mountain-backed Drakensberg grasslands can be booked for half- and full-day tours, no matter your riding experience. On your way back to Nambiti, you’ll pass the Memorial Gate commemorating the Battle of Elandslaagte from the Second Boer War at the entrance of the reserve – battlefield tours are led by local storyteller, Rob Caskie. End the day’s adventures with a bush dinner or traditional braai under the stars.

Reviews

Photos Esiweni Safari Lodge reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this wildlife-filled safari lodge on Nambiti Game Reserve and unpacked their binoculars and beadwork crafts, a full account of their Big Five-ogling break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Esiweni Safari Lodge in South Africa…

The journey to Esiweni Safari Lodge starts your safari holiday off adventurously – you’ll hop onto an open-air buggy and be driven down a dirt track, spotting roving beasts before you’ve even pulled up to this cliff-clinging camp-out. A warming cup of rooibos tea or cooling glass of homemade G&T (depending on your arrival time) welcomes you onto the rocky, bush-fringed outcrop, accompanied by traditional Zulu songs from the friendly team. The bright and breezy bedrooms are named after the Big Five and decorated with photographic prints and patterns to match each animal – think elephant-greys, tawny-yellows, and buffalo-browns. There’s minimal tech in the savannah-facing suites, which are set up instead for maximum wildlife watching – encouraging explorers to fully embrace the Nambiti Game Reserve’s rugged landscape. Swap screens for stargazing, cool off in the elevated watering hole (aka the hotel’s infinity pool), and graze on an organic picnic out on the plains.

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Price per night from $1,086.73