Embracing a sanctuary for the soul and spirited adventure at Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa

Min Read

Words by Yvonne C Mtengwa

Journeys across sub-Saharan Africa’s safari territories literally awaken senses often long understated by local and international city dwellers. Perhaps the idea of going on safari is a novelty for most, but avid adventurers will agree that safari holidays remain uncontested, serving up opportunities to connect with self and loved ones in the throngs of nature’s wonderment. Sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, encounters with wildlife are spirited as adrenaline-fuelled encounters lurks in the shadows of tree foliage, abundant shrubbery, grassy landscapes or rocky outcrops.    

Nestled amidst the malaria-free Welgevonden Game Reserve in the Waterberg District of South Africa’s Limpopo Province, lies Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa, a lodge I had first learned about on a trip to Cape Town earlier in the year. Travel writing lends itself to an unending search for what’s new, remote or meticulously hidden from the masses on the hotel and lodge scene, gems of which are usually designed to ensure exclusivity for their guests.

On this circuit, my task was to ascertain which properties stood out in Limpopo, which in itself is a smooth, perhaps 3-hour drive from the hive of activity that is Johannesburg’s metropolitan area. With a comfortable transfer arranged for me by Mhondoro, my departure from my preceding stay onto Welgevonden started well after sunrise from Qwabi Game Reserve in Bela Bela.

I had been guaranteed relaxation upon arrival; an exquisite blend of luxury hospitality in an authentically African wilderness setting, and so headed in with excitement, and standing on the promise by CEO Fritz Breytenbach wherein he stated: “Mhondoro has earned a reputation as a luxury safari destination of note within the Welgevonden Game Reserve, and now offers more adventurous guests the opportunity to explore further afield whilst still enjoying the Mhondoro standard of guiding, cuisine and service, presented as a luxe, glamping wilderness experience.”

A 90-min drive later, our driver coasted us through the entry gates of Welgevonden Private Game Reserve, which I was to learn spanned a behemoth 37 000 hectares of diverse landscapes which was originally fenced farmland, and now converted into open terrain, with conservation and wildlife protection at the helm of collective operations between Lodge owners here. The typography boasts a combination of flat land and rocky outcrops, creating a scenic backdrop for a host of private lodges and homes. And so it made sense why there were a host of game viewers and transfer vehicles checking in and out of the nature reserve’s entry point.

It wasn’t too long after we hopped on the Mhondoro branded game viewer that was going to take us to the center of the game reserve where the lodge is situated, before we captured out first photos of giraffe, zebra, a lone buffalo and hippos sunbathing adjacent to a shallow pool on our way in. With cloudy skies, the smell of rain and chilly breeze blowing across our faces on our drive in, at the sight of these and other animals, we were thrilled at the potential of viewing many more of South Africa’s most prolific wildlife species during our stay at Mhondoro.

Embracing the Essence of Luxury Safari

From the moment you arrive at Mhondoro, you’ll be enveloped in an atmosphere of refined yet rustic elegance. A warm welcoming song from the team was enough of an announcement that our days ahead were to be enjoyed at the helm of cosy, personalised hospitality served by a family of warm, friendly staff. Mhondoro boasts an imposing deck, fitted with a sparkling pool and sun loungers, and providing front row seating to views of the vast flat lands in front of the main lodge. revealing hilly turf further towards the horizon.  The lodge’s architecture seamlessly blends into the surrounding bushveld, and the thatched roofs carried by the individual suites on higher ground behind the main lodge, draw you into warm wooden accents, expansive windows, and the beauty of the African landscape indoors, creating a harmonious connection between the man-made and the natural elements.

Accommodations at Mhondoro are designed to provide an oasis of tranquility and comfort. A secluded haven, featuring spacious bedrooms, luxurious en-suite bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers, and private decks with breathtaking views of the surrounding wilderness awaken you to the lodge’s warmth. Temperatures had dropped significantly at the point of our check-in, and so the warm fireplace set in our suite, added that much of a cosy effect to our space, which also featured an outdoor seating area and private pool.  And of course, the lodge’s pièce de résistance is the opulent Mhondoro Villa, a secluded sanctuary offering the ultimate in luxury and privacy for families well intending to enjoy much needed quality time together.

Meals were served a la carte from a quaint yet elegant dining room, often paired with wine, mimosas for breakfast or a rich shot of Amarula for that desert beverage. The farm-to-table approach to ingredient sourcing was evident in each mouthful, as we devoured culinary creations that were a delectable showcase of some of South Africa’s finest flavours. Plates came in sharing style, as the lodge’s chefs skillfully blended traditional African cuisine with international influences, crafting tasteful dishes that tantalize the taste buds.

Our last evening in camp unearthed a delightful bonfire dining experience, where three filling courses were served in front of a warm crackling fire, and entertainment hashed out by the team to the sound of drums and the vibrant clapping of hands. I couldn’t help but think how much my children would have enjoyed this bonfire dinner experience had they been on this trip with us.

