Travel: “Nose to nose with a lion”: wild escape in South Africa


Take a hat and a camera and hit the slopes of the Welgevonden reserve, an unspoiled wild treasure. Reportage.

In the Welgevonden reserve, wild animals are at home. No one bothers them. Never. So we often see them very close to the slopes, sometimes even too close!

The time now is 06.30. The sun is already warming the faces. But it is a brake that awakens everyone. Ranger is the first to spot them. Barely a few meters from the 4 × 4, two elephants appear and cross the track peacefully. We feel them calm. In the Welgevonden reserve “they have no predators. We are at home here”, warns Ranger from Laluka Safari Lodge.

For the visitor, the moment is magic. The predominant impression is to feel privileged towards wild animals in their natural environment. For them, the Welgevonden, located in northern South Africa, is an oasis of peace. The managers of the park are the guarantors. The number of people allowed to circulate there is very limited. We only meet a small handful of tourists in 4 × 4 during the entire stay.

On the other hand, it will not take long to find zebras, rhinos, hippos, springboks, giraffes or even lions! Welgevonden can be translated as “random discovery”. The majestic terrain here actually transforms on every occasion and offers breathtaking views of the pristine African wilderness and memories that will last a lifetime. Without a doubt, the Welgevonden is one of the best places to feel the wilderness and experience the true spirit of Africa!

Laluka, luxury with Belgian sauce

Located in the heart of the Welgevonden Game Reserve, Laluka Safari Lodge strives to provide guests with a unique experience. The luxury infrastructures are designed for two purposes: to create a real connection with nature and to have a low impact on the environment.

They make a family dream come true

Didier and his son Simon leave their home and may come face to face with an elephant, a zebra or a cheetah. It was their dream. And these Belgians from Aalst did it in 2019 together with Giulia, Simon’s Italian companion. Falling in love with South Africa, they bought and renovated one of the reserve’s cabins. Their passion is felt in every detail of their highly advanced services. All this while maintaining their “Belgitude”: “Maintaining a very family atmosphere in an African-European luxury environment has always been a priority”, confirms Didier.

Six cabins with private pools

Only six cabins (111 m2 each!) To offer a “tailor-made” experience to each client. Laluka emphasizes space, light and privacy. The large windows and terraces that open directly onto the bush promote connection with nature. You can thus surprise monkeys arguing right in front of the private swimming pool in your lodge. A magnificent reception and an infinity pool overlooking the valley complete, among other things, this idyllic image.

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100% organic farm and star chef

Laluka opened its doors in the middle of the Covid crisis in November 2020. “But in the end, it’s a blessing in disguise,” notes Simon. “We took the opportunity to launch our 100% organic farm in the valley.” Vegetables and fruits of all kinds, animals, the latter has not stopped growing since. “The farm now leaves the lodge self-sufficient. We even supply the other cabins that have been won over by our products”, adds the young man who is a trained farmer … on YouTube !

As you will have understood, even the food is the top of the range in Laluka. The chefs are trained by the Flemish star chef Piet Huysentruyt, who visits the place several times a year to give his advice. A delicacy for the taste buds that can be pampered with drinks … Belgian of course! For example, you can taste the South African Temple Wines wine from another Aalst, Tom Heeremans, or the Belgian beer Cornet, also available on site.

Sleep under the stars in the middle of the savannah

In addition to game driven morning and late afternoon, Laluka offers many other services. The night safari will offer you a unique experience where you will see more unusual animals. The goose safari with two armed Rangers will make your adrenaline pump and experience the bush from a different perspective.

Among other unforgettable experiences, breakfast by the river, barbecue at sunset in the middle of the savannah, and the traditional “boma”, a meal around a campfire. And for the bravest, Laluka renews with a night under the stars or in a tent in the middle of the reserve … For the others, a short trip to the spa is a must.

“Surrounded by 50 elephants!”

“We are the place where the animals live, it is they who decide we have to respect them,” says Christian.

Discover the “Big Five”

Originally, the term “Big Five” (or Big 5) referred to the five large wild animals in Africa that were described as the most dangerous and difficult to hunt: the African lion, the African elephant, the coat buffalo, the African leopard and the black rhino. . These animals are today a symbol of South Africa. However, seeing the ‘Big Five’ on your safari is not really guaranteed. Leopards are especially elusive. But who knows…

40,000 acres

Three hours from Johannesburg, the 40,000-hectare Welgevonden Reserve is home to more than 50 species of mammals. It is located in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, internationally recognized by UNESCO for the sustainable conservation of biodiversity.

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