Morukuru

African Safari Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

Set on its own private concession within the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve, Morkuru’s three ‘mini-lodges’ promise a different formula and a different experience. We find out how it compares with other Madikwe offerings.

Sometimes we can tell straightaway when a place ‘has it’. Well, Morukuru has it. It’s a combination of a great many things all coming together, but first, a bit about how Morukuru is different.

Instead of one lodge, Morukuru consists of three ‘mini-lodges’ – the Owners House, The Lodge, and The Farmhouse, which each sleep 2-10 guests, and are booked exclusively. Each comes with its own team of dedicated staff – guide, tracker and hostess, chef, butler and back-up staff so whether you’re a honeymoon couple, a family, or group of friends, this team is at your very own disposal throughout your stay, including your own private safari vehicle.

Our whole team is waiting to meet us when we arrive, with a cold cocktail and traditional African song before our hosts, Anthony and Amy, accompany us to our villa. We’re staying at the Owners House – the house originally built by Ed and Anka Zeeman, who fell in love with Madikwe after their first visit here in 2003, and built this incredible bush house on the site of giant Tamboti tree (Morukuru means Tamboti in Tswana).

Owners House Suite

Owners House Suite

Imagine your idea of a luxury safari suite overlooking a wooded river bed (or if you can’t, read some of our other blogs). Then quadruple it in size, add several outdoor decks and wooden walkways among the trees, add a dining room as well as a lounge, kitchen, library and study, and finally a private heated rim-flow pool (larger than many a 5-star lodge’s communal pool) that appears to hover among the trees, and you have an idea of what this place is like.

There’s even an integrated sound system, where you can play different music in different parts of the house (including speakers in the outdoor shower).

And this is just for the two of us. But it gets better.

“At Morukuru, we don’t work on any schedule”, Anthony explains. “We can go for game drives whenever you like. Joyce [our chef] can cook for you whatever you like, whenever you like. We’re all at your disposal”.

Breakfast with our hosts, Morukuru

Breakfast with our hosts, Morukuru

This is not normal. Most top-end lodges have a strict schedule – from a wakeup call to meal times and game drive times, and although you can skip whatever you like, you can’t tailor every day to your personal wishes. At Morukuru, you can.

Of course having infinite choices can be stressful. Do you go to check out those lions you heard roaring earlier, or relax instead in the pool while Evanz [our butler] plies you with cocktails? Should you choose a vintage wine from the owner’s private collection instead of a house wine, and if so, what? Luckily, everyone from your chef to your guide is on hand to make recommendations and we’re happy to follow them for our stay.

It’s time for our afternoon game drive and Anthony takes us on a tour of the 1,000 hectare private concession that forms part of Madikwe Game Reserve. Madikwe has a lot of lodges and it can get quite crowded at sightings, but here you’ll only see other Morukuru vehicles, although they also have access to the rest of the reserve. So we had a beautiful lion sighting to ourselves, and stared down a rare African Wild Cat before a private dinner on one of our decks, and a moonlight swim (the pool is heated to 30C today).

Dinner with a view, Morukuru

Dinner with a view, Morukuru

Next morning we combine a game drive with a stop at the Farmhouse – a bigger mini-lodge sleeping up to ten, different, but just as luxurious. Here you virtually have your own private reserve as well as a private lodge, as the huge grounds, complete with many antelope, are fenced, so completely safe for children.

Morukuru is generally fantastic for children, who can accompany adults on game drives, or be whisked away for their own drives or other activities, such as tracking, setting up camera traps and a host of other exciting activities. And all in a malaria-free part of the country. For kids, it doesn’t get better than this.

In our experience, individually owned (as opposed to corporate) lodges are often more intimate, and Morukuru is no exception; the owners’ touches are present everywhere, right down to the specially customised safari vehicle. And the owners must be doing something right, as Anthony and Amy have been with them for two years, perfecting the art of guiding and hospitality.

