When we got wind of a pack of lions in close proximity, there were mixed emotions from the contingent of journalists in the open game vehicle. After all, it was barely 24 hours since a video of a lion attacking the owner of a game reserve went viral on social media.
As we drove closer to the area where our guide expected to find the lions, the surge in anxiety levels dropped when we found them asleep.
Our guide deduced, from their deep sleep, that they had just fed.
Still, there was a deafening silence from the whole group, myself included, expecting these fierce felines to awake.
Of course, our paranoia wasn’t completely unfounded. A driver in a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction awoke one of the lions. It leaped up, blocking the road. The lion’s temporary annoyance subsided as the vehicle retreated, and he returned to a blissful slumber.
And so it was back to Mabula Game Lodge, a sprawling 4-star establishment, located in the malaria-free Waterberg region of Limpopo.
Upon our arrival the day before, we were treated to high tea by the pool area. The scones and variety of cakes and biscuits were absolutely scrumptious.
The suites at the lodge are spacious and comfortable. The wooden furniture and thatched roof complemented the African chic decor.
The weather lent itself beautifully to a braai dinner in the great outdoors, and we got a crash course on the history of the place and how it’s been transformed to its lavish setting today.
This included a short film detailing the lodge’s expansion through the years.
By the end, dinner was ready. And what a spread it was, there were lamb chops, boerewors, kebabs and more (hitting that carnivorous spot for me).
After the game drive, we were treated to a quick relaxing back-and-neck massage at the spa before heading out to Kwafubesi Tented Safari Camp, where we took turns quadbiking and horse riding.
It was my first time doing either of the activities and to do so in the middle of the bush was very special.
Aside from the various outdoor activities, you will be able to spot warthog, zebra, wildebeest, crocodile, giraffe, hippo and rhino on the game drive.
Of course, no two are the same.
As part of its conservation efforts, Mabula champions the Ground Hornbill Project, a conservation initiative which has set out to combat the declining numbers of the endangered southern ground hornbill. There are currently about 1500 of them left in South Africa.
We visited the release and reintroduction site at the lodge and learn about their operation from one of the onsite researchers.
On our last night, we enjoyed an African-themed dinner at the Ndlovu Boma. I’m not going to lie, my plate was heaped with pap, gravy, Greek salad, braaied chicken and steak. With the slight chill in the air snuffed out by the fire, the young dancers transformed the place into a festive one.
Most of us opted for an early night in anticipation of the hot-air balloon safari planned for the crack of dawn.
The exhilarating half-hour trip surpassed expectations. I couldn’t think of a better way to end this trip.