Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Guest post: Onboard the MS Mara

As we reached the landing dock to catch MS Mara, I saw the prettiest sight ever. She was moored to the bank amidst the backdrop of the mountains, which were now a bluish-pink hue. Stunning!

Off we went on the dam in MS Mara, which is basically a boat with two sets of inflatables on both sides and a deck for guests to relax in and enjoy the sun-downers. I won’t go into details of this as words cannot explain the experience and the emotion on this ride. One just has to experience it.

With enough Droewors and Bells inside me, it was time to rejoin the flying Dutchman and his lady love on a night safari back to the lodge. It seems that they drove around a bit and saw some general game before they returned to fetch me and now as the evening got colder, we were all set to head back.

The lodge had transformed itself. Warm fires and lanterns lit up the parking lot and we were greeted with hot towels and glasses of wine and sherry. Complete bliss! With glass in hand, we headed up to the bonfire overlooking those mysterious mountains again. Here, we met up with other guests of the hotel and swapped stories before heading off to our tables for an early dinner. Dinner was again Table d’ hote and stunning. I distinctly remember the juiciness of the meat and the flavor of the sauce, before I hit the sack and into oblivion.

The next morning started off at 5am with lions roaring in the distance. I quickly showered and ran up to the lounge area with the hope of spotting them from there while I sipped on some hot coffee. No such luck but I could hear them calling out to each other as they got closer and closer. We were off in hot pursuit as soon as Hein turned up along with the Dutch. All the lodge vehicles had split up to try and locate them. It was Jomi who spotted them first – four of them, two males and two females.

The females looked really hungry and one was in estrous. Among the males, one was extremely lazy and one had different ideas for one of the lionesses. We trailed them for over an hour, watching the females stalk a herd of wildebeest only to be constantly interrupted by the frisky male who had only one agenda…to mate with the female, making it impossible for the ladies to hunt. They gave up and we moved on. After a quick coffee break I headed over to the Marataba TrailsLodge.

Set up in a valley with stunning views of the forest below is Marataba Trails Lodge. A five-suite lodge is built into the mountain with the concept ‘switch off’ written all over it. No electricity, only solar lighting, and no kids below 16 since everything is open to the wild. It also has a single dining table for community dining as one would do at home. Really nice, considering there is nothing else to do here anyways in the evenings.
Marataba Trails Lodge
The premise of this property is walking the trails around the property. Everything here is about nature. Every morning, you choose your breakfast and pack it into your knapsack. Then off you go with one guide in the front and one at the back. The trails range from trekking over the top of the Kransberg Range to traversing through the gorges. The slowest guest determines the difficulty of the trek. It really doesn’t matter where you go, you will always encounter wildlife and that’s what makes this unique from any other property, as there are no vehicles to scare them away.

In the evenings, after a short walk one can sit by the fire pit and swap stories watching the sun lazily go down as the mountain range constantly changes colour… This is the way I will always remember Marataba…a place truly magical.

The first two parts of Shantanu's adventures in South Africa include The magic of Marataba and Marataba continues to delight


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

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