WORDS: DEBBIE LOOTS :: PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Deep in the remote Welgevonden Game Reserve in the Waterberg, the award-winning, five-star Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa perches against the foot of a koppie. Understatedly elegant, its structure seems part of the landscape: the bush, the waterhole in front, the plains and the mountains in the distance. A vista dominated by the expanse of the Lowveld sky. Owned by Dutch couple Frank and Myriam Vogel, Mhondoro is not only a luxury bush getaway but a conservation haven and a sanctuary for white rhino in particular. Here these giants roam safe and free with the rest of the Big Five. The lodge and its activities are structured to ensure numerous viewing opportunities of these and other wildlife in the malaria-free 35,000ha reserve.
Apart from herds of elephant visiting the lodge’s waterhole (they also drink water from the swimming pool, to the delight of guests), many families of buck, zebra and even a hyena or two meander in for a drink. Also look out for the shy warthogs roaming around the lodge with their broods tailing behind. For closer encounters with game at the waterhole and unique photo opportunities, there is a reinforced concrete tunnel, 65m long, leading from the lodge to the waterhole. Mhondoro is the first to offer wildlife enthusiasts such a special opportunity. Don’t forget to take along a sundowner. You are in for a treat! More adventurous guests have two options: an earlybird or early-evening game drive or a walk in the bush with an armed ranger. The game drive, the lighter option, is a guided trip of at least two hours with a halftime sweetener in the form of fresh pancakes prepared and served in the bush by the Mhondoro culinary team. Top that with sightings of a lion, a female rhino and her calf, giraffe and hippos, plus a close shave with an elephant cow on the way back, and you get the picture. The heavyweight option is not a walk in the park, it’s a walk in the wild and not for the faint-hearted. But it comes highly recommended by at least two takers who returned starry-eyed after they braved the bush with their ranger leading the way.
A stay at Mhondoro may be filled with exciting thrills, but when it comes to unwinding, visitors are spoilt for choice. The lodge only accommodates 20 guests at a time, so it never feels crowded. The décor – the handiwork of Myriam, who is an interior designer – is chic and cosy. She describes the look as modern and sophisticated, yet comfortable and welcoming. “It is a fusion of African chic with edgy European influences,” she says. Outside, wooden decks furnished with cushioned loungers extend around the main area, all the suites and the luxurious villa. This is not only the perfect vantage point from which to keep a lookout for any action around the waterhole but also offers impressive views across the reserve. If that’s not relaxing enough, guests can book a treatment in the massage suite with its private outdoor spa deck and bath, or jump on a spinning bike in the gym while enjoying the beautiful surrounds. There is also an infrared sauna and heated swimming pools. For the tech junkies or anyone having to catch up on work, fast Wi-Fi is available in all the suites. Parents will be pleased to know that children of all ages are welcome and there is no shortage of activities and entertainment. The lodge offers baby-sitting services as well as a stocked children’s room, where they can play while the grownups enjoy private time or join a game drive.
The food at Mhondoro is top class, with talented head chef Tintswalo Ndobe and her team preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner fit for royalty. She visits your table and explains each plate in detail, from the source of the ingredients to the method of preparation. And don’t expect the same dishes every day – Ndobe and her team surprise guests with something new each time. What’s more, the food served at the lodge and the snacks packed for guests to take on game drives are all home-made, mostly from local produce grown in the lodge’s greenhouse. On a clear night, guests are served a special five-star dinner prepared on the lodge’s custom-built “star deck” before a delightful show of song and dance by the Mhondoro staff. But that’s not quite the end of the night’s entertainment. After dinner, you can walk out onto the pool deck for the main performance, usually announced by the approaching sound of trumpeting. The stars: a thirsty herd of elephants.
Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa has announced a 40% discount on new, direct bookings, valid with immediate effect. Discounted rates include all meals, house drinks and twice daily safari activities, and start from R3,250 per person sharing per night. This special offer will expire at the lodge’s discretion. Rest assured that all sanitation procedures have been implemented, precautions are taken to minimise contamination and staff are trained accordingly. Public areas and guest rooms as well as the kitchen and spa are disinfected on a regular basis and sanitation products are available to all guests and staff. Mhondoro.com
“The look is a fusion of African chic with edgy European influences” Myriam Vogel, co-owner, Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa
Tintswalo Ndobe cut her culinary teeth at resort hotspots like South Beach in Miami before she became head chef at Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa
Tell us about your career.
I trained at the Capsicum Culinary Studio before becoming a pastry chef in 2014. I worked at a luxury lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and was then appointed pastry chef at Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa. Next I gained international experience as chef de partie at the Delano South Beach Miami Hotel before returning to Mhondoro as sous chef and became head chef four months later.
What has been your defining moment so far?
When I was nominated as employee of the month at the Delano as an intern among permanent employees.
Who inspires you?
Independent women who work hard for themselves, proving they can achieve whatever they put their minds to.
My own small patisserie!