I’m absolutely delighted to be writing about my home province for this issue – or as I like to say to people who ask where I’m from in South Africa – proper Africa! Proper Africa in all its wild glory. No trendy Cape Town cafes here I’m afraid. By Tess de Klerk
In Limpopo, the most northernly province of South Africa, my family have deep roots in a basket of fruit – Tzaneen (my home town) meaning ‘basket of fruit’ in the rich local Northern Sotho dialect, named so in honour of the area’s very fertile soil – drop a seed and it will grow! Tzaneen is a green, incredibly lush subtropical valley nestled at the foot of the majestic Drakensberg mountains, at the foot of the Iron Crown peaks to
be exact, which is home to the second-largest indigenous forest in South Africa. A winding journey through this
dragon’s mountain will have you passing cascading waterfalls and ancient all-wise yellowoods while spotting rare birds such as the Green Twinspot and Bat Hawk. Eventually the road straightens and you’ll find yourself in the lowlands.
Choose to head northwards from the foot of the mountain, travel a few miles over verdant hills and spectacular pine plantations and you’ll find the horizon changing to shapes of giant aloes and age-old baobab trees... now you’re in Queen Modjadji’s realm, the revered Rain Queen of the Bolobedu people. This hereditary queen who carries the hefty burden of controlling the clouds and rain! Her position is respected by many communities and conflict has, historically, been avoided in this area in deference thereto. Presidents, even those during apartheid years, have visited the Rain Queens. Their mystical rainmaking powers are believed to be reflected in the breathtaking gardens which surround her royal compound and is home to a unique natural cycad forest in its pre-historic state! Thanks to the strict protection by succeeding generations of Modjadji.
Turn right at the foot of our mountains and the heady, sweet aroma of frangipani soon starts to fill the air. The little town surrounded by rivers and dams, mango and lychee groves and endless banana plantations radiates a sense of adventure. Growing up, the days felt endless, swimming in rock pools, picking lunch from trees, searching for snakes to mess with and hiding in the banana plantations from long-suffering Petrus who was tasked with keeping an eye on us untamed children. As a child I recall only one fear – the fear of shoes! The idea of wearing shoes sent shivers down my spine. Fortunately we were only required to wear them from age 12, upon starting secondary school, and by that time most of us had accepted our fate.
But I digress! This is a safari piece after all. Drive eastward through Tzaneen and the flora morphs into pristine citrus groves and gushing, croc-infested rivers, continue on still. The air changes; it becomes drier, the scent earthier, woodier. Nature sheds her vivid tropical greens for deeper shades, khaki creeps in. The bright blue skies still bright blue but softened somehow. This is the Lowveld, the Bushveld – Safari region. I was lucky enough to spend two weeks over Christmas in my beloved bushveld and let me tell you, I may as well have been on another planet! Warm weather, verdant nature, laid back humans and happy animals. My partner thought me ridiculous when I told him that even the snakes were happy but really, I could tell. As a species they were a hell of a lot less cantankerous than usual! I guess you have to grow up knowing them to enable you to sense their moods.
All this exceptional contentment amongst the majority of living things was down to the fantastic rains that had blessed the area in preceding weeks ensuring more foliage and fodder than any deer could wish for, and that, just in time for baby season too! We had a fantastic time – all the animals had their young, from baby bushpigs to teeny rhino and spotting them was easy – we found ourselves amongst a tower of
24 giraffes (yes, tower is the correct collective!), two families meeting up on a lazy, hazy Sunday morning.
We spent our time on a game farm belonging to family, at the basic lodge built many moons ago by my grand-
father and not accepting paying punters. I cannot suggest this specific game lodge to our readers but having done first-hand research I feel confident in suggesting the following fantastic Big Five game lodges in Limpopo.
Firstly we head to the world-acclaimed Kruger National Park. The wildlife within this region has survived undisturbed without negative impact from mankind, encouraged to thrive. I don’t suggest booking overnight stays in the camps run by the Parks Department, unfortunately and by all accounts those have gone backwards and aren’t what they used to be. The Kruger itself is spectacular though with passionate conservationists and rangers taking care of an array of wildlife-rich ecosystems. Booking a stay at either of these private lodges is sure to fulfil all those safari fantasies.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Kruger Kings Camp
The intimate and luxurious Kings Camp Private Game Reserve is situated in the flourishing Timbavati Reserve, part of the Kruger National Park. Guests have access to over 100 square kilometres of traversing rights. The camp is perfectly situated near a popular waterhole and offers beautiful views of the surrounding bushveld. Kings Camp boasts just seven sumptuously appointed, colonial-inspired suites and two romantic honeymoon suites, each featuring a lovely ensuite bathroom with a Victorian ball-and-claw bath, indoor and outdoor double shower. The suites also boast a personal bar and a private veranda.
