Mashovhela Lodge – a nature lover’s paradise

Mashovhela Lodge lies deep in the Soutpansberg Mountains in the land of Venda, one of the most traditional and superstitious people in South Africa. It is tucked in a deep and narrow valley, with a beautiful stream running through it.

Mashovela Lodge, barely visible in its hideaway deep in the valley

Mashovela Lodge, barely visible in its hideaway deep in the valley

This is a place where you can forget about the stress and problems in the normal world, and just relax in nature. The lodge has very knowledgeable guides that can take you on walks in the nature reserve. Although you can also walk on your own, I strongly recommend going with a guide, both because they can take you to the more remote parts of the reserve but also because they have so much knowledge to share about the nature and culture.

We went on a 4-hour birding walk one day. It started at 5.30 with a scramble up the mountain (that’s where I took the pic of the lodge from above). At this point in time, I was seriously starting to question the enjoyability of said tour (it was one of those moments where I decided to just keep my mouth tightly shut and let people think I was a bit grumpy, rather than opening it and let them know how I really felt about it) but I soon changed my mind. To start with, the views! As we stood there, looking in awe at the clouds evaporating in the morning sun, we saw a Verreaux’s (Black) settling on its nest on the other side of the valley.

Early morning clouds over the Soutpansberg Mountains

Early morning clouds over the Soutpansberg Mountains

Then once we were up on the plateau, it was pure heaven. Beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, a slight breeze and a warm morning sun. We meandered along the plateau, looking and listening to birds with the help of our expert guide Sipho. After a while, we settled down and enjoyed our packed breakfast and as we were sitting there we spotted the fairly rare Brown Hooded Kingfisher. He was calling, and Sipho told us that this usually means it is going to rain (which it did in the afternoon!). Once back, we had the most amazing snooze as the rain started falling.

The next day, at a much more civilized hour, we set off to explore the sacred Venda rockpool; Mashovhela – after which the lodge is named. This site is still used today by Sangomas (traditional doctors) in rainmaking ceremonies. It was a lovely hike following the stream upwards as it meandered across our road. We then passed the pool and continued to a mighty waterfall, deep in the forest. The coolness created by the steam from the waterfall’s base was much appreciated after the long hike.

High above the Mashovela rockpool

High above the Mashovhela rockpool

One of Morning Sun Nature Reserve's many hidden spots

One of Morning Sun Nature Reserve’s many hidden spots

Mashovhela Lodge doesn’t only give you an amazing nature and culture experience, it also treads lightly on the earth. It is completely off the grid, running on solar power supplemented by a generator. The owners are also actively involved in conservation and biodiversity research, as well as programmes to uplift the local communities. The lodge is certified by Fair Trade Tourism, and also has a Gold Leaf (the highest level of the Green Leaf Environmental Standard). If you need a break from it all, and want to discover untouched nature and cultural sites, then Mashovhela Lodge is for you. The fact that they serve great food and have a fab winelist to complement is just a bonus as far as I am concerned!

Traditional decor

Traditional decor

Water is all around in the valley

Water is all around in the valley

An 800-year-old Baobab in the Morning Sun Nature Reserve

An 800-year-old Baobab in the Morning Sun Nature Reserve

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