There has been much opposition from concerned Kruger enthusiasts to the development of tourism offerings in Skukuza, the busiest rest camp in the Kruger National Park. However, the train on the Selati Bridge is part of SANParks’ bigger plan to generate their own income instead of relying on dwindling government funding.
Keith Stannard, project coordinator for Kruger Shalati, says people have little to worry about when it comes to the overall development. In fact, the project includes more than ‘just a train on a bridge’, and the development will benefit all visitors to Skukuza.
The original saloon car from the first train that brought people to the Kruger Park is still standing – at the former Selati Restaurant. This area will be accessible to the public, and information about the history of the train will also be available.
Development of the project will have little effect on the environment and visitors staying in Skukuza. There will be no blinding lights from the bridge. “All the train carriages look east, and the windows facing Skukuza are closed off and won’t emit light,” says Stannard.
In case of flooding, the bridge serves as an emergency exit to Skukuza Airport and this will not change. A walkway wide enough to accommodate golf carts will serve as an extension to the bridge, and will be compatible with the current design. Stannard says the walkway will be attached without damaging the bridge and the construction is fully reversible. The walkway will also guide guests to their rooms.
Each compartment consists of a small lounge and mini bar, a bedroom, a double vanity, shower, separate toilet, cupboards and a blister with freestanding bathtub. Every compartment will have three large windows overlooking the Sabie River. The compartments will be 35m2 in size, making them the largest suites on a train worldwide.
The original idea was to move the train between the bridge and the station, but there were too many practical issues relating to moving the train every day. To prevent further disturbance, the Waterkant Guest House will also form part of the precinct, offering accommodation options as well as a fine dining cart for overnight guests.
The train will house 12 sleeper carriages, a lounge car and a pool deck for use by overnight guests.
“We want to create a hospitality product so unique that people want to travel from around the world just to stay here, and for domestic travellers to really be proud to have something that exists nowhere else in the world,’’ says Jerry Mabena, CEO of Thebe Tourism Group. “Through this development, we are truly reimagining Africa with pioneering innovations and ingenuity.”
The first six carriages will be open by 16 December 2019, and the remainder by March 2020.
Written by René de Klerk
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