Marataba: Luxury on Plain and Mountain

Marakele means “place of sanctuary” in the local Setswana language, and that is exactly what you feel like you are entering when you arrive at Marataba Private Reserve, which forms part of the greater Marakele National Park.

Marataba itself is 21 000ha of mixed thornveld and open woodland, flanked to the east and south by the utterly spectacular Waterberg mountains, which gather every last drop of golden light as the sun starts to sink and reflect it back over an environment brimming with wildlife.

Lion roars reverberate up the valleys from the plains below, whilst from the rocky crags the guttural rasp of a leopard is regularly heard through the hours of darkness. It is in this magnificent setting that we find two stunning lodges, Marataba Safari Lodge and Marataba Mountain Lodge, both part of the NJ More collection.

Marataba Safari Lodge Suite Deck

Safari lodge is the larger of the two with 15 luxury tented suites (11 two-sleeper and 4 family suites), whilst Mountain lodge, tucked away in a rocky valley close to the escarpment, is something entirely different, featuring only 5 eco-suites. Mountain lodge is completely solar, so as well as feeling a wonderful sense of isolation in such an intimate setting, guests can be happy in the knowledge that their stay is having the least possible impact on the environment.

Marataba Trails Lodge Waterberg Dining

The offerings are both spectacular however, and it is simply a case of what type of escape you are after. For honeymooners and those who want ultimate tranquility and time to themselves, wishing to feel a complete sense of isolation, Mountain lodge should be your pick.

Marataba Trails Lodge Luxury Safari Africa Waterberg

Marataba Safari Lodge Iconic Africa
For families or those who want to enjoy a a slightly more social vibe in the evenings, seated around a roaring fire, Safari lodge, down on the plains and within a stone’s throw of the serene Matlabas River, would be our recommendation.

At no time at either camp will you feel anything but fully immersed in the wilderness. The subtle colour tones and layout of every aspect of both lodges has been carefully thought out, designed to feel like a simple extension of the African bush whilst retaining every element of luxury.

Marataba is only a few hours drive from Johannesburg, or easily accessible via a 45 minute charter flight. The area is malaria-free, so if you are travelling with small kids or have even the slightest concerns about malaria (which is extremely rare in South Africa), look no further than Marataba as your destination of choice.

Marataba Safari Lodge River Cruise

Iconic Africa is still running holiday season specials, so enquire now if you want to take advantage of these limited-time offers. Lodges are getting exponentially busier as tourism returns and postponed visits start coming into effect, so be sure not to miss out…


Marataba: Conservation and Tourism Intertwined

The new narrative of ecotourism is about far more than simply viewing animals in their natural habitat.
It’s experiential, it’s immersive, and more than anything, it’s about the visitor to African shores feeling like their stay has made a difference. More and more safari operators are giving guests the chance to go behind the scenes as it were, in order to see – and more importantly to participate in – the work being done on the ground to save Africa’s wildlife and her wild spaces.

Marataba has long been one of our favourite reserves.
Only a few hours drive from Johannesburg, malaria-free, and blessed with fantastic game viewing, it has practically sold itself. Now however, Marataba are spearheading the way a bush visit should be conducted; their Conservation Camps are allowing guests the opportunity to actively participate in the reserve’s conservation efforts.

Rhino poaching has been an ever-growing problem across Africa for years, and South Africa has been particularly hard hit. For too long however, there has been a distinct disconnect between what is being done to protect the species and the guests who are able to view rhinos in the wild. Marataba have realised that by making their rhino conservation efforts accessible, viewable, and most importantly, experiential, people will be far more aware of what it takes to both monitor and protect the species.
Understanding a cause enables one to get behind it far more effectively.

Both white and black rhinos occur at Marataba; a mixture of clearings and thornveld provide adequate habitat for both species (white rhinos are grazers and prefer more open terrain; black rhinos are browsers and prefer thicker vegetation). A proper understanding of the behaviour and movement patterns of the individuals across the reserve can go a long way towards informing anti-poaching and conservation efforts, and so an individual recognition system using an ear notching pattern has been implemented at Marataba.

