Waking up to the natural beauty and serenity that is an early morning sunrise in the bush in Africa is always special; however, Marataba Trails five suites are positioned at the very end of a valley within the Marakele National Park, in South Africa with the design of their glass fronted suites allowed for mother nature’s morning show to truly be enjoyed in all its splendour. We chose to sleep with the curtains and windows wide open, for nature to be our alarm clock for our mornings walking safari.
We made our way to the common area of the lodge, where we enjoyed a coffee and a rusk, a morning staple of all Southern African safaris, which is often used for baby food but is a delicious accompaniment when dipped in your hot morning beverage. We had a quick chat to our guide and guide’s assistant before we all packed our morning tea insulated individual lunch boxes with a sandwich made from homemade bread and snacks of fruit, nuts, dried fruit and sweeties. Additionally, Marataba Trails provided comfortable back packs with camel packs filled with chilled water before we set off in our safari vehicle to find an ideal spot to enjoy our walking safari.
Nothing can prepare you for seeing a rhino on foot!
Matt, is a knowledgeable and calming guide who’s passion for the Marakele National Park is contagious. We drove to a spot on the river, which is where he chose to park the vehicle as we had passed two separate pairs of rhino, one with a calf and a small herd of buffalo which we would aim to walk towards, but not get too close and do a loop back. A walking safari, is such a wonderfully alternative way to experience a National Park. Your appreciation for the smells, sounds and sights is heightened due to your connection of your feet being on the earth. Of course the larger, more infamous African wildlife always provide a sense of wonder; however, nothing can quite prepare you for the sensation of being at eye level with rhinoceros’ and hearing their sounds due to the absence of a vehicles engine being present. Learning about the smaller wildlife, insects and flora always inspires. We stopped in a shady spot three quarters of the way through our walk, to enjoy our snacks and cool drink and share some stories, namely about how adrenaline inducing it was to be so close to one of Africa’s biggest five.
Coming back to the lodge after being out walking for over three hours, we had earned our brunch; however, before doing so, a quick refresh was called for. Marataba Trails does not have a pool but provides a rather innovative alternative – the rain shower! A genius outdoor, tall shower made from snaked pipes with drilled holes. Thirty seconds under their rain shower and you feel like you’ve been swimming in a pool for a few minutes. Add to this experience, the incredible view looking into the Marakele National Park. I ask anyone to find a more wonderful way to cool down after a mornings walking safari!
Anyone who has had the experience of being at a lodge of Marataba Trails standard will tell you that the food enjoyed is almost as important as the quality of wildlife viewed. The calibre of the dishes prepared in such remote locations dazzles. April, our chef, impressed us each time. His recommendations; as making decisions while on holiday seems too much trouble; always impressed. We enjoyed a continental plate each, with fresh juice, piping hot tea, which was then followed by a hot dish of April’s choosing before enjoying one of my favourite parts of the daily safari routine, siesta! This is a time to unwind, read, have a peruse of your photos taken from the mornings safari or nap. It is the hottest part of the day, so as to be in tune with the wildlife, it’s a time to recharge before venturing out later in the afternoon when it is cooler, to find more active wildlife before the night draws in.
At Marataba Trails, guests can discuss with their guide or group as to whether they wish to do another walk in the afternoon. Due to travelling in January and the humidity in the air due to a storm brewing, we took the opportunity to do a game drive, which did not disappoint. Being back in a safari vehicle, with our guide Matt at the helm, meant we ventured out of the valley and into the more open spaces of Marakele National Park, which was where more plains game chose to spend their days, eating, drinking and watching out for predators. The birdlife as well as the usual combination of impala, zebra, giraffe, warthogs and various bucks impressed. One extra that Marakele National Parks, is the grandiosity of their red granite mountains to one side of the park. The sheer beauty and magnitude of these mountains deserve call for your attention. I imagine this location to be popular for not only safari enthusiasts, but artists and yogi’s alike.
Coming back to the lodge post-safari, another tradition is enjoyed, the pre-dinner drink with your guide and others guests. We enjoyed the safari beverage of choice since colonial times, a gin and tonic. Whilst having a drink or two, more stories are shared before dinner is enjoyed.
I always find it hard to keep my eyes opened after 9pm whilst on safari, it must be something to do with the amounts of fresh air and the excitement of being within the presence of mother nature’s grandest creations. So an early night was enjoyed before we got to wake up and experience another day at Marataba Trails.
A point to note is that Marataba Trails is a mere three and a half hour drive from city of Johannesburg. Additionally, it has a sister property, Marataba Safari Lodge, which is in the same National Park but offers game drives by road. Combining both properties would provide safari enthusiasts with the best that Marakele National Park has to offer.