Sundowners, Morukuru

Sundowners, Morukuru

With all your own dedicated staff, you might think there’d be people fussing over you the whole time. But this is not ‘yes, sir, no, sir’ service – that is not what hospitality is about. When it’s done properly, you don’t notice – everything just happens the way you want it, effortlessly. It’s easy to say, but requires great skill and experience to achieve. Morukuru manages it where many others fail.

If all this sounds a bit mediocre to you, don’t despair. There are a few things we’re not mentioning – call them Morukuru family secrets if you like – that might just blow your mind. Don’t ask because we’re not telling, but if you’re curious there’s only one way to find out…

Good for: Exclusive, tailored, Big Five game viewing and other activities, with the best hospitality around, including for children.

Not so good for: We’re struggling with this one.

Our verdict: State-of-the-art quality across the board

Madikwe Safari Lodge

African Safari Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

Set in a game-rich corner of the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve and now under new management, we find out what Madikwe Safari Lodge has to offer.

 

First impressions count. We arrive in the burning heat of the day, our vehicle is whisked away and we’re escorted straight to the lunch table, chilled drink in hand. So far so good. A hot breeze wafts through the shaded deck; I order a gourmet burger and settle back in my chair. It’s been a long journey to get here.

WIld dog, Madikwe Safari Lodge

WIld dog, Madikwe Safari Lodge

As you’ll know by now, eating occupies a large proportion of your time on safari, so what you eat, and where you eat it, are important. Madikwe Safari Lodge is tucked away in the bushveld on the lower slopes of a rocky hill, just high enough for a wonderful view out across the veld. And the bush comes right up to where we’re sitting with my gourmet burger. I hear a rustle not far away, and three elephants are plodding towards a nearby waterhole. Is that a giraffe’s head I see peaking at me through the trees? No, it’s two…

At the same time, there’s a plethora of birds flitting from bush to bush – with binocs in hand, we tick off a good 20 species in between bites of that gourmet burger (which is delicious by the way).

Zebra, Madikwe Safari Lodge

Zebra, Madikwe Safari Lodge

We’re shown to our luxury chalet, which is very private and situated well away from other chalets. One of our pet hates is chalets situated too close together – you want to hear the sounds of the bush, not your neighbours. The room is tastefully furnished – hints of African, but not kitsch, with muted accents of colour, an outdoor shower, and huge bath.

Best of all is the private plunge pool overlooking the bush – we cool down as three curious kudu come to investigate what the splashing is all about. Private pools are not always the norm and this is a huge bonus. There’s also a bag of gym equipment so you can work out on your own private deck, if the need for exercise arises. This is a great little touch, and one we haven’t seen before.

Luxury suite, Madikwe Safari Lodge

It’s afternoon tea and time to meet our guide, Andre, for the evening game drive. Madikwe is well-known for its wild dogs and Andre obliges with a great view of one of the main packs resting in the shade. And lions. Madikwe is all about lions, and you’re virtually guaranteed a sighting. Our pride was relaxing under a bush, as usual, but with so many around, you’ve got as good a chance as any of seeing them hunt. The day’s rounded off with G&T sundowners and a boma dinner under the stars back at the lodge.

It’s an eye-rubbing 5.30am start next morning but Madikwe is hot, and the deliciously cool morning quickly morphs into a blazing hot day. We’re treated to a beautiful white rhino, right on the road in front of us, and lots of ellies.

Rhino, Madikwe Safari Lodge

Rhino, Madikwe Safari Lodge

We linger over breakfast (a delicious buffet spread, and eggs to order), disappointed to be leaving so soon. But with binocs in hand, we’re once again treated to our own breakfast safari gazing out over the bush. Are those the giraffes again? I think so….

Good for: Big Five viewing in an awesome setting. Children – good child facilities and malaria free.

Not so good for: Exclusivity at sightings (although this is true for most Madikwe lodges)

Our Verdict – Under efficient new management, with chalet upgrades under way, this sound, good-value, top-end lodge should go from strength to strength.

Africa’s most exclusive safari lodges… get an inside peek.

