THE Waterberg, situated in the Bushveld district of the Limpopo Province, is a conservation stronghold and an important UNESCO declared biosphere reserve, which South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) has named as a critical biodiversity area.
Now, an exciting new reserve boasting the Big 5 in a malaria-free region is opening its doors to the public here; and will offer visitors an authentic and bespoke African bushveld experience. Qwabi, meaning ‘African Wild Cat’ in the Sesotho language, is an 11 000-hectare private game reserve, which once was agricultural land, but has since been thoughtfully rewilded – with more species being introduced regularly.
Qwabi Private Game Reserve is set to open to the public this December after an extensive R120 million renovation and joins the luxury safari portfolio of Newmark Hotels & Reserves.
“Qwabi is an extraordinary slice of the African bushveld. My team and I feel very privileged to have been appointed as co-custodians of Qwabi and to turn the reserve into a world-class destination,” says Neil Markovitz, CEO of Newmark Hotels & Reserves. “In conjunction with the comprehensive conservation team already on the ground at the reserve, we will ensure that Qwabi boasts the healthiest of all the African species, and in addition to the careful management of the existing wildlife, as well as the reintroduction of species, we have also embarked on an intensely focused genetic management program, bringing in healthy black maned lions from a Kalahari bloodline and elephants from bloodlines that carry large tusks – as a few examples.
In terms of accommodation at Qwabi, the lush reserve is already home to three standalone lodges, all of which are currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment by interior designer, Francois du Plessis.
Letamo, the largest lodge on the reserve, will be the first to reopen its doors to guests in time for the December 2022 holidays, and guests can expect 58 rooms ideal for families and multi-generational small groups. This includes 10 luxury suites with private plunge pools.
The lodge will include a kids’ club offering explorative adventures, alongside a padel court and two swimming pools, one of which overlooks a waterhole popularly frequented by wildlife. The lodge will offer various dining options, ranging from the elegant main restaurant to intimate dining spaces for couples, and a vibrant outdoor boma. A rejuvenating spa will boast multiple treatment rooms and relaxation spaces, adding to the lodge’s appeal as a wilderness wellness retreat.
Two more intimate safari destinations on Qwabi are expected to reopen in the first quarter of 2023
The second lodge to be unveiled will be Babohi, which will be exclusively for adult guests, offering a serene bushveld escape defined by its fine cuisine, refined accommodation and polished service. Here, the accommodation will offer 25 rooms, ranging from premium rooms to suites boasting private plunge pools, alongside an opulent presidential-style suite for guests seeking additional privacy. The lodge will offer extensive facilities for guests, including a large swimming pool, dedicated wellness spa, fitness centre, restaurant, bar, vinoteque and boma.
The final lodge to reopen, Semela, will feature 24 guest rooms, as well as a swimming pool, restaurant and bush bar; making it ideal for group bookings and corporate getaways.
Guests at all three lodges on Qwabi Private Game Reserve will be able to enjoy the remarkable wilderness of the Waterberg. On daily game excursions guests will be able to head out in search of the ‘Big Five’, and other fauna and flora and enjoy a truly authentic African experience in this beautiful private reserve. Set approximately three hours by road from Johannesburg, and 60kms from the town of Bela Bela in a malaria free area, Qwabi Private Game Reserve is easily accessible for self-drive visitors, although guests may also fly into the reserve via helicopter.
Qwabi joins the select Newmark portfolio of conservation-first privately owned game reserves that includes Motswari Private Game Reserve in the Timbavati, neighboring the Kruger National Park; Nkomazi Private Game Reserve in Mpumalanga; and Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape. The portfolio also includes Serengeti Sojourn, a luxury mobile camp that follows the annual migration in East Africa.