Welgevonden Safari Lodge, South Africa

If it is evocative, ancient Africa that you love, rugged beauty and distant horizons unfolding around you, then Welgevonden Safari Lodge will enchant you...

• Situated in the heart of "Big Five" (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard) wilderness terrain, within a UNESCO Biosphere (a Biosphere Reserve is an area where locals work with biodiversity and its sustainable use).
• Five luxurious suites for no more than 10 guests
• Member of the by-invitation-only Chaîne des Rôtisseurs – a hallmark of fine cuisine
• Panoramic surroundings: A waterhole on your doorstep, plus teak decks overlooking Welgevonden Gorge

My experience at Welgevonden:
The Big Five roaming through the camp is one of the unique aspects of this luxury lodge. But there are many others. Welgevonden is a small camp – it accommodates only 10 guests in five luxury chalets on private game reserve. While not hugely well-known to South Africans, Welgevonden is home to 22 private lodges and is only a three hour’s drive from Johannesburg. The main lapa, restaurant and bar are small and intimate giving the establishment a homely feel where you can put your feet up with only the vervet monkeys and a handful of staff that quickly start feeling like family. Attention to detail extends to the excellent collection of wines and cuisine which has earned the lodge its membership of the “by-invitation-only” Chaîne des Rôtisseurs – the global hallmark of excellence in cuisine and culinary service.

After the elephant have wandered off leaving an empty pool we phoned the reception to check that it is safe to come down for our game drive. At night you’re accompanied to your chalet by a guide but in the day, unless instructed to stay inside, you can move freely as long as you remain one the set paths. There are two game drives a day and it’s that afternoon, as we stop for sundowners sipping on Graham Beck MCC across from a herd of grazing rhino that our guide Neil Davison tells us these rhinos have been sent here from bigger reserves for safety because it is easier in a private reserve like this, where you can only get around on guided Land-Rovers, to protect against poachers. We stare out at the growing cumulus clouds filling the vast sky with the dark green bush humming with insect life. It is a marvel to see so many rhinos, their horns intact, seemingly unaware of any danger. Our tracker/guide has a wealth of knowledge about the animals, the birdlife, the vegetation as well as the mating habits of dung beetles and bullfrogs. It is easy to forget the outside world here, to feel small in comparison, to feel firmly placed in perspective to a life that goes on seemingly despite us being there. It’s what Neil (our guide) admits keeps him and his wife here.

Before I leave this wonderful place, we witness a female cheetah chasing an Impala while her two cubs, ears peeking from the bushveld, watch and learn. We’ve stared back at a young jackal peeking inquisitively out from his den while his mother has wandered off to find food. We’ve sat breathless, meters away from elephant, buffalo and lions and learnt the difference between cheetah and lion tracks and spoor. We’ve sat and enjoyed a candlelit world-class meal under the night sky. But mostly for a short while we’ve found a true sanctuary from the uncertain and distressing times we’re living through. And that’s the beauty of the Bushveld.