Safari Adventure to Marakele and Welgevonden, South Africa

by : Claire Dinnie

A little more about the reserves before we knock on their front door. Exclusivity is assured through the banning of private vehicles within both reserves. Guests arrive at a peripheral welcoming area and are met by their lodge hosts. This is an excellent idea and affords excellent management of the Reserves. Another distinct advantage is the malaria free environment. In today’s world, many of our clients are requesting wildlife experiences in malaria free facilities. For the wilderness and African safari purest, the diversity of their topography had Claire & me held in raptures, endless vistas, slow, winding rivers meandering across hard bedrock combined with a strong influence of various habitats.

Our first port of call promised to be exciting and a revelation. Marataba Safari Company in the Marakele Private Game Reserve is billed as one of the finest lodges within the Waterberg region. We expected a mercurial combination of a bygone era blended with the demands of today’s modern, discerning safari client. We were not let down. The entrance to Marataba combines elements of water, flora and earth in an enchanting and yet purposeful manner. Part of the Hunters Hotels portfolio with an awesome pedigree to match, their management team gave Claire & me a glimpse of what a well-run, team-orientated lodge should feel like. It would be remise of me to forget to talk about their tented accommodation. These units were amongst the very best I have experienced in ten years of African travels. Spacious, well appointed and offering the little touches only the very best properties do, it was an absolute pleasure to spend the little time we had ensconced within our room.

Unfortunately we have to share with you one aspect of a technical nature. A successful African wildlife or safari experience is based not so much on the appointments of your accommodation, or in the prowess of the team at base, no, it is found in the experience and knowledge of your ranger. You will spend in the region of eight to ten hours a day in his/her company and because of this, their ability to transfer their knowledge to you at the level you request is paramount. We did not find this to be the case at Marataba. We have taken this up with both camp management & their company directors and have received a favourable response from them in this regard.

Both dinner & breakfast were superb! Beautifully prepared and presented by not only very amiable and competent staff but also by the management team, a strong showing of team work. Marataba is ideal for those wishing to get away to a five star lodge where pampering, consummate hospitality and hugely knowledgeable staff abound.

Our second port of call wasat the recommendation of a colleague of ours. Clearwater Lodges have two intimate, separate and very private lodges within the Welgevonden Private Game Reserve and we stayed at Tshetshepi Lodge. Five suites is the extent here supplying ten guests with the traditional Relais & Chateaux five C’s - Care, Calm, Charm, Cuisine & Character. Nestled against a towering mountain and with the sound of a gentle brook nearby, our hosts welcomed us into their “home“ with great pride and obvious concern for our welfare. Our aim at Africa Tamed is to bring you, our clients, friends and African Tamed family our evaluation of properties we feel warrant this in the endeavour to stimulate your “ thirst for Our Africa “. We put great credence in integrity, well grounded knowledge and in the case of wildlife experiences, the ranger responsible to introduce you to Mother nature.

Dave did us all proud! He exuded confidence, anecdotes abounded, and his knowledge of both flora & fauna was substantial. Over the eight hours in Dave’s hands (two game drives), his sense of purpose, transfer of knowledge and inter guest rapport was exceptional. As we would expect at a Relais & Chateaux property, the accommodation was excellent, spacious and in tune with the environment. We met for pre dinner drinks with the other guests in front of a roaring fireplace. Another special time of the day on an African safari, when stories are shared, the conversation is light and the enticing fragrances waft through from the kitchen. Debbie (Dave’s wife and co host) had ensured our meal requests we well looked after. Gathered around a large table in the company of interesting co guests and in the very capable hands of Dave & Debbie, the evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Our last port of call was to beMakweti Safari Lodge. Whether this was arranged as our last port of call deliberately or not, it certainly was a great one with which to end our trip. Makweti Safari Lodge, in the same vein as Tshetshepi is in the hands of a management couple. It is obviously key to have the right couple at the right properties. This young, effusive and energetic couple fit Makweti like a glove. On our afternoon and early morning game drives, we witnessed a number of interesting mammals big & small. We were well informed as to the balance between man & Mother Nature and how at Makweti, a number of in house projects were underway to ensure the correct management of their area of responsibility.

You will appreciate that we have witnessed and sighted a large number of the wildlife on offer in Africa. Here though we spotted the illusive bush pig and caught a fleeting glance of brown hyena. As the only guests in house, Claire & I were afforded our own rooms (a luxury we seldom expect) and had dinner in the company of our two attentive hosts. We dined on creative cuisine, drank a bottle of the best South African sparkling wine and celebrated the first anniversary of Africa Tamed Tours & Travel! Claire’s dream of creating a very different travel company instilled with her own ideas, experiences and keen sense of integrity came of age tonight. In true modesty found within Claire, she graciously blew out the candle poised in her grandiose Pavlova pudding, thanked our hosts for recognising the special occasion and uttered the inimitable words “we have only just begun… “

Welgevonden Private Game reserve has a number of alternative properties, some privately ownedScience Articles, some open for commercial use. Our evaluation would indicate this an ideal Reserve to visit to initiate you to an authentic wildlife and safari experience but found the density of the Big 5 to be a little disappointing but this should be weighted up against the exemplary level of accommodation and that key element of passionate bushwhackers looking after you!