South Africa has a lot going for it. Arguably one of the country’s strongest draw cards is the bush veld which attracts both local and foreign tourists in their droves. South Africa’s wild, open plains and animal life have long held a special allure and visitors go out of their way to immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of our unique milieu.
While the majority enjoy Africa’s bounty from the confines of a simple tent, there are a number of establishments which offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy South Africa’s natural riches in style. The five star Marataba Safari Company is just one such establishment. Marataba is a 23 000 hectare private concession situated three hours from Johannesburg in the heart of Limpopo’s Marakele National Park which is a success story in its own right. In 1997, the area was stagnating. Happily, following the implementation of a bold public/ private partnership, the park was rehabilitated and it now boasts a plethora of wildlife including the ‘Big Five’.
Marataba forms part of the Hunter Hotels collection which includes Hunter’s Country House, Tsala Treetop Lodge and Gorah Elephant Camp. Each hotel is a proud member of Relais & Chateux - a global fellowship of luxury hotels and restaurants.
The magnificent Waterberg Mountains act as the backdrop to the park and set the tone for my partner and I who were lucky enough to be invited to spend a night at Marataba. The first class service started at Marataba’s boundary gate where we were greeted by warm smiles and ice water. The drive to the lodge was punctuated with clusters of animals: a taste of things to come. Upon arriving at the lodge, Marataba’s staff welcomed us with warm facecloths and cocktails. The main lodge is a roughly sickle moon shaped, open plan affair featuring an appealing mix of indigenous stone, timber roofs, smooth, golden hued floors and glass walls which provide sweeping views of Marataba’s wild surrounds.
Apparently, Marataba’s architecture was inspired by ancient African ruins, most probably those of ‘Great Zimbabwe’ if the conical, tower like enclave which houses the lodge’s mini library is anything to go by. Great Zimbabwe is an abandoned stone city which was built in the 12th century in Zimbabwe and still fascinates anthropologists to this day.
Enclosed within the main lodge are a ladies bar, a small curio shop, a business centre and an elegantly appointed dining room complete with fireplace. Guests can also enjoy meals on a verandah and soak in the atmosphere from the vantage point of one of the comfortable chairs or hammocks dotted around the lodge’s patio deck.
Décor-wise, the lodge features an eclectic, contemporary collection of earth coloured leather, suede and wooden furniture. Other elements include decorative wooden dividers from Zanzibar, twig and reed lights, mirrors, wooden statuettes, ostrich egg lamps, animal skins, clay pots and drums.
With our bags were whisked away to our room, we were ushered to lunch on the verandah where we were served a sumptuous tapas style meal. Victuals included pasta salad, a variety of breads accompanied by a range of delicious dips, a green salad, tiny chicken wraps and decadent chocolate spring rolls topped with ice-cream. Appetites suitably sated, we were escorted to our suite past a crystal clear pool and a group of bold warthogs which were taking great delight in snuffling around the water’s edge.
Marataba’s tent-like suites, of which there are only 15, are the epitome of luxury. Each suite features a grand double bed , an en-suite, open plan stone bathroom with shower and bath as well as his and hers basins, a dressing room and outside shower. Each suite also has its own private deck from which guests can enjoy incredible views of the park.
Relaxed and refreshed we made our way back to the lodge later in the day. Clearly the lodge was under the impression that they hadn’t fed us enough at lunch because a decadent high tea was served promptly at 4pm. Replete with cake and tea, we waddled out to the game viewing vehicles for a sunset game drive.
In addition to the many antelope, zebra, elephants and birds we came across, our informative and friendly guide managed to track down a group of marauding lionesses. It was fascinating to get up close and personal with such impressive predators. Marakele also plays host to rare antelope such as roan, sable and Mountain Reedbuck. The world’s largest breeding colony of endangered Cape Vultures also resides at Marakele. Clearly starving, we were served yet more snacks at sundown.
Upon our return from the game drive we were served cocktails outside around a blazing fire set up on the lawn, following which yet more food in the form of a four course dinner was served. The night air and food soon worked their charm and my partner and I retired to our suite where we fell asleep to the sounds of the bush in all its glory.
We rounded off our trip all too soon the next day with coffee served in bed, another game drive and breakfast following which we regretfully made our way home. Suffice to say staying at Marataba was a privilege and it’s no small wonder it has been awarded a number of notable accolades within a short space of time. Granted a visit to such an establishment comes at a price but the service, food and overall experience more than justify the expense and will no doubt keep visitors coming back for more for many years to come.