Kapama Private Game Reserve
The six-hour drive from Johannesburg was as exhausting as it was beautiful. As swiftly as the great Lowveld plains disappeared from our view, the verdant countryside and charming towns popped up along the winding roads of Mpumalanga.
I quickly snapped back to reality when, upon finally reaching our destination, the sturdy guard standing at the gate enclosing Kapama Private Game Reserve asked for our details before we entered. The reserve is situated between South Africa’s northern Drakensberg Mountains and the Greater Kruger National Park, and comprises of 13,000 ha of sweeping wilderness. The reserve sports a vast amount of different vegetation, so is home to most of the wild animals found in Southern Africa, such as all of the Big Five, over 40 other mammal species, as well as a good 350 bird species.
To me, a bush getaway is always something to look forward to – the chance to immerse myself in the wilderness. This immediately occurred on route to the lodge, as two lionesses welcomed us about 100 m into the reserve. Never have I been so lucky as to spot two “Queens of the Jungle” relaxing on the side of the road in the afternoon sun – as if they were waiting to welcoming us.
Kapama’s Southern Camp was our refuge for the two evenings. It’s a new addition to the Kapama Private Game Reserve family and situated in the south of the reserve. As we drove up to the beacon signalling that we are now entering the gates of Southern Camp, our hosts were waiting for us with refreshing towels and a welcome drink. As we walked along the enchanting pathway towards our five-star rooms, a female nyala and her tiny young one meandered along with us – as if they got the memo from the lionesses, it seemed they were welcoming us to Southern Camp.
One of the more intimate offerings, Southern Camp encompasses 15 suites as well as seven luxury suites and three family suites. The suites are all comfortably furnished with snug bedding, with the room and en suite bathroom offering views over the reserve. There is also a patio for relaxation.
Following afternoon tea, it was time for our first game drive. Of course, after experiencing what I had when we drove into the reserve, I felt like I had already gone on a game drive. But now we were accompanied by a ranger as well as a tracker – scanning the bush searching with narrowed eyes for possible sightings to point out to the gameseeking guests.
In only two days in which we undertook three epic game drives, my eyes had easily observed what some people only dream of on safari holidays. One of my personal favourite sightings was the parade of elephants making their way across the road in front of our vehicle. One by one they nonchalantly crossed our path, the other smaller than the previous, with a baby elephant – not even a year old – holding onto its mother’s tail while comically stumbling along. The majestic way of these creatures captured me in such a way that can only be understood when one has witnessed a parade such as this a mere few metres away – not for the faint-hearted, but offering a glimpse into Africa’s true beauty. I was blown away to say the least.
Each game drive includes an interlude of coffee and hot chocolate in the mornings to keep the harsh cold away, and sundowners in the evenings. The ranger especially seeks out a spot void of animal activity for guests to safely exit the vehicle for a much needed leg-stretching session. However, on this one particular evening, we could hear a lion roar quite close up, but thought nothing of it, and continued nibbling popcorn and chatting with the other guests. Seconds later, I spotted a curious lioness about 20 m away out of the corner of my eye. This was the first time I had witnessed a lion so up close and personal on foot, and also the first time I saw people jump back into a vehicle so quickly. I thought to myself, Kapama Private Game Reserve really does offer, as promised, “unique African wildlife experiences”.
We also encountered a herd of buffalo – actually among the most dangerous of the Big Five – an abundance of giraffe and antelope, some grumpy hippos, rhinos, and, of course, some zebra.
Unfortunately, I did not spot the everelusive leopard, however our friendly ranger did take us to visit the Hoedspruit Centre for Endangered Species. It is a safe space for endangered animals, with mostly cheetahs, wild dogs, servals, caracals, and rhinos finding refuge there, as well as some endangered bird species, like the ground hornbill. We went on a game drive here and saw several cheetahs, as well as baby rhinos (of which the youngest one was just four weeks old and fostered by a sheep). The staff here have the highest hopes for the future of these animals: to ultimately be re-homed in the wild.
Evenings at Kapama bring clear views of the stars, the lions’ roars to our ears, and great meals to our palates. The delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are set up in a buffet style and the variety means you’re spoilt for choice, with dinners taking place in the boma if the weather allows it. On warm days, one of the best places to relax is around – or in – the pool.
My journey through the Kapama Private Game Reserve brought me so much joy, knowledge, and excitement, as well as so many picture-perfect sightings and interactions with interesting animals and people, bringing the true essence of Southern Africa to mind and heart.
The Kapama Private Game Reserve also offers other accommodation options, namely the exclusive Kapama Karula, Kapama River Lodge, as well as the tented Kapama Buffalo Camp. There are also a host of activities to choose from outside of game drives, such as bush walks, treatments at the Kapama Wellness Centre, romantic sleep-outs on the reserve, photographic safaris, and hot air ballooning.
Download a copy of the SLOW magazine article here