Like last week, I don’t know how to start writing this post because I don’t know how to describe our stay at Leshiba Wilderness. I don’t even know how to describe what Leshiba is. Calling it a “game reserve” is woefully insufficient. And calling it “luxurious”, even though it is, conveys the wrong impression. Leshiba is luxurious in the most fantastical sense…a luxury lodge built from artists’ visions and dreams.
Calling it a “wilderness”, the name Leshiba has for itself, doesn’t work for me either. To me, the word “wilderness” implies a lack of human presence. And Leshiba, while remote, wild, and naturally beautiful, is brimming with humanity of the best possible sort. The Venda Art Lodge, Leshiba’s main accommodation area, is built on the site of an actual Venda village, carefully restored by local tradesmen and brought to life by legendary sculptor Noria Mabasa. Noria (see a photo I took of her a few years ago in this post), who makes art inspired by her dreams, turned this village into a mystical masterpiece.
Staying at Leshiba Wilderness
Leshiba Wilderness is about an hour west of the town of Makhado (a.k.a. Louis Trichardt) in Limpopo’s Soutpansberg mountain range. It’s perched at the top of a mountain, at the end of long, steep, bumpy road — it takes about 30 minutes to drive up the mountain — and you need a sturdy car or 4×4 to get there. (If you don’t have that, you can park at the bottom of the mountain and Leshiba staff will fetch you.)
Leshiba’s accommodation is totally unique and ranges from comfortable and affordable to dreamy and luxurious. The food is delicious, the views are jaw-dropping (cliché intended), the service is flawless, and Leshiba is one of the most biodiverse places in South Africa, with tons of animals and more tree species than the Kruger National Park. Even without the incredible flora and fauna, the artwork alone is worth the journey to Leshiba.
We stayed at Leshiba for two nights, which was definitely not enough — I felt devastated when we had to leave. In fact, the only thing I disliked about Leshiba was leaving Leshiba, especially down that long, bumpy road.
Our Suite at Leshiba
We arrived at around 3:00 p.m. and Joyce showed us to our room: the Miloro Suite. I scurried around trying to capture the place in pictures, but my photos don’t do it justice.
The suite was huge without being pretentious, and art — all made by local Venda artists (read more about Venda art) — was everywhere.
What We Did at Leshiba
The first thing we did was an afternoon game drive with Jack, our Leshiba guide. It was early summer and the reserve was full of babies.
Jack then drove us to Hamasha, one of Leshiba’s self-catering camps, where we had sundowners with John Rosmarin, Leshiba’s owner, and his wife Amanda.
After sunset, we headed back to the Venda Art Lodge for a fantastic dinner prepared by Joyce and her team. We went to bed early, as the Blogitects are wont to do.
Sleeping in our suite was one of my favorite things about our stay. More than once we heard the sounds of wild game walking through the camp, munching on grass right outside our open window.
Early the next morning, Jack took us on a guided hike around Leshiba. There are no lions or elephants in the reserve so it’s totally safe to walk around with or without a guide. But walking with Jack was a special experience. Jack has encyclopedic knowledge of the myriad of animals and plants at Leshiba, and he has a gentle, humble demeanor. He’s one of the best walking guides I’ve ever had.
Our last major activity was a tour with John of all the accommodation at Leshiba. As a travel writer I normally hate doing media “site visits”, in which you’re led around and forced to ooh and ahh at all the different rooms and facilities on a property. But this site visit was different. I loved every minute of walking around with John, seeing all the beautiful places to stay and hearing his stories of how Leshiba came to be.
After our whirlwind tour of Leshiba, we went back to the Venda Art Lodge to rest in our room, relax by the pool, and eventually enjoy one more dinner and sleep before driving down the mountain and back into the real world.
There is a lot more I could say about Leshiba, and I left a lot of photos on the cutting room floor of this post. But I think I’ve said enough. If you possibly can, I implore you to go see it for yourself.
My stay at Leshiba was complimentary. All words and opinions are mine.