Escape to the bush

Sipping sundowners after a safari, watching the hippos splash around like … well, hippos. Crocs enjoying the last few minutes of the sun. Absolutely no dipping your toes in the water here. Then a herd of 15-odd elephants casually strolled by … seconds later, one cheeky ellie in musth (our game ranger, Sebastian Van Vuuren, explained that his testosterone levels can be as much as 60 per cent greater) decided he didn’t like our dinner set-up under the stars and, with one very casual swipe of his trunk, wiped out a setting at the table. Really, we’re not making this up. Yip, just another extraordinary day in Africa.

Dinner under the stars is only one of the experiences that make a stay at Mabula Game Lodge memorable. Just two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Joburg, you’ll find the lodge in the Waterberg region of Limpopo Province. Come the end of the year, the bushveld greys and yellows of autumn start giving way to the green thickets and grasslands … a spectacular setting where the Big Five and other predators like hyena and jackal roam free.

Half-an-hour into our first game drive and we were in holiday mode faster than you can say ‘Amarula’ … which is exactly what we enjoyed while the sun set. We were fortunate enough to have a private game vehicle so we didn’t have to worry about annoying anyone … yes, we care that Sebastian may have seen a leopard footprint or smelt a carcass (a bit gross, we know). Absolutely no reason to rush here. We spent ages at each sighting taking it all in … and loved every minute! We saw lion snoozing in the dense thorny scrub. Baby warthogs playing. We waited while zebras crossed the path (isn’t this the best kind of ‘traffic’!) and saw buck at every turn. We tried very hard to spot leopard but despite our determination, they didn’t oblige by showing themselves.

If this isn’t enough to have you packing your bags, the enormous range of activities might persuade you … think bush walks where you can channel your inner Bear Grylls and spot game (we finally got to see a leopard up close … an amazing experience!), horse and quad bike trails, tennis courts and swimming pools. Once you’ve ticked a few of these off your list you’ll be feeling properly pooped … time to head off to the spa. A pedi and hot stone massage will take you to your happy place … the spa even has kiddies’ massages … you know, for when the times tables are causing knots. If your mini-me is more into adventure, there’s a Cubz Club for the littlies where they’ll learn all about wildlife and play old-school games like sack and egg and spoon races.

Once you’ve exhausted yourself, retreat to distinctly African thatched rooms where you can flop down on a comfy bed. The rooms are decorated in soft, neutral bush colours and the rustic décor lends itself perfectly to the setting. Psst … don’t underestimate the joy of a long afternoon nap … that’s right, doing absolutely zilch is totally acceptable.

If you ask us, happiness is sipping sundowners after a safari, pampering spa treatments and making memories you’ll never forget … it’s no wonder we think Mabula Game  Lodge is so marvellous!

Stuff you need to know

Mabula Game Lodge is approximately 150km from Joburg. Rates are from R3535 for a single room and R2365 sharing. Kids under six stay free (kids 6 – 11 R1180). The rates include accommodation, two game drives a day and selected local beverages. Excluded from the rates are transport to and from the lodge, conservation fees, items of a personal nature like phone calls, mini bar and curio shop purchases and spa treatments. Details: 014-734-7000 or email

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