Sometimes, terrible tragedy can be turned into something resoundingly positive in the long run.
This is certainly the case for Mhondoro Game Lodge in Welgevonden Game Reserve, found in the Waterberg Region of South Africa’s Limpopo Province.
Mhondoro was razed to the ground in an electrical fire two years ago. “Everything was destroyed,” says Mhondoro General Manager Jasper Bruinsma, who had only recently taken on the job when the fire struck.
But rather than admitting defeat, Bruinsma and the Mhondoro team took the opportunity to build a new, improved Mhondoro.
Mhondoro Game Lodge reopened to the public a little earlier this year, and is undoubtedly the most stylish and luxurious camp in the reserve.
Local wood, stone and African artefacts have been seamlessly blended with contemporary cutting edge design and irresistible exclusivity.
The raised wooden deck of the main lodge area offers expansive views across the ruggedly beautiful and verdant Waterberg landscapes. The view from the gym and pool are equally stunning.
There are five secluded suites and a super-luxury villa on the property. The latter sleeps six and has its own pool, gym and yoga studio, as well as a dedicated chef, ranger and butler.
Mhondoro’s remarkable rejuvenation in many ways mirrors in the story of Welgevonden Game Reserve itself.
Not so long ago, this area was largely comprised of degraded and exhausted farmland.
But ambitious game relocation efforts and careful ecological management have seen Welgevonden returned to something close to its original state.
A number of the area’s old farms were consolidated and rehabilitated into the 37,000 hectare reserve in a true triumph of conservation.
Today, more than 50 mammal species and 300 bird species now call this malaria-free ‘Big 5’ reserve their home.
The sense of pristine wilderness is enhanced by the lack of other vehicles in this still largely under-explored reserve. It’s not unusual to have spectacular wildlife sightings without another car in sight.
Memorable, unadulterated sightings are also to be had at Mhondoro’s state of the art hide, which can be accessed safely from the lodge via an underground tunnel. The hide pops up in the middle of a waterhole that is a popular drinking spot for elephants, warthogs, zebra and more.
When inside the hide, you are just a few metres from the animals, and the low perspective across the water is also a photographer’s dream.
Sometimes though, the lodge’s “resident” elephants Rocky and Mr T bypass the waterhole and head straight for the cleaner water available in the swimming pool.
In-between visits to the hide and morning and evening game drives, there’s an almost overwhelming amount of food being served up in the handsome main dining area or around the fire in the boma.
Like everything else at Mhondoro, the chefs place a strong emphasis on incorporating local ingredients, and dishes are presented with effortless and understated flair and plenty of attention to detail.
For all of its selling points, for the time-being Mhondoro Game Lodge and Welgevonden Game Reserve remain lesser-known gems on the South African safari circuit.
However, this only enhances their current appeal, whilst also ensuring that a visit here is relatively gentle on the bank balance when compared to the luxury offerings at better-known stalwarts like Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands.
With this in mind, the best time to explore Welgevonden and Mhondoro Game Lodge is right now, before everyone else cottons on.