“To stay at Thabamati is to win the safari lottery,” says Sahara Gradidge

Chloë and I had the wonderful opportunity to stay at Thabamati Luxury Tented Camp in February. With it being a new lodge, we did not know what to expect, however from the pictures we saw we knew it was going to be a stay we would not forget. From the moment you arrive at Thabamati you feel at home; the cosy feel of the main lodge to the warm welcome from the managers and staff.

Despite the inner beauty of the lodge, the exterior is even better with the pool overlooking the big waterhole and its resident hippos giggling in the background. The tents are all situated around the dam so that everyone can enjoy the view from the comfort of their bed.

Thabamati is more of a couples’ destination with its intimate setup and open-plan bathrooms. You forget you’re sleeping in a tent with the luxurious furniture and amazing outdoor shower. The only concern would be for summer when temperatures increase and there’s a fan rather than an air conditioner to keep you cool. They are 100% solar-powered.

Our guide Charel took us on a lovely walkabout showing us the wildflowers of the season and all the orb spider webs around. Our route changed course quite a lot in order to miss all the webs, but we made it safely back to the lodge and no spiders were harmed in the process! If a walk is not your plan, no need to worry as the game drives are spectacular, with the sunrise and sunsets, you are in for a real treat. We didn’t expect to see a lot of animals as you never know what you’re going to get out in the bush on any given day, and with the reduced vehicle traffic due to current travel restrictions, ours were the only eyes out there. However, we still managed to win the lottery with our sightings.

First off, an elephant into the distance and while admiring the landscape a leopard popped up out of nowhere to greet us and gave us a bit of a show. Over the following couple of days, we saw loads of elephants, zebras, rhino and my favourite of all, a pride of lions with tiny little cubs. One morning, we got out early before the sun had shown its face and came across a beautiful dazzle of zebras. The light was amazing and the whole atmosphere felt peaceful. I do not think I could ever forget that morning, the sun coming up and the zebras trotting along the horizon.

Thabamati is not all about the sightings, although it makes a difference. The food is what brings it all together. From the homemade shortbread cookies with your early morning coffee to the ice cream with pear for dessert, your palate is in for a real treat. I wouldn’t recommend going on safari if you’re on a diet, unless you have excellent self-control. The best part is probably how it’s all homemade by their chef, Godsave. He makes everything from scratch and in the best way possible.

In the evenings you can enjoy a drink around the fire while chatting about the day and all the amazing experiences had. They also offer stargazing which we gladly accepted. The moon was high and bright, with many constellations around for us to enjoy. Their telescope was a little fancier then the ones I have seen before. All Charel had to do was type in what constellation or star we wanted to see, and it moved into a perfect position. It was definitely one of my highlights while staying at Thabamati.

With the dam being right in front of the lodge you can often see what visitors come by for a water break. On our last morning before enjoying our final breakfast a herd of elephants came by and had a ball in the water. There were a few youngsters who were splashing about and pulling the others further in. I do not think words can explain how amazing it is to see them come by, it’s definitely something one needs to experience in person.

Overall Thabamati makes you forget about the busyness of everyday life and gives you time to actually enjoy nature the luxurious way. I would recommend staying there for two nights or more, but no matter how long you stay you will leave wishing you never had to.