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Our adventurous story of leopards, elephants
and Gin & Tonic
We sit at night in the dark under a Marula tree. Dry African soil beneath our feet. Above us the bloody prey of a leopard. We have experienced so much here in such a short time. Now we only still need to see leopards, elephants and buffalo and our Big Five list will be complete.
The leopard must have been here recently. That is evident from the remains in the tree above us. Firmly anchored in the branches. Will we finally get to see him? Leopards are very shy during daytime and can also hide very well. That is why we are here now. In the dark. In the middle of the bush. No light. No noise. Pretty exciting. I even confuse Sabrina’s growling tummy with a wild animal. Chris quietly goes around the tree. And there he is! Well-fed and not agitated at all. Very relaxed, the leopard rolls over onto his back. And looks at me. The look in his eyes. Goosebumps. Unbelievably touching.
Let us start at the beginning: After our road trip from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape, we flew from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and then onto the small airport of Hoedspruit. Our trip to the Makumu Private Game Lodge in the Kruger National Park could begin.
When we arrived at the airport, we were warmly welcomed by ranger Chris. With a cold drink in hand on the open safari jeep, we were on our way to our first mini safari.
After about an hour we were there, in the middle of nowhere, in the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve. Klaserie is one of the largest private reserves in the country, about 60,000 hectares, and part of the Kruger National Park. This is the part of South Africa where you get to see most of the wild animals.
This exceptional luxury lodge offers complete privacy, unique all-inclusive luxury, peace and quiet in a relaxing atmosphere and beautiful nature.
The reserve and the lodge belongs to Stefan, a German. Once built as a luxury bush lodge for himself and his guests, the lodge was opened a few years ago to guests from around the world. Lucky for us!
The former private house has a two-story living area and 3 spacious and individually designed suites.
During our stay there was only one other young couple, Alex & Sabrina, also from Germany, with us at the lodge. The four of us had the entire lodge to ourselves so to speak. What luxury!
As exceptional as the lodge is, so is the team! The lodge is run by the warm-hearted managers and couple, Chris and Janet.
Janet takes good care of the guests and tries to fulfil their every wish. Ranger Chris and tracker Phillip took us on adventurous safaris in the morning and evening. Then there is Nelly´s, the ingenious chef who spoiled us 3 times a day with delicious food. The rest of the team took care of us in an unobtrusive and friendly way.
Luxury Bush Lodge
The interior of the main building and the 3 suites is luxurious, stylish and individualistic. There was a really good designer at work here! Everything is very lovingly designed and decorated with beautiful colors and the finest materials down to the even smallest detail.
On the ground floor of the beautifully landscaped residential area you will find the kitchen and the dining and lounge area with surrounding terrace. Everything is open-plan to ensure that you have a great view from everywhere into the wilderness of the Kruger Park and the waterhole close by.
Makumu means endless view in the Zulu language.
A substantial breakfast is served at the community table after the morning safari.
One should also not miss out on going to the upper floor. In addition to the books, binoculars, fitness equipment and a football table, you will also find a cozy fireplace.
You can just sit with a delicious glass of Amarula in hand and watch the wild animals go by.
The Boma, the observation deck with its open fire, is the romantic place where dining in the evening takes place and cozy hours are spent.
The Zulu, Ndebele and Bushman Suites are inspired by these South African tribes. Every single detail has been lovingly and carefully selected. Each suite has a room with a double bed, a room with 2 single beds, 2 bathrooms, a wooden deck with a hammock and an outdoor shower. All the suites are accessible via wooden walkways.
May the simplicity of the Bushman calm you, the energy of the Zulu inspire you and the creativity of the Ndebele enthuse you…
To complete the bush experience, there is also no electricity, but only candlelight in the suites. When we returned from dinner to our suite, all the candles were already lit for us.
The Zulu Suite, decorated with spears and shields, reflects the spirit of the Zulu warriors – bold, aggressive and fearless. It is situated right at the pool and has the best view of the waterhole.
The bathroom with its impressive view and magnificent marble bathtub is the absolute highlight. With such a view you can simply just relax!
The luxurious suite with murals and accessories such as bows and arrows, is a tribute to the elusive Bushmen. Designed in beautiful earthy tones, you can easily come to rest here while enjoying a glass of wine in the bathtub by candlelight.
The inspiration for this suite is the colorful and creative Ndebele tribe. Featuring warm colors and geometric shapes, the suite exudes warmth and elegance. It has a beautiful view of the Dundee river from the wooden deck.
Sunrise Game Drive
Getting up in the morning at 5:30. Getting dressed and ready with the flashlight as your only light source. Then drinking a quick coffee on the terrace and off you go on a sunrise safari by 6:00.
The Big Five and all the other animals are at their most active in the morning and evening. With a bit of luck, you also get to see the Big Five. We were very lucky to see lions, elephants, hippos, buffalo, leopard, rhino, impala, kudu, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck and wildebeest on our six safaris.
After about two and a half hours, Chris served us our first breakfast consisting of biscuits and freshly brewed coffee right there in the bush.
Actually, already on the way back, Philip discovered a fresh blood stain and intestines in the middle of the road.
