Time for tea. Pic: Em Gatland
I’ve never been to Limpopo before. Yes, that’s an embarrassing thing to admit for someone who has lived in South Africa her entire life. But I’m not alone; many South Africans haven’t fully explored the historical and natural beauty of our country.

Tragic as it is, it validates SA Tourism’s latest campaign in which it is driving home an important message: “It’s Your country. Explore it!”

And that’s what I did when I headed to Bushwa Private Game Lodge, which is situated in a malaria-free area.

I timed the visit around a public holiday that dovetailed beautifully with the weekend. In hindsight, it was not a smart decision because many people were driving home for the long break. That meant congestion was my unwelcome companion on the four-hour trip that took more than six hours.

Apart from the daylight fading, my friend and I were about to get disconnected from Google Maps as both our phone batteries were running dangerously low.

But we soldiered on.

If the bar area isn’t manned by a staff member, guests are trusted to help themselves and simply jot down their drinks.

Reliant mostly on the signage along the route, we braved a dirt road with some steep inclines and dips in a sedan instead of an SUV or a more suitable off-road ride. Talk about another faux pas.

But the warm reception we got from Lisa McColl (the general manager) melted away the frustration and exhaustion of the drive.

Within minutes, we were seated in the bar area with drinks in hand until dinner, which was several minutes away. The menu, conceived by junior chef Danelle Naude, was a winner in every way. Every dish served was imaginative, packed with flavour and beautifully presented. My interview with the talented 21-year-old revealed more about her - so read on!

Stuffed from a truly remarkable dinner, which was an intimate affair shared with a handful of other guests, we retired to our luxury safari-style chalet.

The canopy bed stole my attention when we opened the door. Let’s just say, I love these type of beds, which first surfaced during medieval times. The en-suite bathroom led to an outdoor stone shower, which is perfect during those balmy summer days and nights.

This nirvana of bushveld establishments is aggrandised by its safari chic décor.

Game drive open vehicle

We opted to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast the following day. Lunch was followed by a short siesta on the viewing deck and an afternoon game drive in an open safari vehicle.

Do manage your expectations, though, the wildlife options are limited so don’t go looking to spot the Big Five. But we had sightings of zebras, elephants, wildebeests and kudus. There are more than 300 species of resident and migrant birds. You can also expect to find elands, warthogs, waterbuck, bush pigs, leopards, jackals, brown hyenas and baboons.

With the sun retreating behind the hills on the horizon and the air becoming agonisingly colder, it was time for sundowners - some intoxicating warmth was in order.

Of course, you can’t visit a game lodge and not experience a boma dinner under the stars.

Kept warm by the huge bonfire at the centre, we tucked into a delicious spread of braai meat, pap, salads, bread, rolls and dessert, of course. The ever-attentive Lisa and her staff were on hand to top up our glasses.

Talk about another beautiful, serene day, where the lack of a TV set encourages you to unwind and socialise with your fellow diners. New friends were made while the calories piled on - not that I was counting at the time.

The Boma area around the campfire is perfect for all seasons.

I didn’t get around to visiting the spa but a fellow guest couldn’t stop singing the praises of her afternoon massage. She also raved about her previous night’s stay at the tree house, which was a first for her.

The weather over the weekend didn’t lend itself to much downtime by the pool, which boasts stupendous views of the natural landscape. There are several accommodation options during a stay at Bushwa Private Game Lodge. You can go the luxurious route with a luxury chalet/tent. For those seeking more privacy, try the rustic tree house overlooking the watering hole or the self-catering bush camp.

The personalised touch provided by the staff makes every guest feel valued. And the divine dishes and ambience is the perfect antidote to erase those everyday stresses of life.

You leave feeling thoroughly rejuvenated, especially after inhaling all that wonderful fresh air.

Food is an integral part of any travel experience. When you are constantly served meals that tickle your taste buds, you become interested to learn more about the person behind the menu.

That person was Naude, who served under executive chef Elizabeth Monyeki.