Whilst Caleb is only 20 months old, he has already been to two game reserves and on over 20 flights. So adventures, even in the bush, are old hat to him already. When our trip to the Protea Hotel by Marriott Kruger Gate along the Sabi River came up, we were so excited. This was the first time we would be exploring the Kruger with him and getting to stay in this area.
Positioned only 100 m from the Paul Kruger Gate, this Protea by Marriott property is the perfect gateway for those wanting to explore the park and also relax in the bush even whilst they are not game viewing. With a toddler it also provided a great space for him to explore and be surrounded by nature. Here’s some of our highlights and reasons why this hotel makes for the perfect family safari.
1. You are in the bush.
Or more accurately, beneath a forest canopy. The entire hotel is built up high on wooden decks and walkways take you over bridges, beneath vast trees, over streams up stairs and onto viewing decks where you can sip sundowners and peak out into the bush. As outdoor lovers, this is really our ideal kind of hotel.
Here you are always fully immersed in nature. By night, you sit around the boma beneath the trees to enjoy a buffet dinner. At breakfast you watch the monkeys swinging in the trees and stealing the sugar from tables and during the day, you can stroll along the decks and just take it all in far from city life.
As long as you don’t sit anywhere near any of the stairs leading off the raised walkway, this place is truly incredible with a toddler. Being an energetic two year old, Caleb could run freely along the raised walkways. Outside our room, he played in the sand beneath the trees and ran after Nyala in the reserve. When he got bored with everything else, we took him down to the kid’s play room. Every meal time, they produced a giant baby chair which held all flying food and survived colouring in. There aren’t any child minders but its a great place for you kids to play and run around in safety with a few games on the tables.
3. Safari from the deck.
We didn’t even have to leave to enjoy some game viewing. Come sunset, guests slowly started gathering on the lounging deck in swinging chairs, on L-shaped couches, ordering G&T’s and watching the wild awaken just on the other side of the fence. The river in the Kruger was dry but from the deck, we could see a number of different animals wandering by. Even within this property, buck wandered around frequently and of course, so did the monkeys.
4. Game Viewing with Samson.
Most private game reserves and game drive won’t allow any children below the age of six on the open-air game vehicles. No surprise there, as Caleb’s new shrieks would startle any and all wildlife within a mile. From the Protea Kruger Gate Hotel, we had the option of self-driving through the Kruger or booking a vehicle and guide. Our qualified guide and driver was Samson.
Friendly, fairly quiet but knowledgeable, he took us around the park and endured Caleb’s toddler moods like a pro. Driving around in the quantum provided us with enough warmth for the icy mornings and cool evenings as well as the additional space for all our things. Plus Caleb had a ball and screamed each time we spotted game. We were superbly lucky and got to see leopards mating, elephants, zebra, buffalo, giraffe and more.
5. Qualified Guides
Even though the Protea Kruger Gate is not directly within the park, the fact that they have qualified guides makes all the difference to your safari experience. They know where to take you, chat to the other passing guides on where the last sighting was and can take you to the best viewing spots. Our absolute highlight whilst in the park was when Samson took us to the Lake Panic Bird hide and we got to witness a herd of between 30-40 elephants crossing the river. Surreal is the really the biggest understatement.
6. Boma Nights
There is something superbly magical about eating beneath trees with your feet on sandy earth and a large fire crackling beside you. Given that it was winter time in South Africa when we went, aside from the boma, additional fires were lit and placed in amongst the tables. Warm lights illuminating the outdoor dining area and once we’d chosen our selection of delectable lamb, asian stir-fry ( made from scratch with our choice of ingredients) and salads, a group of Zulu dancers performed songs and danced for us with legs kicked high and agile movements taking them from the air to the ground.
7. Pure Bush Magic
I’ve always maintained that any time spent in the bushveld is magical. Whether I see any animals or not, it’s often in the sunset glow on the tree tops and morning sunrise hues over the long grass that captivates me entirely. This time we were very privileged indeed to see many majestic creatures but for me, the landscapes alone hold so much allure alone.
8. Birds of Beauty.
We are not avid birding enthusiasts by any means, but with each bush visit comes a greater appreciation for our smaller, feathered friends. There is much excitement in spotting a bird as they usually are far away, high up in trees or fairly hidden. Our zoom lens is really not impressive but it did allow us to see this fish eagle, hornbill, ground hornbill and vulture a lot closer than the naked eye.
To book your family safari getaway at the Protea Hotel by Marriott Kruger Gate, visit the Protea by Marriott Website.