Colin Windell

Leaning back in my chair, beer in hand, in front of a roaring log fire, inhaling the aroma of fine food being prepared and looking at the Milky Way, is a poignant reminder of why I still love 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.

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
Part of the lounge of the Makalali Main Lodge

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.

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.

Pool area of the Makalali Main Lodge

Time is also 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.

Click the pic and depart with travelstart!