The largest private game reserve owned and run by one family, Kapama Private Game Reserve in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, is a force to be reckoned with. The flagship luxury lodge in the Kapama four-property portfolio, Kapama Karula is sophisticatedly fabulous.
My daughter and I are each savoring our scrumptious lunch seated next to the pool, consisting of the most deliciously tasty homemade burgers, made up of lamb patty, cheddar cheese, crispy onion rings and a side order of French fries. For dessert, I choose the Karula Pavlova – meringues, Chantilly ice cream & berries, while my daughter sticks to her all-time preferred dessert – vanilla ice cream.
Today, we are joined by my husband, who, after a comfortable flight on Airlink’s Embraer E-190 from Cape Town International Airport to Hoedspruit Airport, will be enjoying this wonderful family getaway with us. He is collected in Kapama’s open game viewer at Hoedspruit Airport by our ranger and head guide at Kapama Karula, Morné Ferreira, after which he sits down for lunch and proceeds to order the same meal my daughter and I just had.
We are shown to the expansive Family Villa, perfectly proportioned for our family of three. With only two of these villas, sized at 1,830 sq ft, this is luxury at its finest. The open-plan living area houses a large lounge, the main bedroom, a bathroom with freestanding tub, double vanities, a huge walk-in shower, outside shower, and a powder room. The outside area is equally inviting, with a heated swimming pool and loungers in which to enjoy the abundant sunshine.
Our daughter is over the moon to learn that she has her en-suite bedroom, equipped with a flat-screen TV, a variety of movies and a Wii game console. Her favorite feature? The Fatsak in front of the television, where she is under the misconception that she will be spending a lot of her spare time here.
Before our afternoon game drive, we are treated to a delectable selection of treats for High Tea – think homemade cake, fudge, good choices & anything you would like to drink. Morné meets us at the game viewer, with tracker Nicholas Sithole at the ready to see what he can find out in the bush.
A huge female elephant is feeding on the greenery, while her tiny baby is trying to mimic her. Bearing witness to this is always both wondrous and humorous, as most elephant calves don’t quite know how to use their trunks yet. Imagine being that size and having an appendage dangling from your face, containing over 40,000 muscles!
The sun has started setting, and as we stop for sundowners, the silhouette of a vulture perched in the treetops catches our attention. Usually, where there are vultures, there is bound to be a kill of some sort. Morné explains there is likely to be a kill when the vultures are either circling the area, or a few are roosting in the upper branches of the trees.
Back at the lodge, we decide to have dinner instead of going back to our room to freshen up. Served in the main restaurant with a great ambiance, I pick a gorgeous Philippe Starck ghost chair to sit on. The menu is plentiful in choice – for starters, there is caramelized onion soup, crumbed cheese, cranberry, cloud & micros; beef fillet steak tartare with smoked bone marrow, pickled quail egg & parmesan. For the course, choose from Hoisan chicken supreme, basmati, coconut & lemongrass veloute & swiss chard; smoked tomato risotto, basil, Grana Padano for vegetarian option; sole with lemon risotto, brussels, courgette & saffron; braised lamb shank with polenta, charred onions & port jus. Dessert is milk tart with berry compote, Chantilly, vanilla ice cream, deconstructed black forest swiss roll, hazelnut praline, cranberry sorbet & soil, or South African cheese board.
After our delicious dinner, we take a stroll back to our villa, where a cleansing shower awaits with the complimentary Charlotte Rhys Cape Town products. We all retire for the night under the soft white bedding, ensured of a good night’s sleep. Our daughter is so exhausted from the busy day that she completely forgets about her eagerness to indulge in some DVD watching before going to bed; she’s out for the count.
As dawn breaks on another beautiful day in the bush, we see the most precious sight of a waterbuck with her young, basking in the early morning sunlight. On the banks of the dam, impalas are enjoying the water source, and further afield, we see a pair of red-billed hornbills warming up their feathers in the sun’s rays. Morné stops for coffee and freshly baked goodies, and on our way back to the lodge, we spot lions lazing about.
Morné drops us off at the entrance to the Karula Spa & Wellness Centre, where we are warmly welcomed by Lalene van Zyl, assistant spa manager, and spa therapist Boiketlo Kgomoeswana and Kulani Mdluli. This is the perfect place to come for a treatment or to immerse yourself in the spa pool. If you favor keeping fit during your stay, there is a state-of-the-art fitness center, or you can ‘sweat it out’ in the steam room.
We spend the day at leisure in our opulent surroundings, taking in the sights and sounds of the bush around us. After the most enjoyable meals during our relaxation time – we feast on breakfast, lunch, and High tea, we depart for our late afternoon game drive. The usual suspects are out and about, but the sighting that gets us all excited is when Nick finds leopard tracks in the sand, and we eventually find the leopard after nightfall, on the prowl and marking his territory. Someone once remarked that leopard urine smells like popcorn, and it’s true!
A surprise awaits us back at the lodge – it’s boma dinner night. The chefs have gone all out to prepare the tastiest selection of salads, meat, and desserts. I might have overindulged as all I want to do is go back to our villa, where I can lay down on the comfy bed. The walk back alleviates my discomfort, and after a restful night, we are eager to find what other animals we might encounter in the 322,000-acre expanse of Kapama Private Game Reserve.
** Thank you to Nicole Walker from Kapama for arranging our stay and to the Kapama Karula team for their hospitality. Views expressed are the author’s own.
| Photographs courtesy of Kapama Karula and by Heléne Ramackers
Airlink – How to Get There
Airlink – Airlink is a privately owned and funded entity. It operates as a Regional Feeder Airline and franchisee of South African Airways using its own visible brand intellectual property. Connecting travelers to more than 55 routes within southern Africa and St Helena Island.
Route Specific Information – Direct scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. With an all Jet service, Airlink provides a Business Class service from Cape Town, styled in the manner of European intra-continental service.
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