Tengile River Lodge is a small, thoughtfully luxurious lodge set in a lush forest on a quiet bend in the Sand River in the private Sabi Sand Reserve, next to Kruger National Park. Its superb location in the scrupulously protected animal enclave of the 240-square mile Sabi Sand is just the beginning of Tengile’s charms. Expertly and passionately designed to engage with its sylvan surroundings, Tengile is a fine example of a fully modern, ecologically discerning luxury lodge that honours the timeless African wilderness and its animal citizens.
Tengile’s nine secluded suites, nestled in the cool riverside forest, are raised above ground level, giving us a sense of floating above the river. Decorated with stone and wood accents, with one-of-a-kind furnishings created by local artists and craftspeople, the suites’ tall, wide windows give a seamless sense of unity with the river and the veld beyond. Each luxury suite has a sitting area—large and comfy enough to be called a living room, actually—in addition to beautiful en suite bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers, and an expansive wooden deck, complete with a sweet plunge pool.
The lodge’s common areas—like the suites, fully solar-powered—continue Tengile’s theme of beautifully artistic decor, with a lovely and airy dining area, a well-equipped gym and spa, a welcoming bar and lounge, a small shop, a large pool, and a delightful boma for before- or after-dinner gatherings beside a fire.
Animals roam freely between Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Kruger National Park, a protected area about the size of the Central American gem of El Salvador. But while our game drives in Sabi Sand are rich in animal sightings, they’re—unlike heavily visited Kruger—poor in human sightings. All the Big Five—lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalo, and rhinos—are domiciled here, along with 140 or so other equally amazing species (as we often say, we’ve been exposed to these charismatic animals all our lives, but when we see and smell and hear them up-close we’re amazed by how almost extraterrestrially exceptional they are).
We encounter those wonderful beasts on game drives, expertly guided walks, and from our suite’s verandah as they come to the Sand River to drink and, especially in the case of the elephants, splash and play. As the great Elspeth Huxley wrote in The Flame Trees of Thika, “the whole landscape was alert with life, and you were a part of it.”