South Africa’s favourite creative mind is back at it again. Liz Biden—the owner of the Royal Portfolio, whose properties include La Residence in the Cape Winelands and The Silo atop Cape Town’s Museum of Contemporary Art Africa—has opened a new luxury experience in the wilds of the Greater Kruger National Park.
The Farmstead debuted in Thornybush, a private game reserve that forms part of the Great Kruger conservation area. Nearby, Biden’s famed safari lodge (which is hardly a lodge at all but rather a luxurious estate in the middle of the bush) Royal Malewane features the six-bedroom Africa House and two-bedroom Royal Suites. But it became so popular that the Biden family had to go back to the drawing board to create more.
The Farmstead includes three luxury suites and the Farmhouse, a villa for six adults and two children. It has been decorated in Biden’s inimitable glamorous style—think riotous Ardmore-covered chairs and plush velvet sofas in deep emerald, blue and ruby, antique doors from Zanzibar, and a North African banking kiosk repurposed as a kitchen hot pass. Deep verandas encourage lazing outdoors in swinging daybeds or on one of the loungers sunk into the shallow end of the pool. Art, as in Biden’s other hotels, plays an important role, with notable pieces by Kudzanai Chiurai and James Jana.
Since fences were dropped on Thornybush’s eastern boundary with the Timbavati private game reserve two years ago, thereby opening it fully to the Greater Kruger National Park, increased movement of animals has resulted in a richer overall game-viewing experience. Exceptional leopard, cheetah and wild dog sightings, as well as sizeable elephant herds, don’t harm either, especially when game drives and walks are led by the most qualified guiding team in Africa, including three master trackers. All that amounts to incredible game-viewing at the Farmstead. The retreat is also built on land owned by the local Moletele community, who benefit financially through a rental agreement, a percentage of the lodge’s revenue and employment opportunities.
The Bidens aren’t the only ones who understand the profound benefits of tourism, employment and conservation in Thornybush. Saseka, a contemporary tented camp designed by Silvio Rech (who was also behind safari stunners such as Madagascar’s Miavana and Zambia’s King Lewanika Lodge), and Kubili House both opened in early 2019, adding further luxury beds and sustaining the local economy. It’s a win-win, bringing a careful number of tourists to this wildlife-rich region while also conserving a hot spot once suffering from rampant poaching.