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Issue 1
Africa Travel> Issue 1
UPDATED: August 27, 2014
A Hedonist's Haven
De-stressing in the natural serenity of Leobo Private Reserve
Article and photographs by Jo Kromberg

View from the Observatory at Leobo Lodge

Leobo Lodge in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo Province is all about play and doing exactly what you want, when you want. Its about childhood and abandon. There are toys and grown-up kids' activities galore, but if you're in the mood for serenity and de-stressing, that is also on the menu.

We leave for the wondrous Waterberg on a rainy afternoon from Midrand, Gauteng Province. Our destination, as already-mentioned, is Leobo Private Reserve, a 12 000-acre estate encompassing rugged rocks, bushveld savannah, natural streams and an abundance of wildlife.

Surrounded by the diverse Waterberg region and overlooking the Palala Valley. This magnificent, malaria-free destination provides the setting for an exclusive private house, the Observatory, designed by award-winning architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens. The dynamic duo have received a list of international accolades which include Tatler Traveller's most Innovative Design of the year 1997 (North Island, Seychelles), Most Consistently Brilliant Hotel 2008 and most recently, 2nd place in World Building of the Year (Villa) 2012.

Spectacular view

But enough of this back slapping. Suffice to say they have created a place of pure joy.

We arrive late afternoon and the way through the unassuming, almost humble entrance to the lodge does not prepare you for the spectacular view that stretches from the plateau over the entire Waterberg, on and on and on until it ends in a watery blue horizon far, far away.

Like everything else about this place, the very event of arrival takes you by surprise. And more is to come....

The owner Rory Sweet, has created something that is sheer bliss.

My chalet is small but built right into the wild bush. It has all the amenities one would expect from a 5-star lodge and has obviously been designed with nature in mind. Dinner is an experience worthy of its own article. Since the Lodge does not have its own in-house kitchen, staff, top chefs and support staff are especially summoned from elsewhere to cook for you and your party. The food is delicious sitting on my veranda later, enjoying the days last drink to the sounds of the African bush is a fitting way to end the day before drifting off to sleep.

The next morning, after a sumptuous breakfast, we make our way to The Observatory, where some of the others in our party are staying.

After working on developing the Platinum Collection of Bush Camps for Wilderness Safaris for many years, the architects of this wondrous spectacle developed a signature, which enhances natural forms, shapes, textures and colours of Africa. With a varied setting such as the Waterberg, which offers spectacular mountain terrain, a rich archaeological and cultural legacy, in addition to an astounding array of flora and fauna indigenous to the area, the challenge was to design a house that highlights the African experience.

The house is a sensory assault of the finest kind and I'm sure there is no other such place on earth. The website describes it best:

"The house consists of a cellular conglomerate that is true to African structural design, like huts around a kraal. As each part unfolds, the visitor is filled with a sense of wonder which reflects Rory and Liz' vibrant personalities and love for adventure. Rory sourced the extraordinary dome in the States, which houses the astronomical observatory; stargazing in the bush suddenly acquired a touch of scientific precision. Tucked under this dome is an eccentric double-storey library with an open fireplace, which is an explorer's haven, with authentic books on Africana and modern day adventure."

A maximum of nine people (six adults, three children) can be accommodated, with two opulent bedrooms and luxurious bathrooms with baths, showers and massage beds inviting leisure and relaxation. A triple bunkroom leads to a separate guest room for a nanny; this self-contained nursery space has a separate bathroom and kitchenette. But by far the most interesting element of the house is the immense hippo-skeleton chandelier, which hovers over the sandstone dining table. Don't worry, no animals were harmed here – the poor hippo's carcass was found in the bush where he died of natural causes. Other interesting designs are the wildebeest-hide ceiling in the small lounge and the beautiful beaded light fittings over a window frame.

The astounding expanse of the living area allows guests to enjoy an uninterrupted panorama, thanks to a steel-engineered roof, which does away with any columns needed to support a covered veranda. This space leads to a heated infinity pool, which blends in beautifully with its natural surroundings.

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