&Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge

How do you write about the best experience of your life?

It’s been months since I experienced what I consider to be the most authentic and exciting moment of my life… those 31 seconds of the most profound and provocative look I ever felt!

No, I’m not talking about an affair, not everything in life is about sex… sometimes life is about the moment when human nature intersects wild life and the most intense exchange of glances between a human and a leopard happens! But we’ll get to that!

We chose November to discover another continent other than Asia, it was the month we adventured into Africa, discovering Cape Town and got a reminder about the Portuguese influence around the world, and it was the month to see that our species is so much more insignificant than I already thought.

Writing about this moment took a while because it’s hard to put into words what you experience in the jungle! The true jungle, where species live in perfect harmony and where we homo sapiens “almost” don’t interfere.

Seems like the perfect world, doesn’t it? The most harmful animal of all to not interfere in anything?! It’s the moment we are not on top of the food chain again!

Yes, I write about luxury hotels, and obviously this article will always be about that! About a natural reserve called &Beyond Ngala, but this article is much more than that. It’s the experience of a life time! (so far, at least!).

But first, let me talk about the importance of the natural reserves chain &Beyond spread around the world.

&Beyond was created in 1991 in the attempt to accompany the increasing demand for ecoturism and wild life experiences, and in the hope that all this demand could have a response in the business area that would put wild life in first place, with a sustainable economic basis.

And so &Beyond was born and spread around Africa, assuring the preservation and protection of areas and species, but also the work, that translated into benefits to the entire community.

Yes, you can say that a stay at these lodges is super expensive! But you think these things are paid off with what? Making your dream come true and building a better world for all the species costs money. So reevalute what you think you know!

Their motto? “Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife and Care of the People!”

Nowadays you can find this motto spread around Africa, Asia and South America. And is certain that where &Beyond is, that place is sacred, a place where nature and all its species live in perfect harmony!

We arrived at the Hoedspruit airport in a very warm afternoon.

The adventure started right at the airport, the most charismatic and comic airport of all time! The pictures speak for themselves!

This was the waiting room between flights!

Waiting for us was a friendly member of the &Beyond staff.

We made the trip to the hotel with 4 other people who were also staying at the hotel.

The trip was marked by the presence of two of the Big Five (the Big Five are, as the name indicates, the five animals not to miss – elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion) – the elephant and the buffalo!

A gathering group of elephants, just after leaving the airport

We weren’t even in the hotel and we’ve already seen two?? The motto was set to perfection!
We arrived at &Beyond Ngala. An authentic oasis in the middle of the jungle, a mix of rudimentary with luxury details, a mix of authenticity with magic!

We were welcomed by a group of people devoid of preciousness, with an authentic speach, giving us fresh water and invinting us to rest a bit while signing a document! Without check-in, all the information was already there, previously taken care of in order not to bother the guest anymore during the stay! And what was that paper we had to sign?!

I didn’t even read it… I already knew what it was… An informed consent, the dinamic of our behaviour in order to respect the wild life, the way we had to accept we are visitors and have to respect our surroundings. And also the fact that if anything goes wrong, it can really go wrong! Yes, you can be attacked and die. And either you understand the risk and sign off or you won’t go on the safaris! Signed the paper and we were assigned an employee to accompany us to our room and whom we needed to call if we needed to leave our room at night! Yes, we’re in a reserve in the middle of the jungle, there’s no fence around the hotel. Scared? Don’t be! The adrenaline of being there and thinking about it is indescribable!

Along the path to the room we saw a bambi (An impala I mean!).

Somewhere in the path to our room 

There are 21 rooms in the lodge, four of them more specific for families, yes, children are welcome.

Our room was constituted by the bedroom itself, a small closet, a service bathroom and the real bathroom, all in glass, with an exterior shower and a garden space, reminding us we were in the middle of the savannah, with some animals keeping us company!

The bedroom also had a balcony with a sofa, allowing us to have some interesting conversations with some squirrels that kept trying to enter our room!

On the first day, we just changed clothes and went to the bar for refreshments and off to the first safari of our lifes!

One of the beautiful bar areas of the lodge

We were included in a group of four more people, two couples, who revealed to be great a company in this journey. We were introduced to Shaun and Tom – the Ranger and the Tracker, who guided us and taught us the works of the wildlife and who were the key to success of all this experience.

The 40 degrees felt got better on the jeep (the jeeps are open and you are so close to the jungle that is at the same scary and fascinating).

Bambis everywhere! The species with the most elements, nature has the gift of perfection, once these are the food for several other species!