The way we see ecotourism going in the future is the kind of offering coming out of the Marataba Conservation Camps; the three-day Rhino Conservation Safari.

During a rhino registration and identification procedure, guests will help immobilise and notch the animal and insert a DNA microchip into the horns and body. Tissue is collected and the DNA is submitted to the RHoDIS database (Rhinoceros DNA indexing system), a national DNA database.
It’s one thing to watch a rhino from the comfort of a game drive vehicle. It’s a completely different experience to touch one’s bare skin, to feel its breath on your hand and to play a part in an operation that will directly contribute to the survival of its species.

More and more experiences like this are becoming available in the ecotourism sector. We are firm believers in the idea that the more connected a person can feel to a place, a species, or even an individual animal, the more likely that person is to become invested in whatever maintain’s that entity’s future.

It’s not only the Rhino Conservation Safari that is offered at the Marataba Conservation camps. Guests can assist in fence patrols, elephant or cheetah monitoring, and a host of other activities that will help give a far more enriching understanding about what conservation really involves.

At the end of the day, that’s exactly what it should be about.

A Safari Wedding Like No Other… 

Family photographs, canapés and drinks set against the backdrop of the spectacular Waterberg Mountains… What more could a bride ask for… nevermind during a global pandemic! 

Marataba Safari Lodge is the ideal location for a romantic wedding. Nick and Carly visited them as soon as the travel restrictions were lifted and simply fell in love. Located in the Marakele National Park, this setting really is a “place of sanctuary”. You can feel nothing but calm and quiet while you soak in the backdrop and take in all the amazing wildlife sounds in the distance. Breathtaking landscapes can only do more to inspire romance; now add Big Five game and elusive birds congratulating you on their way past the ceremony! 

Nick and Carly and their closest family and friends enjoyed a truly magical weekend. Their guests left with once-in-a-lifetime memories that will forever be brought up at every family dinner, and will hopefully bring them back. 

The staff at Marataba went over and above to make this the most special time in the bush for them and their families. The crimson sunset with carefree, roaming wildlife creating stunning silhouettes set the stage for some breathtaking photographs. 

Amongst the mountains, plains and riverscapes… a collection of everlasting moments were created, but our words can only say so much. Carly has very kindly shared some of her favourite memories of her wedding and the exquisite wedding photographs that will surely leave you speechless… here: 

Q: What made you decide to have a safari-style wedding? 

A: Before the COVID pandemic arrived, we had planned to get married in the Cape Winelands with a big traditional wedding affair. But we can honestly say that having to scale down our wedding to a more intimate, safari weekend away with our 50 closest family and friends could not have worked out better. It was perfect in every way, with the best part being the personal, quality time that we got to spend with each and every one of our guests – on game drives, sitting around the boma and eating delicious meals together under the stars.

Q: Why Marataba?

A: I don’t think there’s any bush experience in South Africa quite like the Marataba experience. The spectacular landscape of the Waterberg mountains and the abundance of wildlife all while being one of the very few lodges on the reserve means every experience feels private and exclusive. The incredible staff are out of this world and no request is ever too much. And then, of course, the luxurious facilities which cater to your every need and you could not possibly feel more spoilt. A huge perk is that they are also very family-friendly which meant our little people got to be a part of all our wedding festivities too.

Q: What is one moment you would want to relive over and over?

A: Walking down the aisle to meet my husband-to-be with the Waterberg escarpment in the background and the impala trotting around behind us as we said our vows – there simply could be no better setting to get married. 

If you have ever thought about planning a safari wedding in South Africa, on a private game reserve, then Marataba is the ideal destination for you. The lodge is just 4 hours away from Johannesburg and the staff offer a wedding planning service that will happily help you arrange, organise and coordinate – from flowers to dinner and activities for you and your guests.

Thank You Magical Marataba

After a year of lockdowns, covid and work stresses. I could not have imagined a better way to start 2021… than what can only be described as the MOST magical family safari. Situated just over 3 hours from Joburg, Marataba Safari Lodge is a 5 star, home away from home, an enchanting wonderland, set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Waterberg Mountain range.

It is almost 4 years since our last visit to Marataba… a time when I was pregnant with my son, we were much younger and more carefree (although embarrassingly still wearing some of the same clothes!)