Klein Collection’s safari reviewers, Jonathan and Sophie, travelled to the far corners of South Africa and Botswana to bring you these exciting safari reviews of several of Africa’s best safari lodges. From the extreme luxury of Royal Malewane to kayaking in the Okavango Delta amongst hippos and crocs, it’s all in this jam-packed 17 minute video compilation.

To all the African adventurers, we invite you to experience the safaris through their eyes. Enjoy!

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

Boulders Lodge, Singita

Klein Collection Safari Review by Klein Companions, Jonathan and Sophie

Situated in the heart of Sabi Sand Game Reserve bordering Kruger National Park, Singita’s historic Boulders Lodge offers a classic, traditional safari experience combined with one of the highest standards of five star luxury you’ll find anywhere in Africa. We stayed two nights at Boulders Lodge and visited Ebony Lodge at the same time. We liked what we saw. A lot.

Two nights at one of Africa’s most luxurious safari lodges goes all too quickly. Filling in the guest feedback form on the (sad) day of departure, we’re stuck on the ‘What was the most memorable part of your stay?’ question. Was it the incredible gourmet food and vast (complimentary) wine list? The game drives where you’ve got a good chance of the seeing the Big Five on your very first outing? The personal hospitality and attention to your every need? No. It was the suites themselves, the place that becomes home during your stay. Quite simply, we’ve never seen anything like it.

Perhaps the word ‘suite’ is misleading. Imagine instead your own personal safari lodge, two wings in fact, one dedicated to sleeping and bathing and showering, the other to lounging on leather-clad sofas and directors chairs, all in superb contemporary-African style. A double-sided fireplace demarcates the two wings and outside is a private deck and private rim-flow pool, heated to a delicious 30C, directly overlooking the Sand River. There are three air-con units, two telephones to save you walking across the vast space, a sound system complete with pre-loaded iPod, even a guest loo for goodness sake!

Singita Boulders LodgeThe small details say a lot too – the espresso machine, the well-stocked fridge, the bowl filled with several types of fruit, Lindt and Ferrero Roche chocolate, Dermalogica skin and hair-care products, even a set of water colours for the artistically minded. And surrounded by floor to ceiling glass looking straight into the bush, the organic interior design is all about textures – carpet here, wood there…. we could go on and on but just take it from us – it doesn’t get better than this.

It would be tempting to stay in your suite and never leave (you can opt for a candle-lit dinner on your private deck, and order anything from the complimentary wine list after all) but then you’d be missing out on the rest that Singita has to offer. After the evening game drive (complete with sundowners and on-the-spot marinated, grilled venison skewers, served on a white cloth decorated with a spruce of silver cluster leaf) we’re treated to a wine tasting by François Rautenbach in Singita’s famous wine cellar.

After the name itself, Singita is perhaps best known for its wine and if you’re a connoisseur, look no further. Living in Cape Town, we’ve had a good exposure to Cape wines over the years, but we learnt more in that tasting then ever before. And you can taste whatever you like and finish the bottle for dinner, or try something new. All complimentary!

Next morning we gather for the drive on the deck overlooking the river as dawn breaks, and I chat to a family of Americans on their first-ever safari. As old bush hands ourselves, it’s refreshing to see their infectious excitement and delight at seeing the African bush for the first time. Singita has something for everyone.

Shelly is our guide, and first up on the drive itself is a female leopard prancing gracefully by the side of the track, soon followed by a herd of white rhino, then we almost drive over a pride of sleeping lions. A herd of buffalo follow shortly and so we’re just a tusk away from the Big Five on a single drive. Damn those elephant! Still, if you want to tick ’em off, Singita’s Boulders Lodge is the place to come.

Boulders and Ebony enjoy a huge traversing area, some of which they share with neighbouring Londolozi, giving it one of the most enviable locations in Sabi Sand. We were also impressed with the quality of the game viewing Land Rovers – no more than 6 to a vehicle with comfortable seats and storage space, with plug points to charge camera batteries, sun cream and insect repellent in case you forgot yours, bean bags to steady your camera and even tripod mounts on the side of each vehicle. These are the most well-equipped standard safari vehicles we’ve ever seen.