Kings Camp is perfectly positioned to offer access to a range of nearby adventures such as golf, helicopter
tours, hot air ballooning and community excursions. Kings Camp also offer birdwatching safaris, yoga safaris, art safaris and vegan-friendly safaris, amongst others.
Luxury Suite (max 2 ppl): from £9200 per week
Approximately 6-hour drive from Johannesburg International Airport.Alternatively a one-hour, 30 minute scheduled flight from Johannesburg to Kings Camp’s private runway.
Jock Safari Lodge - Kruger Park
Jock Safari Lodge offers the timeless style and elegance of a classic safari lodge, paying homage to its rich history and heritage with the addition of modern comforts expected by today’s discerning traveller. The main Jock Lodge comprises of 12 individual thatched rooms, while nearby the private and intimate camp, Fitzpatrick’s at Jock caters for small parties and families.
Steeped in history, Jock Safari Lodge was the first private concession granted within the Kruger National Park and is named after local legend, Jock of the Bushveld, the canine hero of Sir Percy FitzPatrick’s famous story of courage and loyalty that is set during South Africa’s first gold rush era. Relive one of South Africa’s cultural heritages through this wonderful story and view the original mementoes on display at the Main Lodge.
Fitzpatrick’s at Jock welcomes children of all ages which is complemented with a curated Kids on Safari programme. In addition, activities include daily game drives, wilderness walks, bird watching and nearby golf at Leopard Creek Golf Course, while the Relaxation Retreat Spa will ensure guests truly unwind.
Main Jock Lodge suite (max 2ppl): from £1200 per night (all-inclusive)
Approximately 6-hour drive from Johannesburg International Airport
Alternatively, a 1-hour scheduled flight from Johannesburg to Skukuza Airport. Jock Safari Lodge offers road transfers from Skukuza to the lodge (approx 1-hour) https://jocksafarilodge.com
WELGEVONDEN GAME RESERVE
Welgevonden Game Reserve is a 37,000ha private game reserve in the Waterberg District. The Reserve is nestled within the internationally recognised UNESCO Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, flagged for the sustainable conservation of biodiversity. Welgevonden is one of the most accessible premier, malaria-free reserves in the country and offers an exclusive, intimate bushveld safari experience, with only a limited number of guests having access to the reserve at any one time. This reserve is not open to day visitors. Choose from 20 unique lodges nestled in this exceptional reserve.
Welgevonden Reserve is an approximate 3-hour drive from JHB International Airport. Alternatively, there is a 45-minute flight from Johannesburg into one of the airstrips.
Taaibos River Lodge
Enjoy exclusive use for up to 10 guests at this lodge beautifully situated above the Taaibos river. All activities are tailor-made – no need to fit in with the lodge’s fixed routine, or other guests’ demands! Indulge in meals by a private chef who caters for anything from casual to cosy buffet-style occasions to full-service, fine-dining settings, all whilst relaxing on a large veranda perched over the river, overseeing a dramatic cliffside and a beautiful plain, often filled with wildlife.
Entire lodge from £450 pppn. Minimum stay: 2 nights Minimum guests: 4
South Africa offers visitors once in a lifetime experiences, not only in its breathtaking nature but also in the warmth and genuine enthusiasm of its people who proudly delight in sharing the spirit of Mother Africa. The last two years have taken their toll on the tourism industry but it is now once again waiting with open arms for visitors. Now is the time to book that long awaited African adventure.
Clifftop Safari Hideaway
Perched regally amidst the bush willows on the tip of a magnificent gorge overlooking the Sterkstroom River, Clifftop Safari Hideaway is an idyllic sanctuary. A romantic, secluded hideaway from the world’s worries. The seclusion and romance throughout makes it an incredible wedding and honeymoon destination.
Clifftop suite: from £650 pppn sharing (all-inclusive). https://clifftoplodge.co.za
Nedile Lodge accommodates only 10 guests in five exclusive, luxury rooms. With a dramatic view over the bush and mountains, each room has a private deck, fireplace plus indoor and outdoor showers. The main complex with a bar, dining and comfortable lounge invites one to sit back, relax and take in the tranquillity of the natural surroundings. Fantastic massages can be booked or pop to the gym overlooking the dramatic landscape.
Luxury suite: from £630 pppn sharing (all-inclusive). https://nedile.co.za