Weekend Escape: Luxury watersports in the Waterberg

25 January 2015 - 02:00
By Claire Keeton

Claire Keeton enjoys a five-star stay with some watersports in the Waterberg

A comedy of errors. That's how our weekend away unfolded. But improvising as our plans went awry turned a luxury rock-climbing trip into a leisurely day of water skiing, which was fun.

Botsebotse Luxury Retreat in the Waterberg was the star of the weekend, deserving of the accolades it has won, including the World Hotel Luxury Awards in 2012 and 2013. What makes this boutique hotel shine in the five-star realm is its serene space and attention to detail. For instance, there are complimentary mountain bikes for guests' use.

Botsebotse, on the Zebula Nature Reserve and Golf Estate near Bela-Bela, is a gorgeous place to stay and the food is exceptional.

Yet the retreat does not feel like a bush destination - the first surprise of the weekend. The nature reserve has some 600 buck, zebra and other game and I had hoped Botsebotse would be hidden in the bush, far from civilisation.

Instead, it is one of many lodges and even a hotel arranged around the green of the golf course, so it feels more like a holiday village than a safari destination.

Zebula does, however, share fences with big-five reserves, one of which has white lion, and travellers wanting to go game viewing can arrange this.

Botsebotse itself is designed to be as secluded as possible from its neighbours, with hanging reed screens, aloes and thorn trees providing guests with privacy.

We arrived at the stone-and-thatch entrance late in the afternoon, when sunlight was floating through the doors. Stepping inside, I fell under the spell of this "luxury retreat" and its gracious staff.

Ann Manyama and Yvonne Baloyi welcomed us with drinks and showed us to the opulent Marula suite, one of only four suites at Botsebotse. The four-poster bed, children's loft, artworks and outdoor shower were among its attractions.

Before dinner, a rose bath was drawn for me - the lodge also has an open-air jacuzzi - and I had a sundowner listening to competing bird calls.

After dark, dinner was served on the outdoor deck, which has a pool and an array of attractive African artefacts. Dining with wine under the stars - and the gaze of a large Senufo hornbill carving from the Ivory Coast - was peaceful.

Starting with a cheese fondue followed by roast lamb, chef Abigail Ferreira served one of my best meals of 2014.

Sunday dawned bright, with excellent coffee. Once again the meal was delicious but the day's plans unravelled after that.

The scale of the Waterberg in Limpopo was my second surprise of the weekend.

My calculations about the distance from Botsebotse north to Thabaphaswa, a granite cliff we wanted to climb, were wrong. I'd estimated about 90 minutes by road when in fact it would take three hours one way: six hours' driving for a single, long climb.

Disbelieving at first, then desolate, I accepted we had to abandon that plan. Cable skiing and wake boarding at the Warmbaths resort in Bela-Bela on our way home seemed like the obvious alternative.

This turned out to be an afternoon of pure enjoyment. We skied long distances until our arms and legs were aching, only stopping when the park closed at sunset.

The manager of the cable-ski operation, James Rampou, has been working there for 15 years and gave great advice on what to do. Our day involved hordes of children and adults enjoying the supertubes, water and sun - essential elements of summertime and another reason, besides the game reserves and adventure sports, to visit the Waterberg.


Botsebotse Luxury Retreat at the Zebula Nature Reserve & Golf Estate.

Call 082 779 6730, e-mail book@botsebotsebushretreat.co.za or visit botsebotsebushretreat.co.za.

They have a range of packages on their website. One is the “Proposal Package”, which is R6 080 for two nights, two people sharing, Sunday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday is R6 72 0. Last-minute specials can be negotiated.

Forever Resorts Warmbaths

Welcomes day visitors from 7am till 5pm. Entry is R140 for adults, R110 for children aged 3 - 13. For more information, call 014 736 8500 or visit forever warmbaths.co.za

Getting there

From Joburg, take the N1 north towards Polokwane. Take the R516 to the Bela-Bela turn off, turn left. Drive through Bela-Bela town, then follow the signs to Zebula Nature Reserve, which is about 35km past the Mabalingwe Nature Reserve. Detailed directions on the website.