The Blogitects Do Limpopo: Leshiba Wilderness

by | Jan 16, 2024 | Arts and Culture, Limpopo, Lodging, Parks/Nature Reserves | 16 comments

Leshiba Wilderness was the third stop on the Blogitects’ Limpopo road trip. Read about our first and second stops.

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.

Sunrise at Leshiba
Sunrise at Leshiba.
Artwork at Leshiba
One of many sketches Thorsten made of the fantastical artwork at Leshiba. (See more of Thorsten’s sketches at @theThinking_Hand)

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.

Animals with the Leshiba lodge in the background
Zebras and giraffes graze below the Venda Art Lodge, which peeks through the trees in the distance.
Art by legendary sculptor Noria Mabasa fills the Venda Art Lodge.
Joyce at the Venda Village at Leshiba Wilderness
The entrance to the Venda Art Lodge, starring Joyce Malaudzi. Joyce’s life story, like Leshiba itself, is fantastical. She was born right here in this village, at the height of apartheid, and her family was forced to leave when she was a child. The village sat abandoned for years until Leshiba’s owners decided to rebuild it in the 1990s. Around that time, Joyce came to work here and eventually became a senior manager at the lodge. She took care of former President Thabo Mbeki and his wife when they were guests at Leshiba in the early 2000s. I loved listening to Joyce tell her story — you can hear part of it in the video on Leshiba’s homepage.

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.

Leshiba viewpoint
One of many insanely beautiful views at Leshiba.
“Africa’s 5-Headed Dragon”, a work by Owen Ndou.
Thorsten's Leshiba sketch
My favorite of Thorsten’s Leshiba sketches.

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.

Miloro Suite
Entrance to the Miloro Suite. All the rooms at the lodge are inspired by traditional Venda rondavels.

The suite was huge without being pretentious, and art — all made by local Venda artists (read more about Venda art) — was everywhere.

Thorsten in the Miloro suite at Leshiba Wilderness
I took many photos of the bedroom/living area when we first arrived, but this is the image I like best: Thorsten reading on the bed after we’d unpacked and made a mess.
Bathroom at the Miloro suite
Our spectacular bathroom, complete with a Noria sculpture.
Even the outdoor shower is art (also by Noria, of course).
Early-morning coffee on our sprawling, multi-level terrace. There were usually lots of animals grazing on the plain below. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)
View from the terrace
Another moody view from the terrace.

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.

A game drive sketch.
Mom and baby zebra
Mom and baby zebra.
Giraffes at Leshiba
Giraffes of various sizes hanging out near an old clay oven, left over from the days when Leshiba was a farm.

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.

John showing us one of the chalets at Hamasha, which is a great option for families or groups who want to self-cater.
Hamasha bedroom
One of the bedrooms at Hamasha.
Like all the other accommodation sites at Leshiba, the best thing about Hamasha is the view.

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.

Walking with Jack
Setting out with Jack.
View at Leshiba
The view on our way out of the village on a mercifully misty morning. The mist, beside being beautiful, held the heat at bay.
Jack explains the history of one of the ancient rock art sites that we visited. The art isn’t shown — it’s hard to see in pictures. But much of it is more than 1,000 years old. It’s thrilling to see in person.
Jack in ancient mask
Jack peers through an ancient shaman’s mask left at the rock art site.
Thorsten looking through binocs
Thank goodness we remembered our binoculars.
Leshiba viewpoint
My favorite viewpoint at Leshiba.
Thorsten walking with Jack
Heading home. I think we walked five or six kilometers.

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.

John in the Leshiba art gallery, which has many great works by Noria and other Venda artists.
Serpent sculpture by Paul Thavhana
I was awestruck by this immense sculpture of a serpent tangled around a tree, by Paul Thavhana.
Noria room at the Venda Art Lodge
The “Noria Room” at the Venda Art Lodge. This is where Noria stayed during the weeks when she was making art at Leshiba back in the 1990s.
A beautiful plunge pool at one of the Leshiba suites, with art by sculptor Thomas Kubai.
Rondavel at Luvhondo
I loved these bunk bed rondavels at the Luvhondo Bush Camp, another interesting group accommodation option at Leshiba.

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.

Heather in the pool at Leshiba Wilderness
Obligatory travel-influencer-in-the-pool shot. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)

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.

A final pair of @TheThinking_Hand sketches (they were side-by-side in his sketchbook) that tell the story of Leshiba.

My stay at Leshiba was complimentary. All words and opinions are mine.


  1. Albert

    “Obligatory travel-influencer-in-the-pool shot”. Haha. I must say that pool and view looked super inviting!! Place seems magical!

  2. AutumnAshbough

    You mock that last photo, but it’s a beautiful shot. Fantastic views.

    • 2summers

      That makes Thorsten very happy – he worked hard on that shot.

        • Albert

          I agree!

  3. dizzylexa

    You’ve captured it beautifully both in word and photo, looks like the perfect place for an art inspired breakaway.

    • 2summers

      You would love it.

  4. Ayanda

    This is exactly where I want to be! As in yesterday!

    • 2summers

      It’s a nice place to be 🙂

  5. Marco Brown

    What a wonderful place! Great photos. Oh, I am so jealous 🙂 Too scared to ask about the cost!

    • 2summers

      Hi Marco, thanks! Yeah, I didn’t get into costs because all the accommodation types are different. But you can see the rates here if you want to venture a look!

  6. Rosemary

    Wow! Can’t get over how green it is. Thanks for sharing – on the bucket list!

    • 2summers

      Yes, I’m so glad we went in summer. It was hot, but worth the high temps to see Limpopo so green.

  7. Lani

    What a dream! You had me at the artist accommodations, but Leshiba as one of the most biodiverse places in South Africa is utterly amazing. <3

    • 2summers

      I know, right? We were so lucky to be able to go there.


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