Chris and Philip first thought that hyenas have probably stolen the hunter’s prey. But then Philip discovered drag marks, we followed them and found the dead Impala under a Marula tree. The prey of a leopard!
Unfortunately, we did not find the leopard then, but we would be back…
Back at the lodge, it was time for our second breakfast. We were spoiled with all sorts of delicious fruit, pancakes, scrambled eggs, cereals and jams. Chef Nelly´s prepares anything you could wish for.
After the morning safari, it is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the view from.
If you are lucky, a few elephants might even come to the watering hole or even to the pool to quench their thirsts.
The water hole near the lodge is very popular with the animals in the dry season.
Makumu is all inclusive! Delicious meals are prepared morning, noon and night and you can help yourself from the fridge or wine cabinet to whatever else you may feel like eating or drinking. Amazing!
Sunset Game Drive
We went back on safari at 16:00. Until sundowners in the bush, we again had time to discover many wild animals.
Looking for leopards and elephants
We still have not ticked off leopards, elephants and buffalo on our list. We already followed elephant tracks on several safaris, but still have not seen them. But this is wild nature. Sometimes you are lucky, and sometimes not. And of course, we wanted to find the leopard with his prey and Alex still wanted to see buffalo.
Continuing on the trail of the Leopard
We were back under the Marula tree. And there he was!
Looking straight into the eyes of a leopard – deeply moving!
The next morning we drove back to the Marula tree. On our way there, we even saw another leopard, very relaxed on a rock basking in the sun.
“Our” leopard was there once again. We could hardly believe our luck. Iit is extremely rare and very special to see a leopard in the wild.
We found them!
That afternoon on safari we finally found them – the elephants.
Unfortunately, the elephants did not find it as great to see us, as we found it to see them. Absolutely not. A trumpeting teenage elephant came charging towards us. With shaking heads and big ears the other elephants immediately followed suit. It was serious. Fortunately, Chris put his foot down, but the elephants chased us at neck breaking speed – that was enough to make us feel very nervous. Best to decide for yourself and watch the video. We definitely had pulse rates of 200 and will never forget the elephants chasing us. Spectacular!
As soon as we have put some distance between us and them, they calmed down again. They just wanted to chase us away. For us, this was of course, pure adventure. And Philip, was as always, calm personified!
This time round at sundowners in the bush, none of us wanted a glass of wine, we were in need of something a bit stronger – gin and tonic!
After our adrenaline rush we returned to the lodge very happy and looking forward to a delicious dinner around the open fire.
Before dinner we met for a nice glass of wine, listening to the interesting stories of Chris and Janet and reminiscing about our exciting day.
Even more leopards!
Well, somehow lady luck really was on our side. For that evening, just before dessert, we suddenly heard strange sounds close to the boma. It sounded like an animal was being killed. Janet, however, said that it was mating sounds. So we all took our lamps and illuminated the surrounding area – and there they were – two more leopards! Janet woke Chris and off we went again. Not even Chris, in his 25 years as a ranger, has observed leopards mating before. And so we found ourselves, just quickly wrapped in blankets, in the bush once again. And we found them, but all of a sudden, there were three leopards, two of them busy mating. Strangely, they did not feel disturbed at all. We were able to watch them the whole time, until they disappeared into the woods. Apparently leopards mate very often, only very briefly, but then, for most of the night. So, I guess there will soon be small leopard babies. Later we sat around the fire again. And they were still there, the mating sounds. Slowly it was time to go to bed.
The next morning, Chris even found Alex some buffalo before taking them to the airport.
We will always remember this unforgettable time! We really experienced everything while our stay at Makumu. From fascinating adventures to sheer romantic moments. Whether seeing 5 different leopards in one day and being chased by elephants or spending an evening at the lodge in a sea of candlelight. So many experiences, so many emotions. And the certainty: We’ll be back!
We have seldom felt so at home – this was the absolute highlight of our South Africa trip! A piece of our hearts will forever remain in Makumu.
Rooms: 3 suites
Transfer: About an hour with ranger Chris in his safari jeep from the airport
Minibar: In the kitchen, all drinks in the fridge and wine cabinet included
Air Temperature: 8 – 35˚Celsius
Malaria: Malaria prophylaxis to be taken in the rainy season, from October to March
Best time to visit: Throughout the year. Wintertime from April to September is the best for safaris, however, it is then also the coolest at night. It rains often from November to February and most of the young are born then.
Duration: Nonstop flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg with South African Airways, then onto Hoedspruit with South African Express
Time difference: None
Price: From 454 EUR per night all-inclusive
Special features: tranquillity, vast open spaces, spectacular safaris, all-inclusive luxury
Special: 3 days for the price of 2 in the winter months of July and August
Perfect for: Couples, families, gourmets, friends, nature lovers and animal lovers
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Note: During our stay we were partially supported by Makumu Private Game Lodge. Thank you so much! The opinions expressed in the article are as always 100% our own!
Our trip was planned and organized by Silke Marshall Marketing Solutions. A heartfelt thank you! The visit to Makumu Private Game Lodge is part of the “Favourite Gourmet Self-Drive Journey”.