If you have visited as many game lodges as I have been fortunate to do, you begin to look for something different. Makakatana Bay, some two- and-a-half hours from Durban, is just that. Set on the banks of Lake St Lucia, the heart of Africa’s largest natural estuary, it is secluded, tranquil and the only privately owned lodge within iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site.
This really is a place to unwind in nature. There are no TVs, the individual chalets are set within the foliage of the dune forest – and you’re all alone. Really alone.
Makakatana Bay is set on the western shore of Lake St Lucia and this 30 000-odd hectares is not open to the public, so seeing other humans is a rarity.
This alone (excuse the pun) makes game drives unique. What also sets Makakatana apart is the beach safaris. After a leisurely breakfast we took a 4x4 excursion to the beach which, once again, only lodge guests have access to.
On this beautiful, deserted stretch of wild, unspoilt coastline, you really begin to feel both king for a day and far removed from everyday life.
The same goes for the boat cruises. Makakatana has the only private boat on the upper stretches of the St Lucia estuary – plebs coming from St Lucia have to turn around at a marker. And “our” stretch of water has more hippos and crocs – the highest concentration of hippos in SA.
This exclusivity is easy to relish and is oh-so relaxing. With some effort we pried our butts out of our seats and headed into the veld in the hands of head ranger Louwrina Beyers for a lovely lunch. A good guide really makes all the difference in the bush. Louwrina certainly is that.
You’ll find most of the big game, with the exception of lion. We were not lucky enough to see leopard, but saw plenty of large tracks. Around sunrise the next morning we again saw plenty of tracks – in cement – when we visited the splendiferous “tree house”. These spoor are imprinted as an educational tool on the winding path to the massive, multi-tiered deck built around a magnificent Natal Mahogany.
The views from here are even more magnificent – across the water towards the longest range of forested dunes in the world.
Makakatana was a chieftain who lived in the area long ago. The Morrison family has been here since 1918 – Hugh and Leigh-Ann the present incumbents.
They carefully established a lodge which blends completely with the forest – expect bushbabies on your roof and warthog beneath the raised floor.
There are only six rooms, all with huge double sliding doors – glass and mosquito mesh, so you feel very much part of nature, particularly in the delightful outdoor shower. - Sunday Tribune