Breakfast, like every other meal at Singita, needs to be seen to be believed. Served outside on the main deck overlooking the Sand river, it’s the most comprehensive spread we’ve ever seen, quite literally – including homemade granola, croissants and scones, dried fruit and sparking wine, while I finish off with a fascinating ‘African Eggs Benedict’ of roast beef and biltong hollandaise sauce, while Anne-Sophie opts for scrambled duck eggs with warthog bacon. Shepard, our personal waiter, replaces Anne-Sophie’s finished glass of freshly squeezed orange juice with a full one without her asking. It’s small details like this that set Boulders apart from the rest.

Nearby Ebony Lodge, just as spectacular as Boulders and also part of the Singita collection, provided lunch and a tour for us – see our review here.

With so much work to do writing up our notes, we skip the afternoon game drive but console ourselves with a bottle of Haute Cabriere 2007 Pinot Noir, delivered to our suite as the sky darkens and thunder rumbles in the distance. You can feel the humidity and the tension build until it’s broken by the first flash of lightening and the birds grow silent and everything waits. I love bush storms more than anything else.

Soon the sky is lit up with lightening and the thunder crashes as torrential rain hammers down; the fiercest rain since the devastating floods of January 2012. Lauren and her team had planned a fabulous tasting-menu dinner under the stars on the airstrip for us, and after hours of preparation and work the storm hits just as everything has been set up. We have to settle for the à la carte menu instead, dining on a tempura of soft crab with grilled mango, pickled ginger and soya sauce, kingklip with a dill salad and creamed mussel sauce, kudu loin with pumpkin, asparagus and red wine chocolate sauce, followed by a trio of chocolate and crème brûlée with berry coulis and berry sorbet. As always, we’re free to choose from the 200-odd top South African wines on the wine menu (all complimentary of course) but we opt for Francois’ suggested pairing: a Solo Wines Viognier 2009 and Hartenberg Shiraz 2005 for me, and a chilled Simonsig Pinotage 1998 and Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2008 for Sophie, with a sweet Monis Red Muscadel 2001 to accompany dessert.

Returning to our suite with a RDM cigar to round off the evening, we walk in to the sound of music playing on the iPod and a hot bubble bath, decorated with bush leaves and flowers and sprinkled with candles, together with a bottle of iced sparkling rose. As the last rumbles of thunder dies away, I lie back in the bath with the RDM and reflect on the most astonishing day – starting with a leopard, and ending with a cigar.

Boulders Lodge stole our hearts, and we’ll be back as soon as ever we can.

Good for: Honeymooners, family suites great for children of all ages.

Not so good for: We’re struggling with this one.

What we liked best – incredible game viewing and even more incredible luxury suites, fantastic wine collection and first rate hospitality.

Our verdict – If you want to do it in style, this is the way to do it.

We would love to help you plan your own African safari. Contact us today.

Email: info[at]kleincollection.com | South Africa Tel. +27 (0) 21 813 6961

A royal reception at La Residence in Franschhoek

Entrance at La Residence, Franschhoek

Entrance at La Residence, Franschhoek

There is a name that the famous, the fortunate and the accomplished whisper only to those that they recognise as kindred souls. A country estate among rolling vineyards and plum orchards in the Cape Winelands that understands why the everyday and purely functional is not good enough. A place run by people who know that style is a creative expression of the subtle art of living. La Residence is that name. And it is here that guests who never drop their standards check in to relax.

Not that the staff, who treats every visitor like an heir returning to the family’s country estate, would ever make you do anything as crude as sign in on arrival. Instead, a whole welcoming party of the top members of the hospitality team meets you at your vehicle with gifts and a reviving drink, while they magically make your luggage, mode of transport and any doubts that you are not related to the owners of this château disappear.

