Inside Africa’s Waterside by Royal Malewane, a Colorful Safari Lodge – Robb Report

Maximalist design may be the style du jour in Paris. But color is still conspicuously absent on safari where khaki remains king—almost.

On the edge of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Liz Biden, the visionary owner behind Waterside by Royal Malewane, has opted for hues so bold that it’s easy to forget you’re in the bush.

“I love my guests to think, ‘Ah that’s entertaining’ or, ‘That’s unusual,’” says Biden. 

The lounge at Waterside by Royal Malewane.

Bold patterns are the center of attention in the resorts lounge.

Courtesy of Waterside by Royal Malewane

Waterside, which debuted last July, is the latest addition to the Royal Portfolio, a collection of five-star South African hotels operated by Biden and her husband. They got their start in hospitality after converting their holiday home in Greater Kruger National Park into a safari lodge. Like Waterside, all of their properties—especially the Silo Hotel, which is housed in a refurbished grain silo in Cape Town—are comfortably unconventional. 

The aptly named property hugs the shore of a shimmering watering hole, and the guttural grunts of its resident hippo herd are hard to ignore. Whether it’s mischievous baboons on your villa roof at 5 a.m. or a 500-pound feline marking its territory with an unmistakable roar, you’ll be instantly aware that the 29,000-acre wildlife-rich Thornybush Private Game Reserve isn’t fenced in.

Yes, in times past, answering the call of the wild required a more neutral palette, but when you are apt to spot the big five on the Landcruiser lift from the camp’s airstrip to your room, stealth isn’t as strictly necessary. 

A room at Waterside by Royal Malewane

Why stop with just one accent color?

Courtesy of Waterside by Royal Malewane

“Waterside is for the sophisticated traveler who will love the numerous small touches, which have gone into making this property unique,” says Rose Hipwood, the founder of the Luxury Safari Company. She only sends clients to Africa’s trendiest properties and describes Waterside’s contemporary-meets-quirky decor, including a wall of portraits that looks like they were painted by preschoolers, as “second to none.” For interior design aficionados, Waterside is a bucket list no-brainer.  

That said, Hipwood loves recommending it to families, too. There’s a jungle gym, a heated outdoor pool, kid-friendly (albeit elevated) cuisine and an entertainment area with billiards, foosball, arcade games, and a TV worthy of a Super Bowl party. But it’s also ideal for couples.

Waterside’s Reflections Spa has three treatment rooms, a traditional Turkish Hammam and perhaps the most exhaustive spa menu in the bush. It offers everything from jet-lag detox packages to eyelash tinting and cupping. Then there’s the wine cellar, library, yoga studio and fitness center. While exercise rooms are low on the priority list for most camps, Waterside boasts a spacious air-conditioned oasis outfitted with state-of-the-art workout equipment and weights. 

A room at Waterside by Royal Malewane

The rooms are designed as a departure from army colored camps.

Courtesy of Waterside by Royal Malewane

The camp’s 16 guests can also spend their downtime between game drives in the comfort of their well-appointed abodes. They range from 442-square-foot private suites starting at $2,400 per night to a four-bedroom private villa from $10,550 per night. Rates include all meals, beverages, and two daily game drives.

Every accommodation comes with its own plunge pool, an outdoor shower, a fully-stocked “maxi bar,”  AC, heated towel racks and flooring, and Wi-Fi so quick that you can upload your videos of cheetahs faster than the cats can run. 

As per Biden’s unique aesthetic, each room is awash in the colors of the rainbow. Furnishings include fire-engine-red claw-foot bathtubs, lime-green armchairs, mustard-yellow sofas and royal-blue desks. 

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