Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Makweti Safari Lodge in the Welgevonden Private Game Reserve

“ Good better best, never let it rest, till the good is better and the better best” 
was a favourite saying of my primary school principal

I was wondering how this would apply when my wife and I 
recently returned to Makweti Safari Lodge in the Welgevonden private game reserve 
to see how they had improved their already outstanding Lodge.

As with our previous trip we were greeted on arrival by the friendly lodge staff 
who whisked our luggage off to our chalet.

We went down to the main building for lunch where I noticed 
a new bespoke table on the deck adjacent to the dining room. 
Even to returning visitors like us the changes were so subtle
 that I eventually had to have them pointed out to me.

An moved ornament here, a new artifact there...
then I realized that this is why Makweti is so special!
Understated changes but reassuring to know that the Lodge is not resting on its five-star laurels!
After lunch we were taken across the swing bridge to our chalet 
to settle in before the afternoon game drive.

In the chalet we noticed that the curtains had been changed and some of the decor upgraded.
New, VERY fluffy towels graced the bathroom and, 
as we discovered later, new bed linen as well!

What cannot be changed, or so I thought, was the quality of the viewing while on our game drives. 
At the end of our first drive we were able to spend time with a mother cheetah and her three cubs. Even though the light was fading and the family group was a distance away,
 it was still an exciting time.

The lodge has not bowed to pressure to install a large screen TV to watch sport on, 
and I am truly grateful for that! 
Mobile phone signal is erratic in the reserve and non-existent at the lodge, 
which was another plus for me. 
As a working travel writer it is not very often that I can actually cut myself off 
from all forms of electronic intrusions.

Dinner on our first night was shared with a honeymoon couple from Mexico 
and was served in the boma adjacent to the main lodge building.
Great food, wonderful company and candle light under the starry African sky…
what more could any of us have wanted?
As the camp is unfenced, a ranger had to accompany us to and from our chalet 
after dinner and in the early morning.

While waiting for the ranger to fetch me for our early morning game drive the following morning, 
I heard the sound of branches being broken, not far from our front door.
It turned out to be a young male elephant that had already paid a visit to the camp herb garden earlier! He had also taken an interest in the satellite telephone system...
perhaps he was trying to make a trunk call?

I also found this stunning female Golden Orb spider opposite our veranda
Although the game drive was somewhat quiet, 
it gave me time to reflect on how fortunate we are to have 
such a diversity of wildlife on our doorstep...

But I understand why international visitors, who have time constraints, 
would want to see the ‘Big 5’ almost as soon as they step of the plane.

As it was the final morning for our Mexican honeymoon couple, 
the drive lasted longer than expected in order to try to find a last glimpse of predators. 
Unfortunately that did not happen, but a number of unusual bird sightings made up for that.

Meanwhile...back at the lodge...it was time for breakfast that almost morphed into lunch.

Together with the ranger, we decided to turn lunch into a mid-afternoon picnic 
that we would have during our game drive.

Our final afternoon/evening drive turned out to be very exciting 
with elephants livening up a quiet drive and sighting a caracal the highlight. 
(The latter being a first for me)
Our final game drive produced lion, rhino and elephant 
as well as a glimpse of a departing male Cheetah…a rare and awesome sighting.

We were packed and about to leave when we were informed that there was an elephant at the waterhole…bags were left and cameras grabbed in our rush to get to the viewing deck.

A second elephant joined the “party” while a herd of Zebra 
and group of Kudu also decided to stop by.

All this activity did not seem to stress a family of Warthogs 
that were intent on trying to burrow their way to Australia.

Eventually we had to leave as we still had to get back to our car at the main gate
 and reluctantly make our way home. 
(Being an easy 3-hour drive from Jhb makes Makweti a great weekend destination)

Our thanks to Jaques, Marieza and Octavus for making us feel so welcome.
To Chef Eric and assistant chef Jo, thanks for all the great food… 
As a proud member of the Chaine De Rotisseure all the meals reflected the reason for the association.
For more information on Makweti visit their website: http://www.makweti.com

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