Lizelle enjoying breakfast at La Residence

Lizelle enjoying breakfast at La Residence

We arrive two hours earlier than arranged, but general manager, Edward Morton, is unfazed. For many years he kept his perfectionist hand on the award-winning Royal Malewane Safari Lodge, favoured by celebrities like Elton John. He gallantly sweeps us off to lunch in the triple volume dining area, one of many treasure chests of Liz Biden. Liz, the owner and former resident of La Residence, is an adventurous collector of art and furniture pieces from around the world. Slightly smokey antique mirrors, jazzy black and white marble tiles and plush red chairs suggest that this venue could turn into pure theatre for those who love to entertain and be entertained.

 

Lizelle at the La Residence horizon pool overlooking olive groves

Lizelle at the La Residence horizon pool overlooking olive groves

The hotel is nestled on 30 acres of a Franschhoek working farm, providing much of the ingredients of our memorable butternut soup and a cascade of crunchy fresh produce that probably still remembers the hand that decided today is the day they will meet the salad maker. Between main course and dessert, we are treated to a tasting of a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon made from the estate’s own grapes. Plum liqueur and homegrown olives are more ways that La Residence seeks to create a bond between visitors and the fertile soil surrounding them.

Frangipani Suite bathroom at La Residence

Frangipani Suite bathroom at La Residence

La Residence takes great pride in their ability to match a room to a guest’s personality. Our oriental-inspired Frangipani Room immediately feels like home and we scheme and plan how we could stay on indefinitely in this honeymoon suite. North-facing with wonderful views over the vineyards, it is sunny all day and the most private of the 11 suites. The bedroom and lounge area is so spacious, it feels like even the furniture pieces are stepping aside with a subtle curtsy. The bathroom is a little Versailles in its own right with floor-to-ceiling shutters also with views on the vineyards, an abundance of Charlotte Rhys products and enough cupboard space to move in and live here for months.

The Villas at La Residence in Franschhoek

The Villas at La Residence in Franschhoek

To cater for families, La Residence has built a few spacious free-standing villas located slightly away from the main hotel, each with their own swimming pool and private garden with fruit-bearing peach and lemon trees. The vibe here is relaxed and the use of colours lavish, creating a truly happy family space. The little princes and princesses even have their own toiletry sets aimed at little bambinos. Visitors with a passion for cooking might have difficulty staying out of the seductively styled kitchen where villa guests have a free reign. Or, if they prefer, the resident chef will conjure their meals here.

Lounge area overlooking the dam at La Residence

Lounge area overlooking the dam at La Residence

For those who treasure their solitude and privacy, but don’t want to be confined to the perimeters of their own suites, there are several slightly more secluded communal areas to recline in, admire the views, catch up on some reading in the library, picnic on the lawn, catch some sun next to the horizon pool, or stroll through the orchards.

That evening we dine at Reuben’s in Franschhoek village and the hotel immediately arranges complimentary transport to and from the restaurant. We are free to just relax and savour the good wines that this region produces. The next morning there appears to be no cut-off time for breakfast and the check-out time is whenever we are able to reluctantly release our room to the next fortunate visitor.

Lizelle and Jack at La Residence

Lizelle and Jack at La Residence

La Residence is an outrageously classy and comfortable boutique hotel that really celebrates the pleasure of being able to afford the best the world has to offer. What makes us want to return again and again, though, is the people of La Residence. They have perfected the art of attentiveness without intrusion, warmth without too much familiarity. They are the top of the hospitality crop.

– Independent review by Klein Companion, Lizelle Steyn

Need more information? Visit La Residence on Klein Collection’s website to view more property details, images and rates.

Mosaic Farm: a truthful nature experience in Stanford

Mosaic Farm, Stanford

Mosaic Farm, Stanford

Dropping off the kids at my parents’ place in Paarl is a standard detour when my wife and I want to spend some time by ourselves. This time we incorporated the Boland scenic route into our trip to Stanford. Our destination? Mosaic Farm.

