The train stopped on the Selati Bridge above the Sabie River in South Africa’s Kruger Shalati has reached its final destination. And it is set to become the “not to be missed” attraction of South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

This extraordinary new offering is a combination of Africa’s most breath-taking natural splendours in a luxury setting aboard a newly refurbished train that’s reminiscent of African excellence.

In the 1920’s, the very first visitors to Kruger National park entered by a train which would park on the exact same spot where the experience today awaits guests: the Selati bridge, adjacent to Skukuza camp. Visitors would dine in the bush in a “Boma” (a makeshift stockade), complete with piano playing next to the fire pit while rangers kept the occasional hungry predator at bay. At night, visitors would sleep in the train before moving onto its next destination the next day.

Permanently stationed on the historically-rich Selati Bridge above the Sabie River, Kruger Shalati opened in mid-December 2020, offering visitors veritable luxury accommodation in 31 rooms in a re-envisioned train which pays homage to the guests who explored the park nearly 100 years ago.

A pool with a very different view

The glass-walled, large train rooms allow for exceptional views along the length of the majestic Sabie River, and of course the numerous animals that come to the river to drink. High above the riverbanks, aligned with the floor level of the train, one can also find a deck area with a pool offering a swimming experience unlike any other – with crocodiles, hippos, buffalos and elephants greeting guests metres below.

The intention is for guests to have an experience similar to the original by creating an Afro-chic styled boutique hotel that “brings African bush theatre to life”.

One of the luxurious guest rooms

A few metres away, the Selati station platform serves as the reception area for the hotel as well as offering dining spaces both for hotel guests and visitors to the Skukuza camp, with distinctive dining experience created in this area.

Thebe Tourism Group CEO Jerry Mabena

Kruger Shatali is the latest offering from Thebe Tourism Group (TTG). Formed in 2001, TTG is South Africa’s oldest black-empowered tourism group, with a portfolio in tourism and related industries ranging from attractions, hospitality, inbound and outbound tourism, group travel, car rental and business tourism. Until last month, it was a 100%-owned subsidiary of the primarily ANC-controlled Thebe Investment Corporation. However, at the end of January, Thebe was reported to have sold its tourism unit to the management team for an undisclosed sum. Led by CEO Jerry Mabena, the leadership team includes Brett Hendricks, Cobus Du Plessis and Judiet Barnes.

The second product within the Kruger Shalati Concession, The Kruger Station, is set to build on the historical tribute of the train on the bridge. It offers visitors to the Kruger Park a “lifestyle precinct”.  The precinct will, over time, encompass everything from retail to food and even provide a venue for a 360-degree immersive storytelling, providing a unique edutainment experience for families of all generations. One of the features will be the 3638 Artisanal Eatery. Named after the number of the train that currently stands in the station, it will offer visitors a wealth of eating experiences to suit every taste and budget.

Additionally, Thebe Tourism Group has acquired a 50% stake in Chiefs Tented Camps, an unconventional luxury mobile tented experience with several exclusive offerings throughout Southern Africa.

Kruger – the ultimate safari destination

Roughly the same size as Israel or Wales, covering some 20,000 sq km, the Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa.

A lone leopard in Kruger National Park (photo – Geran de Klerk/Unsplash)

It extends approximately 350 kilometres from north to south and around 60 kilometres from east to west. To the west and south of the Park are the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique.

The Kruger National Park is now part of the Great Limpopo Trans-frontier Park (with a total area of 35;000 square kilometres). It is thus linked with Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.

Other areas of incorporation are Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe, as well as the area between Kruger and Gonarezhou, the Sengwe communal land in Zimbabwe and the Makuleke region in South Africa.

The Park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, an area designated by UNESCO as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve.

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