The adorable trio of cheetah cubs frolicked in the sand, pursuing and pouncing on each other, and climbing termite mounds and trees. They reveled in their youthful energy and freedom, eyeing us curiously in between their play, while their mother scanned the horizon for breakfast. As she strode forward sensing the proximity of prey, they followed her, unable to resist playing as they did so. Just the previous day, I had expressed my wish of seeing cheetah cubs, which I’d never seen before, and now this delightful scene was playing out before me. Fellow safari passengers who wanted to see elephants and chameleons had their wishes fulfilled too.
We were on a game drive with Mabula Game Lodge at the malaria-free Mabula Private Game Reserve in Limpopo, one of the closest Big 5 game reserves to Johannesburg, where the lions rule their own territory. The reserve is also home to its more intimate sister property, Safari Plains, where we stayed on our previous visit.
The family-friendly lodge has 47 rooms and 3 family suites spread over expansive grounds where antelopes graze. Two children under the age of 12 can share a room with their parents and inter-leading rooms are available too.
We stayed in two adjacent thatched units overlooking the bush with our kids. The comfortable en-suite rooms featured chic African decor with luxurious furnishings in bushveld-inspired colours and comprised king-sized beds, desks and plush armchairs.
One evening, we returned from dinner to find beautifully intertwined towel swans adorned with rose petals on our bed.
Satellite television and complimentary wi-fi provide entertainment should inclement weather confine one indoors; however, the allure of the outdoors is great here.
The lodge is a hive of activity just before game drives as so many vehicles prepare to set off simultaneously, yet sightings are not crowded as they embark on diverging routes in the 12 000 hectare reserve. Vehicle numbers at sightings are also limited to avoid intimidating the wildlife.
The game drives were bountiful. On our previous trip to Mabula Game Reserve it was winter and the landscape was dry. This time, I was amazed by the spectacular green vistas against the backdrop of the majestic Waterberg Mountains. It was soothing to be in nature even when we weren't spotting wildlife – although we did have some great sightings. Apart from the cheetahs and elephants, we saw lions, wild dogs, rhinos, buffalos, jackals, hippos and an abundance of plains game.
Besides game drives, there are many other activities to keep young and old entertained, including swimming and sports facilities. The bush can be explored on quad bikes, horseback and by hot air balloons. Avid and amateur stargazers can indulge in stargazing as the night skies are clearer and the stars brighter. The Mabula Spa will help you to unwind with therapeutic spa treatments for adults and children while the curio shop offers therapy of the retail kind. Golf is available at the Zebula Golf Course, 15 minutes away from Mabula Game Lodge. Kids are taken care of by the games room and childrens’ programs with the Cubz Club during peak periods.
All these activities are sure to work up an appetite. Fortunately, you won’t go hungry here as hearty buffet meals are served at the restaurant thrice daily with several options for pescaterians and vegetarians. Meals can also be enjoyed al fresco on the terrace under a 100-year-old Wild Fig tree, overlooking the rock pool and waterfall . Coffee, tea and rusks are served before morning game drives and tea and cakes are served before the afternoon drive.
Mabula Game Lodge ticks all the right boxes for a family-friendly safari lodge. There’s something for everyone here. And the friendly staff, comfortable accommodation, abundant food and beautiful surroundings will ensure that you have a memorable stay. We certainly did.
Good to know
Rates include accommodation, three meals, and two safaris daily. They exclude conservation fees and beverages. See the current specials here.
The Mabula app can be downloaded pre-arrival where you can do an express check-in, as well as find useful information on the facilities at the lodge and book spa treatments and other available activities in advance.
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