The ostrich pecked at the furniture and fluffed her feathers as she settled down to lay an egg on the patio. We were downing gin and tonics in the shade – taking refuge from the bushveld midday heat while we watched her antics.

“Helga loves people,” Cathy one of the lodge’s staff, gently stroked the ungainly ostrich’s neck and feathers, “And we love her.” The bird preened and batted her eyelashes at us.

We had just travelled from Johannesburg, to Zebras Crossing Very Private Game Lodge, outside Modimolle in the Waterberg, and it felt very strange to start the morning in traffic and now to be face to face with an ostrich.

Zebras ambled up to the veranda – The game reserve has no predators and humans are seen as part of the ecosystem, to the extent that many of the wild animals tend to amble around the lodge, with zebras and giraffe grazing metres from the guests or wandering around the pool.

Meerkats tumbled over each other on the lawn, stopping every few minutes to look around in startled anticipation, before chasing each other again.

The lodge was very quiet while we there – perfect for taking time out and chilling. We embraced our lassitude and the abundant sunshine and stretched out on loungers around the pool for most of the afternoon.

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As the bush took on the golden glow of the late afternoon, we clambered onto an open Landrover for a sunset game drive. Bumping through the bush, we went up into the hills until the views reached out across the plains towards the Waterberg.

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At the edge of a large forested gorge we stopped for sundowners. A troop of baboons settled on a nearby rocky outcrop, barking and scratching lazily as they surveyed us. Life was good.

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In the evening, herds gathered on the grass surrounding the lodge. We sat outside after dinner with our coffee and watched the milky way navigate the sky, feeling millions of stars pressing down on us, while the surrounding wildebeest and impala snorted and grunted as they settled down. It was surreal and wonderful.

The next morning, I took a sunrise walk through the bush, the wet long grass slicking over my legs and my feet slipping on loose stones, baboons shrieking as a herd of kudu broke out of a thicket. The smell of damp earth was punctuated by the sweet scent of the Acacia trees and occasionally a whiff of something distinctly feral hinted that animals were close.

JCWQE9552.jpgThe heat was already intensifying, and insects buzzed around my head as I ran up the hill and along the ridges, until I sat on the rocks at the edge of the gorge in stillness, absorbing my surroundings, feeling the sun on my skin. I wanted to stop time and hold the moment.

I’d been here one night and I already felt completed immersed in nature and totally relaxed– it really was a magical place.

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Travel notes about Zebras Crossing:

The lodge accommodates a maximum of 16 people so it’s perfect for small private celebrations like birthday parties or weddings, or for individuals who want a quiet space for a retreat.

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It’s really great for families or small corporate groups  – anyone wanting to get away from the city into nature, with the chance to experience animals close by in their natural habitat.

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The property covers 400 hectares of bush in the Waterberg mountain range.

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The staff are excellent, most having worked at the lodge for years.

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The lodge has 6 thatched bungalow suites which can accommodate up to 16 guests. The decor in each thatched suite is beautifully simple, understated and luxuriously comfortable, each  with its own spacious bathroom and a stone walled outdoor shower that overlooks the bush.

There is a large communal lounge and dining area with an enormous fireplace for winter, and all meals are deliciously catered. It’s intimate and it feels like your own personal space. What i love about it is that the owners have kept the space authentic and soothing – it doesn’t feel touristy and commercialised yet it has the superb service and all the comforts of the bigger lodges.

The pool overlooks the plains and it’s the perfect place to float about while watching the game. If you’re lucky Helga will take a dip too.

 

Getting there: The roads from Johannesburg are good so it’s an easy 2 hour drive north from Johannesburg International Airport to the Waterberg area.

Go to map:  https://goo.gl/maps/FTzHD1xVT3x

For more information or to book visit the website: www.zebrascrossing.com

 

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