I have safaried in every possible fashion during my years in Africa. I’ve done low-budget camping trips, high-end tented camps, mid-range SANPark self-drives, river safaris, and walking safaris. You name it, I’ve probably done it. But when it comes to flat-out luxury I don’t think any of these past trips compare to my recent weekend at Mhondoro Safari Lodge and Villa.
Mhondoro is in the Welgevonden Game Reserve in central Limpopo, less than three hours from Joburg. Welgevonden is a private, Big 5 game reserve (meaning all the “Big 5” animals — lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and elephant — live there) and there is no self-driving allowed, so the only vehicles driving around are those belonging to the reserve’s small number of lodges.
This sense of exclusiveness makes for excellent game-viewing as at any one time there are a very limited number of people — and a huge number of wild animals — hanging around in Welgevonden. Yes, it costs a lot. But the money helps preserve a huge, beautiful piece of wilderness and keep the animals (many of which are critically endangered) safe within it.
There are 21 lodges in Welgevonden. They all look pretty nice online but I can only speak for the one I stayed in. It was freaking fabulous.
Besides the obvious luxury of the lodge itself, I can not overstate how wonderful the service was and how genuinely nice and helpful every Mhondoro staff member is. They go out of their way to make sure every guest’s experience is perfect.
Weekend at Mhondoro
Here’s how the weekend went down:
We left Joburg in the morning and arrived at the Welgevonden park entrance around noon. We parked our car there for the weekend and met Daniel, who drove us — along with a lovely family of four from Joburg (children are welcome at Mhondoro) and two rad women from Amsterdam — 45 minutes into the reserve to Mhondoro. We saw a couple of rhinos, elephants, and a variety of other wildlife along the way.
We hung out at the lodge for a bit and had lunch before our first game drive.
On the game drive we saw a mother white rhino with her three-week-old baby.
We returned to the lodge after dark and had a wonderful “boma dinner” (an outdoor braai around the fire), then went to sleep in that amazing, cloud-like bed.
We rose at 6:00 a.m. — game drives start just before sunrise. This drive was freezing (thank god for the blankets and hot water bottles) but totally worth it as we saw lions and the cheetah chase I wrote about in my previous post.
A lazy late morning and afternoon followed, including a sumptuous breakfast, spa treatments, sauna time, deck time, general relaxation, etc.
On that evening’s game drive we found ourselves surrounded by an entire herd of elephants, unable to drive forward or back for about 45 minutes as the elephants grazed all around and stubbornly refused to move out of the road. Some of the other guests were a bit perturbed by this but I loved every minute.
One more delicious dinner, one more sleep in the cloud-like bed.
One more sunrise game drive. This one wasn’t as dramatic as the previous ones but such is life in the bush. We ate pancakes next to a dry riverbed and saw some beautiful kudu.
Back at the lodge: Breakfast, one more session in the game viewing hide, then time to go. (Sob.)
The deluxe suite at Mhondoro costs R5675 (about $400) per person sharing per night. This rate includes full board, drinks, two game drives a day, and a massage. My stay at Mhondoro was complimentary. Opinions expressed are mine.