The plan was to leave Johannesburg early morning and venture into Limpopo, the far northern part of South Africa that shares it’s borders with Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. After a few days in Limpopo, we would drive east and enter Mpumalanga, a province that borders both Swaziland and Mozambique. Here we would base ourselves for the remainder of our trip before heading back to Pretoria. I’ve now driven a huge amount of South Africa and each time I am totally blown away with it’s beauty; This drive was really something special.
Johannesburg to Marakele Reserve: 4 hours
I arrived at OR Tambo after the usual 11 hour flight from London. Mauritz met me at the airport and from there we made a 4 hour drive north to the Marakele Game Reserve. Funny, we hadn’t actually met before this trip but I had admired Maurtiz’s work for a while, he seemed like a cool guy and we had a lot in common so I asked him if he wanted to join me; the best decision I could have made. Sometimes it’s not just about where you go, it’s about who you go with. This was definitely one of those times.
When we reached the border of the Marakele reserve we were given a map, showing the general direction to Marataba Lodge. The lodge was another 10 km into the reserve of dirt tracks where dust settled to reveal zebra and wildebeest running alongside the car. Upon arrival we were driven another 40 minutes deep into the reserve. The sun began to set and as it did, the surrounding mountains were illuminated a deep beautiful red.
After waiting patiently for a herd of elephants to clear we reached our lodge, nestled high upon the golden mountainside. We were totally speechless. From our balcony we could see for miles into the bush; elephants walked below us, munching on the trees that lay in their path. There was a tranquility and silence unmatched by anywhere I had ever been before. I couldn’t feel further from the manmade jungle that we had left behind; totally isolated, totally lost in the luscious vistas that surrounded us.
Where We Stayed: Marataba Trails Lodge, Limpopo
The lodge itself was without question the most beautiful place I have ever stayed: peaceful and elegant, it actually felt like it belonged in the bush. The roof was laden with grass, the walls with wide open windows and wooden slats. I didn’t feel that we were intruding into the reserve, there wasn’t a single sign around the lodge making it feel real and natural. What’s more, there is no electricity; the lodge is totally solar powered.
We spent the next couple of days hiking through the reserve, not an ounce of civilisation in sight. We would be out at sunrise, trekking the bush with experienced guides where we would pass lions, rhino and we even had a buffalo encounter. Upon our return to the lodge we were greeted with incredible, organic food around the campfire. Stars filled the sky and I left feeling incredibly lucky.
Limpopo is beautiful. Vast open plains and deep golden grasses lined the rolling hills and long straight roads. Upon the narrow lanes lay stalls of bright vibrant fruit and vegetables, shaded with bamboo and banana-leaf rooftops. We stopped one evening as the sun began to set and asked one lady for two bananas, handing her R40 which she presumed to be for two boxes, not two bananas. “Why would you only want two when you have paid me enough for two boxes?” Laughing, she returned to her stand where she took a few minutes searching to find her most perfect bananas. As she proudly presented them to us she hesitated and said, “Thank you.” Her eyes smiled a radiant smile that filled her entire face; so great that it lit up the now darkened sky. It was time to venture to Mpumalanga. This evening had been idyllic.
I think you can see how much I loved Limpopo from the photos. If you’ve never been, I couldn’t recommend it more. Such a beautiful part of South Africa that feels totally unspoilt and untouched. It was such an honour to be able to spend time chilling out in the bush.
[Part 2 coming soon… Think road trip music, Blyde River Canyon and the best pancakes in South Africa]
Photos by Mauritz and Myself. Check out more photos from our time in Limpopo on Mauritz’s incredible Instagram: Mauritz Crous