Situated in Limpopo’s striking Waterberg region, Welgevonden Private Game Reserve is just an easy two and a half hour drive from Johannesburg, yet it feels a million miles away.
The weekend crowds and busy tar roads that are found in other parks in the vicinity of South Africa’s biggest city, such as Pilanesberg and Kruger, are notably absent from this exclusive yet remarkably accessible wildlife sanctuary.
If you are in need of a really wild weekend getaway in these wintry months, Welgevonden is certainly worth a visit.
Self-drive vehicles are not allowed in Welgevonden, so you’ll leave your car – along with all your worries – at the gate on arrival and be picked up and taken to your lodge. Most of the reserve’s small handful of luxury lodges are restricted to a maximum of ten guests, so overcrowding certainly won’t be an issue at breakfast or dinner time either.
Aptly, Welgevonden roughly translates as “well-found”.
The reserve was founded in 1993, consolidating a number of private farms, removing internal fences, reintroducing a vast array of wildlife species and returning this area to its original natural state.
The reserve is the culmination of the long-time vision of Pienkes du Plessis, who owned the original Welgevonden farm in the 1980s. Today, the reserve covers more than 37 000 hectares and forms an integral part of the UNSESCO Waterberg Biosphere Reserve.
The Welgevonden project was also the first in South Africa to translocate entire breeding herds of elephants.
The Waterberg region offers an amazing variety of unspoiled habitats which, collectively, are home to more than 129 species of mammal, 350 bird species and more than 2 000 species of plant.
After a weekend of game drives around Welgevonden Game Reserve with a keen eye and the help of any one of the park’s experienced guides, you should be able to tick most of the above off your list. Giraffe, rhinoceros, warthog and porcupines are among the interesting mammals indigenous to the region, while the reserve itself is now also home to the rest of the Big 5 as well as cheetah, brown hyena, honey badger and a whole lot more.
Again, what sets Welgevonden apart from much of the rest of the pack is that even on the busiest of weekends, the restriction on numbers of lodge guests and absence of private vehicles means you’ll never be jostling with armies of other vehicles to get a good view of the action.
In terms of the reserve’s accommodation options, all its lodges are built with strict attention to the aesthetic code set by the bushveld surroundings. While the reserve’s exclusively five star lodge offerings may not quite be to the standard of some of in Kruger’s luxury options or a few of the lodges in nearby Madikwe Game Reserve, the much more reasonable prices more than make up for this, while the food and service remains top-notch throughout.
All of the reserve’s lodges sit on their own freehold and unfenced (this might not be for the faint of heart) portion of this vast reserve and have access to the whole sanctuary.
Each lodge offers a range of different game drives. Particularly special are the nighttime game drives. If you want to make your wild weekend at Welgevonden even more intimate, stay at !Bhubesi Private Game Lodge and you get unlimited game drives with your own personal game ranger. Many lodges can also organize guided morning bush walks which take in the ancient San rock paintings found in Welgevonden and give you a more organic view of the reserve’s topography, flora and fauna.
So escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a weekend at Welgevonden – it will certainly be a “well-founded” decision.
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