• Richard Brown

Tented heaven

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

Kwafubesi Tented Safari Camp in the Waterberg is the perfect escape for Joburgers looking for a luxurious glamping experience in the heart of the bush.

In a secluded corner of the sprawling Mabula Game Reserve in southern Limpopo, lies Kwafubesi Tented Safari Camp. I had previously spent a few nights at Mabula Lodge itself, but frankly, I much prefer Kwafubesi. It’s quiet. There are no busloads of tourists here, or squealing kids, or the general hum that always accompanies a big lodge of Mabula’s size. Here, the sweet bushveld silence is only interrupted by birdsong, cicadas, perhaps the far-off trumpet of an elephant, or the bartender taking your order.

I’m sipping on a coffee on my own private little veranda (each of Kwafubesi’s five tents has one), and surveying the traffic with binoculars. Off to the left, a furious yellow-billed hornbill is kicking up a fuss at a tree squirrel, who had obviously encroached on a particular and reserved tree cavity, and perhaps came too close to the hornbill’s eggs or nestlings hidden there.

Close by the tree, a one-horned impala grazes oblivious to the altercation raging above its head. He must have been shunned from the herd because of his ruined rack – likely dehorned in a fight during rutting season. The shunned ram seems to be following a large herd of wildebeest, which is grazing off to my right, perhaps using them as an alarm system for when predators threaten. But the impala will never be accepted by his own herd again, as ewes are unlikely to mate with a uni-horn ram. It’s a cruel world. Further off, the binoculars allow me a close-up look at the impossibly long tongue of a giraffe curling around a thorny branch and retrieving it into its masticating mouth.

It’s an extraordinary scene. I had just awoken from an afternoon snooze, made some coffee and sat down to this canvas of wildlife parading in front my porch. What a privilege.

Our morning had been even more incredible. We left on a game drive before sunrise and happened upon several rhino, a small herd of camera-shy elephant who thundered off as soon as we spotted them and, amazingly, a leopardess. The sleek cat would’ve gone unseen had I not spied the swish of her tail in the soft gloaming before dawn. Her silhouette slowly came into focus. She was grooming herself high up in a marula tree, her tail hanging off and gently swinging from side to side. We shut off the viewer’s engine and sat and stared in astonished silence. After 10 minutes, the leopard rose stretching, sauntered languidly to the end of the branch, leapt down gracefully, without a sound, and stalked off. I hadn’t seen a leopard in years, and certainly hadn’t expected to see one here. It would be our last game drive, too, so Lady Luck had definitely smiled upon us.

Our time here has been pure bliss. With temperatures soaring in the high 30s, the sparkling pool at Kwafubesi has been our refuge. On our second day, we had some surprise visitors join us poolside. I was wallowing in the shallow end and had been in conversation with Sammy, the delightful dreadlocked camp manager, who was behind the bar just a few feet from the pool. ‘Behind you…’ Sammy suddenly said in a low excited voice. I turned around, and out of the veld came strolling a large female cheetah and four clumsy cubs in her wake. Unperturbed by my presence in the pool, she lapped up a few sips mere metres from me while her youngsters wrestled and tumbled around on the lawn for a bit, before they all disappeared as quick as they’d arrived. I looked around at Sammy in speechless shock for an instant. ‘T.I.A, my friend,’ he laughed, while pouring us another gin and tonic, ‘T.I.A.’.

In the evenings we ate in the big lapa next to the pool, and had a few drinks at the bar before bed. The night before last, we were treated to a huge spread in the boma area. We were fortunate to share the whole of Kwafubesi with just one other couple, but even if the camp had been full, it would have come to a total of 10, which is a far cry from the busy lodge. The braai in the boma included various deliciously prepared meats and an array of delectable side dishes. Afterwards, we joined the other couple around the fire, where Sammy entertained us with hilarious tales of past guests late into the night.

We never retired too late, though, as there was always a game drive to look forward to before sunrise the following morning. And, in any case, the tents are so comfortable and cosy that one looks forward to retreating to it at night. Each is raised on a wooden platform, with a private deck on which private dinners or breakfasts can be arranged. The tents are spacious with a large king-sized bed, coffee nook and big bathroom with shower, bath and flush toilet. The five tents, each named for a member of the big five (we stayed in Leopard, eerily) are stationed far enough from one another so as to ensure total privacy.

The camp is a dream, with excellent facilities, service and guides. One can even arrange for a private massage in your tent, to further alleviate the stresses of big-city living.

It’s a slice of heaven I would recommend to anyone eager for a proper safari experience without the concrete walls, over-the-top luxuries and other trappings of big lodges, and, crucially, without the noise and lights too.


> Kwafubesi is on Mabula Game Reserve, 215 km from Joburg.

> It’s a 12 000 ha big-five reserve in the Waterberg area of Limpopo.

> Guests at Kwafubesi are treated to two game drives per day: early-morning and sunset.

> Horseback- and quad-bike safaris are available, as well as hot-air-balloon safaris upon request.

> Book your tent via Extraordinary Reservations at 011 516 4367 or res@extraordinary.co.za or visit kwafubesi.com

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