Your Resort Stories: Johann J van Emmenis’ Story

We love it when our valued guests and shareholders share their holiday experiences with us. As a new section, as part of our blog, we will feature stories that our guests shared with us – some from yesteryear and others from more recently.

Here is a story, told as seen through the eyes of shareholder, Johann J van Emmenis:

My Roadmap:

It started on Saturday, 24th of February 1990. My wife and I went to Warmbad (Bela-Bela) for the day to visit friends that booked a weekend there. Coming off the Highway towards Bela-Bela, at the “T” junction, some energetic people were handing out fliers. “Come for a tour to Mabalingwe, and we will give you a T-shirt and Lunch (Pap, etc.)” Thinking this is a good idea for a FREE lunch; we (my wife, our friends and I) headed to Mabalingwe. There we were introduced to this new concept of a holiday called “Timeshare.”

We fell in love with what we saw – BUSH – and I love it! We worked out how to split the costs three ways, and the rest is history. At the time, I was the only member of this three-way alliance that had little debt, and the other 2 partners agreed that this should be in my name. Costing us R6600.00 for the unit, and an initial levy of just R240.00

The 12th of October 1990, saw the first week of holiday at Mabalingwe. Driving my Toyota Corolla into the Parking area of Unit 20. Wow, what an experience!

Since that day, we visited Mabalingwe every year – Week 41… 

In recent years, we also obtained some Vacation Club Points, and now we frequent this 2nd home at least twice a year, spending +- 3 weeks on average here.

Why you may ask? What is making this such an attraction for me?

I stay less than 170Km from the gate; it is in the bush. My dad grew up on a farm in the Waterberg; we visited it regularly (December when my dad’s whole family would go to “Die Plaas”). Being in the bush has such a calming effect, and I found myself sometimes just sitting on the hill looking over the valley. Wind, birds, the odd tractor, or steam train in the distance, that is “what is in my blood”.

What we have found in the first years, you get there on a Friday, and by Wednesday, you are so relaxed, just to see the upcoming Friday around the corner. We have done this many times; rather stay for 2 weeks, than go home on the first Friday.

Oom Basie did it for me, with the income generated from the farm, ploughing it back into the farm. I remember the one time when a truck with antelope arrived, and it was for the farm, the people that love the bush. It could have been so much different if he didn’t love the bush.

Then there is the Staff, from way back until now, making you feel like family and not just another guest from some far corner of the country. Having a passion for their work, always greeting…. then there are some more special ones, making bets when you will be back, with a “Nee Oom jy mag nie antwoord nie” at the meet-and-greet, making you feel like a special person in their lives.

Yes, in every organisation, company, household, there are challenges some days; with ups and downs, but working through it, sticking to your beliefs – Mabalingwe is still number 1 on my list of “MUST be” places!

Yours truly,

Johann J van Emmenis


Share your Mabalingwe experiences with us by sending your stories to to be featured on our blog!

A Mabalingwe tale about elephants: a game ranger’s story.

The great and majestic giants of the bushveld with their mighty size, columnar legs and great strength have long been the topic of mythical folklore on the African continent. The myths and tales, passed down by generations, about these gentle giants stretch far and wide; weaved into African traditions, beliefs and modern-day symbolism. The origin of some of these myths has become ambiguous over the years and cannot be credited to a single tribe. Nonetheless, these stories add to this magic aura around the largest living mammals walking the earth today – the great African elephant.

As legend has it, these powerful beasts with their ‘wisdom sticks’ or tusks can tell the exact time and place of their death. It’s exactly for this reason certain African tribes believe old tuskers are often seen without their herd, preferring to find a hiding place to die, thus maintaining their dignity, as they wish to die alone and in peace. It reminds one of the novel by Dalene Matthee, ‘Kringe in die bos’, a story about Oupoot – the legendary elephant bull that breaks away from its herd and forms a powerful bond with Saul Barnard, the woodcutter. Saul aims to protect the elephant and the surrounding woods of Knysna, and by doing this he finds his truth.

This brings us to the next myth, with its origin in Kenya and the Kamba tribe. The Kamba people believe elephants were once humans who changed into elephants as a result of magical ointment that was rubbed on their teeth. They believe that it’s for this reason elephants are so intelligent, but also why humans have such an unusual connection with them.

Mabalingwe, too, has a legendary tale about elephants. Here is that story, told is as seen through the eyes of Game Ranger, Carl Swartz:

I have had my fair share of sightings of elephants on Mabalingwe Nature Reserve, and each time the experience is dreamlike. It’s so unreal how you can recall the specific mood, bushveld-smell in the air, that hair-raising moment where one becomes one with nature – it just leaves you in awe.

With each new elephant sighting on the Game Rangers’ radar, there is always that ‘eureka’ moment, the adrenaline rush and funnily enough, an exact course in how the events unfold. This time it played out exactly like before…

It always starts with a call from another Ranger:

Carl Swartz: “Yes, tjomma, howzit going?”

Game Ranger 2: “Lekker, lekker friend. Listen here, I have the elephants in front of me.”

Carl Swartz: “Okay, cool man, can you tell me where they are?”

Game Ranger 2: “Ja, dude! Do you remember that place I almost poked my eye out with the two-way radio’s atenna, well it’s about 500 metres past that, close to a rock that looks like elephant excrement?”

Carl Swartz: “Yeah, yeah.” I would usually reply, realising that no one else would be able to find this mentioned location based on those directions.

And off I go “racing” at 25 km/h to get to this precise location. At this moment the excitement in the vehicle is buzzing, whilst I am sweating bullets – thinking of the possibility of being too late and the elephants disappearing into the bush again. 


I finally arrived at the location, but no elephants in sight. This is where the doubts creep in – am I too late; did we scare them off; am I at the right location?

I call one of the other rangers: ring…ring…ring…

Guest: “Is it true that elephants are scared of mice? And do they really get drunk on Maroelas?” I hear from the back of the vehicle.

Carl Swartz: “Huh?” startled I react, before answering the guest (If you would like to know the answers to these questions, please book a Game Drive with Carl Swartz.)

Game Ranger 2: “Hello, Carl, you there?” meanwhile, on the line.

Carl Swartz: “Hello. Yes, can you hear me?”

Game Ranger 2: “Yes, ‘yster’ – do not move. Where are you now?”

Carl Swartz: “Next to that rock you mentioned.”

Game Ranger 2: “Okay, cool! Drive towards the dam where you fell in that one evening, turn right, then left and you will see them!”

+/- 10 minutes later

Carl Swartz: “Ladies and gentlemen, please remember to keep noise levels down; in front of you, you will see a herd of elephants.”


A few minutes later…

The elephants started taking an interest in us. The herd heading closer to the vehicle. Not aggressive, just curious. Several of the elephants greet us by shaking their heads and lifting their trunks. The lady behind me suddenly grabs my shoulder tightly, squeezes it and in a panicked state whispers:

“Let’s go, let’s go.”

Carl Swartz: “Ladies and gents, please do not be afraid. These elephants smell fear and that will make them nervous.” I calmly explained.

At this point, a nervous energy has erupted, with guests asking question after question, and the elephants moving closer and closer. It is at this exact moment when the matriarch stops and out comes a little calf. The chaos all of the sudden turns to “ooh’s and “aah’s”. She has come forward to show off the newest addition to the herd. She cautiously guards him, as the calf steps forward, wild trumpet, lots of scuffling and pushing – as if he’s the alpha male. As suddenly as they appeared, they disappeared into the bush. Thereafter, it was a moment of complete silence – a simple act reminding us about the human characteristic these majestic creatures possess, but also a reminder of their gentle nature.


In closing, let us be reminded of the elephant tusks in South Africa’s coat of arms that represent wisdom, strength and eternity. Let us be wise and safeguard elephants and African folklore, surrounding these incredible beings, for years to come. Let us show the strength to protect elephants for future generations. And let us work together to ensure that elephants are alive and thriving for the rest of eternity. Let the legend live on…

Romantic escape to the Waterberg

Escape with your loved one to the wonders of the African bush at Mabalingwe. ‘Mabalingwe’ was melded from the Tswana words “mabala a nkwe”, or “spots of the leopard” and the picturesque surrounds with sweeping views over the Waterberg create a tranquil setting for cosy couples to ‘meld’ together and reconnect. A romantic escape to the Waterberg reignites the spark…

Evening of Bliss

First night huddled together by a crackling fire

Arrive at a comfortable Ingwe chalet, set on a craggy rock outcrop which positions the unit to overlook the valley. The journey to a getaway can be tiring so relax on the private patio with a crackling fire, the stridulating of beetles and a decadent bottle of wine for the evening. The incredible Milky Way lights the night sky above as you and your partner enjoy the perfect start to your romantic escape.

A Spa Retreat

Blissful massage treatments as a couple

There is something special about the first morning you awake in the bush; the sound of buck near the chalet, snapping twigs; sweet birdsong to pull you out of deep, restful sleep and the smell of freshly brewed coffee which fills the unit and warms your soul. Enjoy a light breakfast together, as the sun chases away the shadows and cool of the evening, before making a visit to Mbali Day Spa. Indulge in a one-hour Theranaka™ African Fusion Body Massage side-by-side, or relax with a pampering foot ritual to soothe aching feet. The options at Mbali are endless and can be perfectly tailored to create the ultimate romantic treat.

Sipping on Love

Coffee and cake poolside

Once your spa treatment has come to an end, why not linger at the main entertainment area and enjoy the facilities? Walk, hand-in-hand, to Boeretroos Coffee Shop to tantalise your taste buds with freshly brewed coffee and scrumptious cakes. Lounge poolside, soaking up the warm rays and cooling off in crystal waters, before making the journey back to your unit to wash off the day and prepare for the evening’s activities.

Into the Night

Couples enjoy a lovely night game drive

Book for a Night Game Drive at main reception; experiencing the bushveld between the hours of 19:00 and 21:30 is a special occasion and creates a feeling different from that of a day drive. Share a delicious dinner and sundowners at Le Fera Restaurant or Vulture’s View Bar in anticipation for the game drive. Savour South African cuisine with incredible views over the Reserve before clambering into a game-viewing vehicle to spend the evening spotting wildlife and being in one another’s company. Our rangers are incredibly knowledgeable on the biome and will share interesting facts and information, as you two cosy up and immerse in the wonders of nature.

Hiking Together

Picnic and stroll hand-in-hand on a hiking trail

Wake early the next morning to enjoy traditional rusks and coffee, while watching the sunrise, dress comfortably for the weather and then head over to Wag ‘n Bietjie Hiking Trails. Spend the morning experiencing the Waterberg in a different light; surrounded by sweet breezes, a flutter of wings and a number of nature’s treasures. These trails trek through mountains, ravines and forest, offering superb views and a wonderful opportunity to connect and spend quality time together. Pack a picnic and find a secluded nook with a beautiful view to enjoy a selection of your favourite treats.

Feeling Butterflies

Zipline experience for two!

Do you and your partner prefer adrenaline rushes and exciting outings? Journey off-site to Waterberg Zipline Adventures who offer exactly that! Book an incredible two and a half hour experience, zip-lining in a zig-zag fashion over the Waterberg on slides of 70 to 250 metres long. The guides provide knowledge of the flora and fauna within the area and the views are spectacular. When the tour comes to an end, couples make their way back to Mabalingwe Nature Reserve and find a lovely spot for well-deserved refreshments {this is the perfect opportunity to work in a visit to Kalahari Oasis Pub}.

Your romantic escape to the Mabalingwe bushveld is a wonderful way to create new memories together, share in unique experiences, enjoy a few of your favourite things along the way and to hear, “I loved every second that I spent with you.”

Book your romantic getaway to Mabalingwe today, or chat to the Le Fera Team to arrange a special celebration your loved one will never forget.

A guide for amateur photographers

That utter dismay of returning to base camp only to find all the photos you snagged of that pride of lions are out of focus, have poor lighting or, the pride looks suspiciously like a tree. These are all too familiar moments that amateur photographers experience. Let’s face it – very few of us have the time or the pricey equipment it takes to set up in a make-shift hide for 6 hours a day, lying in wait of the perfect shot; and then still return home to fancy editing tools to make our images look like a million bucks.


