The Highlands Meander Region of Mpumalanga is one of the best-kept secrets in South Africa. A unique swathe of Mpumalanga set high on the escarpment, unlike any other area in the province. It is a region of waving grasses that go on for as far as the eye can see, of craggy escarpment walls, stunning mountain passes, thundering waterfalls, enchanting forests, and crystal clear streams.
For many people, it is the ‘Gateway to the Lowveld’, a landmark to pass on the route between Gauteng and the Northern provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, somewhere to drive through rather than to stop and visit. Those who yearn for one of the most scenic destinations in the country, and are prepared to venture a little off the beaten track to explore this undervalued region, will find a host of incredible sites and beautiful attractions.
Beyond the Highveld Meander lies the towns of Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa, nestled below the Klein Drakensberg (Little Drakensberg) in the Mopani District of the Limpopo province, where tourism and wildlife play a dominant role in the economy of the region. As the only town in South Africa that borders the Kruger National Park, Phalaborwa is all but ensconced by nature conservancies. One such conservancy is the Maseke Balule Game Reserve, home to the Sun Destinations property of Chacma Bush Camp. to pinpoint a specific reason for this, but I am convinced that the experienced staff at Chacma, and the sincere familial ease by which guests are welcomed, entertained, guided, and sustained undoubtedly has a role to play.
Hugged by Mopane woodlands – which draw a significant amount of wildlife to the camp, Chacma seems almost to be the centre of attention for elephants, Bushbuck, Kudu, and plains game, which are regularly spotted in the woodlands adjacent the camp. There is a natural waterlogged area in front of the camp, which provides wildlife with much-needed replenishment during the heat of the day. Where other lodges endeavour to maintain a safe distance between guests and nature, this morass can be viewed from the comfort of the deck area surrounding the swimming pool, or from one of the rooms overlooking the area.
The accommodation at Chacma Bush Camp comprises of three rustic thatched chalets, all en suite, with lounge and outdoor areas in each. Klipspringer Chalet sleeps two and is perfectly suited to couples wanting a romantic getaway. The large, open plan room is spacious and relaxed, with all amenities and modern comforts available. If yours is still a growing family (up to three), Grysbok Chalet has two separate rooms – one furnished with a double bed and one with a single – and a fully fitted kitchen for self-catering purposes. At the top end of the scale, Steenbok Chalet (sleeps two adults and two children) is an excellent option for a small family. There is one main bedroom with en suite facilities, and a sleeper couch in the living room.
Considering that Chacma is relatively far off the beaten track, mealtime is a particularly welcome surprise. Maintaining ample fresh supplies is a challenge in the bush, yet the Chacma culinary team ensures that each need is fulfilled. Forward planning is a requirement, so it is best to ensure that Chacma management is made aware of any allergies or specific dietary requests before your arrival. on the wildlife front. As the Maseke Balule Game Reserve is located near the confluence of the Ga-selati- and the Olifants rivers, the area offers a diverse landscape and many casual sightings of most of the Big Five.
Predators, especially, abound in the reserve and include lion, leopard, hyena, cheetah, and a pack of African wild dog. Elephant, giraffe, hippo, buffalo, and rhino are regularly spotted on safari, while more commonly spotted game such as zebra, impala, kudu, gnu, waterbuck, bushbuck, duiker, and steenbok are in abundance. For birders, the Kruger habitat is well known for its water birds, including herons, storks, plovers, spoonbills, and sandpipers. Orioles, robins, chats, larks, cisticolas, and coucals are some of the veld and woodland birds spotted in the area; while birds of prey are seen and heard throughout the day.
Ultimately, one seeks out nature in an attempt to remove yourself – even for a short time – from the hustle and bustle of the city. Untouched and unspoilt, the Chacma Bush Camp experience delivers on this ideal, while bringing the rejuvenation that only Mother Africa can provide, to the whole family.
For more information on this wildlife paradise, please visit their website www.chacmabushcamp.co.za.