Any given day is a good day to go on safari.
Especially when it’s to a luxury lodge in a malaria free wilderness that offers excellent game viewing and accommodation so stylish you’ll think you’ve stepped into a designer magazine. Where the hospitality is headed by a team who understands the needs of their guests and are attuned to life in the bush, the importance of wellness, and respect with ease all that nature provides. I’m talking about Mhondoro Game Lodge, that offers a contemporary and stylish safari experience that speaks to all of your senses.
Staying there by invitation last year, it was my first time in the Welgevonden Game Reserve, and in this part of the country, and I was instantly captivated by the wilderness and wildlife, the peacefully protected beauty and ambiance of the setting and lodge.
About Mhondoro Game Lodge
Dutch-owned, Mhondoro is a delightful mix of African chic and edgy European influences, decorated by interior designer Myriam Vogel, who owns the lodge with her husband. The exclusive lodge sleeps only 20 guests in two Deluxe Suites, a 2-bedroom Executive suite and a 2-bedroom Family suite, romantic Honeymoon suite with a private spa pool and a viewing deck with daybed that’s sets it apart from the rest, as well as a Villa that can accommodate six guests.
The ultimate in luxury and privacy and where I was lucky enough to stay, the Mhondoro Villa is perfect for families or groups of friends travelling together. It has an indulgent master suite and two additional bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, as well as a private gym, yoga room and a heated swimming pool on the big deck with views towards the watering hole. Exclusive use includes a private game-viewing safari vehicle with your own ranger and the services of a personal chef, butler and housekeeping staff. It is the thing of dreams. Staying here made me feel like royalty.
The food and healthy eating
The food is remarkable, fresh and healthy, with as much as possible grown in the garden out back. We indulged in Impala Skewers, Cucumber Salad with Sun Dried Tomato, Pine Nuts, Yogurt and cucumber seed dressing, Quinoa, Orange Segment and Dried Apple salad and Asian Rice Paper Wraps with Green Pea Puree, among much more. Breakfast is a triumph of colour and freshly baked bread and muesli, while dinner on the one night was a delicately prepared Tasting Menu, and on the other Gourmet Pizza, which we got to have some fun with as we experimented with the variety of toppings. A vegetarian’s paradise, they cater to all and any dietary preferences.
For me the most exciting and genius feature at the lodge is the 65m underground concrete tunnel that leads from the main lodge to the water hole observation hide. At water level, it allows you to have eye-to-eye encounters with wildlife as they come to drink. There is always activity here, where it’s the starlings hovering or the baboons and warthogs at play. Hard to explain what it feels like to be sitting quietly with elephants, warthog or zebra just metres away, oblivious to your presence.
A chacma baboon on the rim of the watering hole.
The Welgevonden Game Reserve
The Welgevonden Game Reserve stretches across 35 000 hectares in Limpopo’s Waterberg district and is known for it’s big skies and uninterrupted sunrises and sunsets over the mountains and valleys. The terrain is varied, taking you from rocky outcrops to grassy plains in just minutes, and is home to over 50 different mammals including the Big 5 with a larges population of white rhino as well as kudu, giraffe, zebra, warthog, cheetah, brown hyena, the honey badger, and close to 300 bird species and a whole lot more.
The Welgevonden offers a unique safari experience with it’s ban on private vehicles within the reserve and the heavily restricted number of guests allowed at any given time, as well as the fact that animals have never been hunted here, which makes for relaxed up close and personal encounters.
There is also much flexibility around the scheduling of your activities, be they game drives or walks, as well as the focus on the detail of the wilderness, the lesser celebrated wildlife and animals, the excellent game viewing and the much respected Big 5.
The very best view, across the ranger to the reserve.
A dazzle of zebra, some of my favourite zebra pics blending their stripes against the red of the earth that works so well for me.
A waterbuck all but camouflaged in the long grass.
With Janie van der Spuy of Five Star PR and fellow travel writer Eugene Yiga.
Rhino Tracking in the Reserve
The Welgevonden Game Reserve have a winning recipe for rhino protection, and as much as I always follow the policy of never sharing any rhino footage from my trips in a bid to aid in their protection, I was invited by Manager and Rhino Activist Fritz Breytenbach to tell the good story about the work being done to protect the rhinos here. While staying here ask for more details of their anti-poaching methods, the strict policies adhered to and how all land owners work together for their protection.
Take part in Rhino Trekking to learn more. It is an additional activity and there is a cost for it, currently R1000 pp. Tracking is done on foot to find them in their natural habitat, a privilege indeed, and can be 1 to 2,5 hours long.
On both nights of my stay one of the white rhinos came right up to the lodge, and we could actually watch him grazing from the deck. A surreal privilege.
