It had been an eventful morning in the bush. Although it was cold, we sat in the game vehicle, doubly cocooned in blankets and ponchos, with hot water bottles in our laps. Our fellow companions were a South African couple with their three energetic, young grandsons, aged between 6 and 10, who were enthusiastically ticking animals off their checklists. Thus far, we had seen a pod of hippos basking in the early morning sun, a herd of buffalo drinking at a waterhole, a crash of rhinos relaxing, a dazzle of zebras grazing, and a solitary elephant bull sauntering through the trees.
DJ, our ranger, had just heard on the busy radio that a male lion had been spotted on an open plain. As we made our way there, he told the boys that he was going to show them all the animals and make them happy. The boys promptly piped up “But we’re already happy!”
Family is at the heart of everything at the Tintswalo Family Camp in Welgevonden Game Reserve. Part of the family-owned Tintswalo group of lodges, it began as a holiday retreat for the owners’ family for years before they decided to share it with the world. In the Shangaan language, the word Tintswalo means “the intangible feeling of love, gratitude and peace that you bestow upon someone who has given you a meaningful and worthy gift.” Love, gratitude and peace are certainly emotions you will feel strongly when staying there.
The fenced lodge is designed to make families feel at home with family suites, play rooms, kids’ activity packs and activities, and kids’ meals on request. Children of all ages are welcome and babysitters are also available. Books and board games can be found throughout the lodge and there is Wi-Fi for the older kids and adults. Staff are great with kids and it was so heart-warming to see the young kids getting excited about wildlife. We were there with our two kids and there were other families all around us having fun throughout our stay too.
It was our third visit to the malaria-free Welgevonden Game Reserve, one of South Africa’s largest private game reserves and one of the best Big 5 game reserves near Johannesburg. Ensconced within the UNESCO Waterberg Biosphere Reserve in the Limpopo province, it adjoins Marakele National Park. The reserve is spectacularly beautiful, with rugged mountain terrain, interspersed with winding rivers, deep valleys and gorges, and grassy plains. It is also home to over 50 mammals including the Big 5, and over 300 bird species. At night, the moon and the stars shine brighter and we were fortunate to witness a supermoon there as well.
Once you reach the main gate, an easy three-hour drive away from the big city, your holiday begins as you park your car inside the gate. Your ranger will meet you and transport you to the lodge as no private vehicles are allowed in the reserve. The drive from the gate to the lodge feels like a bonus game drive. By the time we got to the lodge we had already spotted 10 species of wildlife including 3 of the Big Five. By the end of the day, we had seen the rest of the Big Five, including an elusive leopard on the rocks at night.
We were welcomed at the lodge by a bevy of beautiful ladies singing for us whereafter, we were treated to a delicious lunch overlooking the wilderness. We were then shown to our suite before leaving for the afternoon game drive.
The lodge accommodates up to 16 guests, in a combination of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom freestanding suites, discreetly tucked into the bush along meandering pathways. Our family suite consisted of 2 spacious en-suite bedrooms with verandas overlooking the bushveld. My kids were happy to have their own room, while still being close to us.
Both bedrooms had seating areas and the main bedroom also had a writing desk, a tea and coffee station with cookies, and a minibar. Luxurious velvet gowns and slippers were provided.
At night we would return from the chilly outdoors to our warm suite, which was heated by a fireplace and electric blankets in our beds. Creatively folded towels and chocolates adorned the beds, and the kids were also treated to bedtime stories.
The bathrooms had bathtubs as well as indoor and outdoor showers.
Indoor communal areas consist of a main lounge, a kids’ entertainment room which can be converted into a function room, and a curio shop. Outdoors, there is a swimming pool, an outdoor deck, a boma and a hide overlooking a waterhole. Although there are no televisions in the room, there are two in the communal areas.
The home-style cuisine was delicious, adequately taking our dietary requirements into account. Breakfasts and lunches were served on the deck, while dinners were served either in the main lounge or in the boma, under the stars, around a warm fire. The lodge also has a kosher kitchen and halaal food can be arranged by prior request.
Tintswalo Family Camp is a place where families come together, create lasting memories, and connect with nature. It is a destination that fosters love, gratitude, and peace, leaving visitors with a profound sense of appreciation for the natural world and the precious moments spent with loved ones, making it an ideal choice for an unforgettable multi-generational family safari.
Good to know
Rates include three daily meals, coffee and tea, laundry and two game drives a day with refreshments. Conservation levies and daily reserve entrance fee are excluded.