PART 1 – SAFARI AT MARATABA LODGE
As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go on safari to Africa. My mother went to Kenya in 1974, when I was a young girl, and the stories she told me about the animals that she saw on safari made me want to go. Once I got married to Vincent, we travelled the world but I couldn’t convince him to go on safari to Africa. Until this year.
Our adventure started the day after our arrival in Johannesburg, when we were picked up at the airport by a representative of Angel Gabriel tours and taken to the local Grand central airport.
‘Hang on’, he said to us, “let me go find the pilot”. He came back 10 minutes later with a blond Adonis from Ireland named JJ, who took us to a 5 seater Cessna for our flight. I remember thinking: I know that going on safari to Africa was going to be an adventure, but this may be too much adventure for me!
5 minutes later, on a seat with my knees tucked in to my neck, we were off.
I must say that I was surprised at how well the flight went and how much I enjoyed the scenery above Johannesburg.
About an hour later, the scenery started to change and I knew we were close to our destination, Marataba Safari Lodge, which is a part of the Marakele National Park and is next to the Waterberg mountains in the north of South Africa.
Here’s an idea as to the location of the park in the north of South Africa.
Once we landed just outside the park, our ranger guide Russell was waiting to pick us up in his jeep, a modified Land cruiser, which seats a maximum of 11 people.
We watched and waved JJ off as he left, and in to the park we went.
The park is 23,000 hectares in size and surrounded by an electrified fence to keep poachers out. The drive from the air field to our lodge was supposed to take 45 minutes, but we came across so many animals on our way, that it took us a couple of hours.
And then, this happened…
Well, after this warm welcome, nothing was going to spoil our first day!
More was waiting for us, though. We finally arrived at the lodge.
To say that we were Totally Gobsmacked by the vistas and the surroundings would be putting it mildly. Impalas on the lawn, giraffes at the watering hole in front of the lodge, wildebeest and warthogs at the swimming pool and naughty, thieving monkeys at the dining table.
The lodge has 16 luxury tents available, so there is a maximum of 32 guests at any time. Your ranger fetches you from the airport and takes you on safari twice a day for your entire stay.
Upon arrival, guests are given firm instructions to never leave their tents without an escort once it is dark. Apparently, one of the guests has still not quite recovered from a lion making a kill outside her tent in the dead of night a couple of years ago!
We decided to have a late lunch before going on safari again that evening, but were quite amazed at the company that joined us for lunch..
One thing that became clear to me very quickly was that the animals are perfectly camouflaged to suit their surroundings and one may drive past the largest of them several times before seeing them.
That afternoon, we came across 4 lion cubs (6-9 months old) from 2 mothers, relaxing at a water hole, waiting for their mothers to return from a hunt.
They were completely unafraid of us and approached us to within 10 feet and lay down in the shade of our jeep.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, the 2 mothers were working hard to find food for their cubs. We came across them in hunting mode…
Some of the animals we saw on safari on our first day…. zebras (considered to be the Drama Queens of the bush because they make a fuss about nothing), kudu female, giraffes and our resident family of warthogs. The hogs camped out at our swimming pool and were to be seen scratching for roots every day. Oh, and loads of Impala.
Whenever we came across Rhinos in the bush, they immediately stood back to back, so that they had a 360 degree view of everything that is going on around them.
On our next day, we were up bright an early at 5 a.m. to have a quick cup of coffee and a biscuit, before going on our morning safari, which lasted 3-4 hours. it was quite cold, so we were happy that there were blankets in the jeep to keep us warm.
Here are some impressions from that day.
The backdrop of the Waterberg mountains makes for a dramatically beautiful landscape.
And here are some elephants crossing a dry river bed..
And a giraffe, leopard tortoise and a young bull elephant…
On our last day at Marataba, we were taken on a River Safari on the Miss Mara, which was truly magical.
Elephants are my favourite animals, but on this trip I actually realised how dangerous they can be. A night encounter with a herd of elephants, 2 cheetahs and a giraffe left us really scared and with a new respect for these magnificent creatures.
Here’s an idea of how a night safari feels in an open jeep. The parks use red lamps to look for game instead of white lamps, because the white lamps blind the animals and can make them more vulnerable to hunters.
Unfortunately, we had to leave Marataba the next day, but we still had a few days of safari left.
Here’s a video about the property:
Part 2 of my blog will focus on Madikwe safari lodge, which is where we went next. To read that, click here: South Africa Part 2