Sunrise over Albasini Dam

Chasing the Sunrise in Limpopo

Beautiful sunsets are easy to come by in South Africa. The light fades slowly through the afternoon, giving us plenty of time to prepare. The clouds are usually spectacular (except during the highveld winter, when clouds are scarce). Best of all, we tend to be awake already when the sun sets.

Sunrises are much trickier. We must wake up well before the light to catch the sunrise, and if we’re a few minutes late, forget about it — within minutes the sun is hot and blinding. During summer, when the clouds are best, the sun rises at a ridiculously early hour.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set my alarm to catch the sunrise, lingered in bed a little too long, then given up because I know I’ve missed it. Not to mention the number of times that I’ve gotten up on time, struggled my way outside (or worse, driven somewhere) and found that the fog is too thick, or that the sunrise is blocked by a mountain or building, and by the time the sun becomes visible it is way too bright.

Last Friday morning, at the Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge, I hit the sunrise jackpot.

Sunrise over Albasini DamA crisp sphere of orange flame rises over the Albasini Dam. (Non-South-Africans: The word “dam” refers to what Americans would call a lake or reservoir.)

Shiluvari is in central Limpopo, about 10 minutes from the small town of Elim and 30 minutes from Louis Trichard. I stayed there en route to Venda from Magoebaskloof, after spending the whole day following the Ribola Art Route. (My post on the Ribola Art Route is coming soon.) I was exhausted by the time I arrived at Shiluvari, but fortunately this is one of the best places in South Africa to relax. I wish I could have stayed longer.

Room at Shiluvari Lakeside LodgeMy room at Shiluvari. The entire lodge is decorated with Shangaan and Venda fabric and art work.

Lounge area in ShiluvariThe lounge at Shiluvari.

The Shiluvari swimming poolThe Shiluvari swimming pool, which I didn’t have time to lounge beside.

Boat on Albasini DamI didn’t have time to go on the boat, either, but it was beautiful to look at. (Aside: Limpopo, along with the rest of South Africa, is experiencing a terrible drought. Temeng, the owner/manager of Shiluvari, told me the water level in the dam is drastically lower than it was at this time last year. Just another reminder that water is precious, especially now.)

Vervet monkey at ShiluvariA vervet monkey lounges on a tree branch outside the lodge. 

I loved my stay at Shiluvari. The lodge feels authentic in a way that most South African lodges don’t. It’s calm and peaceful, quieter than anywhere else I’ve been for a while. I had lovely chats with Temeng Tlakula and her father Max, who own and manage Shiluvari, along with others. The owners obviously put a lot of thought into the way the lodge is presented and run, balancing the colonial architecture (Shiluvari was built on the grounds of a colonial-era farm) with traditional African decor. The food is delicious and the coffee comes from Bean There, my favorite African coffee company.

Venda Domba dance sculptureA sculpture portraying the traditional Venda Domba dance.

But now, back to that sunrise.

September is a perfect time for sunrise-chasing. The sun isn’t coming up super early yet and the temperature is tolerable. I set my alarm for 5:45, threw on a sweatshirt and sneakers with my pyjama pants, and strolled down to the edge of the water.

There was no one else watching except the birds, who sang their birdie hearts out as the sun crested the treeline across the dam.

Pre-sunrise on the Albasini DamThe sunrise pre-game show.

Albasini sunrise, part 1The first quarter.

Sunrise part 2Second quarter.

Sunrise part 3Third quarter.

Sunrise part 4
Game over.

Shulivari sunrise and treesOne more post-game shot.

This was the prettiest sunrise I’ve ever seen. But I get the feeling they happen like this a lot at Shiluvari. This spot has perfect sunrise conditions.

Thanks so much to Lisa from Kurisa Moya and Open Africa for pointing me in the direction of Shiluvari. And thanks to Temeng and Max for the warm welcome. Sorry I couldn’t stay longer but I can’t wait to come back.

My stay at Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge was complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.

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2 Comments

  • Reply autumnashbough September 15, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I used to be such a sunset person. Golden and orange over Hanalei Bay in Hawaii, or the winter pinks and blues reflected off lake ice in New Hampshire.

    But since getting a dog, I’m up a lot earlier and I see some gorgeous sunrises. If you want to make sure you never miss another sunrise, get a dog. 🙂

    • Reply 2summers September 19, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      Hahaha. I’m sure I will be one of those sunrise dog-walkers pretty soon. Ray can’t wake up that early so it will have to be me.

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