We love a bush getaway … and one where ellies drink from the pool, the rooms are OTT comfy and the food’s five star, makes for a really special treat.
When you’re sitting having lunch on the verandah and an ellie strolls past, stopping to drink from the pool in front of you, you know you’re at a special spot.
More so when an hour later on a game drive you see a leopard stalk, then chase and bring down a springbok, her five three-month-old cubs chasing after her as if to cheer her on.
We’ve just spent a couple of days at Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa in the Welgevonden Game Reserve, and it was indeed a special treat.
The Welgevonden area is fairly rocky and hilly, but the lodge is built overlooking a flat plain, with a waterhole in front to which animals drift all day … families of warthog and a dazzle of zebras … the ellies appear to ignore it completely and head straight for the pool, much to the delight of the guests – most of whom are international, so imagine the thrill!
Besides what turned out to include some sensational animal sightings, a highlight of our stay was also the food … this five-star lodge prides itself on the fine dining options offered, and deservedly so. While the boma dinner was been-there-eaten-that, other meals were exceptional … think eggs Benedict with truffle oil hollandaise or French toast with thyme-infused honey and nuts for breakfast, or later in the day a dish of beetroot elements (pickled beetroot and beetroot sorbet, goat’s cheese and rocket, topped with pumpkin seed … bliss), a wonderful wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil and Parmesan, and quite possibly the best rack of lamb we’ve ever eaten. As much of this as possible comes from the lodge’s large, flourishing veggie and herb garden – and it is leaning towards being totally self-sufficient and off-the-grid within the next year or so.
Accommodating just 26 guests in total, there are a few chic-African and edgy European-decorated suites to choose from, as well as a romantic Honeymoon Suite, which has a heated plunge pool and outside deck with day bed that overlooks the waterhole. The suites – think mosquito-net-draped beds and roaring fireplaces – sleep either two or four guests … but there’s a magnificent three-bedroom villa. A marvellous choice for a family or group of friends, the villa comes with a private butler, chef and ranger, is exceptionally equipped with a pool, lounge, dining and outdoor entertainment areas, (it even has its own gym for heaven’s sake).
Other standout features at the lodge, where children of all ages are welcome, include the underground waterhole hide, which is connected to the main lodge by a tunnel, allowing you to safely race off and see the animals close up, a lovely spa for those who need even more spoiling than being out in the bush provides, a heated pool and sauna and two great areas for youngsters – one indoors, one out. There’s a shooting range, and rock art excursions, bush walks and rhino tracking, and really brilliant yoga retreats can be arranged – get together six or more yoga friends and experience yoga in the bush at dawn or sunset … how amazing!
Rates range from R5675 a person a night, sharing, with children under two free; three to nine paying 50 per cent of the adult fee, 10 upwards paying full rate. The Villa exclusive-use rate is R45455 for four guests, R9091 per extra adult and R5051 per extra child between three and 11. There are, however, often specials, so keep an eye on the website. All rates are inclusive of meals, selected house drinks, two game drives a day and reserved entrance, as well as scheduled transfers from the Welgevonden main gate. Children can’t go on regular game drives, but Bumble Drives can be arranged and there are babysitters, as well as fun activities. The area is malaria free, and the drive is a little less than three hours from Joburg and OR Tambo airport – unless you happily drive along in a daze and miss the N3 turn-off, when you could, as we did, take the road (much) less travelled, in which case add, oh, say two hours or so to your drive time!
Details: [email protected], 087-150-2314, mhondoro.com