Look inside a luxury hotel made of vintage train cars that sits atop a bridge in South Africa's largest national park

Melissa Wiley
Kruger Shalati Lodge Rendering 1
A rendering of Kruger Shalati's central lounge car, observation area, and pool deck. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati
  • A first-of-its kind hotel suspended 50 feet above South Africa's Kruger National Park opened on Monday, giving safari lovers a new way to see the reserve's wildlife.

  • Kruger Shalati: The Train on the Bridge consists of 24 rooms built in converted 1950s train cars, with rates starting at $528 per night per person.

  • The hotel sits atop the historic Skukuza Bridge where some of Kruger National Park's first visitors would stay overnight.

  • Guests can wake up to views of Big 5 wildlife crossing the river below them then soak in an outdoor pool that appears to float mid-air.

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A first-of-its-kind hotel made out of converted 1950s train cars opened Monday in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Africa Photographic, Francois van Zyl, Shalati Train, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Vintage train cars sit atop the Skukuza Bridge in Kruger National Park. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

The hotel, Kruger Shalati: Train on the Bridge, sits 50 feet above the Sabie River atop the historic Skukuza Bridge in Kruger's Skukuza Rest Camp.

Kruger Shalati - Africa Photographic Kyle Lewin
Partial view of Kruger Shalati: Train on the Bridge from the Sabie River. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

The bridge, out of commission since 1973, was a popular destination in the days before rest camps and tourist facilities existed.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Location - Bridge View 4
The Skukuza Bridge crosses the Sabie River in Skukuza Rest Camp. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Station

Back in 1923, South African Railways introduced a nine-day rail tour, then known as the Sabie Game Reserve, through Kruger that included an overnight stop at Skukuza.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Train on the Bridge black and white
Vintage train cars, photographed in black and white, sit atop the Skukuza Bridge. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: SAN Parks

During the overnight stay, guests would gather around campfires on solid ground for dinner, then return to their train carriages on the bridge to sleep, according to South African National Parks.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Location - Bridge View 5
The sun sets over the Sabie River and the Skukuza Bridge. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: SAN Parks

Now, guests at Kruger Shalati can see the same views as the park's early visitors.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Rendering 2
A rendering of the train cars that make up the Kruger Shalati hotel. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

In addition to 24 hotel rooms, Kruger Shalati consists of a central lounge car, observation deck, and pool that appears to float mid-air. These are disinfected regularly due to COVID-19, according to a document the hotel provided to Insider.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Rendering 1
A rendering of Kruger Shalati's central lounge car, observation area, and pool deck. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

Outside walkways run along the bridge, connecting the hotel's different spaces.

Kruger Shalati - Africa Photographic  Kyle Lewin 4
An outside walkway connects runs alongside the Kruger Shalati: Train on the Bridge. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

Rooms celebrate local art and design ...

Kruger Shalati Lodge Rendering 6
A rendering shows the interior of a Train on the Bridge hotel room. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

... and floor-to-ceiling windows offer sweeping views of the river.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Train Room - View 2
A rendering of a bathtub and wash area in a Train on the Bridge hotel room. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

"Lying in the bath with a glass of wine and looking down at the river underneath while animals come to frolic in the water [...] is such an idyllic experience," hotel general manager Judiet Barnes told Insider.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Train Room - View 3
A rendering of a Train on the Bridge hotel room bathtub looking out over the Sabie River. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

Rooms cost $528 (7,950 ZAR) per person per night for double occupancy and are available to guests over the age of 12.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Train Room - View 4
Rendering of a Train on the Bridge hotel room interior. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

For their meals, guests can head to the hotel's on-land Bridge House, which serves seasonal menu items in indoor and outdoor spaces.

Kruger Shalati Bridge House
The Bridge House is seen from an outdoor patio. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Thebe Tourism Group, Hospitality Marketplace

Come 2022, the Bridge House has plans to expand to have seven hotel rooms.

Bridge House - Kruger Shalati
View of a Bridge House interior bar and dining area. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

Six will be family-friendly, open to children of any age ...

Kruger Shalati Lodge Rendering 3
Rendering of the interior of a Bridge House hotel room. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

... and the seventh will become the hotel's honeymoon suite.

Bridge House - Kruger Shalati
Chairs on an outdoor deck of the Bridge House face the Skukuza Bridge. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

Rates for the Train on the Bridge rooms, and in time the Bridge House rooms, include meals, drinks, and transfers to and from the Skukuza Airport.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Location - Bridge View 2
The sun sets over the Skukuza Bridge. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

Source: Kruger Shalati

They also include two game drives daily in open Land Rovers. Private game drive vehicles can be booked in advance for an additional $300 (4,500 ZAR) per day.

Game drive in Kruger National Park
A leopard crosses the road on a game drive in Kruger National Park. sirtravelalot/Shutterstock

Source: Kruger Shalati

Hotel management says it's currently operating with COVID-19 safety measures in place, including contactless check-in, daily staff temperature screenings, and regular disinfection of common areas.

Kruger Shalati Lodge Location - Bridge View 1
Light reflects in the Sabie River beneath the Skukuza Bridge. Courtesy of Kruger Shalati

While South Africa opened its borders to all international visitors in November, it is important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises US citizens to avoid nonessential travel at this time. 

You can find out more about Kruger Shalati on its website.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story was published May 15, 2020, on Business Insider.

Read the original article on Insider