Experience Motswari Private Safari
When looking to book a private safari lodge, it’s usually a perfect combination of location, lodge, food, and overall experience that you’re after.
Pair the above checklist with the sheer amount of private lodges available to choose from in South Africa, and the decision becomes all that more overwhelming. Plus, with most private lodges costing as much as they do, it’s incredibly important that the choice you ultimately end up going with lives up to its potential.
Keeping all of the above in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Motswari Private Safari, a family-owned and operated luxury safari lodge within the Timbavati Game Reserve.
Motswari stretches out over 18,000 hectares and it’s been in the Geiger family for over 40 years, making it one of the oldest safari-lodges in South Africa. Upon arrival, you truly feel as if you’re stepping in to the family home, all thanks to the way it’s been decorated. A mix of quality vintage with family memorabilia, traditional safari elements and beautiful wildlife paintings by the current owner, Marion Geiger.
It’s a strong belief of mine that every South African has to experience a private lodge at least once in their life (if they are financially able to, of course). It’s such an intrinsic part of our tourism industry and a great way to experience Africa from a tourist’s perspective.
However, these lodges can seem a bit unattainable or even daunting to the everyman, so I thought I’d explain how they work: When you stay at a safari lodge, a number of private guided drives are included in your stay. The benefits of a guided drive vs. a self-drive (as you would do in the Kruger, for example) includes a better chance of tracking and seeing animals, closer encounters with the animals, having a sighting to yourself (yes, I’m looking at you stuck in a 20-car pile-up in the Southern Kruger because of a Lion 400m away).
A GLIMPSE INTO YOUR DAILY SCHEDULE AT MOTSWARI (WINTER):
- 5:45 AM – WAKE UP KNOCK
- 6AM – PRE-DRIVE COFFEE AND SNACKS
- 6:30AM – 9:30AM – MORNING SAFARI DRIVE
- 9:30AM – BREAKFAST
- 10:30AM – 11:30AM – BUSH WALK (OPTIONAL)
- 11:30AM – 3:00PM – OFF TIME TO READ A BOOK, TREAT YOURSELF TO A MASSAGE AT THE SPA, HAVE AN AFTERNOON NAP, DIP IN THE POOL, ETC.
- 2:30PM – HIGH TEA (LATE LUNCH)
- 3:30PM – 6:30PM – AFTERNOON SAFARI DRIVE
- 7:00PM – POST-DRIVE DRINKS
- 7:30PM DINNER
Of course, everything in your daily itinerary is completely optional. So if you’d prefer to lie in one morning and skip the early wake-up call, nobody will protest. You might just miss out on some incredible sightings though.
Motswari truly offers some of the most incredible viewing opportunities I’ve ever seen. The Timbavati Reserve falls under the Greater Kruger National Park, which means that there are no fences between Kruger and the private reserves, leaving the animals to roam freely.
Pair that with an incredibly knowledgeable group of guides and trackers and you’re guaranteed to tick off some sightings from the bucket list. The lodge itself is an unfenced system with no barricades to restrict animal movements. Luckily, there’s a night watch team keeping lookout through the night to ensure the safety of guests. The fifteen luxury-appointed, spacious private bungalows, all en-suite and air-conditioned, and offer sweeping views over the bushveld vistas.
The facilities include a lounge, library (with internet facilities, however not great) and art gallery. There are two fully licensed bars, indoor dining, or depending on the season, boma or bush dining; a beautiful swimming pool overlooking the veld, and a mini curio shop with some local crafts on offer.
Taking some time to take a wander around camp, with your binos is highly recommended.There’s so much birdlife to enjoy, not to mention the lizards, insects and other little stuff you don’t get to see while on the vehicle. Embrace all Motswari has to offer in its unfenced environment, it’s very special.
Remember that checklist at the beginning? A perfect combination of location, lodge, food, and overall experience? Well, we’ve established that we’ve got the location as close to perfect, right in the hub of South Africa’s richest areas for wildlife viewing, and the lodge itself offers everything you could need and more.
Moving on to the food, a point I’d like to specifically highlight, as it was one of my favourite things about Motswari.
Each meal is served in a different area of the lodge. After your morning drive, you’ll start off with breakfast. The usual spread of fresh fruit, granola, cereals, yogurt, eggs cooked as you’d prefer, and a hot buffet featuring meats, fried mushrooms, tomato, plus a few extras. Tea and coffee and a selection of fresh juices are brought to your table. During breakfast service, it’s been a regular occurrence to see herds of elephants come to the waterhole directly opposite the morning boma.
Lunch is served buffet-style in the main boma. This comprises a delicious, fresh assortment of salads, warm homemade bread, spreads, dips and a selection of creative meat, vegetarian and vegan options, followed by a wide selection of delicious homemade desserts to choose from.
Dinner, arguably the most celebratory meal of the day at Motswari, is served under the stars and an opportunity for everyone – guests and staff alike – to come together and share stories around the massive roaring fire over a few glasses of delicious South African wine, or local beer. The menu changes on a daily basis, and it includes options for every taste and dietary preference. It is the time to connect, a time for me and my fellow guests to come together and share our latest sightings. Comparing notes and making a “wish-to-see” list for the next drive. The atmosphere is always one of celebration and gratitude and the food reflects this in the rich, yet simple flavours that make use of fresh, local ingredients for that uniquely African taste experience.
Motswari means “to conserve and protect” in Tswana and that is what the reserve aims to do. I quickly came to learn that they were granted Gold Class status by the Heritage Environmental Management Company and accredited by Fair Trade in Tourism, South Africa (FTTSA). Motswari also embraces the principles of responsible tourism: community growth, environmental sustainability and wildlife conservation.
The owners, Marion and Fabrice, took this a step further and started a foundation called Rhino Disharmony, after a brutal poaching incident in 2014.
Rhino Disharmony is a movement to create a global voice against rhino poaching using art in all its forms – including painting, sculpture, music, writing, photography and any other artistic expression. With carefully selected ambassadors around the globe, Rhino Disharmony is driven to change the perception about the use of rhino horn and how it is fast tracking this species to extinction.
Their aim is to stop the demand for rhino horn by educating the next generation through any means possible.
To read more about the residency program, visit: Rhino Residency Initiative by Rhino Disharmony
Of course, the wildlife will always steal the show on most occasions at these lodges, but the people that work here are nothing short of amazing. The staff give the lodge it’s incredibly warm atmosphere and special charm. They engage with guests in a relaxed, yet professional, way and everyone greeted me by name.
Their saying “arrive as a visitor, leave as a friend” couldn’t be more apt and I quickly came to understand why people return year after year. A fact that speak loads, considering how many private lodges there are to choose from in South Africa.