Durban - Until a few weeks ago the word “Makakatana” sounded like an exotic dance to me.
That was before our visit to the exceptionally beautiful four-star Makakatana Bay Lodge, in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Both the family-owned lodge and southernmost bay opening onto Lake St Lucia, are named after Zulu chief Mhakhakhathana.
Situated on the western shores between St Lucia and Charters Creek, Makakatana is the only privately owned lodge in the park, which was South Africa’s first proclaimed World Heritage Site.
After an easy drive of just over two hours from King Shaka International Airport, with only a few kilometres of dirt road, we entered the park via the Nhlozi gate, and were welcomed by owners Hugh and Leigh-Ann Morrison, who pride themselves on a home away from home luxury experience.
Leigh-Ann’s creativity is evident in the cuisine and the decor of the intimate lodge and eight spacious suites, including two new family rooms, three of which are set in dune forest, frequented by friendly warthog, red duiker, nyala, bush babies, birds and hippo. Views, including that from the secluded honeymoon suite, are of veld, vlei and lakes.
Our large terrace doors slid open on to our own private viewing deck, which integrated the luxurious interior with the environment, offering a Zen-like retreat for much-needed relaxation. For me, the choice of a private indoor or outdoor shower, of the new family room, as well as a deep bath under the African stars, was an aspect of the lodge that I really wanted to take home.
Hugh’s children are the fourth generation of Morrisons, a Zululand trading family in the vicinity, and his passion for the area and surrounding activities, ensures an action-packed stay. A two to three-night stay is recommended to accommodate the variety of safaris.
With salt water running through my veins, I tend to be restless when I am away from the ocean and trapped in a dry, dusty environment. However, the park ecosystem offers an exceptional bush-meets-ocean safari experience, which I found very special - and soothing to the soul.
After a leisurely breakfast we embarked on a game drive through the western shore reserve to the eastern shore to explore a secluded beach, only accessible by car with the lodge’s park concession.
We were only minutes from the lodge when we spotted rhino, followed by giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest, elephant and a wide variety of buck. The lush vegetation ranged from savannah to wetland, peppered with an interesting variety of vegetation and palm trees, fever trees, acacias and beautiful umdonis.
The view from the vast sand dune down to Perrier’s Rock (about a 3km walk from Mission Rock) and the surrounding oval-shaped bays, is breathtaking and I felt privileged to be there. After swimming and snorkelling in pristine water, a picnic lunch was well received and we enjoyed the company of a German family who had been visiting South Africa’s premier lodges over the past few weeks. I enjoy meeting foreigners, so I was in my element at Makakatana during the boma dinners.
The homeward game drive ended on a sweet note - with freshly-baked brownies, macaroons, decadent chocolate cake and fresh lemonade awaiting.
The lodge offers evening game drives to explore the wetland’s nightlife, as well as safaris to the nearby Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Big Five game reserve.
Being located a mere 22km from the thriving town of St Lucia opens a host of other exciting activities, from diving at Sodwana to ocean safaris that include whale watching and tours to watch turtles hatching on the beach.
Makakatana offers a full-day private boat trip leaving from St Lucia, up the estuary to view hippo, crocodile and the beautiful surrounds.
There was an inspiring energy in the little village of St Lucia and it was heart-warming to see so many excited international tourists embarking on safaris or just enjoying the coffee shops, restaurants and curio shops.
In all, Makakatana gave us an unforgettable bush and ocean safari experience, topped with the love and friendly hospitality of the Morrison family and their team.
* To find out more call 031 940 8555 or 035 550 4189 or visitwww.makakatana.co.za.