Bayala Private Safari Lodge & Camp is situated on the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal and is a mere three hours away from Durban. So when I recieved a media invite to go exploring more locally there was no way I could say no to this media trip.Bayala Private Safari Lodge & Camp is situated within the Munyawana Game Reserve, a massive conservancy bordering onto the UNESCO-listed iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Once a hunting farm, today Bayala is a haven for wildlife, and in 2018 fences were dropped with neighbouring conservancies to offer visitors the opportunity of traversing 10 000 hectares of pristine KwaZulu-Natal bushveld.
“We were first inspired by the conservation potential of the region,” explains Simone Godfrey, co-owner of Bayala Private Safari Lodge & Camp. “But with the existing structures on the land it made sense to explore the hospitality opportunities that would open up the region to visitors, and provide much-needed employment opportunities for surrounding communities.”
My Bayala Experience
This media trip to Bayala was scheduled during my holidays which worked out pretty well for me. Prior to this I had visited Tala Game Reserve and Gwahumbe both local experiences and I was so impressed with my African Safari experiences BUT Bayala was on another level that it blew my mind and Game drives twice a day became the highlight of my weekend and it was then I feel in love and knew that deep down I was truly born in the right continent and the bush was my happy space. Having read a few blog posts on Bayala ,I was rather excited as I knew Bayala Game Lodge was indeed more than I had experienced before. Mum and I headed off to the King Shaka Airport to meet the rest of our group before the long drive to Bayala. The weather was not too great with continuous rain from the night before so a quick repack of our suitcases was needed. A short stop for padkos and we headed to our home for the next few days.On arrival to the Munyawana Game Reserve we signed in and made our way to Bayala . While driving through we immediately spotted Impala and then the most beautiful in my eyes an Elephant appeared in our way. We immediately turned off the engine and waited as this Elephant came to check us out. While waiting we learnt that this particular Elephant and he ousted from the tribe and was on his own so he was a tad bit angry so we had to be cautious. I was just amazed at his size and having never seen an Elephant so close up before I just kept clicking away.
Eventually we made our way to Bayala Camp, were greeted by the warm friendly staff who offered us ice teas to quench our thirst as the weather had warmed up. While we filled in the necessary check in paperwork , our luggage was tagged with our room number and was taken to our room. The main entrance area is rather impressive with the African theme been carried throughout the Lodge. The reception area leads to an open plan eating area, lounge and bar which then flows out onto the pool area. With plenty outdoor space for kids to play and adults to soak in the African tranquillity this outdoor space was rather inviting. We headed off to freshen up before a light lunch and our afternoon Game Drive. Lunch was a quiche with salad with an option for vegetarians which is always a concern for me.
Ranger Sam was our guide for the duration of our stay at Bayala and he is a wealth of knowledge. Once inside the vehicle, Sam went through a few ground rules like not standing up unless he has told you too and if you have dropped something to let him know and not try and get it yourself. It is important to listen carefully to the Rangers as they are experienced in their field and know how exactly to react to every situation. The Game vehicle seats ten people only and has blankets and raincoats for everyone inside. One our first Game drive through Bayala we were fortunate to see Lions, Giraffes, Zebras, Wildebeest , Rhinos, Hippos and Crocodiles.Each game drive is three hours long with the ranger showing you animal tracks , birds and explaining life in the bush. Just before sunset we stopped at a beautiful stop overlooking the dam where one could see over ten hippos and Sam set up. A cooler box of refreshments both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and snacks to keep us sustained before dinner. The view was spectacular and toasting to a bush sunset was such an incredible moment.The temperature started dropping as we made our way back to the Lodge, we were welcomed back with Amarula to warm us up and then it was time to have dinner. The food was home cooked meals which consisted of Butternut Soup for starters and for main there was Mushroom Stroganoff , Oxtail casserole and chicken breasts cooked with bacon and cheese in a cream sauce. All the main meals were accompanied with a selection of salads, stir-fried vegetables , basmati rice and mash potato. The mains were served in a buffet so it was great to be able to sample all the dishes on offer.For me the Oxtail casserole stood out with its intense flavours and thick rich gravy eaten with creamy mash potato. To end we had a proper homemade Apple Crumble.Tummies full and tired we made our way to our rooms as we needed to be up and ready for our 6am Game drive by 5H30am.