At the end of that afternoon we had the chance to see a female leopard trying to hunt an impala, and Shaun told us that if we were lucky we might meet its family, two already big babies and the Male, with whom I was to have the most disturbing glance of my life and the most sexy growl!

Preparing for the hunt

There are safaris at sunrise and at sunset, ensuring a greater probablilty of seeing the animals, because during the day is so hot you can’t spot most of them. Mostly because the main river of the reserve is completly dry.

Timbavati river, completely dry 

To finish that day, the jeep stopped in a safe open park to drink a gin and have a bite to eat. And what an amazing moment – enjoying the sunset in the middle of the savannah, without preciosnesses, fears, completly free…

I always think I love the maximum exponent of luxury, but in these moments I realize nothing is more perfect and gives me more pleasure than the feeling of something pure and genuine… On that day we enjoyed the jungle at night, while deciding to return from our little rest it was already dark and it was exciting  to make the way back just with the lights of the jeep and a big flashlight to show us our path… there’s no other lights around there! Living in a city you can’t really understand what is true darkness. Just the stars and the moon to light up the night. It’s magical!

At the reserve, all days have the same dinamic, getting up at 4h (our assigned member of the staff wakes us up, in case the alarm clock isn’t enought!) and at 4h45 we have to be at the lounge for coffee and go to the frist safari of the day at 5h!

One of the comfortable meeting points 

At my first night I couldn’t even sleep, so much was my excitement! We had arrived from the safari at 20h30, had dinner at the restaurant of the reserve, ready to welcome all the tired guests from the safari, welcoming us with true smiles and traditional, comfort food.

The beautiful scenario waiting for us

Veal tenderloin with peanut and tahini satay 

After dinner we went to our room, it was time to rest and I was really tired but the adrenaline of being there, didn’t let me sleep!!!

On the second day, as soon as our staff knocked on the door I was already ready for the adventure!

Teams ready for another day 

The meeting at the lounge was always a mix of somnolence and happiness! We starded bonding with the people in our jeep. Zandri and Brendon, also rangers from another lodge of the group, the &Beyond Phinda. What a privilege, 3 rangers in our jeep, it could only be an amazing experience!

And Anika and Eshan, a wonderful couple from Sri Lanka, crazy about safaris! The perfect group for a perfect trip!

Shaun, João, Brendan, Eshan, Anika, Zandri, me and Tom – what a team!!

Along the way we befriended people from all around the world, making this trip more memorable.

Amazing how usually my articles are only about the hotel’s features and an objective experience, and now I cannot stop being emotional about all this stay… three days that seemed like a lifetime!

On the second day we went for the morning safari, starting right away with an exciting sighting… wild dogs! A bunch of them, and according to Shaun they haven’t been spotted in six weeks.

We were able to see them preparing for the hunt, they are a very deadly species due to their group organization skills.

Wild Dogs

Another highlight of that morning were the young leopards resting, and extremely bothered by us interrupting their rest!

Leopardo cubs

Time to return for a warrior worthy breakfast!

At &Beyond Ngala the pancakes are to die for!

The rest of the day we enjoyed the pool of the hotel, the 39ºC felt forced us to be in the water all the time, while seeing a family of warthogs, remember Pumbaa from the Lion King?! There was a couple and three babies walking freely around the hotel, having a bath in a small lake alongside the pool!

Amazing scene!

 Pumbaa and its kids resting in one of the walkways of the lodge 

There’s not much more one could ask for! 

After a well deserved rest it was time to get ready for the second safari of the day! After kicking off with a Gin, we barely knew it would be such an agitated and fun evening!

A good selection of South African gins 

Water is essential along the safari 

We started by seeing a mother and rhino calf, that was so amazed to see us that became one of the most comic moments of the afternoon!

If you’re wonderind how all these species don’t attack the jeep as soon as they see us, it’s firstly because these jeeps were never a threat to them, and secondly because we’re not their prey, and lastly because the team of &Beyond trains the way they show off at the babies, so they can get used to our presence since a young age.

The real safari photographers 

Then it was time to see an elephant family, whose baby was still a bit wobbly, as if extremely dizzy! So sweet!

Elephants transmit a super tender image, but are probably the most imposing animal in the jungle! And we were about to experience that!

The baby could barely walk!

On with our safari, it was time to see some hyenas, always with their tricky look! Also very good group hunters!



Where’s wally?

Meanwhile, Shaun received a warning from others teams – a group of lions where in the river… Obviously we went right away!

And there was a group of lions, from females, males and babies, lots of babies, and there was a white one! Something very rare, only about 15 in the world! What a privilege to be in the middle of the jungle and experience one of the rarest animals!

