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:
- Spotting 2 white rhino, a female cheetah and all the plains game before we’d even got to the lodge
- The miracle of seeing the bush through my kids’ eyes
- The exciting adventure that was each jam-packed game drive
- Sundowners overlooking the river as a crimson red sunset descended over the horizon
- A surprise breakfast of salmon bagels and bacon and honey-butter crumpets in the bush
- The delicious aroma of More coffee
- Living in amongst a herd of impala at the lodge, lambs aplenty
- The nostalgic sound of fish eagles while on a sunset cruise
- Following 3 lionesses along a windy road for while they searched for a shady spot to snooze
- The continual learning of the intricacies and wonder that is the natural world
- Watching my kids’ excitement as they did spoor casting/made cookies/attempted archery
- Playing in the pool with the kids and all the fun pool toys
- Afternoon sleeps on the plush oversized beds with the air con on high and the emerald-spotted wood dove calling in the background
- A fairy-tale birthday boma dinner, the team’s harmonious Happy Birthday song and an indulgent chocolate cake
- The smell of the rain, the sound of thunder and the vibrant skies
- Driving alongside two white rhinos, running under a rainbow and during a monkey’s wedding
- Feeling the peace and restorative nature of the African bushveld
- The cicada’s lullaby each evening
- The in-suite massage on our deck, whilst kids were sleeping and impala wandered past #winning
- A quiet bush walk with a herd of kudu and impala
- Steaming hot outside showers under the milky way each night
- Sitting around the campfire telling stories of old
- Witnessing some interesting elephant behaviour during a romantic sunset drink
- Sharing my morning tea with a bushbuck
- 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!
Some Special Thank-Yous
To our ranger – Hugh: Thank you for sharing your incredible knowledge with us and for being so patient with and kind to our kids. For pointing out every little bird from malachite kingfishers, to spurfowl, to whydahs, to crimson breasted shrikes to white-backed vultures and so many more. For throwing stones with Ben, kindly answering his endless barrage of questions and putting up with Ella’s constant chatter.
To the kitchen staff – Gladys, Thabang, Simon, Shaun and the rest of the team: thank you for the incredible thought and intention that went into every meal… whether it was the peanut butter balls on a game drive, delicious buddha bowls for lunch, millionaire shortbread for tea or kudu steaks for dinner… everything was delicious. Not to mention the specially prepared meals for Ben and Ella… and for being so accommodating with all their requests and all the mess they made ☺
To the housekeeping staff : Thank you for keeping the expertly appointed tents in pristine condition at all times. For the thoughtful additions of a baby cot for Ella and special extras that made the kids’ room feel so homely.
To the maintenance team – Tshepo et al: The way you transform the lodge every night like the new page in a storybook and the innovative and can-do attitude you have to all things maintenance – a lesson for all of us.
To the Night Porter – Thabo: For letting Ben lead the way with the torch and being at our suite within 3 minutes of our call, tiptoeing up to the door and escorting us (once kids were asleep) to our precious adult-time dinners!
To the Mack & Madi kids club team – Thembi and Patience: Thank you for transforming the Eco Garden into a magical wonderland… for all the incredible activities you did with the kids, from spoor casting, to cookie baking, to painting, archery and so much more. They loved every minute of their time with you. Thank you for your continued warmth and kindness.
To Alex, Nerine, Nadine, Steph, Hendrick and the rest of the @morefamilycollection: You have created something remarkable… a luxurious home for young families from which they can experience the power, wonder and intricacies of the African bush. I’ve said it before, but More hospitality is a very special thing. You guys are doing something right.
Lastly but most importantly… to those who haven’t been:
Why choose Marataba?
- It’s the perfect escape from crowds and covid
- It’s only 3 hours outside Joburg (so you literally can go for a weekend getaway.)
- It’s malaria-free and therefore stress-free!
- The 23 000 hectare concession is private so guests have complete exclusivity
- The scenery is breath-taking whether you’re in the plains, mountains or waterways
- The game is second to none! The reserve not only has the big five but an abundance of game like I’ve never seen before
- The knowledge of the guides is world-class
- The tented suites are perfectly appointed and in harmony with the natural environment while ensuring that you have every creature comfort you could imagine
- The Mack & Madi kids programme is outstanding and there really is something for everyone. We struggled to get our kids to leave ☺
- The people – will make you feel at home the minute you arrive and I guarantee you won’t want to leave
- The birdlife is ridiculous – after 3 days we got to 100 species on our list and we then stopped counting
- It’s more accessible now to South Africans than ever before. Stay home, support local and you will not be disappointed.
- The food is out of this world. It’s fresh, full of colour, tasty and bursting with local flair.
- For some time off. The staff will treat you like royalty and you will not lift a finger – it is the ultimate relaxation.
- The special surprises and huge effort that the staff make to ensure that each day is full of magical experiences.
- It’s the perfect reminder of the simple life and what is most important: family, time, space and nature.
If these words haven’t convinced you… maybe some of our pictures will. Now is the time… while the rest of the world can’t visit… explore local and it will knock the socks off any international holiday… I promise.