Safari Getaway | Marataba Safari Lodge, Waterberg

Marataba Safari Lodge

In Limpopo at the foot of the Waterberg mountains is one of the best-kept secret safari locations.

The Marataba Safari Lodge and its sister, the Trails Lodge offer stunning value for money. Set in the Marakele National Park, the lodges are a superb place for encounters with the Big Five. Plus it’s malaria-free…

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A secret safari, a special place.

From the moment you first enter the 20,000-hectare Marataba Concession, part of Marakele, you know you’re in a special place. The ancient red Waterberg mountains provide a constant backdrop. It’s remote plateaus and ravines lure you closer. Once a tobacco and cattle farming area, the Concession now has a fenceless border with Marakele National Park and healthy bird and mammal populations. Best of all, you have the whole place to yourself.

The manager Natashja explained as we sipped our welcome drink: “We are the only commercial lodges here. Only 5 vehicles on the whole concession. It’s not uncommon to not see another vehicle on your game drive and our guests love that.”

A low vehicle density on game drives.

Such a low vehicle density is rare in South Africa – including in premier reserves such as Sabi Sand. Nor does it have the same road densities as Sabi Sand, nor such habituated game, which makes it an altogether far wilder experience. But how does this translate into actual sightings?

Our guide Adriaan said “We have great sightings. Regular sightings of elephant, rhino and lion, while leopard sightings are becoming more frequent as they become habituated to vehicles”. We had fantastic lion sightings on all of our drives, and on the last evening, they roared all night just metres from our luxury tent. Game numbers support remarkably high predator densities and the quality of sightings will only get better with time. And as often as not, you’ll have the sightings to yourself.

The quality of hospitality is amazing.

Staff are exceptionally friendly, efficient and professional without being over-familiar. The three course plated lunches and dinners were of a very high standard. Small little details, from a welcome note to a freshly-run bubble bath after a chilly evening game drive, were always there. This standard is which we normally only see in a much higher price bracket.

The guiding too is world class.

Dedicated and passionate, Adriaan is part of a highly professional guiding team, one of the best we’ve seen in Southern Africa. Marataba is so wild and beautiful it would be a waste to see it only from a vehicle, so we opted for a post-breakfast walk with Adriaan, in addition to our twice-daily game drive. “Some of the ravines are so inaccessible, we’re not even sure exactly what’s up there”, explained Adriaan. “But we know there are plenty of black rhino, lion and leopard that may never have seen humans before”.

There’s a good chance of encountering any of the Big 5 on foot. We enjoyed a close-up white rhino sighting in addition to all the small things that make walking in bush such a pleasure. And if walking is your thing, there’s yet more.

Enter the brand new Trails Lodge.

With exactly this in mind – the ability to properly explore this wilderness on foot. The setting for the Trails Lodge is superb. In a remote corner of the concession, nestled among the lower slopes of the mountains with sensational views out over the plains. The design is modern, luxurious but with nature at its centre. Here you feel as though you’re part of the mountains. The concept is simple. The trails themselves may be tough, but when you return to the lodge you can expect comfort in style. Rough it during the day and live it up afterwards – this is a place of contrasts and extremes.

There are few places in Africa where you can do serious walking in Big 5 territory with expert guides, and Marataba is one. Combined with a couple of days at Safari Lodge for a traditional, vehicle-based safari, this is an experience with a twist, one you’re not likely to forget. Just how tough the hiking depends on the group and your preferences and the days can be tailored to your requirements. Although you can and might encounter almost anything on foot, the game is still relatively unhabituated and this combined with the experienced trails guides means you can enjoy the experience in safety.

You’ll most likely fall in love with Marataba.

We did, the blood-red mountains leaving a lasting impression. This is a world-class reserve with a top-notch family-friendly lodge to match anything in South Africa and trips could also be combined with other stunning MORE Group Properties in Madikwe, Kruger, Sabi Sand and Cape Town for a fantastically diverse safari circuit.