Situated in the malaria-free Waterberg region of South Africa’s Limpopo Province, Letamo Lodge at Qwabi Private Game Reserve by Newmark hosts a familiar feeling, with the most majestic mountainous escarpment as a backdrop.
When an invitation from Manley Social and Newmark Hotels & Reserves arrives to experience their brand-new safari offering, there is no hesitation on my part. Bright and early on a Thursday morning, we make our way from Cape Town International Airport to OR Tambo International Airport where we are met by the friendly Newmark team for our road transfer to Qwabi Private Game Reserve. Departing in style in Mercedes Minivans, we drive in convoy to the lodge, and arrive in time for a light lunch, consisting of delectable salads, sandwiches, and something sweet.
I’m staying in a luxury suite with my own private plunge pool, private patio, air conditioner, satellite television, mini-bar fridge, a coffee and tea station, and an in-room safe. Once I am cleansed in the shower with the wonderfully fragrant Woodbury & Co. products, I climb into the King-size bed, which is covered in the most luxuriously soft white cotton bedding. Qwabi’s interiors are the handiwork of Francois du Plessis Interiors, and for Letamo, he introduced hues of orange and stone to mirror the red earth and adjacent mountains.
Twice daily game drives in the UNESCO-declared savannah biosphere form part of a stay at Qwabi, and excitement abounds when head field guide Jean-Pierre rounds us up for our first game drive. We had hardly left the lodge when he stops by a dam where a pod of hippos is having a sprightly display, the one showing dominance by opening its mouth and displacing the water. A baby hippo tries to mimic the adult, much to the amusement of fellow guests Cara, Les, Chris, Jim, and Inga.
Driving up the path through loads of greenery, a large herd of eland appears in the distance. Further afield, a journey of giraffe is having a feeding frenzy on the surrounding leaves, standing in such close proximity that I am able to count her eyelashes and see all the beautiful patterns on her statuesque frame.
Back at Letamo, we are dining in the Boma and chef Terrence has gone all out to ensure that each guest has something they enjoy, from salads to barbequed meat & chicken to the most morish dessert.
After a good night’s sleep, we head out on a game drive into the 28,000-acre reserve, driving around to the other side of the mountain where we spot a blue wildebeest with its adorable young, more giraffe and a small herd of zebra.
Following a hearty breakfast, the day has warmed up enough to take a dip in my private plunge pool. The water is refreshing and after lunch, I am booked for a spa treatment. Spa therapist Kate starts with a foot ritual, after which her healing hands go to work to rub the knots out of her shoulders. The massage is so relaxing that I drift off into dreamland and am awoken when Kate sounds three chimes to indicate the end of the session.
The weather is not playing along for our game drive or scheduled bush dinner, but plans can be changed, and chef Terrence has outdone himself with the most delicious oxtail potjiekos (small-pot food). It is so tasty and tender, it falls off the bone. Dessert is traditional malva pudding with custard and meringues decorated with seasonal fruit.
It is our last game drive, and the rain has created a blank canvas for animal tracks. We head to the western side of the reserve, where rolling hills and open plains showcase the magic that is found in this part of South Africa. I look to my left and much to our surprise and delight, a herd of elephants comes into view. The cutest calf has found a stick and starts playing with it under the watchful gaze of its mother. Not knowing his trunk’s strength, a piece of wood snaps off and startles him after which he rushes to the safety of his mom.
Forming part of the Newmark Hotels and Reserves portfolio, privately-owned Letamo Lodge is the quintessence of Afro-chic, with smidgens of color that add to that sense of safari. “From a Newmark perspective, we are incredibly proud to add this exquisite property to our portfolio,” Ryan Roach, Newmark’s Group Commercial Director tells me. “We oversee every aspect of the lodge, from the operational side, the physical running of the lodge, the sales & marketing, HR finance, and any component that has to do with the day-to-day management of the lodge, including the reserve side of things. We are hoping it will become an all-around African experience for our guests who wish to stay at one of our properties in Cape Town, and then we can match it with one of the Qwabi camps, ideally creating the best of a city and bush experience.”
For more information, or to book, visit https://newmarkhotels.com/
**Views expressed are the author’s own.