Why Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa must be on your bucket list

Villa decor Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa

By Renate Engelbrecht

Monday, Jul 31

As a travel writer, I always have an itch to explore. While I thoroughly enjoy travelling abroad, South Africa is one country that offers more than what you’d ever be able to experience in a lifetime. When I do get the opportunity to visit a destination that I haven’t been to before – like Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa – I’m always first in line.

Location, location, location

Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa is located in one of South Africa’s most famous reserves. The Welgevonden Game Reserve is a 36 000ha private game reserve in the Waterberg, based in South Africa’s Limpopo province – a mere two and a half hours’ drive from Joburg. Welgevonden forms part of the internationally recognised UNESCO Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, which is known for its sustainable conservation of biodiversity.

A foodie feast on safari

The destination‘s three-bedroom villa is kitted out with pretty much anything you might need. That includes having a personal chef by your side for the duration of your stay. Zinobia Martin cooked up a storm while we were there. In fact, whether we were at the villa, in the bush, on the deck overlooking the pool or paying a visit to the main lodge, her delicious dishes and homemade snacks followed us everywhere.

Game drive snacks

We were introduced to Zinobia’s cooking and her incredible knack for improvisation just as we arrived. The Mhondoro team spoiled us with a delightful welcoming luncheon under an old fig tree, said to be at least 300 years old. We were invited to pick a selection of vegetables and herbs from their vegetable garden. Then, as we sat back with a glass of Chardonnay in hand, Zinobia utilised everything we had placed in her basket – from aubergines and tomatoes to basil and fennel – to create a unique, al fresco lunch. Oupa kept our glasses full at all times while we indulged in the farm-to-table feast and the wonderful company of the people behind the Mhondoro experience.

The people make the place

The experience at Mhondoro was moving in many ways, but mostly because of the underlying passion for its people, in addition to continuous investment in nature, wildlife and conservation.  

Mhondoro’s team all have a burning passion for the bush and those that live in and from it. CEO, Fritz Breytenbach and his wife, Ronel (who happens to be Mhondoro’s marketing guru), together with their two young children have a way of drawing you in and making you feel part of the Mhondoro family from the get-go. So did every other member of the team as we got to meet them during our three-day stay. In the end, it felt as if I had found my people; likeminded friends. As if I had come home.

The Wilderness School – which is located just above the main lodge – serves as additional proof of their investment in their own people. Many of those working at Mhondoro have children that attend this school – an impressive learning space for kids growing up amidst Monkey-thorn trees and the endless sound of cicadas.


The bush experience

Welgevonden is a Big 5 reserve and although no promises are ever made, chances are that you might spot the lot. Mhondoro’s field guides are professional and clued up about what goes down in the reserve and they are always keen on showing their guests as much as possible.

Mhondoro safari

Game drives came with hot water bottles and blankets in the morning, and coffee stops coupled with rusks and other morning treats. Afternoon drives were filled with magnificent sunsets and delightful sundowners complimented with biltong, nuts and Zinobia’s homemade chips.

Apart from the morning and afternoon drives, another worthwhile experience to be had is a safari on foot. Head out on a bush walk with one of the guides after breakfast. It’s much different to a game drive experience, since you get to truly submerge yourself in nature, spot tracks in the sand, smell the air and hear sounds you wouldn’t hear from a roaring vehicle. Of course, being in a Big 5 reserve, you also feel vulnerable and a hint of adrenaline keeps you on high alert as you navigate your way through the thicket of the African bush.

Bush walk Mhondoro

When on safari, it’s inevitable that you will wish for that pack of lions by the water hole; playful cubs hopping around among the yellow, lowveld savanna; rhinos in their natural habitat; or a herd of buffalo so immense in size that it makes you feel nervous. We got to experience all of this and more in a matter of three days at Mhondoro. We were also told that the elephants are often seen around the water hole in front of the lodge. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky to spot them drinking from there (or from the villa’s pool) this time around. I suppose that serves as a good enough reason to return.

Game viewing from a different angle

Mhondoro’s waterhole hide is yet another experience that comes highly recommended. Located underground, at eye-level with the waterhole in front of the main lodge, this hide gives you game views like never before. The specially built underground tunnel to the hide amplifies the experience even further. Large, horisontal windows allow for 180-degree views and many memorable sightings have been made here. The hide comes with camera cushions and a small drinks bar, so guests can make themselves comfortable and spend ample time watching nature from a different angle.

Waterhole hide Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa

Animals that frequent the waterhole include baboons, warthogs and elephants, but they’ve even spotted a kill from there before and the lions came to quench their thirst on our last night too.

Starry, starry night

Guests can also request a private star gazing experience. The field guides have some knowledge on the constellations, the Milky Way and navigation, and with Mhondoro’s rather impressive, high-powered telescope, which is located on an elevated deck, you get to see a lot. The slightly angled, custom-made seating allow you to comfortably lie back and look out into the Milky Way. On a clear night, you should be able to spot about 2500 stars, including a clear view of the Southern Cross.

The visit to Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa was filled with safari firsts for me. While it might have been my first experience at Mhondoro, it definitely wasn’t my last.


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