Where to drink one of the world’s oldest cocktails + a recipe
Laluka Safari Lodge is an exclusive gem in Welgevonden Game Reserve
See the Big 5 and unspoilt bush (plus it’s a birders’ paradise)
Belgian Simon Eeman and Italian Giula Avanzi fell in love with South Africa and wanted the world to see why, so they created Laluka Lodge, a 6-suite lodge that makes the most of the magnificent landscape it's set in.
The lodge is elegantly positioned on top of a ridge that plunges down into a valley in the Big 5 malaria free Welgevonden Game Reserve in Limpopo.
EXPLORE WELGEVONDEN’S VALLEYS + WILDLIFE
You can discover Welgevonden’s 40 000 hectares of African wilderness through game drives and nature walks. It unfolds its many layers in a dramatic range of mountainous peaks, rocky ridges and expansive savannah plains, and because Welgevonden is in the Waterberg District, it’s characterised by lots of streams.
You’ll wade through flowing streams, come across river banks where camouflaged crocodiles bide their time, and see watering holes dug out by a crash of rhinos or warthogs to enjoy as mud wallows. The guides will point out fascinating details, such as the bullfrog spawn submerged in the water, with the male frog on guard.
SLEEP IN A SUITE WITH A PRIVATE PLUNGE POOL
As wild as Welgevonden is, it takes just 2.5 hours to drive from Johannesburg (or 45 minutes flight) to luxurious Laluka Lodge (opened November 2020). The generous suites with separate bathrooms and dressing areas are exquisitely furnished.
There’s clear thought to how the parts synchronise with the whole, right down to the hanging bedside lights that look like weaver beds’ nests: delicate but structural and sturdy. Under the hanging lamps are hefty cuts of tree trunks for bedside tables.
SWIM IN A PLUNGE POOL ON THE TERRACE
The glass-walled suites all flow out to private terraces, each with plunge pools, two loungers on one end and a daybed that takes up the nook on the other. It's the kind of room that's perfectly set up to allow lovers time together and alone, should they want it, while ensuring absolute privacy from other guests.
EAT TO THE CHATTER OF WEAVER BIRDS
The owners are proud of the lodge, and there’s good reason. The rooms, the secluded “treehouse” spa on the edge of the lodge, and the wide-open dining and sundowners deck where, every day, from breakfast to dinner, sociable weavers chatter away.
“There’s a lot more chirping in the evening. The males build from sunrise to sunset. They also build all year round, and the nests are incredibly neat,” explains Simon.
HAVE CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH ELEPHANTS
What’s closest to Simon’s heart is the watering-hole hide, which gets you a close encounter with the animals. “I knew I wanted it from the start,” says Simon, who had seen a similar concept at another lodge. He’s just made it grander, by getting you closer.
Often the animals that saunter in are elephants. You’ll never fully appreciate the dexterity of an elephant’s trunk until you’re watching from a mere few centimetres away as it breaks apart a 50 kilogram salt block, also using its foot, and eats it like it’s snacking on peanuts, while guzzling gallons of water.
VISIT A FAMILY RUN AND OWNED LODGE
Simon has a few passions. He also moonlights as a beekeeper and tends to the organic farm that feeds the lodge, but then every member of the close-knit staff at Laluka is a geek of sorts. Giulia’s the engine who ensures the smooth running of the lodge and takes care of the details.
She and Simon’s father, Didier, the soft-spoken business partner, travelled to the Western Cape to seek out family-run wine estates when curating the lodge’s wine list.
WHAT’S ON THE MENU?
For each person at Laluka it's about the little touches. The head chef won't serve guests a big pot of potjie and have them leave the lodge with a “generalised taste of Africa”.
Instead she elevates every recipe, breakfast, lunch and dinner, by lacing her dishes with hints of flavours that are distinct to her Tswana heritage and South Africa’s diverse food culture. Then it’s lovingly served by a waiter so charming and graceful, that, while we were there, everyone, including the guests, gathered to sing him happy birthday.
FIND HEALTHY RHINO POPULATIONS + BIG 5
In the same way our ranger is the epitome of the modern-day safari ranger. He gets you as enthusiastic at the sighting of a rhino (they have healthy numbers of both black and white) as when he spots a flap-necked chameleon – quite common here – at the end of a 4-hour morning game drive. “There used to be lots in cities, but with the growth of urban areas there aren’t many more,” he explains.
COME TO A BIRDERS’ PARADISE
He is as patient and passionate about tracking a lion pride as he is with teaching you about how an impala male will defend his harem to death. “He loses 60% of his body weight from fighting; it’s nature's way of making sure there are strong genes and making sure there is no in-breeding.”
Or stopping to point out swifts hawking in low plains in the afternoon as the sun sets during an afternoon game drive. Limpopo is literally bird paradise, because of the abundance of insects. It and Laluka Lodge truly are an eden for all creatures, great and small, and that includes guests.
Address: Laluka Safari Lodge
Welgevonden Game Reserve
Site 8 Vaalwater, Limpopo (5030)
Contact: Call +27 (0)14 161 0897
or email email@example.com
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