Is there anything more beautiful?

I felt so happy at that moment…so complete! Little I knew I had so much more to experience in that wild world!

Minutes later the elephant family we saw earlier started to go down to the river right in front of our jeep, so for our precaution we moved away.

And we had front seats to an impendind titan war! Or so I thought… no lion is titan enough for an elephant! No, the king of the jungle is not the lion, but the elephant! The white cub was the first to runaway “let me run, I’m to rare for this!” must have been its thought! The males and remaining babies went after, only two females stayed behind, amazing how females are braver in any species!!

It was scary when the baby elephant started to get close and one of the females (probably the mother) decided to raise the trunk (sign of attack) and start running after the lionesses! It was a shaking moment! Mostly because it also raised its trunk to our jeep and you start to think if they run to you, there’s no escape!

Probably the most exciting moment of my life! Or so I thought at the time!

After all this crazyness it was time to stop at a safe spot to eat something and toast to another amazing day!

Still time to see another rhino

We found out it was Eshan’s birthday and the hotel once again proved to be amazing, there was a bottle of champagne to celebrate Eshan’s special day and also this amazind day for all of us!

Shaun Zandri and Brendan

We went back to the reserve in time to get ready for a great dinner! A dinner for all the guests, a very fun party! These dinners work like a farewell for the different groups. It’s recommended to stay just for three to four days, due to the tiredness these experiences provoke, and the level of requirement of this kind of tourism.

So, each three days, there’s a dinner for all the guests and safari groups, with the rangers and the trackers, so we can have a goodbye party! An excellent service by &Beyond. What you can call a luxury!

A very well slept night was all I needed, and this time I slept, my tiredness won over my excitement!

Another meeting at 4h45, and the realization this was the last day in total communion with nature!

After the last safari I was sure there wasn’t much more to see or feel! Nothing more exciting than a lion vs elephant face to face! That was until we cross paths with the male leopard!


“My” leopard

Before that, we saw giraffes and buffalos, these last ones are so impressive, so beautiful and imposing!

Meanwhile, Zandri (also a ranger) saw a leopard, the male leopard of the family we saw before.

It was trying to sleep below a tree, it was extremely hot that morning, it was very early and already super hot. It was bothered by our presence, stood up and changed places, we followed, but it tried to get away again. And so it decided to start surrounding the jeep, three times, smelling not only the jeep but us as well! Abd suddently it stopped! In front of me, just an arms distance away, and looked me in the eyes, in the most intense way I ever felt and growled at me, looked me right in the eyes again and made me fall in love with that moment! Inexplicable, scary, exciting, disconcerting… the world stopped for about 30 seconds!

Behind me I just heard Shaun “don’t move Cíntia, don’t move, keep steel…”

It’s true you must enjoy life without a phone in the way, but I thank everyday for recordind this moment, so I can eternalize it in a more real way!

Fear? Not even a bit… I just wanted to extend my arm and touch it… but I know I could never do that!

I asked Shaun if that was normal, if the leopard though I was a danger to it, and why it stopped right in front of me? And he just said “It smelled something in you that captivated its interest and wanted to know what it was!”.

Happy to know that my pheromones have impact even in the jungle!!

The last coffee in the jungle

We came back to the reserve fot a last breakfast and my mind was already in another universe! It was by far the most amazing experience I had in my life… all this contact with nature in its wildest state is of a disruptive sensation you can’t really put into words. But being so close to a feline and feeling it look at you made me realize this really was an experience of a lifetime!


On that day, and before leaving we had time to buy a series of souvenirs for our family and friends, and mostly because a part of the value of what you buy in the store of hotel reverts to a series of projects to protect some of the species, namely the rhinos, that are stealthly hunted for theirs horns, because of the belief they have healing properties.

The store of &Beyond Ngala

You can know more about “Rhino’s whithout Borders”  and help here!

It was time to leave! Time to say goodbye to the group that shared this experience with us, thanking them for the company, care and friendship!

Time to say:

“Thank you Shaun and Tom for making all of this possible!”

Thank you all!

“Thank you &Beyond Ngala for taking care of this bit of paradise, where all species live in perfect harmony, this one and all those spread around the world! Thank you for continuing to believe there are many places in the world where you can take this noble project.” 

All the corners at Ngala are magic!


Thank you my perfect Leopard for giving me the most exciting moment ever!

See you soon &Beyond!

&Beyond Ngala Safari Lodge
Bedrooms from 560€/ pax, all included 
&Beyond Ngala Private Game Reserve – Kruger Park

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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