A zebra is grazing a few metres from the restaurant. Close by is a warthog that is snout-deep in grass behind a fence that has a sign written “do not feed the baboons” on it. Behind all of that is a larger than life elephant and if you look closely enough, a rhino on bended hoof.
The zebra and warthog are real. The elephant and rhino, however, are an awe-inspiring part of a huge rock that is a part of the Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge main attractions. The shapes on the rock just formed in a cosmic way that makes them look like animals that are bountiful at the Lodge.
On a scorching hot morning in the North West, Maxine Rennie of the Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge shows us around the 4-star accommodation that is a part of the Pilanesberg National Park.
There are 90 luxury rooms on the premises with 36 of those consisting of double beds and the rest including twin bed options. I stayed in a double bed room that opened up to a lush terrace. That particular room had a shower and bath combo but there are rooms that have separate showers - which is always ideal.
Close to the executive rooms side, there is a pool, a life-size outdoor chess board as well as a playground for kids. The Kwa Maritane restaurant serves a buffet breakfast and dinner and for lunch, the menu is a la carte.
On one side of the restaurant is nothing but a fence separating you and your family from all sorts of animals. There is a watering hole that attracts mostly small animals like birds, springbok, zebra and the like. On the other side of the restaurant, closer to the reception is a fully-serviced bar.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays, Kwa Maritane makes it a real South African holiday with a braai that takes place at the bush boma. The general aesthetic of Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge is one of sharing. Whether it’s a romantic getaway, a trip with your best friend or a family vacation, there is just enough luxury and just enough room for real-life messiness to work for either.
For instance, the spa is a beautiful oasis of relaxation. There is a heated pool, an outdoor shower and a plethora of packages to choose from. We were treated to a complimentary back massage which would have been absolutely perfect had there not been a minor - ok, major - distraction. The spa sound system blared country songs, Christian Rock and even a bootleg Josh Groban song.
That is definitely not the soundtrack to relaxation. Even Enya or just simple ocean sounds would have done the trick. When I asked the masseuse about the playlist, she said the music is centrally controlled so whoever is on the computer can play DJ. Welp. The spa may not be suitable for families with small children - or anyone who doesn’t like Bles Bridges - but there are other amenities that are kid-friendly.
I especially love the Junior Rangers’ Program. This program is especially designed to make children familiar with animals from a very young age. It’s like biology class but only cooler. Rennie explained that they have had children as young as four years old join the program because their enthusiasm cannot be turned away.
Kwa Maritane is home to the Big 5 so naturally, a game drive is always a must if you’re in the area. If you’d like to see the animals, there are several options at your disposal. There is a self-drive option, guided bush walks (which are not for the faint-hearted), guided drives with an experienced ranger, star-gazing as well as tree, bird and nature walks. We decided to let the experts lead the way and chose the guided game drive option.
The vehicle only left maybe 20 minutes after the advertised time. There was no explanation as to why we were going to be tardy for the party. Usually taking about three hours to complete, the drive started late and I started to wonder if that was maybe the reason why we didn’t see any of the Big 5 til about an hour into the drive.
We spotted a pride of lions in the distance, a herd of elephants close enough to not need to use the zoom on your camera and rhinos even lazily walked in our path. That was a real treat. Halfway through our excursion, we stopped to use the restroom and enjoy a drink before the sun set. That was a welcome break because we were also on the vehicle that had two kids - one who must have been about four or five years old - on board.
Those children were really annoying. It would have been acceptable if they were just inquisitive and asking questions but instead, the smaller one was crying and making sounds as she was shuttled between her mother and father in shifts.
This is not the kind of game drive you should bring restless children. Especially because the drive continued til dark and now the kids were cold and complaining. Perhaps there should be an “adults only” option when it comes to these drives.
Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge is beautiful - even if you don’t use any one of their five conference rooms. The dinner is exceptional and the staff is friendly. That huge rock that looks like animals are frozen in time is incredibly beautiful to view but with a name like Kwa Maritane - which means “place of the rock” - it’s no wonder.
Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge is inside the Pilanesberg National Park in the North West province.