You don’t have to go to fancy golf resorts or city boutique hotels for a luxury long weekend tryst - at the Amarula Lapa in Limpopo you can instead taste the wild of Africa and feel like bush royalty.
A short distance from Phalaborwa lies the main headquarters of one of Africa's most iconic liqueurs in the world, easily identified by their elephant insignia. Limpopo is known as the heartland of the marula trees that bear the delicious litchi-like fruit.
CHECK OUT: Why the Limpopo Marula Festival is important for SA heritage - and why you should go
It takes years for a tree to grow and thus cannot be cultivated - Amarula buys its fruits from the local communities that harvest the fruit from their land. One tree can produce 500 fruit in one season, and can be as old as 2 000 years and still bear fruit. Harvest season runs from January to March.
The Lapa offers information sessions on the fruit, how Amarula is made and the conservation and community programmes the brand supports. You can even try out the drinks and meals at their restaurant like milkshakes, creamy curries and even burgers - all using Amarula as an ingredient.
If you drive to Kapama Private Game Reserve, you'll also have the chance to meet the official face of the brand at the elephant sanctuary Camp Jabulani. Sebakwe has been the star of the show since 2004, but before that he was rescued alongside the rest of his herd from a farm in Zimbabwe where they were almost slaughtered. They were trained for elephant back rides and could not be rewilded.
The camp itself got its name from the first elephant that was rescued by the founders - Jabulani. He was abandoned by his mother after getting stuck in a silt dam, and after a year of recovery they tried to introduce him back into the wild, but he was rejected. When the Zimbabwean herd was rehomed at the camp, they accepted Jabulani as their own.
Over the years more rescue elephants made their way to Camp Jabulani, and although initially elephant back rides in Kapama was on offer to raise money to care for them, that was stopped in 2017 and interactions became limited to feeding and petting of the most well-trained elephants - including Sebakwe. These elephants are too dependent on humans to be released back into the wild, but at Kapama they go on daily walks in the reserve with their handlers so they still retain closeness with the wild.
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You can extend your experience with a luxurious stay at Kapama, which has four lovely lodges to choose from across the reserve, but if you’re looking for a good vibe with other travellers Kapama River Lodge offers an ideal stay.
Your morning starts early with the first of two complimentary game drives of the day, and after spotting the animals going about on their morning business your guide stops off on the side of the road for a bush breakfast. You continue on your exploration of Kapama and you’re guaranteed of spotting some big animals – even the Big Five – with the help of a keen-eyed tracker at the front of the vehicle. You return to your lodge for a scrumptious buffet lunch. Your afternoon is wide open for a dip in the pool next to a watering hole or you can indulge in some high-end spa treatments at their wellness centre.
After a quick snack at high tea, you’re off on your second sunset game drive where you’re more likely to spot a stalking leopard or lion getting ready to hunt for their evening meal. After a sundowner in the bush and more night stalking, you head back for another buffet dinner with your guide under a boma where you can recount all the animals you’ve seen that day and listen to bush stories around the bonfire.
Stay, see, do and taste splendour in Limpopo!
SEE: Get wild with Mabula Game Lodge
Disclaimer: Traveller24 Content Producer Gabi Zietsman was hosted by Amarula at Kapama Private Game Reserve.
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