Time spent in the wilderness offers a soul-stirring escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, providing a much-needed respite that reconnects you with the natural world. As you traverse the sun-kissed savannas, you are transported into a world that throbs with life, with every sight, sound, and scent painting a vivid tapestry of the wild.
When life in Johannesburg becomes overwhelming, it's a true blessing to have a wildlife sanctuary like the malaria-free Qwabi Private Game Reserve within easy reach, to offer a much-needed escape from the urban chaos. Located just three hours away from Johannesburg, the Big 5 reserve is set in one of only two UNESCO-declared savannah biospheres in Africa, in the Bela-Bela region of Limpopo. One of South Africa’s newest reserves, it was opened to the public in December 2022.
Over the long weekend, we had the opportunity to visit the luxurious family-friendly Letamo Lodge in the reserve. A second property, Babohi Lodge, an adults-only retreat, opened after our stay there and a third lodge, Semela, is scheduled to open in 2024. All the lodges are managed by the renowned Newmark Hotels and Reserves.
We were welcomed with refreshing mocktails and seated in the stylish sunken lounge, where we were treated to one of the most entertaining check-in procedures we’ve ever experienced, by the hilarious Nellie, one of the admin staff members. Her humour and warmth instantly set the stage for an enjoyable stay at the lodge.
The property is fairly large for a safari lodge, with 58 rooms of varying sizes, including 10 luxury suites with private plunge pools, and inter-leading rooms for families. Our premium suite was both comfortable and luxurious. With its high thatched roof, it exuded authentic African chic while providing ample space for relaxation. The suite was thoughtfully designed, featuring a huge king-sized bed, a comfortable lounging area with a television, ample wardrobes, a convenient coffee station with a Nespresso machine and a complimentary minibar. The bathroom featured fragrant brown-sugar-and-fig-scented amenities by Woodbury & Co.
Full-length glass sliding doors opened onto an expansive balcony, complete with a seating area that offered the perfect vantage point to observe the surrounding bush. We loved sipping on our coffees and unwinding there in between game drives.
Safaris at Letamo Lodge were truly memorable. Our enthusiastic game ranger, Frikkie, guided us on exhilarating game drives amid the striking landscapes of the 11 000-hectare Qwabi Private Game Reserve, against the backdrop of the ancient Waterberg mountains. A sleepy cheetah lazing after feasting on an ostrich, hippos bobbing up and down in the water, a restless lioness on a hunt, a puff adder slithering across the road, an elephant herd crossing our path and a mother rhino with her adorable baby struggling to keep up with her, were just some of the incredible sightings we enjoyed. We also saw buffalos, sable antelopes and elands, as well as other more common animals.
After each morning game drive, we were greeted with a hearty al fresco breakfast consisting of a cold buffet spread and hot a-la-carte options. High tea awaited us before the afternoon game drives, offering a delightful array of sweet and savoury treats. However, the evenings were the main highlight. On our first night, we gathered around a roaring fire in the boma for a traditional African dinner. The second evening was even more special, as we were whisked away to the top of a mountain directly from our game drive. There, under the starry African sky, we indulged in a delicious dinner while being entertained by the rhythmic and captivating performance of gumboot dancers.
Children are welcomed and well-catered for at Letamo Lodge, and we saw many children of all ages having fun during our stay there. Child minders are available too. The kids' clubhouse is thoughtfully designed with an array of games, toys, a jungle gym and a kiddies pool to keep the little ones entertained. The older kids are not forgotten with access to PlayStations, table tennis, and foosball.
For adults, the on-site wellness centre offers a selection of pampering treatments, while the well-equipped gym overlooking the bush allows fitness enthusiasts to maintain their exercise routines. A rim-flow swimming pool overlooks the waterhole where hippos preside. Other activities include safari walks, stargazing and padel at the on-site padel court.
With luxurious accommodation, unique dining experiences, friendly staff and unforgettable wildlife encounters, a stay at Letamo Lodge is the perfect way to reconnect with nature and rejuvenate the soul, without the need for a long drive from the city. Embark on this rejuvenating journey and experience the magic of the African bush right at your doorstep.
Good to know
The lodge has some great specials running and it was refreshing to see that most of the guests were local South Africans.
There is a +/- 30 km stretch of gravel road leading to the lodge. A 4x4 is recommended although not essential.
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