The plains of the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro crater, the Okavango Delta, the Masai Mara, Kruger National park – I’ve been very fortunate to have visited them and all in the name of work! For me there is nothing that beats being out in the wild on a game drive with mother nature in complete control of what you see next, it’s truly a lifetime must-do experience for everyone.
Safari experiences are, however, extremely expensive and typically you really do get what you pay for. There are cheap imitations if you are willing to accept badly trained guides with poor English, crammed game viewers and even more crowded sightings which really tarnish the overall experience and even then, will still impact your wallet, albeit not by as much. I’ve spent years trying to find a safari experience that doesn’t involve you having to max out your credit card but still offers everything you want from a safari and finally, I found the gem I’ve been looking for – Bayala Lodge, which literally offers 5-star game viewing at 3-star prices.
Bayala Lodge is situated in Natal about 3 hours from Durban on a private reserve (conveniently outside the malaria zone). It shares its own land with the neighbouring luxury top-end AndBeyond safari lodges in exchange for using their land. This pooled resource not only allows all the lodges a greater expanse of land to explore in the search for wildlife but also means that nobody is competing with each other. All guests benefit from a greater number of expert game ranger eyes on the search for wildlife as they all communicate and assist one another to ensure they deliver the best sightings, following a strict policy of two cars per sighting. Within our very first game drive, we saw a female white rhino with a calf, two sleepy lions, a number of elephants and two cheetahs feeding on a fresh zebra kill. With each game drive that followed we were spoiled with more unique sightings with expert narration from our enthusiastic and very informative game ranger Emma, who really enhanced our experience. Obviously, as with all wildlife, there are no guarantees but at Bayala Lodge, you really are giving yourself the best opportunity for high-quality sightings without breaking the bank.
My personal photos taken while on my game drive
So I hear you wondering what the catch is but truth be told there isn’t really one. The rooms at the lodge certainly don’t compete with the more top-end luxury lodges but that’s reflected in the price. They are immaculately clean with an en suite bathroom and all the modern facilities you need such as air conditioning (or a ceiling fan if you prefer) and even a little terrace but ultimately you spend most of your time either on game drives, lounging by the lovely pool or dining in the magical setting of the outdoor boma under the stars. Having stayed in many luxury lodges and enjoyed the lavishly extravagant rooms, it’s certainly a treat but it does often feel like a bit of waste as you spend so little time there. I enjoyed all the meals at Bayala Lodge and the service was friendly and of a good standard.
Pictures of Bayala Lodge, South Africa
Ultimately, the primary reason you are on safari is for the wildlife sightings so for those desperate to experience a safari I’d highly recommend you start with Bayala Lodge and if you get the safari bug then no doubt the likes of the Serengeti and the Okavango Delta will be next on your list – but at least you’ll know that to you the expense will be worth it!
For further information about Bayala Lodge or to book please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can join us on one of our fabulous 14 night Epic journeys to South Africa which includes a 2-night stay at Balaya Lodge.
Written by James Chisnall, Untravelled Paths