The brand new uMfolozi Big Five Game Reserve is a safari experience that ticks all the right boxes
If it’s the call of the bush that is tonic for your soul – and if like me you enjoy the finer things in life – then now’s the time to make your first New Year’s resolution for 2019: Visit Mthembu Lodge in the uMfolozi Big Five Game Reserve.
Adjacent to the southernmost border of Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, and two-and-a-half hour’s drive from Durban, guests can enjoy exclusive use of the 6 000-hectare uMfolozi Big Five Game Reserve, as well as benefit from game drives into the neighbouring Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park.
Our adventure began when we left our car at the reserve entrance and set off on a 30-minute drive to the lodge. From the outside the lodge blends well with its surrounds – flat concrete roofs and dung-coloured walls. Step inside and the lodge oozes simplistic elegance and luxury with panoramic views of the river. From the wraparound patio with rim-flow pool the view was spectacular – and instantly the bustle of city life was replaced by peace and raw wilderness. A true feeling that this is Africa.
No expense has been spared in the seven villas (and two family villas) which all boast private decks overlooking the iMfolozi River. The decor is timeless, tasteful and very on trend, with each villa featuring a freestanding bath and spacious shower with unobtrusive views of the outdoors. There’s also an outside shower. Most impressive was the extra-wide, extra-long bed and crisp white bedlinen.
Up and ready by 5am, after a quick coffee to keep us going, we set off on our first safari experience of the day. Bongani and Xolani were our knowledgeable and hawked-eyed guides who could not only spot an animal from miles away, but also took the time to share info with us. Not only did we enjoy coffee and biscuits on a quick break, but on the way back to the lodge we were treated to light refreshments on a beautifully set table on the riverbed.
Back at the lodge there was much chatter as we tucked into a cooked breakfast, fruit, cereals and pastries while enjoying the views of the valley.
When in Africa, do like the animals during the hottest time of the day – have a quick dip in the pool, then take a nap. Refreshed and rearing to go again, we tucked into a light savoury and sweet high tea before setting off for the afternoon game drive. Two hours into the drive, and just as the sun was turning the sky a bright orange, it was time for sundowners – in the middle of nowhere and with a hyena calling and wildebeest in the distance.
We were lucky enough to see an abundance of elephant, rhino aplenty, cheetah (with cub), zebra, giraffe, buck, wildebeest, warthog, hyena, buffalo, crocodile (just below the lodge), tortoise, hare and the hard-working dung beetle. If you’re a bird lover, you’ll have the binoculars glued to your eyes, there are just so many species to admire and enjoy.
Back at the lodge a roaring boma fire and buffet dinner was the perfect end to an awesome wilderness experience. The food – like the decor – was beautifully presented, well portioned, and tasty. What more could you ask for? For wine connoisseurs there’s also a wine cellar stocked with premium South African wines.
Dave and Chrissy – the lodge management couple – and their amazing team added just the right amount of personal touch to the weekend. Enough to make us feel really special, but not in our face.
What a privileged lifestyle we have, being able to explore the bush by day and return to the luxury comfort of a world-class lodge where all our needs are catered for.
ABOUT UMFOLOZI BIG FIVE
- The reserve – steeped in tradition and history – was originally the hunting ground of King Shaka Zulu, who pioneered a culture of conservation amongst the Zulu people.
- Managed by the Mantis Group, this is their first safari experience in KwaZulu-Natal. The reserve will offer two luxurious lodges – Mthembu Lodge, and in early 2019, Biyela Lodge – allowing visitors to experience a special and memorable wilderness encounter in absolute luxury.
- Mthembu Lodge is the exact spot where Dr Ian Player stabled his horses which were first used on patrols and later for wilderness training in the area, leading to a global effort to save the rhino from extinction.
- Mthembu Lodge is named after the current Chief Mthembu who is involved in the conservation efforts of the area, and is also the chair of the uMfolozi Big Five Game Reserve.
To stand a chance of winning a 2-night stay at Mthembu Lodge, managed by the Mantis Group, at uMfolozi Big Five Game Reserve for 2 people, enter here for The Ridge Magazine and here for The Crest Magazine.
Rates for South Africans only: R3 990 per person a night. Visit their website to know their Child Policy. To book contact: