Well Found Welgevonden
After a tiring journey, admittedly just a 3 and a half hour drive from OR Tambo International Airport, we had finally arrived at the West Gate of the Welgevonden Private Game Reserve (near Vaalwater in the Limpopo Province) for a long-awaited game holiday.
We happily abandoned our rental car (no private vehicles are allowed in the reserve) and scampered into the back of the open 4×4 safari vehicle, while our game ranger collected and stowed our luggage. Then we were off on our +/- 30 minute “transfer” to the lodge. Within minutes, Welgevonden lived up to the meaning of its name (well found), as we sloughed off the tiredness of the trip and found that sense of peace and the true relaxation that can only be experienced in the bush, with an almost immediate sighting of a Zebra mother and foal …
The 34,000 hectare reserve is home to over 50 mammal species (including the Big 5), prolific birdlife (over 300 species) and more than 10 different lodges offering accommodation to visitors in search of the ultimate holiday – a game experience. The lodge we would be calling home for the next 3 days is Sediba Private Game Lodge. This 5 star, thoroughly luxurious lodge is set on a rocky hillside amidst a forested valley proliferated with trees and their warm and cold blooded inhabitants.
Arriving at the lodge, we were warmly greeted and escorted through the main lodge, to our own private chalet, one of only ten, all connected via wooden walkways. The lodge is unfenced and we were immediately advised to call reception for an escort should we wish to leave our suite at night. Though safe to walk around during the day, the lodge has been visited by the occasional predator and the adage “better safe than sorry” is immediately appreciated.
Our palatial suite could not have provided a more comfortable respite. The open-plan bedroom and lounge area feature floor to ceiling windows and doors opening onto our own private deck surrounded by trees, with a Jacuzzi for 2 and an outdoor shower.
Though at first disappointed that we’d arrived too late to join the afternoon game drive, this was swiftly allayed by the discovery of a troop of Vervet monkeys which seemed to have made the trees surrounding our chalet their sundowner spot for the day. We settled into the Jacuzzi with a glass of fine South African wine and watched them leap from branch to branch. Their inquisitive natures led them closer and closer (one was brave enough to scamper onto our deck), but just a movement or word from us and they’d disappear, darting back to the safety of the branches from which they’d come.
Nightfall brought its own wonders. After a quick outdoor shower as the sun set, we were collected with a smile and escorted to dinner. I won’t spoil the surprise, but let me assure you that dinner at Sediba is an event and though you may be tempted to indulge in a candle-lit dinner in the privacy of your suite (something I highly recommend), make sure that you experience at least one dinner in the Boma.
Although not one who enjoys waking up early the 6am wake-up call had me bounding out of bed, eager to set off on our first game drive. Moments later we had embarked, cameras and binoculars in tow. Three of the Big 5 graced us with their presence over the course of the next 2 days – lion, elephant and rhino (Welgevonden boasts one of the largest rhino populations of any private game reserve in South Africa) – but my favourite sightings are always of the “less in demand” inhabitants of the reserve – a herd of Waterbuck making a hasty retreat and thereby showing off their target-like markings on their rears, Warthog scrounging and digging for roots, Klipspringers hopping from rock to rock, being introduced to a huge scorpion.
Between game drives, indulge in a massage at the Health & Wellness Centre, take a dip in the pool or relax on the deck with a good book. If you like to sit and watch the open plains in the hopes of spotting some game, Sediba may not be for you. Its location, though stunning, does not offer great game watching from the lodge itself – you are unlikely to look out and see giraffe, antelope or other large game, though monkeys, birds, butterflies and the odd klipspringer are frequent visitors. But Sediba offers a tranquillity seldom experienced elsewhere. That delicious sense of boredom, which leads to an afternoon nap, is so rare in today’s frantic lifestyle and to read for 4 hours and not feel like one should be doing something more productive, is an unexpected joy.
Two days later, setting off on our return journey to Johannesburg, it wasn’t long before our cellphones began chirping again and the roads became progressively busier as we approached the airport. I felt a sweet sense of loss – one which will only be alleviated with my return to the African bush. Peace, tranquillity, relaxation and an appreciation for our natural heritage are well found at Welgevonden Private Game Reserve.
Photographs: Click on the thumbnails to view large photographs: