Not only is this new tourism offering in South Africa’s Waterberg region built on a sustainable safari model, it is a partnership that prioritises conservation. In the vision of Nelson Mandela, Marataba Conservation Camps are the result of both government and private entities working together for the future security of an ancient, delicate ecosystem and its wild inhabitants. At the core of conservation is the integration of local people with local tourism, creating the link, nurturing the passion, and building the wildlife economy.
In search of true, conscious travel experiences to offer our guests, we came across the Marataba Conservation Camps, which fit this criteria over and over again. Located in Marataba Contractual Park (part of the Marakele National Park) in Limpopo Province, two camps – Explorers Camp and Founders Camp – incorporate 21,000 hectares of magnificent 2.5-billion-year-old sedimentary rock escarpment, rivers that converge at the base of the massif and flow through the Kalahari sand-like landscape.
Founders Camp (the more sophisticated and exclusive of the two) lines the Matlabas River, while Explorers Camp (the more charming and characterful camp) overlooks a waterhole that attracts all creatures, great and small. There are six tents including a family unit at Explorers, which sociably allows for more than one bookings at a time, while Founders is more intimate with only our tents and an exclusive-booking basis. Individual style separate the two, but what you’ll get at both camps is the incorporation of delicious meals using local ingredients from community gardens. Each group gets a game viewer and dedicated guide, but where the experience really soars is when you have the opportunity to take part in the wildlife conservation projects in the reserve.
The unique ecosystem of Marataba – mineral-rich sandstone, rivers, nutrient bushveld and sandveld – makes it a home to some of the rarer species plenty of places can’t offer. Aardvark, pangolin, and cheetah thrive in the area, and there is a healthy population of lion, rhino, and the always impressive elephant. The conservation experiences you get to participate in include telemetry tracking of cheetah and rhino, rhino notching, seasonal game counts, vegetation mapping and environmental impact assessments. These opportunities invite you to get hands-on and work with the experts to leave a lasting impact on this special area. It’s rewarding tourism at its best!
Typical safari experiences like game drives, bush walks, sundowners, stargazing and birdwatching are all part and parcel of the stay; plus, the presence of the rivers gives you the chance to go boating among hippos and even swim in the wild, pristine waters (hippo-safe, of course!) Hiking in the larger-than-life mountainous landscape and picnicking on the riverbank bring you closer to the landscape and will etch memories in your mind forever. Best yet? The Star Camp Out experience – pop-up dome tents, the Milky Way, peace and solitude in the universe – you get the idea!
You and your family can enjoy a high-end, low-density tourism experience in the staggering landscape of Marataba, while the funds generated from your stay will contribute to the sustainable safari model this partnership has perfected. The Marataba Community Conservation Foundation is in place to facilitate the skills training and education of the neighbouring community, while building the local economy and supporting the integration of people and tourism.
As we begin to travel again, we are focused on creating and customising ideal journeys for our guests that are based on integrity. Products like the Marataba Conservation Camps combine the all-important experiential aspect of safari tourism with the critical contribution to the local wildlife economy. Get in touch if you’re looking for something new, something memorable, and something that makes a difference.