The latest addition to the Karongwe Portfolio is the charming Becks Safari Lodge, situated in South Africa’s Limpopo Province.
The motto of Karongwe Portfolio ‘one experience, a thousand moments’ is very apt when enjoying a stay at Becks Safari Lodge, which is certainly what you can expect here. With only eleven suites, you can be assured that exclusivity and tranquility reign.
After a short drive from the Becks gate to the entrance of the lodge, we are met by Sam Gendle, Armand du Toit and Tammy Nolting and their merriment in welcoming us are contagious. A refresher towel and a wonderfully cooling non-alcoholic drink is a preview to the amazing service and fare at Becks. Once the indemnity signing is out-of-the-way, we are taken to our room, which is very spacious in size. Don’t let the exterior fool you – the charcoal-colored façade might not seem the ideal fit for the Bush, but the interior is refreshingly sublime and stylishly furnished. The designs are meant to have high impact, with contemporary and bold accents drawing your eyes to the supreme backdrop overlooking the Drakensberg Mountains while the cobbling waters of the Makhutswi River create a calming effect.
We thought we had arrived in time for lunch, but are informed that very substantial afternoon tea is served, ensured to sustain you well until dinnertime. Beautifully displayed on the outside veranda, the choice of food is plentiful. There is so much to choose from: Black Forest Cake, Mini Lemon Cheesecake, Fresh Fruit, Beef Sliders with mustard & pickle, Chicken & Pepper Kebabs, Hot Vegetable Skewer, Potato & Mozzarella Croquet, Whole Wheat Loaf & Assorted Butters, Cheese Board with crackers and Iced Coffee or homemade Lemonade you might want to nod off during the game drive.
Our ranger, Setepi Motlutsi, and tracker Simon Molobela meet us for our first game drive. We head out to see what we can find and a troop of Chacma baboons have an audible fight and run off into the treetops. Some zebra are crossing the road and to the left of the vehicle, a male giraffe is curiously looking at us. To our right, an elephant is grazing so close to us that we can see his long eyelashes.
There is an enormous bull elephant walking across the road and Setepi stops the vehicle to let Simon move from his tracker seat to the confines of the vehicle. Male elephants, especially those in musth, have been known to be very aggressive. Rather safe than sorry.
Impalas are going about their business and some white rhino are blissfully feeding. We are heading towards the dam to enjoy sundowners when a water monitor slithers across our path. The hippos in the dam are splashing about and a crocodile is lying on the banks of the dam, enjoying the last rays of the sun with his mouth wide open.
Dinner is a delicious feast of Soup, Pork Roast with vegetables and the most decadent melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Mousse. Back at our room, the mosquito net has been dropped and the air conditioner is heating the room. After a cleansing shower, it is time for a good night’s sleep.
Setepi gives us a wake-up call at 05:30, and we depart for our morning game drive at 06:00. Thank goodness for hot water bottles and blankets as the pre-sunrise drive can get quite chilly. Setepi informs us that we will be visiting the Southern side of the reserve as they might have found the lions. After a lengthy drive past some rock hyraxes baking in the sun that is finally out, we see them strolling up from the dry riverbed, playful as only sub-adult lions can be. One is sitting ‘posing’ for photographs but there is a vehicle blocking my way and I cannot get a good photo. Not to worry, Setepi assures me, you will see them.
Having been on numerous game drives, I know the guides always try their best to get us to see the animals we wish to view, but as Setepi jokingly says ‘the animals don’t always get the memo’. Ducking for a few thorn bushes, she comes straight into view – a stunning lioness sharpening her claws on a tree trunk. Right in front of us, the rest of the pride scurries off in spirited fashion, all ten of them.
Simon suddenly indicates to Setepi to stop the vehicle. We are invited to climb off to go on foot to a very special sighting. Nervously, we follow Setepi through the bush in single file. Between the grass, she is so well camouflaged that it would have been easy to miss her had it not been for the fact that she suddenly sat upright. The most stunning cheetah is lying five meters away from us and we are gawking at her statuesque presence.
All this driving and the fresh morning air have everyone hungry and it is time for breakfast! The breakfast menu is satiating, to say the least – choose from Eggs – Fried, Boiled, Poached or Scrambled, Crispy Bacon, Pork Sausage, Chicken Livers and for the Vegetarians, the choice is Grilled Tomato, Sauté Mushroom, and Hashbrowns. All washed down with a warm beverage or freshly squeezed orange juice.
Between breakfast and afternoon tea, time at leisure can be spent poolside, dipping your toes into the crystal clear 22-yard infinity pool. The expansive lounge area is the ideal place to relax and put your feet up while ordering something from the bar to quench your thirst.
Time for Afternoon Tea, consisting of Pound Cake, Chocolate Éclair, Fruit Skewer, Sticky Sesame BBQ Chicken Wings, Mini Rolled Beef Koftas, Mini Vegetable Quiches, Watermelon & Feta with a Balsamic Glaze, Olive Focaccia & Assorted Butter and a Cheese Board with Crackers. Today’s beverage is Iced Tea and Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice.
An evening game drive is always a highlight as nocturnal animals sometimes make an appearance. We had hardly started our drive and I still wishfully think out loud that the leopards must be hiding as we haven’t seen one, when Setepi slams on the brakes and almost sends Simon flying. Right next to the vehicle, the most stunning leopard awakens from her afternoon slumber and hurriedly rushes off in an attempt to escape the clicking of camera shutters. She seems to be a scary cat.
We are dining in the Boma where a huge fire is already lit. A traditional South African barbecue is on offer tonight and the wonderfully fragrant meat is enough to have everyone salivating. The food at Becks is delicious!
On our morning game drive, a heavily pregnant zebra looks like she’s about to give birth any day now. A big herd of buffalo makes their way to a watering hole where they drink to their heart’s content.
Setepi stops the vehicle and indicates to us to follow him. The walk is long and I’m trying to avoid getting ‘kissed’ by a thorn-bush. In the clearing, they come into view – three cheetahs looking for a place to lie down. They eventually decide on a termite mound and we are able to take photographs of these majestic creatures, standing three meters away from them. Definitely one experience, a thousand moments.
*** Views expressed are the author’s own. Thank you to Bryan West from Karongwe Portfolio for arranging our stay at Becks Safari Lodge.