Welgevonden Game Reserve: A Realm for Igniting Wildlife Encounters

Home to an abundance of wildlife, including the iconic Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo, Welgevonden Game Reserve proved to be a remarkable display of reserve’s diverse habitats, from lush grasslands to rocky outcrops, each supporting a rich variety of plant and animal life and offering endless opportunities for wildlife viewing. An option to start or end the day by embarking on thrilling game drives with expert guides always comes as a treat when on safari, gifting you the opportunity to glean from their vast knowledge of the reserve’s ecology and wildlife. As we traversed the rugged terrain, we kept our eyes peeled for the majestic cat; be it the lion or leopard, which proved quite elusive on this occasion.  The gentle giants of the African savanna, the elephants, rhinos and giraffes on the other hand, made their appearance often enough, highlighting the abundance of healthy populations of each species.

Impacting communities through a newly launched loyalty programme

We were to learn that Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa recently launched a new loyalty programme in support of each of its three community projects, allowing repeat guests to give back in a meaningful and responsible way, whilst on a personal basis, enjoying a range of benefits and discounts.  

Infrastructure for Mhondoro’s community projects is solely funded by the owners’ MF Foundation to provide employment, skills development and learning opportunities to staff members from the local communities and their children. These initiatives play an important role in job creation in the area; the sourcing of manpower from the immediate community; and upskilling workers to levels where they are employable, not only by Mhondoro but by other lodges and businesses too. Ultimately those with entrepreneurial spirit are encouraged and empowered to start their own businesses, or work in partnership with Mhondoro.

Mhondoro also purchased two large tracts of land adjacent to the reserve, where it has established an Eco-farm, and the soon-to-be-launched sustainable Farmhouse project. Back at the lodge, the Mhondoro Wilderness School operates from an old storeroom that was transformed to provide world-class schooling to a growing number of children from the local workforce.


Unveiling a new Mhondoro overland experience

To add to the thrill of adventure for Mhondoro guests, the lodge has also rolled out a new Overland Safaris product, offering bespoke, guided itineraries for small, private groups of up to 14 guests, to Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, and around South Africa. Currently, three different itineraries are offered with set departure dates between May and September, with a Namibian itinerary to be added in 2024.

Hosted by a dedicated safari guide, chef, butler, and maintenance crew, up to seven guests may be transported in each of the two custom-designed Mhondoro Landcruisers. Enclosed for longer distance travelling, these comfortable, air-conditioned vehicles have sunroofs and charging points but also convert seamlessly into open game-viewing vehicles with raised, pop-up platforms as roof-height vantage points.

Accommodation is provided in glamping tents with comfortable beds and crisp, fresh linen, set up in spectacular sites that include some unfenced, wild camping in nature reserves, complete with the basic comforts of a gas-heated hot shower and toilet facilities. Other nights may be spent in some of Southern Africa’s most famous, well-established wilderness camps, while some itineraries also include the option of stays in luxury lodges along the way. All food preparation is done by the chef on open fires with a focus on wholesome, high-end camping meals, including potjiekos, braais, and fresh bread baked daily, all enjoyed along with premium quality wines and other drinks around the campfire.

Traversing Southern Africa with Mhondoro

Highlights of the unforgettable Botswana and Zambia overland safari that departs from Maun, include a Ntwetwe salt pan quad-bike adventure and meerkat family experience in the Makgadikgadi region; the forest and open savanna woodland of Nxai Pan National Park in Northern Botswana; and wild camping at Khwai Magotho between the Moremi and Savuti (Chobe) National Parks on the edge of the Okavango Delta. From there the adventure continues via Kasane, the meeting point of Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, with the option to end at Mukwa River Lodge on the Zambezi River, incorporating a visit to the Victoria Falls.

Departing from the Waterberg, Botswana itineraries can easily be added onto a stay at Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa, covering Mapungupwe National Park, the Tuli Wilderness, and the mighty Limpopo River, before returning to Mhondoro. 

Those guests who prefer to stay within the borders of South Africa, may opt for the Cape Town itinerary which starts in Port Elizabeth, visiting the Mountain Zebra National Park, Camdeboo National Park with a traditional farm stay, the Swartberg Nature Reserve and Gamkaskloof, which is know as ‘Die Hel’, onto Oudtshoorn, Montagu and Paternoster with Cape Town as final destination. 

Mhondoro’s Overland Safaris will cover some of the most scenic reserves and wilderness areas of Southern Africa, as well as the ancient waterways of the Okavango Delta where itineraries will include scenic flights boat trips, and Mokoro excursions. “We are pleased to offer a small selection of bucket-list itineraries for those who yearn for a true African safari experience, yet one that is guided and managed by professionals to offer a safe and hassle-free safari. Families with children older than six are welcome, along with those who have a special interest in birds, stargazing, photography, and elephants! Experiencing the local sights, sounds and wonders of Africa’s wildlife will be the order of each day – guaranteed,” says Mhondoro CEO Fritz Breytenbach.

To learn more about Mhondoro Lodges and Villa visit: https://www.mhondoro.com/

To book an overland experience of a lifetime, visit: https://mhondorooverland.com/



Africa Travel

Cape Town

Limpopo Province

Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa


© 2023 TRAVEL ESSENCE MAGAZINE, All rights reserved.