Mab­ula Lodge

Business Traveller (Africa) - - TRIED & TESTED/FLIGHT - CON­TACT T: + 27 14 734 7000 E: reser­va­[email protected]­ W: mab­


Cur­rent owner, In­dian busi­ness­man and liquor baron, Vi­jay Mallya, bought the farm about 20 years ago from the Jou­bert fam­ily, who had cre­ated South Africa's first time-share model to try and re­tain the prop­erty as a game re­serve. Ex­tra­or­di­nary – a col­lec­tion of lux­ury ho­tels and lodges in south­ern Africa – now man­age and run it. Con­ser­va­tion concerns in­clude chee­tah track­ing and the Mab­ula South­ern Ground-Horn­bill Project that uses the re­serve as the first rein­tro­duc­tion site for new chicks. The 12,000 hectare Mab­ula Re­serve vi­ably sus­tains 60 mam­mal species, in­clud­ing hyena, lion, chee­tah, cara­cal, ele­phants, gi­raffes, buf­falo, rhino, ze­bra, and as­sorted an­te­lope, mak­ing it a great place to tick off the Big Five on a game drive.


Set within the Water­berg re­gion of Lim­popo, Mab­ula Lodge is 200 kilo­me­tres north of Johannesburg, with Bela Bela be­ing the clos­est town 47 kilo­me­tre away. It's a two-hour drive from Pre­to­ria.


A king-sized bed, plush wing­back chairs, cush­ions, Per­sian rugs, and a writ­ing desk in our dou­ble-vol­ume suite con­jured up the early 1900s, but with 21st cen­tury trim­mings, in­clud­ing a huge flat-screen TV – no need to live with­out the rugby – and wi-fi at a price. All 50 rooms are air-con­di­tioned with flat-screens, en­suite bath­room, tele­phone, hair dryer, safe and tea/cof­fee-mak­ing fa­cil­i­ties. There's also a cu­rio shop on the prop­erty in case you for­got to pack a hat.


Break­fast, lunch, and din­ner – com­pris­ing tasty buf­fets, a carvery, veni­son stews, and plenty of veg­e­tar­ian op­tions – are served in the main Ko Bo­je­long restau­rant that seats 200. Mvubu Deck, over­look­ing a small dam, seats up to 60 guests, mak­ing it ideal for gala din­ners, theme evenings and con­fer­ence teams. The Ndlovu Boma of­fers tra­di­tional South African cui­sine out­doors, as does Shaya Moya un­der an an­cient Wild Fig tree, that can seat up to 180 guests and of­fers spec­tac­u­lar views over the plain. The el­e­gantly ap­pointed Whisky Bar leads onto the ter­race or you can en­joy a beer at the out­door Pool Bar.


Three fully equipped con­fer­enc­ing venues in­clude King­fisher, ac­com­mo­dat­ing up to 160 del­e­gates; the Marula venue that seats up to 60 del­e­gates; and Baobab that takes up to 40 del­e­gates. All three venues can use cin­ema-style, U-shape and board­room con­fig­u­ra­tions. Con­fer­ence equip­ment for hire at an ad­di­tional sur­charge in­cludes TV, white board, slide pro­jec­tors, over­head pro­jec­tors, PA sys­tem, video recorder, flip charts, fixed screens, por­ta­ble screens, lectern, por­ta­ble pro­jec­tor, pho­to­stat ma­chine and data pro­jec­tors. In­ci­den­tally, wi-fi is not free here ei­ther. Mab­ula will gladly as­sist with in­for­mal break­away venues and pri­vate din­ing venues, and some in­no­va­tive team build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, such as ‘Cor­po­rate Chaos' in which teams try make a profit from an ob­scure list of tasks to ap­pease their share­hold­ers, or the ‘Art of War' that en­cour­ages del­e­gates to par­tic­i­pate in a re­al­is­tic mil­i­tary sim­u­la­tion, in­volv­ing stealth as op­posed to en­emy con­fronta­tion. Other ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude clay pi­geon shoot­ing, craft classes, archery, paint­ball, and mur­der mys­tery din­ners.


Mas­sages, fa­cials, man­i­cures, pedi­cures and wax­ing treat­ments are avail­able from the Mab­ula Spa housed un­der thatch op­po­site the pool. Af­ter an hour-long Swedish mas­sage in­volv­ing bam­boo sticks to soothe aching mus­cles, I felt my resid­ual city stress van­ish like Ajay Gupta dodg­ing court. Twice-daily game drives are a treat and I found our ranger, JP O'Donnell, to be su­per pro­fes­sional and knowl­edge­able about all as­pects of the bush. Guided bush and bird walks can be ar­ranged on re­quest, along with hot air bal­loon sa­faris, horse rid­ing and quad bik­ing.


An ideal con­fer­ence or fam­ily venue with a dis­tinctly South African sa­fari flavour. Just watch out for ex­tra costs such as wi-fi and drinks on game drives –a beer costs around R35. ($2.50)

Caro­line Hurry ■

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