Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Guest post: The magic of Marataba

Driving 4 hours North West of Johannesburg after a 20-hour flight from Mumbai was one of the craziest things I could do…or so I thought.

Driving up N1 on a crisp blue winter morning from Jo’burg’s OR Tambo International Airport towards Polokwane in a brand new Mercedes C-class was magical.

A very comfortable 120km/h on the speedometer…cruise control on…check. Feet up on the seat...check. Sunroof open…check. Coffee in hand…check. The fields roll out in front of me as I whiz down the hard top.

Cruising down that highway I again think to myself - Why did I do this? My answer came 4 hours later as I turned off the highway to pass Hoopsdal Police Station (my last landmark before the entry gate). Here Mac the security guard greeted me with an indemnity form stating that I am now responsible for my own life and property. Fair enough. Wild animals are unpredictable just as most humans. I signed off and was ready to go. Before I took off…Mac gave me last minute instructions. Follow the road for 7kms. Cross the wooden bridge…then take a right.

Just 7kms to go before a hot shower and a cold beer. I was wrong. This was the longest 7kms I ever drove. Mercedes Benz C Class was a bad move. I had to watch every bump and stone in the road, these vehicles aren’t designed for dirt tracks. So here I am with my nose stuck to the windscreen and staring straight down in front of me when I see it! Fresh elephant poo! I see some trees knocked down as well. Now I am worried.

Marataba Safari Lodge
I am thinking a male elephant in musth which is probably the worst thing that you can encounter in the wild. Musth is when a male elephant’s testosterone is at its highest. This bloke is ready to mate and is extremely aggressive. Best way to recognize an elephant in musth is the secretion from its temporal duct behind the eye which makes it look like its crying.

I am on my guard as I inch forward with my foot now hovering between the brake and accelerator. More destruction and I head on. More dung too…and then I see…HER, very docile, chomping away on the leaves not giving a hoot about my presence. I pull over to have a look. All is well and she is happy and I am too as I take off leaving her gazing at me with utmost disinterest.

Finally, I arrive at the lodge with a few impala encounters skipping, hopping and darting all around the bush like little children playing in the garden.

As I step out of my vehicle a big friendly “hello hello” greets me. I am met with a cold towel and a cold drink as I am quickly chaperoned into the lounge area. Quick introductions and as I sign another declaration form I look over my shoulder…and there it is. The magic of Marataba, a stunningly beautiful mountain range with grasslands before it.

Watch out for the next part of Shantanu's adventures at Marataba, South Africa! 


Shantanu Chand is the CEO of Mumbai-based GoBeyond Travels that specialises in African holidays. He can be contacted at 

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