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


Take a hat and a camera and go to the slopes of the Velgevonden Nature Reserve, a pristine wild treasure. Reportage.

Wild animals are at home in the Velgevonden Nature Reserve. Nobody bothers them. Never. That’s why we often see them too close to the slopes, sometimes even too close!

6:30 am, the sun is already warming the face. But it is a brake that wakes everyone up. The ranger is the first to notice them. Just a few meters from 4 × 4, two elephants appear and peacefully cross the road. We feel calm. In the Velgevonden Nature Reserve “they have no predators. We are at home here, ”warns Laluka Safari Lodge ranger.

For the visitor, the moment is magical. The predominant impression is the feeling of being privileged in front of wild animals in their natural environment. For them, Welgevonden, located in northern South Africa, is a haven of peace. The guarantors are park managers. The number of people authorized to circulate there is very limited. We will meet only a small group of tourists in 4 × 4 during the whole stay.

On the other hand, finding zebras, rhinos, hippos, springboks, giraffes or even lions does not take much time! Welgevonden can be translated as “accidental discovery”. The majestic terrain truly changes at every opportunity, offering breathtaking views of the pristine African desert and memories that will last a lifetime. Without a doubt, Welgevonden is one of the best places to experience wildlife and experience the true spirit of Africa!

Laluka, a suite with Belgian sauce

Laluka Safari Lodge is located in the heart of the Velgevonden Nature Reserve, which aims to give guests a unique experience. Luxurious infrastructures have been developed for two purposes: to create a real connection with nature and to have a low impact on the environment.

They are fulfilling a family dream

Leaving their home, Didier and his son Simon may come face to face with an elephant, a zebra or a cheetah. It was their dream. And these Belgians from Alsta did it in 2019 with Julia, Simon’s Italian companion. After falling in love with South Africa, they bought and renovated one of the reserve’s houses. Their passion is felt in every detail of their high quality services. And all this while maintaining their “Belgitude”: “Preserving a very family atmosphere in the African-European luxury environment has always been a priority,” – confirms Didier.

Six houses with private pools

A total of six loggias (111 m2 each!) To offer each client an “individual” experience. Laluka emphasizes space, light and privacy. Large windows and terraces overlooking the bush, promote communication with nature. This way, you can surprise the monkeys arguing right in front of the private pool of your house. The grand reception and the infinity pool overlooking the valley complete, among other things, this idyllic picture.

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100% organic farm and chef

Laluka opened its doors in the midst of the Covid crisis in November 2020. “But in the end, it’s a hidden blessing,” says Simon. We took the opportunity to run our 100% organic farm in the valley. ” Vegetables and fruits are all kinds, animals, the latter have not stopped growing since then. “The farm now allows the house to be self-sufficient. We even supply other houses won by our products, ”adds a young man who studied to be a farmer on YouTube!

As you can see, even the food in Laluka is the highest in the range. The chefs are trained by the famous Flemish chef Pete Gusentruit, who visits this place several times a year to give his advice. Pleasure for taste buds, which can be enhanced by drinks … Belgian, of course! For example, you can try South African Temple Wines from another Aalst, Tom Heeremans or Belgian Cornet beer, which is also available at the hotel.

Sleep under the stars in the middle of the savannah

In addition to morning and late evening trips, Laluka offers many other services. The night safari will offer you a unique experience where you will see more unusual animals. A walking safari with two armed rangers will fill your adrenaline and feel the bushes from a different perspective.

Other unforgettable experiences include breakfast by the river, a barbecue at sunset in the middle of the savannah and a traditional “boom”, food by the fire. And for the most daring Laluka innovations with an overnight stay under the stars or in a tent in the middle of the reserve … For others – a short trip to the resort.

“Surrounded by 50 elephants!”

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

Opening of the “big five”

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

40,000 hectares

Within 40 hours of Johannesburg, the 40,000-hectare Welgevonden Nature 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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