At the end of that post, I wrote…

“Now we just can’t wait until we can come back as three and show our little one what an exceptional continent we live on and to teach him/her all that there is to know about nature, wildlife and how everything has its place in the world.”

Little did I know that we would return as a family and that somehow would enjoy the whole experience 4 fold. Never mind the fact that these words would hold more truth now than ever before.

We had booked to stay 3 nights and after the first night had extended it to 4… if we could have, we would have stayed even longer. Life in the bush dances to a different rhythm and it is unfathomable what you can do in just 4 days and what those 4 days can do for you.

For me – it was like “going home” just what the soul, post all the stress of 2020 needed. It was in short, life-changing.
For my kids – it was their first real safari, each moment the excitement was palpable. It was a privilege to witness.
For my husband and I – it was so divine to have some time as a couple again! The team at Marataba certainly know how to do romance ☺
For my view on the world – it was restorative, calming, inspiring and rejuvenating. No matter what you’ve faced – the African bush can set you right. It’s trips like these that make me so grateful to live in this exceptional country.

Just a few highlights of our trip:

  1. Spotting 2 white rhino, a female cheetah and all the plains game before we’d even got to the lodge
  2. The miracle of seeing the bush through my kids’ eyes
  3. The exciting adventure that was each jam-packed game drive
  4. Sundowners overlooking the river as a crimson red sunset descended over the horizon
  5. A surprise breakfast of salmon bagels and bacon and honey-butter crumpets in the bush
  6. The delicious aroma of More coffee
  7. Living in amongst a herd of impala at the lodge, lambs aplenty
  8. The nostalgic sound of fish eagles while on a sunset cruise
  9. Following 3 lionesses along a windy road for while they searched for a shady spot to snooze
  10. The continual learning of the intricacies and wonder that is the natural world
  11. Watching my kids’ excitement as they did spoor casting/made cookies/attempted archery
  12. Playing in the pool with the kids and all the fun pool toys
  13. Afternoon sleeps on the plush oversized beds with the air con on high and the emerald-spotted wood dove calling in the background
  14. A fairy-tale birthday boma dinner, the team’s harmonious Happy Birthday song and an indulgent chocolate cake
  15. The smell of the rain, the sound of thunder and the vibrant skies
  16. Driving alongside two white rhinos, running under a rainbow and during a monkey’s wedding
  17. Feeling the peace and restorative nature of the African bushveld
  18. The cicada’s lullaby each evening
  19. The in-suite massage on our deck, whilst kids were sleeping and impala wandered past #winning
  20. A quiet bush walk with a herd of kudu and impala
  21. Steaming hot outside showers under the milky way each night
  22. Sitting around the campfire telling stories of old
  23. Witnessing some interesting elephant behaviour during a romantic sunset drink
  24. Sharing my morning tea with a bushbuck
  25. Learning the trees, plants and insects and revelling in the overall serenity on a quiet bush walk

And…. I could go on and on… and on! Continue reading “Thank You Magical Marataba”

South African International Borders Are Open!

Drumroll… the moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived!

We are ecstatic to share with you that South African borders will finally be open to international visitors on the 1st October 2020. Although they are not open to all countries just yet this is a step in the right direction and they will be soon.

As a nation that loves to play host and to show off our beautiful land, we have so missed all of our foreign travellers and friends. We are ready for you now more than ever before as we’ve been prepping for your arrival since March. We cannot wait to welcome you back to the land of magical sunsets, exhilarating safaris, G&Ts, colourful cultures and breath-taking landscapes.

As we enter Level 1, we are excited that both domestic and international flights can resume to get you to us as soon as possible! All travellers will be required to have a PCR COVID-19 clearance certificate issued by a recognized facility within 48 hours from the date of departure. All commercial airports in South Africa have a risk-adjusted strategy in place to keep all flyers safe. But if you’re still having cold feet, we have put together some useful information for when you travel post lockdown.

