The Outpost

Makuleke Concession - Pafuri, Kruger & Around, South Africa Book from Book from £801 per night

Remote and inspirational: post-modern warehouse design goes bush at this award-winning eco-lodge in the far north of the Kruger
The northern reaches of the Kruger National Park, bordering both Zimbabwe and Mozambique, long remained off-limits due to the land claim of the Makuleke tribe who were forcibly removed from their lands during the apartheid regime. They won their case and new legislation ruled that any new development within this vast wilderness should follow strict eco-guidelines, be built and staffed by the Makuleke and that ownership would be given over to them after 30 years.

Thus The Outpost was born, a lodge as unique as it is beautiful. Italian-born architect Enrico Daffonchio was given free rein to come up with a design that would celebrate the extraordinary panorama of the Luvuvhu Valley. He opted for 12 cantilevered living spaces and a separate lodge for 8, each set on an enormous open-sided platform and decorated with Zen-inspired interiors - think steel, concrete and canvas. His brilliantly post-modern design means that you experience the beauty of pristine, untamed nature at the closest of quarters.

Highs

  • An amazing location, high above the Luvuvhu River with soaring views across one of South Africa's last true wilderness areas
  • Vast guest suites whose open-deck design brings the African bush right into you, and you out to the bush...
  • Pel's Post: A very spoiling lodge for families or groups, with 4 suites, a swimming pool, and a private chef
  • Diverse wildlife and terrain unlike the rest of the Kruger with gorges, fever tree forests and ancient baobabs
  • One of South Africa's prime birding areas with few other game vehicles - it's as if you’ve got the northern Kruger to yourself
  • Delicious food, charming service and exceptional guides

Lows

  • It requires some effort to get there, but it's well worth it to experience this unique, less visited corner of the Kruger
  • Not the best area of the Kruger for ticking off the Big 5 (sightings of big cats are less prevalent here compared to the south), but it's still rich in flora and fauna with large herds of elephant and buffalo, hippos, crocs, and incredible birdlife
  • The teak walkways leading to the guest suites fan out from the main lodge for nearly half a kilometre. ‘Popping back’ to your room can take 20 minutes
  • Don’t expect in-room WiFi (though it's available in the central area) or phone signal - a relief for some

Best time to go

The Outpost, with its ‘keep it outside’ ethic, is best experienced outside of the cooler winter months (Jun-Aug). Any time in spring (Sep-Oct) and autumn (Apr-May) would be an amazing time to be here, especially when the mighty Luvuvhu is in spate. Summers (Nov-Mar) can be very hot and there will be more mozzies around (it is a malaria area, but low risk), so check on maximum and minimum temperatures before you depart.

Our top tips

Go for an exhilarating walking safari or bush walk with one of the informative guides (taken after breakfast instead of a game drive) - advance booking is required and children must be over 16 years old.

The Outpost is ideal for second-time safari-goers or those combining with a few nights at one of the private reserves in the southern Kruger. A stay here could dovetail perfectly with an onward journey to the beaches of Mozambique.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • Safari Lodge
  • 12 suites and 1 lodge for 8
  • All meals included
  • Over 10s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Daffonchio’s 12 living spaces set on stilts mark a radical departure from the thatch-and-plank of traditional safari-lodge design. The wraparound panels and retractable blinds of each suite can be slid back, leaving you cantilevered high above the hillside on an open-sided platform. With breathtaking 180-degree views stretching to Mozambique, there can be few more inspirational ways of experiencing the bush.

You have a full 55 sqm of space, with twin beds that are joined to create massive mosquito-netted kings, daybeds, open bathrooms with free-standing concrete half-egg bathtubs, and steel wardrobes which can slide to create a visual screen between sleeping areas and bathrooms. There’s a distinct feel of New York loft-goes-Bush.

Be aware when booking that ‘living spaces’ begin at number 1 and run away from the lodge. Those numbered 7-12 have the best views but if you book Honeymoon Space 12 you’ll have a 400m-hike along the raised teak walkway. And be sure to keep your ‘space’ open to the night, to wake at dawn to see the sun rising over the valley. It will be the experience of a lifetime. Note there are fans and an eco-friendly cooling system in the rooms but no air-con so it can feel hot in mid-summer.

There's also a separate lodge called Pel's Post that's perfect for families or groups. It's designed in the same post-modern style and comes with those killer 180-degree views. There are 4 luxury suites (which can also be booked individually), a living area with a bar and fireplace, an enormous terrace with a firepit, and a private swimming pool. Oh, and you get a private chef and a private vehicle for game drives, too. Pure luxury.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Nespresso coffee machine
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Umbrella

Eating

We were amazed at the quality of the food at The Outpost, the more so given that we were unexpected visitors. Despite its remoteness, the lodge aims to provide top-notch cuisine with regular deliveries of fresh ingredients flown in from Johannesburg.

