Makalali, Rhino and BMW

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Colin Windell

Leaning back in his chair, beer in hand, in front of a roaring log fire, inhaling the savoury aroma of fine food being prepared and looking at the Milky Way, is a poignant reminder of why COLIN WINDELL loves this Africa of ours

The 11-km drive from the main entrance to the reception centre done at a little over walking pace seemed quite tedious compared to the three-figure average achieved on a long haul from Irene, near Pretoria via Long Tom Pass, Sabie and then looping around over Abel Erasmus Pass to Makalali Private Game Lodge.

The BMW X3

Ample time then to take in the dry, dusty conditions in an area crying out for rain. From the air-conditioned comfort of the BMW X3 we were sampling, my travel partner and I scoured the thin bush for signs of life – the lack of it echoing the dead vegetation. Finally, two young impala and a junior giraffe presented themselves, their youth perhaps testimony to the fact life does go on even in the face of extreme adversity – and enough evidence to move the scale on my meter from ‘fake’ reserve to ‘has possibilities’.

Part of the lounge of the Makalali Main Lodge

In my years as a motoring writer, I have been privileged to be hosted by motor manufacturers at some grand hotels and resorts, all well out of the pocket range of a scribbler such as myself and Makalali is no exception, even though the new Lodge (opened in November last year) is the lowest cost of the offerings within the 26 000 hectare reserve.

Bar area of the Makalali Main Lodge

A three-night stay for two at Makalali Main Lodge will cost between R12 000 and R14 000 and includes all meals, two game drives a day, and soft drinks. The other places on the property, such as River Lodge, are limited to six couples and come with butler service and all the trimmings. The new Lodge was designed to accommodate tour groups and other larger parties.

Perhaps I am something of a traditionalist but the cubist structures housing the rooms seemed out of place and at odds with the pristine bush that surrounded them – more hotel than lodge.

Pool area of the Makalali Main Lodge

However, the rooms are lovely with an uninterrupted view of the bush, a large bathroom with a shower big enough to host all of your friends and an even bigger outside shower area. The oversize double bed just invites you in and, considering the massive ‘library’ at the lodge, a perfect place to catch up on some good reading and chill time.

Home to the Big Five, our touring party saw only rhino on the evening game drive but my own tally went up considerably on the way out with nyala, warthog, wildebeest, zebra, bushbuck, duiker and a tortoise all making me wish I had more time.

The inky black night sky enhances the bare branches of a tree

Time is also something of the essence for the wildlife of Southern Africa and for species such as rhino and elephant; it is these private reserves that are providing the sustainability in the face of rampant poaching and other wanton slaughter.

Tourism and corporate eventing are both vital to those lodges and the upkeep of the reserves – and long may both continue.

As celebration of the production of the X3 at its plant in Rosslyn, Pretoria, BMW hosted local and international media – the X3 is built locally for all world markets – on a ride-and-drive to judge the final product. At the same time, it is donating 20 locally built BMW X3s worth more than R15-million to selected educational establishments and NGOs.

The first organisation to receive its BMW X3 20d is The Rhino Orphanage, a Limpopo-based charity dedicated to saving orphaned baby rhinoceroses. Universities and technical colleges selected to receive cars will be announced in due course. All are dedicated to engineering education.

BMW Group South Africa has long history of supporting the cause of education in South Africa. More than 1 900 children have benefitted from Plant Rosslyn’s Early Learning Centre, and the group has supported 144 schools in various ways. Providing BMW X3s to engineering facilities at technical colleges and universities is a continuation of this philosophy.

Tim Abbott, CEO of BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa said BMW Group South Africa had “started production on the BMW X3, but we are building more than just a car in South Africa”.

“We’re honoured to be able to give back, and donating 20 cars to the right kind of organisation is the continuation of our long-standing commitment to charitable causes.”

White rhino and calf. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

The Rhino Orphanage is a registered non-profit company based in the Limpopo Province, and was founded by Arrie Van Deventer in 2012. The orphanage is the first specialist, dedicated, non-commercial centre that cares for orphaned and injured baby rhinos with the only aim of releasing them back into the wild. It was created due to a lack of a specialised facilities dedicated to rearing baby rhinos that have been orphaned as a consequence of the current poaching crisis.

Click the pic and depart with travelstart!