I woke up before my alarm went off that morning , showered and we made our way to have a much needed java fix with a freshly baked still warm muffin. All togged up we got on with our morning drive , unfortunately the weather was not playing kindly with us and we needed to don our raincoats as we drove through the reserve. This did not stop us from an amazing drive as we spotted cheetah on the hunt. The rain kept coming down and then disappearing just as suddenly, so eventually I just took off my glasses lifted my face to the rain as the raindrops felt like a massage on my skin and within minutes the wind dried up my face in time for our morning coffee stop with rusks. In that moment I realised that I just needed to embrace the moment /situation and take it all in regardless.Getting back to the lodge it was time to have breakfast and relax, the rain clouds had disappeared and it was perfect for relaxing by the pool. I spent the afternoon relaxing going for a walk around the property all while sipping a Pink Gin. Lunch was a yummy cheese , cold meat and salad board and was the perfect filler for the afternoon. Our afternoon Game Drive was a great one yet again as we explored a different part of the reserve. Our break today was another beautiful spot with a Gin Bar and Wine Bar set up with more snacks. A fantastic selection of local and international Gins which I was very impressed with and what I loved was the beautiful African printed table clothes every time we stopped.On returning to the Lodge I noticed that the dinner set up under the Boma. It was all beautiful with the lanterns on trees and a fire burning. As we gathered for dinner we were treated to a show of traditional African music and dance. Dinner was a traditional braai which included , sosaties, halloumi skewers, borewors, chicken and fillet with all the necessary accompaniments for a traditional South African braai. And just like that I was ready for a warm shower and bed.
The next day was pretty much the same and I was really getting in to this and loving my time in the bush. Cheetah and Lion spottings were the main highlights of the day and I in awe of how the beautiful creatures live freely and that we become considerate and remember that we are visitors in their home. A lazy and relaxed day followed before lunch and a game drive followed by another amazing dinner of a Vegetable Tagine and a Lamb Potjie, the food was divine and heart-warming and comforting with no fancy plating but just good flavours and quality.
On our last morning I was determined to go out and enjoy the last morning game drive and it proved to be amazing and I was glad my last morning here was spent tracking a male lion.I was sad to leave Bayala and head home to the concrete jungle but I was grateful knowing that I could experience the Big 5 in my own province well I only managed 4 of the 5 so I am determined to go back and find that Leopard. As we drove off homeward bound, I felt like I was leaving a magical space and just like that a family of 5 Giraffes started a show for us in the middle of the road. It was such a spectacular sight and I was spellbound just watching the graceful and beautiful creatures go about doing there thing while we stood there waiting. This grand farewell was such a wonderful memory to take away from my weekend at Bayala Safari Lodge.
More on Bayala Safari Lodge
Bayala Safari Lodge offers 24 rooms set around spacious lawns and a large swimming pool. Spacious communal areas gaze out over the bushveld while, come evening, dinner tables are scattered beneath a spread of acacia trees. With an abundance of serenity, Bayala Safari Lodge is an ideal choice for couples seeking some R&R in the great outdoors.
Bayala Camp, on the other hand, is ideal for families and multi-generational travellers. Charming thatched rooms encircle the main lodge, ensuring younger travellers are safe to explore the grounds on their own. Some of the 24 rooms offer sleeper couches for little children, while the 14 Superior Rooms are inter-leading and boast small private terraces with uninterrupted views over the bush.
Along with a family-friendly pool area at the central lodge building, Bayala Camp also has the benefit of a large outdoor boma, where fireside dinners are enjoyed under the stars. All rooms in both the Bayala Camp and Bayala Safari Lodge have recently been refurbished, offering air-conditioning, en-suite bathrooms and a stylish yet subtle safari aesthetic.
With flexible seasonal rates, prices range from R2 475 per person per night sharing to R2 775pppns for a superior room. Single occupancy rates range between R3 710 to R4 010 per night. Kids under 12yrs are charged R1 230pn. Kids under 2years are free of charge. This includes dinner, bed, breakfast and one game drive per night (and VAT at the current rate of 15%). There is an additional Conservation Levy of R99 per person per day for anti-poaching, maintenance of roads and security.
Rooms can accommodate one child under 12 sharing with two adults. Families with children under the age of 12years must book a private vehicle, at an extra cost. Bush walks are available for anyone from 16 to 60years of age. All rooms are either twin or double bed en-suite boasting 100% cotton linen. Complimentary tea and coffee is provided. The rooms are all equipped with an air conditioner.
Packing tips for Bayala
- Sunblock is needed.
- Peaceful Sleep is advisable.
- A cap rather than a hat.
- A scarf as it can be used multi purpose.
- Closed shoes preferably sneakers or boots for the Game Drive.
- Long sleeve tops to prevent bites and sunburn and getting scratched by trees.
- A power bank to carry so you never run out of battery life while you on your Game drive.
- A hooded jacket is perfect for the early morning and afternoon drives when the temperature drops.
How to book Bayala ?
For more details visit http://bayala.co.za/ and follow them on Instagram on @bayalaprivatesafarilodge/ and Facebook BayalaPrivateSafariLodge/. To book #Bayala online click here, or email email@example.com or call +27 (0) 35 562 0498, 035 562 0420.
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