Arrival/Check-in: The sun was dazzlingly bright as we inched our way along the dirt road, lost in the expansive bush of the Madikwe Game Reserve. A jeep appeared and pulled alongside to ask if we needed directions. Philip, the driver and our game-drive guide-to-be, invited us to follow him to the gates at Mateya. We arrived minutes later at the antique Zanzibari elephant doors, where we were met with a warm smile, steaming towels and a cool drink. (30/30)
Guest Quarters: No more than 10 guests stay in five ultra-luxurious air-conditioned thatched suites built from local materials and decorated with priceless African and European antiques . From our cottage at the end of a rambling path we could admire the distant Gabbro hills and elephants grazing just beyond the compound’s fence. A mahogany canopied bed dominated the room, while a large fireplace faced French doors that opened onto a rosewood sundeck and private infinity pool. The huge bathroom featured a deep marble tub with views of the veld. An adjoining indoor shower room with double showers opened onto a native blue-stone outdoor shower area, where a bust of Queen Mateya surveyed the land. (30/30)
Amenities/Services: All rooms have wireless Internet, and a business center is in the main building. A wellness center and a library of over 3,000 books, including rare works of 19th-century African literature, provide diversions. There are several dining options: outside, watching the landscape change as herds of animals come to drink at Mateya’s watering hole, or inside in the elegant paneled dining room or downstairs in the wine cellar, surrounded by 8,000 bottles of South African and French wines. Of course, the main attractions are the gamedrives. Early morning and late afternoon, Philip and KK take guests out to see any of the “Big 5” they request. At sunset they might spot a cheetah or a leopard or just enjoy cocktails and a snack while gazing off toward Botswana in the distance. (40/40)
The Experience: If money is no object, there isn’t a more exquisite place to have a private family gathering or company retreat.
Total Score: (100/100)
Mate ya Safari Lodge
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PHOTO: © ADRIAN OLSTAD
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