I’m the kind of person who will happily go on one safari after another without a complaint. Big 5 spotting is one of my absolute fav things to do and with the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve only a 2 hour drive away, lets just say that I visit the reserve every opportunity I get. We recently leveled up our safari experience by spending several days at the glorious days at Ivory Tree Game Lodge.
The 5 star Ivory Tree Game Lodge located in the north-eastern region of the Pilanesberg National Park in the North West province, is part of the Aha Hotel & Lodges Group. We have previously stayed at the Aha Gateway Hotel in KZN and I can attest to the fact that irrespective of the grading of the accommodation, the standard remains high. Check out #StayAha for some of my moments in KZN and the North West.
A quick drive from Johannesburg and we arrived safely at the Game Lodge. I must advise that you should drive carefully as the roads in the North West are littered with potholes, while free-roaming wildlife is the norm. Upon arrival, we had barely climbed out of the vehicle when a friendly staff member pulled up in a golf cart. Within a matter of seconds he had loaded our luggage and us onto the go-cart to take us to reception. I promise it would have take us 30 steps from the car to reception but hey, that is 5 star living and I ain’t complaining. At reception we were greeted and immediately sent off to have lunch, while our luggage was delivered to our suite.
5 Star Ivory Tree Game Lodge
The lodge is an ancient Amphitheatre flanked by volcanic spires and rolling savanna grasslands. This fertile basin of riverine woodlands is home to the 5 star lodge. Ivory Tree Game Lodge was originally designed to cater to tourists visiting from abroad, all in search of the African experience.
Since the beginning of the 2020 pandemic which imposed major restrictions on travel into South Africa, the tourism industry has suffered immensely. The silver lining however is that the pandemic has opened doors for South Africans to experience their country like never before. An abundance of specials and discounted rates for accommodation means that some locals can experience their beautiful country. I maintain that this is still the ideal time to explore South Africa.
Secluded Luxury Accommodation
Ivory Tree Game Lodge is designed around the concept of rest and relaxation. Private chalets are tucked among the tree, each with its own wave-motif shower open to the sky. The chalets have spectacular views of the surrounding foothills and if you look carefully you may just be fortunate enough to see wildlife roam freely in the reserve.
There is a variety of accommodation types available at Ivory Tree Game Lodge. We stayed in the Family Suite which is equipped with two bedrooms. The main family lounge separating them with doors opening up onto a outdoor area with a plunge pool to cool off during those hot summer days. The main suite has a king size bed and the second bedroom has twin beds. The suite comes with an outdoor shower and an indoor bath. Other amenities include:-
- Ensuite Bathroom with Bath & Outside Shower
- Air Conditioning
- Coffee & Tea Station
- Complimentary Toiletries
- Hair Dryer
- Sitting Area
- TV (selected DSTV channels)
- Private Plunge Pool
- Daily Housekeeping
BIG 5 SPOTTING
Open grass clearings in the park are grazed by a variety of animals, including zebra, wildebeest and giraffe. Every animal has its place in the ecosystem and predators like lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dogs keep the antelope numbers in balance. But let’s be honest, South Africans and foreigners alike visit the reserve to see South Africa’s Big 5. Pilanesberg is known for its incredible Big 5 sightings – lions, rhinos, elephants, buffaloes and the elusive leopard.
We were incredibly fortunate to see 4 of the 5 Big 5 during our visit. Here’s the thing, two game drives a day are included in your accommodation. One in the morning at 6h30 and one in the late afternoon at 15H30. No 2 days are alike and it really is the luck of the draw but honestly, Pilanesberg does not disappoint. We absolutely took advantage of the game drives and went on every single one.
The game rangers are incredible and know the area as well as the behaviour of the animals so well, that the chance of you seeing nothing is highly unlikely. Our sightings were incredible and even a “National Geographic” moment right in front of our vehicle had us brimming with excitement. It was the most incredible sighting I have experienced to date. Below is a snippet of the sighting.
I’m no birder, but on this specific adventure we saw so many amazing birds up close and personal. Our driver obviously had an affinity for birds and his knowledge and enthusiasm was contagious.
The Game Lodge features various facilities to enhance your experience to more than just an African safari. Besides relaxing on your daybed on the thatch-covered veranda of your chalet, there is a myriad of exciting activities to keep you occupied at Ivory Tree:-
- A bird expert guides you on birding safaris
- A frog specialist will help you search for the eighteen species of frog and toad in the park
- An astronomer will unravel the secrets of the southern hemisphere night sky
- Go quad biking
- Partake in some archery
- Drumming is even an option
- Sign up for an air rifle sessions
It’s best to check with reception as they require an additional fee for extra-mural activities and you will need to reserve your slot. Not all activities are available daily. We love quad biking and while it was fun, it was also an extremely hot and dusty experience as we travelled through a local township. I am still in awe of the appreciation and sheer joy of the members of the local community who smiled and waved as we passed by. Little children ran out to greet us. Their smiles truly warmed my heart and it was the highlight of our quadbike session. It is important to note that children under 17 cannot drive a quad bike alone.
From the very moment of our arrival staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Throughout your stay, your comfort and pleasure was a priority. I don’t think I can truly put into words the high standard and quality of the food served by Ivory Tree Game Lodge.
Your booking is on a full board basis and includes all meals and even coffees, hot chocolate and cappuccinos. Plan to come back a few kilos heavier, but I can assure you that there will be no regrets. The food was truly phenomenal and the seafood was impeccable. Prawns and tuna steaks for lunch ticked all the right boxes for me. Venison and crocodile carpaccio was exquisite to say the least. The kids loved the informal lunches around the pool area and it made for the most ideal poolside days.
We desperately hoped for a boma dinner but it didn’t look like it was going to happen. But to our surprise, the night before we left, we returned to the lodge after our game drive to an amazing surprise, It was boma dinner night. Authentic South Africa cuisine cooked to perfection. As I sipped on my wine and looked up at the star studded sky, I couldn’t help but be filled with gratitude.
Beautiful South Africa
We live in such a beautiful country and I wish that more South Africans would get to experience the full extent of this country. As someone who has travelled abroad extensively, South Africa remains the most beautiful country in the world. Its unrivalled wildlife, natural habitat and its people make this country a truly unique experience.
Our Final Verdict
I highly recommend Aha Hotels and Resorts as they have amazing accommodation scattered around South Africa and even in some other African countries. They have awesome specials and accommodation to suit different budgets. Staff are enthusiastic, incredibly friendly and welcoming. That being said, I don’t recommend Ivory Tree Game lodge for young children as there isn’t much for them to do. My only major gripe would be that I wish staff at reception were more informed about activities and general day to day changes and happenings, Other than that Ivory Tree Game Lodge was the most incredible experience from the delicious cuisine to the phenomenal sightings, the resort ticks all the right boxes. Now we will just have to return because I didn’t get a chance to make use of the award winning spa and we recommend putting Ivory Tree on your bucket list.
Let me know if you have visited Pilanesberg and if Big 5 spotting is your vibe.
Safe travels lovelies