Breakfasts, following the traditional safari formula, are served at the main lodge after your early morning game drive. These take the form of a big cold buffet which always includes a fresh fruit salad and homemade bread and muffins, followed by any variation that you choose of the ‘full English’. Coffee is prepared at the open bar with an Italian espresso machine and was the best we had in the bush. Lunches are light, usually consisting of salad, fish and plenty of fresh vegetables, accompanied by homemade quiche or maybe savoury crêpes. Lunch could be a picnic if you are out in the bush.

But dinner is the most memorable meal of the day, served at about 8pm by the decked poolside or in the enclosed courtyard beneath the stars. By then you’ll have witnessed a stunning sunset and should be in receptive culinary mode after a drink at the bar. You choose between 2 starters - maybe vegetable soup, salad, zucchini fritters, gazpacho or a light risotto - and 3 mains like lamb shank, ostrich, impala or springbok steak, or chicken and a vegetarian dish, followed by 1 desert option. The Makuleke kitchen staff present their food beautifully and there's a good choice of South African wines racked up in a chic, glass-walled wine-cellar.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity: Walking safari

Activities

  • Take game drives through the acacia and fever-tree forests. You’re bound to see elephant and buffalo and, with luck, antelope, kudu and monkey. Reptile activity is also common being so close to 2 rivers. And a pride of lions have recently made this part of the park their home; 6 white rhino have been relocated into the area successfully too. Drives are held at dawn and dusk with exceptional guides

  • Explore the bush on foot with a guide (arrange in advance). From the lodge, a path threads down the side of the valley towards the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers

  • Birdwatch from your ‘space’ or from the main lodge. There are over 350 species in this region. You’ll see sunbirds, rollers, weavers, flycatchers and, if you’re lucky, fish eagles and the rare Pel’s fishing owl

  • Go on a village tour to meet the Makuleke community

  • Take a jeep safari over to Crook’s Corner, once the hang out of desperate criminals trafficking illicit goods across the 3 borders

  • Enjoy a relaxing massage in your room with a view

  • Stay in bed and watch amazing sunrises from your lofty ‘space’

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Hiking
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Private guided tours
    • Safaris
    • Wildlife

Kids

The Outpost welcomes children aged 10 and over, though it's not really set up for kids as the atmosphere is peaceful and romantic. Extra beds can be arranged on request. Children 12+ are charged at adult rates; children aged 10 and 11 are charged at 50% of this rate.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Families Should Know:

All of the rooms are open-air with open balconies, and the lodge and swimming pool are both unfenced.

Kid Friendly:

Location

The Outpost is located in the 26,500-hectare Makuleke Contractual Park, also known as the Pafuri region in the far north of the Kruger National Park, by the borders of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. As its name suggests, The Outpost is isolated, a long way from anywhere. The nearest major towns are Messina or Louis Trichardt, both approx. 200km away. The small resort at Tshipise, 130km from The Outpost, has a fuel station and a small shop.

By Air
Johannesburg O R Tambo is the nearest international airport, a 6-7 hr (610km) drive. Scheduled flights from Johannesburg serve nearer airports to The Outpost: Polokwane (3.5 hr drive), Phalaborwa (4 hr drive) and Hoedspruit (4.5 hrs drive). Road transfers can be arranged from Johannesburg and these smaller airports. There are also daily scheduled flights from Cape Town to Hoedspruit. If you have the budget and time is short, you can hop on the Federal Air shuttle direct from Johannesburg to The Outpost's airstrip at Pafuri. The light aircraft flight takes 1hr 40mins followed by a 20-min drive to the lodge. Charter flights to Parfuri can also be arranged from other airports around the Kruger: Polokwane (1 hr), Phalaborwa (50 min), Hoedspruit (1 hr), Skukuza (1hr 20min) and Nelspruit (1 hr).

By Car
The scenic drive from Johannesburg is on good roads but takes 6-7 hrs so best to set off early morning to arrive in time for lunch and the afternoon drive. If you are combining The Outpost with a safari lodge in the southern Kruger (eg. Sabi Sand/Skukuza), the drive up through the park takes about 12 hrs because of the maximum 50kmph speed limit. And you would never want to rush through the Kruger. If you don’t have that time to spare, you can almost halve the journey time by driving up the western border of the park, sticking to the highways. Either way, you’ll have around 500km to cover. The nearest park gate to The Outpost is Pafuri gate from where the final 6km to the lodge is on dirt roads, so best driven in a 4x4 or a vehicle with high clearance. For car hire see our car rental recommendations.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

More on getting to South Africa and getting around

Airports:

  • Johannesburg Tambo International 610.0 km JNB
  • Polokwane 300.0 km PTG

Other:

  • Beach 600.0 km
  • Shops 130.0 km
  • Restaurant 200.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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