Some of Mhondoro’s special features
Spa and Wellness. Adjacent to the Main Lodge is the Spa building, a quiet and secluded haven for those wanting to indulge in the moment and book a dedicated spa therapist for a deep tissue, hot stone or aromatherapy massage. Should you prefer, the massage beds can be placed on the private deck, to bring you even closer to nature. The deck also has an outdoor bath, that you can immerse yourself in while overlooking the waterhole.
Star gazing platform. Being in Africa on safari is romantic in itself, add to that the opportunity to gaze into the brightly lit skies and absorb the atmosphere as you learn about the different constellations, and you’ve got magic. Mhondoro’s elevated wooden deck has custom-made seating that reclines to a 45 degree angle, allowing for comfortable star-spotting. Their high-powered telescope is linked to a sophisticated computer programme, allowing you to be guided in detail through the cosmos.
Mhondoro is child-friendly with little travellers able to enjoy the swimming pool and the safe, secluded playground with its protective fence, or explore the bush during a guided bush walk. The spacious Family Suite and the exclusive-use Villa are perfectly equipped to accommodate families.
The Main Lodge and the Villa both feature a fully equipped gym that allows you to stay in shape while enjoying the activity at the waterhole. Enjoy a cardio work-out on the treadmill, home trainer and cross trainer, or improve your strength with the weights. With all the eating and sitting you’ll be doing, this is a welcome facility that allows you to keep the balance.
Detox and Yoga Safari
Mhondoro has teamed up with a renowned international yoga instructor and detox specialist Monique Christiaans of Yoga Zenzo in the Netherlands, to present an exclusive Detox and Yoga Safari at the lodge from 20 to 25 November 2017. The package includes 5 nights’ luxury accommodation and a complete detox programme with healthy meals and three detox juice fasting days, as well as personal coaching, yoga and meditation sessions, daily safaris, bush walks and mindfulness walks, and three spa treatments. Learn more here, I can’t think of a better place to realign the spirit.
The Green Philosophy
Mhondoro Game Lodge has taken the lead as one of the first luxury game lodges to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles. This is a huge commitment, and is done in support of Braam Malherbe’s DOT Challenge. They have invested in a water purification plant that produces drinking water fresh from the surrounding Waterberg mountains. In guest rooms plastic water bottles have been replaced by glass bottles, and each guest will receive a personalised aluminium water bottle that can be refilled with fresh, purified water for game drives, as a keep sake that they can have for their journey home.
Mhondoro’s entire operation is based on sound environmental conservation practices and it is committed to making a contribution in each of these categories – water, waste, conservation and energy. All excess waste is 100% recycled, including glass, cans, paper and food. Organic material is composted and used in the lodge’s kitchen garden where up to 45% of the fresh produce used in the restaurant is organically grown. It’s an ecotourist’s paradise.
Highlights for me were the conservation success stories around the white rhino, the reintroduction of lion and cheetah into the reserve and the excellent up-close photographic opportunities from their underground game viewing hide. That and the incredible luxury of the villa, the beautiful healthy food, fine company and elephant that came to drink from the pool. As well as the strong eco philosophy and relationship that the lodge owners and managers have with the environment.
The Essential Details
- Getting there: The Welgevonden Game Reserve is located about 3 hours from Lanseria Airport, which is the best place to fly into when visiting. Once in the reserve, the drive through the park to the lodge is just over half an hour in an open safari vehicle. Directions here. Otherwise about 3,5 hours drive or a one hour flight from Johannesburg.
- Contact Details: Reservations Tel: 087 150 2314 and Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: http://www.mhondoro.com/
- Rates include accommodation, all meals, local drinks and house wines, twice-daily game drives, reserve entrance fees and scheduled transfers from the Welgevonden main gate. Remember to look out for their incredible value last minute specials.
- Malaria Free. Big 5. Rhino Trekking. Five Star Luxury. Wellness. Spa. Gym. Eco-friendly. Excellent value.
Local South African Winter Special
- 20% discount off the rate at the Main Lodge (excludes Villa) valid 1 May to 31 August 2017 subject to availability
- Valid mid-week only (excludes Friday and Saturday nights)
- Minimum stay: 2 nights’ mid-week (may be extended to include Friday/Saturday at full rate)
- SA Residents and direct bookings only. Quote special offer when booking: LWB (Local Winter Break)
The above video is of an elephant having a scratch next to the pool. Love how they come this close, you can almost enjoy your game viewing from the pool deck or your suite.
Read my other posts on Mhondoro here:
- Welgevonden Game Reserve’s Mhondoro Game Lodge to Host a Yoga Safari.
- The best South African malaria-free Safari destinations.
*I was invited to Mhondoro by Five Star PR, who flew me from Cape Town to Lanseria, transferred me and hosted me throughout. Note: Yoga retreat pics by Craig Totten.