“Once you walk in here, the rest of the world disappears”. So said one guest of the wonderful Toro Yaka Bush Lodge (meaning ‘my dream’ in Sotho, one of South Africa’s many official languages).
Nicole and Steve Baillie have established a bush lodge in one of South Africa’s least known provinces, Limpopo (named after the river that runs across the northern border between SA and Zimbabwe) in the Balule Game Reserve. As happened at many smaller reserves near Kruger Park, the decision was taken in the 1990s to remove all fences between the larger national park and the smaller private reserves. The result is spectacular.
You can expect to see baobab, marula (from which the famous Amarula liqueur is made) and fever trees, an amazing range of raptor birds like lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle and fishing owls as well as birds like the ground hornbill, bustard and stork. The larger mammals like cheetah, leopard, lion, giraffe, zebra, hippo and wildebeest are also in abundance.
In terms of accommodation, expect an infinity pool, large, light, luxurious rooms and excellent and personally guided safari drives from Steve and Nicole themselves (they’ve been doing this for over 20 years and know their country and its wildlife like few others).
The real beauty of staying at Toro Yaka is that you’re getting all the benefits of staying in small-scale, owner-managed, independent accommodation but with all vast reserves of wildlife that normally only come with staying in very expensive, corporately owned game lodges. One very simple way to understand the difference is that at Toro Yaka, every staff member has a photo on the website – you don’t find that at your average $500 a night safari lodge.
Prices at Toro Yaka start at R2 500 per person sharing per night ($175 / £140 / €168), which includes all meals but excludes all wildlife activities and drinks. It’s less than 20 minutes’ drive from Hoedspruit Airport, which is under an hour from Johannesburg by air.