We often underestimate the power of a short getaway from the bustling city.
Something as small as breathing in fresh air, waking up to the sound of chirping birds and opening your window to see a landscape you can only dream of.
At Monate Game Lodge, just over two hours outside of Joburg, all this is a reality.
Don’t let the long and winding gravel road fool you; once you’ve off-ramped from the main road, the minute you get to the lodge, tranquillity sets in.
It could be because of the choice of colour on the walls – a cool and calming grey, or just knowing that you are free from any unnecessary hooting and enraged drivers on the road.
On our arrival, we quickly got into holiday mode and took a dip in one of the two pools available to guests at the lodge. The perfect water temperature cooled off our sun-kissed skins until it was time to check in and explore some more.
The lodge offers 26 modern double-rooms and two exclusive luxury lodges that are just a walkway bridge from the main lodge.
The luxury lodges – Shingwedzi and Skukuza – are a cut above the rest with all the comforts of home; a dining space for days you don’t feel like going out and a lounge with the most comfortable couches guaranteed to fulfil your napping needs. Skukuza also comes with a mini-kitchen, encouraging you to bring along some friends if you decide to take a weekend break with the boys or the girls or even the family.
Shingwedzi has a touch of the wild side with the lodge being part canvas tent. Once you open up the roller tent canvas, a deck with a splash pool and outside boma-fire greets you (both the lodges have these exclusive extras).
It is picturesque… you will not want to go home.
If you aren’t a fan of insects and bugs, you may want to settle in one of the main lodges to avoid bumping into the occasional frog that sent my roommate into a frenzy.
There is a bush spa and a jacuzzi for those who want to be pampered while appreciating nature. Since our trip was an overnight stay, we had to get in as much activity as possible.
A sunset game drive around parts of the 1 839-hectare private reserve was the perfect way to start our evening, when most of the animals can be spotted as they head to a water source after a long day.
There is also an option to do a morning drive. The rangers can answer all the questions you may have on the animals – from the buffalo to the zebras and giraffes – and add some k n o w l e d g e about how some of the animals came to be named. One such animal is the steenbok. It camouflages itself so well in the bush that it can be mistaken for a rock, hence the name.
The reserve is home to almost half the bird species found in the country. On the game drive, we stopped at one of the scenic parts of the reserve to watch the sunset over some drinks and biltong. The surrounding landscape and being so close to nature relaxes the soul. Needless to say, most of our pictures on the trip were taken at that majestic vantage point.
Down below us the hippos were cooling off from the day, while the crocodiles were still soaking up the last bits of sun. If you have the courage to, you can swop a game drive for a game walk to truly enjoy the natural surroundings and animals.
After the game drive, we were pleasantly surprised with another must do experience: dinner in the natural cave. Some port to start the night off was followed by a walk up to the natural cave the lodge is built around.
The cave overlooks a waterhole and the reserve.
Formed about 300 000 years ago, the cave came to be after an inland lake drained out. African tribes used the cave some 1 000 years ago as a spiritual site. The dinner is set up like the lunch buffet with a choice of meats, salads and breads, while the braai entices you to keep going back for more. The toughest part of the experience is heading back down the pathway without falling over from a full stomach.
This Modimolle establishment is home to three of the Big Five.
While we missed the lions on the sunset game drive, we got the chance to see one lazing about in the morning on our way to the bush breakfast. One of the many highlights of the trip was waking up early to experience an amazing breakfast buffet in the bush, with animals roaming nearby.
The chef makes his own marmalades and gave us a taste of his tomato jam and mango/ passion fruit marmalade… divine.
The scrumptious breakfast filled us up enough for the drive back home.
The lodge also offers conference facilities and has excellent Wi-Fi to keep you connected with your loved ones back home.
If your plan is to stay for a weekend, you may want to go on a tour of the caves, bird watching at the Nylsvley Nature Reserve or do some stargazing. Monate Game Lodge lives up to its name, it’s a good break from the city
It was all things “monate”, as The Star celebrated its 130th Christmas party in Limpopo. My experience at the Monate Lodge was unforgettable with hundreds of perfect photo opportunities, Wi-Fi connection, luxurious rooms and beautiful views.
As a photo opportunist, I made sure that I kept my followers up to date with my hourly posts on what we experienced at the lodge. Imagine, a day where you can arrive and find yourself jumping into the nearest pool with different types of buck grazing and squirrels darting around as your backdrop.
The animals, the breeze and an amazing view of the sunset was all a girl needed to get away from the big city.
Visitors can be sure that they will be fed throughout their stay, because I left the lodge feeling like I had gained a couple of kilograms. Breakfast in the bush, lunch in an exclusive restaurant and dinner in a cave was quite an experience for me.
The week was winding down when we arrived in Limpopo and although we all came to Monate Game Lodge to relax, we couldn’t help but bring Joburg’s stress along. What really helped me unwind was the game drive in the evening.
With the fresh breeze blowing through my hair, I put my feet up, cuddled with a blanket and took the sights of the bush in.
After I watched the animals in their natural habitat, the ultimate highlight of the trip was having sundowners on top of a mountain. My colleagues and I spent quality time bonding and taking pictures together in the scenic venue.