Head on over to Mabula Game Lodge to get your fix of bush and wildlife on your next city break! (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
Mabula Game Lodge can be found nestled within the plush plains of Limpopo, across some 12 000 hectares of flourishing and lush bushveld.
This wildnerness escape sits just a short 2-hour drive from Johannesburg - making for a quick weekend escape to reconnect with nature.
The resort has a wide variety of offers and facilities sure to keep the entire family entertained. From safaris of the foot, wheel and air variety to a luxury and relaxing spa to unwind in - and, of course, plenty of exciting animals to see.
Upon arrival, expect to be greeted with a fresh bowl of water to wash your hands with - the water poured over your hands by an assistant - as well as some hand towels to dab them off after.
Welcoming drinks involve fruit juice in quaint wooden calabash cups. Fair warning: be sure to check for curious bees before sipping the sweet nectar-like beverage up.
Once you're settled into your lavish lodge room, get yourself ready to explore the bush either by foot, game drive vehicle, quad bike, horseback or even hot air balloon - all of which include the assistance and company of a trained game ranger.
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Check out the video below for a summary of the experience:
What you can expect to see:
The reserve is home to the iconic Africa's Big 5, but they tend to be recluse - we got lucky and saw 3 of the amazing and grazing creatures. If you're lucky you might spot some:
- Protected and close knit Southern White Rhinos frolicking about in the thick of the tall grass.
- Bewildered and confused stag Buffaloes caught in the 05:30 headlights.
Caught in the early morning headlights, this buffalo at Mabula Game Lodge was just as tired and confused as the rest of us. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
- Sleepy and full-bellied Lions enjoying a family nap time as they take pride in their daily sleep intake.
A pride of lions taking a post-feast nap at Mabula Game Lodge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
A pair of male lions full-bellied and knackered out after a fresh meal at Mabula Game Lodge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
The game reserve does have elephants and leopards as well, but they're harder to spot, which is surprising with the grand size of an elephant itself. We only saw them once in the far distance and we couldn't even see them from the hot air balloon!
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Other animals you can be sure to see include:
- Wildebeest - these unfortunate creatures form part of Africa's Ugly 5 and can be spotted dotted all over the reserve grazing lazily about.
Lazing and grazing wildebeests at Mabula Game Lodge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
- Warthogs - also from the unfortunate group of the Ugly 5, these Pumba creatures too can be found grazing and scurrying about the reserve.
- Antelope - you'll see a wide range of antelope species roaming the grounds - some even chilling right outside of the lodge entrance. From the flood of impalas, kudus to the large oryx antelope.
Just your friendly neighbourhood kudu greeting your entrance to Mabula Game Lodge's resort area. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
- Zebras - whether they're crossing the road or grazing along its side unbothered, these herbivores are found scattered all over the reserve.
- Giraffes - These skyscraper animals can be seen poking their heads about above the trees, into the trees and possibly into their mate's nether regions as well - to sniff out whether or not its mating season.
Inquisitive giraffes sniffing to see if it is a good mating time. (Photos: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
- Jackals - these curious and inquisitive creatures can be found traipsing in pairs or as a third wheel around in the tall grass of the reserve.
- Birds - the reserve is also home to a range of rare and indigenous bird species, like the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill or the Southern Ground Hornbill. The latter of which can be harder to find as there are only 6 of them and they form part of one of Mabula's conservation programmes.
A Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill spotted at Mabula Game Lodge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
Five of the six endangered Southern Ground Hornbills spotted at Mabula Game Lodge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
- Hippos - These sunbathing water-rhinos are rare to see, but if you're lucky to catch them splashing about the water area be quick with your camera as they move swiftly and gracefully in the water.
A sunbathing hippo giving the camera some seriously sassy side eye at Mabula Game Lodge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
- Crocodiles - you might also just spot a baby croc or two along the water's edge.
A baby crocodile sitting camoflauged at the water's edge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
The reserve also protects and houses cheetahs - of which there are currently only three, however they are difficult to spot as they tend to keep a low profile and hide out deep in the bush.
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Enjoy your morning coffee, breakfast, sundowners or dinner and nightcap in the bush during game drives.
