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Issue 3
Africa Travel> Issue 3
UPDATED: August 27, 2014
A Rocky Road Flavour
A short drive outside South Africa's capital of Pretoria is the rustically elegant Monate Lodge, located in a private bush reserve, and fit for a king
By Jo Kromberg

Barely a two hour drive from Pretoria in Gauteng, I find, to my utter astonishment, a place so raw with beauty and surprise, it almost shocks me into silence.

The hidden bushveld gem is known as Monate Lodge, ke-monate being a Sotho word which, loosely translated, means "delightful". After being stuck in rush hour traffic for about 20 minutes while leaving Pretoria in the Gauteng Province, we're on our way and the road is clear. We drive into an emerald lowveld, painted jade by abundant January rain. After a somewhat slippery ride during the last few km of gravel road, we arrive at about 7 pm to a warm welcome from our hostess, the charming and very funny Ruby. Our "room" comes in the form of a colossal, private thatched asylum fit for visiting dignitaries, made up of a huge living area flanked by two en-suite master bedrooms with our own pool, Victorian bath, outdoor shower and mounted big-screen television. The other elite luxury tented suite on the property is just as rustically opulent and private without the intrusion of a TV. The adorable Willard who looks after us for the rest of our stay serves dinner of fillet steak in honey mustard sauce in our "quarters". An early night is followed by a delicious hot breakfast in the boma the next morning and the lodge reveals itself in the light of day.

Monate is nestled in manicured gardens on an almost 2,000-hectare private reserve in the Limpopo province of South Africa. This malaria-free area is beautiful in its diversity, ranging from open plains to typical bushveld and interesting rocky outcrops, caves and "koppies" (hills) and the lodge itself is built in an enclave among the beautiful and ancient rock formations.

We take a walk up the natural steps between the rocks to the piece de résistance of Monate - the "cave". The path leads over a waterfall and curves around the koppie to open up to a magnificent view of the Reserve and the cave's opening. It overlooks three weeks into your future, as Ruby says. The cave is used for dinners and the view from there over the bush is simply breathtaking. The natural cave can host up to 40 people at a time. It was formed around 300,000 years ago when a huge inland lake slowly drained out and the swirling water weathered away the sandstone which created this wonderful cave. Apart from it being a unique venue, the cave was also utilized by Bantu speaking tribes from about 1,800 years ago as another rain control and spiritual site.

The other dining venues are the lodge boma and the bush boma. The bush boma is located in the middle of the reserve. This setting has no power, and is entirely lit up by candles and paraffin lights, which lend an amazingly romantic feel to it, making for a real serene and peaceful dining experience under the African starry skies. It's situated between two rocky outcrops on either side of the dining area with the soft light embracing the rocky walls and as boma fires dance to the African beat, this dining experience is something to treasure forever.

We take a stroll around the grounds after breakfast and I realize that the lodge is superbly and very cleverly designed - the two executive tents ensure total privacy while the double and family chalets around the main reception areas are cozy with their own outdoor areas and two pools situated away from each other. In between game drives, guests can enjoy a variety of activities at the main lodge - Putt-Putt, board games, horse riding, swimming, mini-golf, volley ball, swing ball, and a trampoline will keep the kids busy for a week!

We spend the afternoon in our cozy palace watching cricket since it's raining. Dinner is presented in the form of a scrumptious kudu steak with red wine reduction. The food here is superb and simple, with none of the fancy over-the-top fare one so often finds at these lodges. The service is personal and friendly without being intrusive and the house Shiraz I order for dinner is of the finest quality. The next morning the rain has cleared up and the weather finally allows for our game drive even though we are reluctant to leave our luxurious cocoon. It's early and the bush smells of fresh and new life everywhere. The lodge boasts three of the Big Five – rhino, leopard and buffalo as well as cheetahs, giraffe, hippopotamus, zebra, jackal, crocodile, warthog and a large variety of antelope. We spot kudus on the game drive as well as zebra, giraffe and buffalo. The Monate Reserve also boasts close to 50 percent of the bird species found in South Africa.

Monate is an affordable and easily accessible paradise for the entire family right on your doorstep. So next time you need a break, think "ke-monate"!

Extra Activities at Monate Lodge

- Horse trails

Enjoy a totally different view of the reserve while on horseback. The horses – Lily, Apple-Jack, Mr. T, Sidi and Bandit, are well trained to ensure all levels of experience can be accommodated. While on a horseback safari, you will be able to approach animals and get really close to the action. The horse back experience will surely enlighten any bushveld experience.

- Clay pigeon shooting

For the adventurous and competitive, why not try your hand at shooting a 12 gauge shot gun? Clay pigeon shooting is the perfect way to test your aim while having to compete with time, as the clay only stays airborne for about three seconds. The guest is given clear instructions and guidance and no previous experience is required.

- Visit the caves to see ancient rock art

The reserve hosts some of the most spectacular archaeological finds in the Limpopo province. The archaeological heritage ranges from ancestral Stone Age sites, Bushmen paintings and a vast variety of Central African (Presumably Bantu speaking tribes) rain control sites. The historical time line ranges from around 300,000 years ago up until today. If requested, the rangers will guide you through the historical significance of these phenomenal sites. The archaeological heritage on our reserve is currently undergoing intense research and study.

- Bird watching at Nylsvley Nature Conservancy (must be pre-booked)

For bird lovers and budding ornithologists, we recommend a guided trip to Nylsvley Nature Reserve. Almost 50 percent of the bird species in South Africa can be spotted in this area due to the natural wetland environment. For more information have a look at their website: http://www.nylsvley.co.za

- Star gazing (must be pre-booked)

Join your hosts for an unforgettable star gazing experience where interpretations about the stars and constellations of the Southern Hemisphere are given. You will be able to locate common constellations such as Orion, Scorpio and the Southern Cross as well as bright stars and planets through the lens of a telescope.


Monate contact details and reservations:

Tel: +27 14 718 7000



Getting there from China:

Monate Lodge is situated just a two hour drive from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in a malaria-free location. Find out about car or bus hire from your travel agent.

Cathay Pacific has daily flights between Hong Kong and Johannesburg. Flight duration is 12.5 hours and the planes used are Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 747-400s. Go to

http://www.cathaypacific.com/ for schedules and bookings.

South African Airways operates the Johannesburg-Beijing/Beijing - Johannesburg route non-stop three times a week using its Airbus A340-600 long-haul aircraft.

Flights between Johannesburg and Beijing take on average 15 hours, and flyers will be able to make use of the Air China Lounges in Beijing. Bookings through travel agencies and www.flyssa.com.

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