All Aboard for South Africa’s Kruger Shalati

An old train has been transformed into a luxurious hotel in a magnificent setting.

An old bridge reimagined has been creating a stir on South Africa’s safari scene. The 109-year-old Selati Bridge above the Sabie River is the magnificent location for Kruger Shalati, a luxurious hotel offering 24 renovated train carriages. The property, which opened in December 2020, is in the southern section of Kruger National Park, one of the largest national parks on the planet. It includes Skukuza Airport, which is a 10-minute drive from the hotel.

While the majority of Southern Africa’s safari lodges have a distinctive link with nature—architecture that blends with or frames the surrounding landscape, décor in neutral tones, collections of African artifacts—Kruger Shalati celebrates the heyday of rail travel. Its style is a beautiful contemporary interpretation of 1920s glamour. Geometric designs inspired by the lines of the bridge are repeated throughout the property, and accents of copper and rusty railway red pop from pale backgrounds. The bespoke artwork and fabrics were commissioned from young South African designers. 

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Each opulent carriage holds just one suite. The passages have been removed to create more space, allowing for an extra-length king-size bed, a lounge area, and a bathtub alongside a large picture window. Midway on the bridge, an elegant but casual lounge/bar opens onto a deck that overlooks an infinity pool.

A highlight for many guests is watching wildlife—everything from leopards and lions to herds of buffalo and elephants—drink from the river 15 meters below the carriages. Like most safari destinations, Kruger Shalati also provides two game drives daily in open vehicles. Accommodation rates, which include those drives as well as all meals, start at R7950 ($558) per adult per night (double occupancy).