The thought of welcoming guests back into our hotels, lodges and camps brings us all sorts of emotions! We’ve been waiting patiently and preparing for your arrival. All accommodations, restaurants and attractions are operating within regulations and are thrilled to have you come hang out with our local people and wildlife. Our operators are fully equipped to receive you and your families and cannot wait to give you their undivided attention and offer you the 5-star luxury that cannot compare to anywhere else.

Luxury Golf And Wine Tour South Africa Silo Hotel

Luxury Golf And Wine Tour South Africa Franschoek 2

Our staff are ready to make your stay the most memorable; our guides cannot wait to show you the bush and its exquisite wildlife and our chefs are busy preparing to cook up a storm for you! The Tourism Business Council of South Africa’s Travel Safe-Eat Safe protocols and programme has been implemented across the tourism sector to ensure the safe reopening of the industry.

For those who have postponed their stay, we hope these videos inspire some wanderlust!

Our beaches, winelands and wilderness await you to grace us with your presence once again! The opening up of our borders will unite and reignite after what seems like way too much time apart! We hope to have you on the viewing decks soon, ice-cold G&T in hand and sun setting over the horizon.

Take a look at these amazing once-in-a-lifetime safari tours we have put together to help you to see more of our spectacular country.

Africa’s Cape of Desire

Singita Safari Splendour

Great Value Golf & Wine Tour

Premier Wine & Gold Tour

With Zambia and Zimbabwe opening their borders too, these tours are also now options:

The Royal Romance

Luxury Safari Classic

Africa’s Family Getaway

If you have any questions at all about your travels please feel free to get in touch with us.

Sarah Graham Visits Magical Marataba

Recent traveller, close friend and distinguished chef, Sarah Graham has returned from some much needed time in the bush with her family. The Grahams visited the luxurious Marataba Safari Lodge – a magical retreat just a short drive away from Johannesburg.

This easily accessible escape to one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets is the perfect family getaway! It is malaria-free and combines luxury, adventure and intimacy with wildlife like no other.

This private lodge is the perfect place to make new memories with your loved ones. Sarah has very kindly shared with us some of the highlights of their trip as well as some delightful pictures below.

Was it easy to get to Marataba from Joburg?
It was a totally effortless drive! We made it from door to door in about three hours, and it’s just such an amazing feeling to be on the open roads and heading out of town.

Marataba Safari Lodge Entrance

What was your first impression of Marataba?
As you inch closer to the Waterberg Mountains it’s an incredible feeling, they have a magic all of their own, and that carries through all the way to the Lodge and the warm welcome on arrival.

What were the staff like?
Besides the magical backdrop of the mountains, the bush and its abundance of wildlife, the team at Marataba add a special touch that makes you feel instantly at home. We arrived as eager strangers from the city and feel like we left as real friends.

What was the accommodation like?
We loved our family room! Nestled amongst the trees, with big views over the bush and looking up to the mountains it has incredible tranquillity, and the girls loved having their own room, bunk bed and bathroom. The accommodation is luxurious, spacious, carefully thought out but still comfortable. We didn’t want to leave.

Were there activities and entertainment for your kids?
Our girls loved every minute of their time in the Eco Garden! Thembi looked after them with such sincere care and fun – even little 2-year-old Emily was completely happy there, and they got stuck into everything from cookie making to popcorn eating, spoor crafting and lots in between.

What did they think of the lodge?
The girls were awed by the beautiful setting, the giant Camelthorn Tree on the front lawn that stretches out to the bush, waterhole and mountains beyond really does sweep you off your feet. They even had a little dip in the pool one day, despite mid-winter temperatures.

Do you recommend it as a relaxing family getaway for both parents and kids?
Completely, we would go back in a heartbeat.

What was your best sighting?
Not just our best sighting at Marataba, but definitely in our lives were two fully-grown male Cheetah on a Warthog kill, we were all entranced from the very first moment. We also can’t speak highly enough of our guide Hugh who was patient, fun with our kids, informative and just an all-round legend.

What will be your forever memory of your trip to Marataba?
So many things! Besides the epic cheetah kill, the sight of the dusty pink mountains in the evenings and our girls playing in a nearby riverbed while we have sundowners will probably stay with us forever.

For more information on Marataba and the incredible specials they are offering to South African locals get in touch with one of our team members and start planning your next local family bush vacation.