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According to Wikipedia, glamping has become increasingly popular with 21st century tourists seeking the luxuries of hotel accommodation alongside the escapism and adventure recreation of camping. Without having to pitch a tent. Or inflate a mattress. Or do dishes of any sort.
A four-hour drive from Johannesburg towards the Limpopo Province in South Africa’s North West, deposits you in the middle of the Marakele National Park, where glamping takes on a very sophisticated meaning.
We are met at the Marataba Safari Lodge gate by Doctor Mogwaba, who lets the lodge know that we are on our way. A winding dirt road takes you through the beautiful bushveld scenery where animals can cross your path at any time. You have entered the domain of the animals, so stay in your vehicle and keep your windows closed.
At reception, a whole welcoming committee is waiting, all smiling and looking very happy to see us. We hand our vehicle over and I am assisted out of the car by Tapiwa Shonhe and Godfrey Keetse hands me a cool refresher towel. General Manager Clive Van Vollenhoven and Shadrack Morobane are close by to make us feel at home.
We have arrived in time for lunch, which is set up on the deck overlooking the incredible view of the Waterberg. Our waiter Kabelo Momaia attends to our culinary needs and lunch is beetroot gazpacho tzatziki, julienned veg wraps with soya dip, a lentil salad with mozzarella, marinated mushrooms, baby spinach, pickled red onion and mustard dressing. Next up is a perfectly grilled beef burger with tomato, lettuce, cheese, bacon, onion marmalade and fries. Dessert is vanilla ice cream with honey oat crumb.
Our room is something out of an interior designer’s catalogue. These canvas and stone tented suites are so luxurious that you will be suitably impressed. Zipping open your tent canvas, every provision has been made to make your stay as comfortable as possible – a King sized bed, comfortable chairs, a stunning bathroom with double vanities, a free-standing stone bath, an indoor and outdoor shower and a very large powder room. Add air conditioning to that and uninterrupted views of the landscape and you know you are in glamping paradise.
Once we had freshened up, we meet for High Tea, where you can feast on phyllo cigars, walnut tartlets, salmon blinis and tea or iced coffee. We are also introduced to our ranger, Adam Hilliar, who hails from the United Kingdom and has made South Africa his home. With his wicked and dry sense of humor, he makes our game drives very entertaining.
As we leave on our game drive, we hear the rumbling of thunder in the distance and see the lightning flashes get closer. A torrential downpour leaves us soaked and shivering. Back at Marataba, we have a warm shower and change into our pyjamas. We opt for room service, served in our room by Lorraine Senkiamadi. Hungry and cold, food has never tasted this good.
The weather clears for our morning drive and we spot impala foals, dung beetles, a beautiful pied kingfisher and giraffe sitting in the shade of a tree. After breakfast and a swim, lunch is served on the lawn under the camelthorn tree. Our after-lunch indulgence is a relaxing neck and shoulder massage in our room by Nicollette Ratshili.
Excitement is evident as we head towards Python Dam where we will be witnessing the sunset from the vantage point of Miss Mara. A fully stocked bar and snacks are on board and our skipper sets sail towards the reeds to see what we might find. A solitary hippo pops his head up and an African Fish Eagle takes flight while we marvel at the sun’s golden rays descending into the horizon.
Our dinner table is set up poolside and the fare is delicious, as are all meals at Marataba.
We head off in a northerly direction and traversing the 23 000 hectare reserve, you always see something different on your drives. This morning, a giraffe is browsing and two lilac breasted rollers show off their magnificent colors.
It is easy to see why Marataba is such a popular destination amongst local and international visitors. This is by far the most glamorous ‘camping’ you will ever experience.
NOTES: Views expressed are the author’s own. Thank you to the MORE team for arranging our stay.