I took a shortcut, which landed us on a gravel road. Our desire for some peace and quite was tempered by what turned out to be a 4-hour journey. I should have listened to the GarMap voice prompts…

Finally the beautiful coastal farm village was visible from a distance. We made it, not on time, but still – we were there.

I love the authenticity of Stanford. It is as if you have turned back the clock of time and halved the normal pace of life. Small antiques, coffee shops, art and other interesting things greet you in the main road as you drive past.

View at Die Gat, Mosaic Farm

We arrived at Mosaic Farm and Nadine (the manager on duty) welcomed us with a warm smile. Our bags were taken care of while we were offered a welcome drink in the lounge. Nadine talked us through the list of activities that they offer, informed us about the dinner arrangements and also gave us some history of the place. The possibilities seemed endless: picnic on the beach, nature walks, cycle wine tour, kayaking on the lake, private dinner, and more. One thing was clear: we should have come for two nights! There were so many things to do and see and I wanted to experience them all.

Francois enjoying the outside shower at Mosaic Farm

Francois enjoying the outside shower at Mosaic Farm

We stayed in one of the free-standing lodge suites under the Milkwood trees. These beautifully designed and decorated units were built from stone and other natural materials sourced from the surrounding area. Our bedroom and deck overlooked the lagoon, positioned in a way to optimise privacy and views – with a rather daring outside shower…

The bird life at Mosaic Farm is overwhelming. Their songs created a fitting background to the silence of the nature reserve.

Carien having dinner at Mosaic Farm

Carien having dinner at Mosaic Farm

Our private dinner, with the chef introducing herself and taking us through the menu for the evening, is definitely a unique touch. There is no rush or time schedule here and we ended up having a 4 hour dinner – surrounded by the amazing views of nature, a warm fire place, friendly staff and just the two of us for a change… a winning recipe for a memorable experience.

Milkwood trees at Mosaic Farm

Milkwood trees at Mosaic Farm

As luck would have it – we were fortunate to meet the US-based owners Kathryn and Breese Johnson. With their love for God, nature and people, Mosaic Farm is truly their monument of what they stand for. They are the drivers behind outreach programs that uplift the local Stanford community by focusing on education, rehabilitation and job creation. The Johnsons are also highly committed to bringing the Stanford nature reserve back to its natural indigenous fauna and flora and they are continuously removing invasive trees – a massive project and investment!

Mosaic Farm also caters for exclusive weddings, conferences as well as team building break aways.

Outside deck at Mosaic Farm

Outside deck at Mosaic Farm

Therefore, the question is not whether you should come to Mosaic Farm, but rather whether you will be fortunate enough to experience this level of personal hospitality and service with God’s creation as the canvas. Mosaic Farm is ideal for those who want to connect to nature, looking for a honest and truthful setting where opulence is not the draw card.

Oh, and by the way – you have to go for lunch at Madre’s kitchen on the Sir Robert Stanford estate just outside the Stanford village. Their wines are also great and the tasting is free.

 

Need more information? Visit Mosaic Farm on Klein Collection’s website to view more property details, images and rates.

Affordable luxury accommodation in the heart of Stellenbosch

I recently spent a night at De Hoek Manor in Stellenbosch. From the moment I stepped into the Manor, I felt right at home. Each detail – from the fresh flowers, the sherry and chocolate before bedtime to the electric blanket – made my stay one that I won’t easily forget.

The luxury and comfort that my king-size bed offered me made it difficult to emerge from my room the next morning! However, the church bells that chimed from the historic Moederkerk, situated directly across the road, were too beautiful to ignore!

My day began with a scrumptious breakfast in De Hoek Manor’s dining room, and I was served by a very friendly waiter named Elton. I highly recommend this bed and breakfast whether you are a tourist, business person or a local.

De Hoek Manor is in a prime location for exploring Stellenbosch, with restaurants, stores, cafés and historic monuments only steps away. Thank you De Hoek Manor for a true Stellenbosch experience!

– Independent review by Kiara Havenga

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