The game ranger sets up a camping table with the appropriate safari cutlery - silver mugs and spoons - for the morning mid-drive coffee stop. You can choose from a range of beverage choices ranging from coffee and tea to hot chocolate and mini Amarula bottles as well as rusks to compliment your morning drink.
The morning bush coffee spread at Mabula Game Lodge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
If your itinerary has you down for breakfast in the bush - you can expect to be driven to an open plain area set up with breakfast buffet tables. You simply grab your plate from a seat at the dining tables set up with fine dining crockery and get your bush breakfast on in style.
An all white breakfast spread with pops of bright orange and green stands out against the neutral bush during this tasty Mabula breakfast. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
Round-up your evening game drive with drinks, hors d'ouvres and breathtaking sunset views over the bush. The set up features an array of light snacks paired with booze, soft drinks and water depending on your preference. Candles are set up around the area for when the sunset dies down to simmer a little longer before heading back to the lodge.
The food was so good the picture was late to this sundowners' party at Mabula Game Lodge. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
It's called 'sundowners' for a reason. Mabula brings the treats with incredible and vibrant sunset views to match. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
Mabula brings a luxury dinner experience into the bush under the stars with a roaring fire braai, comforting potjiekos and tasty sides paired with an elegant dinner set up (similar to the breakfast set up, but with napkin swans). Enjoy the sounds of the bush as you sit toasty in the complimentary ponchos alongside gas heaters to help fend off the icy chill of the wilderness in autumn.
The candles and swans make the Mabula bush dinner look like it stepped out of a fairy-tale. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
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If you don't have main meals (breakfast, lunch or dinner) specified as bush in your itinerary - fret not. The lodge hosts a delicious and decadent set up for each - particularly the dinner experience at the scenic boma where you can roast your marshmallows on the open fire after.
Adventure safaris experience:
Quad Bike Safari
Adrenaline junkies will enjoy this experience. Led by a game ranger on a quad bike, you're taken on a drive through the bush at a safe speed of about 20 kilometres per hour. If you're lucky and manage to spot any animals nearby, the ranger will guide you to stop at an appropriate and safe viewing distance to observe the animals.
Unfortunately, on our ride we did not manage to see any wildlife and that could possibly have to do with the sound the quad bike makes - which is different to the sound of the safari van.
Take to the dirt roads by cruising on a quad bike to see the bush in a different way with Mabula's range of safari options. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
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The perks of horseback safaris are that you can get really close to the game and they will be less inclined to flee as they can smell a fellow animal. The horses are trained and you are guided and led by a game ranger on a horse who will direct you accordingly should you see wilder game and animals on the safari.
However, if you are too nervous or hesitant with this - then perhaps the quad bike one would suit you better.
Pro tip: ask for a chair to help you hoist up onto and off the horse as they are quite high up and you wouldn't want your safari dampened by a broken or twisted ankle.
A ranger preparing the horses for the horseback safari. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
Hot Air Balloon Safari
You can get a bird's eye view of the reserve courtesy of Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris. You're taken up with a game ranger and the pilot in tow and are flown over the game reserve brushing tree top edges that might be housing an unsuspecting leopard - allowing for a surge of sporadic adrenaline.
The views are incredible and you can spy on the shy herds on the sly in the sky.
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After a long and exhilarating day out in the bush embracing your inner Tarzan or Jane, return to the lodge to unwind and relax. Whether you wish to lounge it out in one of the comfy guest lounges or your personal lodge room lounge - you can be sure to rest your tush on a soft and supple cushion.
You can also take a dip in the resort pool or play a bout of tennis if you've still got energy left. If not, visit the lodge spa to unwind your tense spine with one of the relaxing massage offers.
Unwind your spine at Mabula Game Lodge's spa. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
I recommend the hot bamboo massage as it rolls out all of your neck, back and shoulder kinks and knots in one session.
Unwind your spine at Mabula Game Lodge's spa. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)
After a relaxing night back at the lodge - round it up by heading out one last time to sit in complete darkness under a sky bursting with stars and learn about the constellations from a game ranger. Don't be too surprised if an inquisitive jackal joins and listen to the sounds of the bush or animals traipsing about surrounding bush.
What are you waiting for?
Don't be a lurking hippo in the water and plan your weekend escape to Mabula now. (Photo: Saara Mowlana / Traveller24)