Our hearts lie in capturing the moment so that we can relive the day at a later date surrounded by family and good food, sharing stories late into the night. But wouldn’t it be great to hear a, “Wow! Did you really take that photo?” rather than a, “Are you sure that’s a hippo? It looks like a rock.”


Without further ado, here is your guide to awesome wildlife photos:

  1. Get your camera set up right at the beginning.

All those images you’ve taken where you swear there was an impala in the scene, but in the photo, there isn’t? Or the bright light white-washes your photo so you might as well delete it. Maybe your camera has an auto flash you forgot to turn off and now that brilliant blue kingfisher is a grey fleck in the sky above you. This is what needs to change. Keep in mind that your subject will likely not stand still for prolonged periods of time, so get your camera set up to higher shutter speed, use a telephonic lens if you can, and turn that flash off permanently!

Egyptian Geese landing on the water
Photo by: JB Vorster
  1. Let’s plan!

The wildlife in South Africa is most active early morning or late afternoon/evening. This is why so many game reserves offer drives at these times – it’s to maximise your chances of spotting big cats in action or hippo’s grazing out of the water. So whether you book a guided tour or decide to pack some “padkos” and hit the road in your own vehicle, do so at these times. If you are specifically looking for shots of one species try researching their habits and find out when and where they’re most active.

Impala at a watering hole
Photo by: Linda McBride
  1. Set the scene.

First and foremost, you will want to find a spot where the background compliments your subject. Think of the space they are moving in and capture a large portion of that behind the subject. Think of a lone leopard wandering along a road, or a pod of hippos just peeking out of the water at a dam. Picture the shot beforehand, the colours, the foliage and the animal in unison. Commit to the perfect shot and position yourself and your camera in-line, or in eye contact with the animal to really get those gazes front and centre in your images. Have you ever seen that National Geographic photographer belly down or on their haunches? Yes – that is what we mean. Then have patience! Take a bunch of photos from different angles and spend some time following the animal.

Hornbill in a tree
Photo by: Shanice Faber

And yes – editing gives images that “wow” factor, but you don’t need to spend your savings on some software for photos you aren’t planning to earn an income from. These images are for your collection, so find a free picture editor that will help spruce up your photos and voilà! You’ll be a master photographer in no time.


If you’re looking for something a little more in-depth try signing up for this free course.


And don’t forget to send us your awesome shots:

Mabalingwe Sunset
Photo by: Karen Steenkamp

Which Accommodation Best Suits You?

Mabalingwe Nature Reserve offers a wide variety of accommodation options, fit to cater for any person or group’s needs. Whether you prefer a more tranquil spot from which to listen to the soul-soothing sounds of the bush, or if your family wants to be in on the action and near the hive of activity at the Main Entertainment Centre; we have it all. So tell us, which accommodation best suits you?

  1. Ingwe Camp

Ideal for families looking to breakaway and spend quality time together, Ingwe Camp includes all the necessities for a home-away-from-home. Each unit is perched comfortably on a rocky outcrop, providing visitors with beautiful views over the Waterberg Valley to enjoy over a tasty meal alongside a crackling fire; surrounded by loved ones.

Pax.: 4/6                      No. of Units: 86

Ingwe Camp

  1. Kwalata Camp

Another well-situated camp for families, Kwalata Camp provides guests with stunning views of the dense Mabalingwe bush and is situated a short drive from the main pool area where families can frolic in the sunshine and splash about in the cool swimming pools.

Pax.: 4/6                      No. of Units: 20

Kwalata Camp

  1. Phiri Camp

This smaller camp is a great place for couples or smaller clusters of friends to enjoy one another’s company under the African sun, while still having a private unit to retreat to. The camp has its own unheated pool, baby pool and lapa; perfect for cooling off during the day and spotting wildlife in the nearby shrubbery while immersed in laughter under a twinkling night sky.

Pax.: 4             No. of Units: 15

Phiri Camp

  1. Kubu Camp

Kubu Camp is situated approximately 3km from Reception to provide guests with privacy and tranquillity in the heart of the bush. A wonderful spot for a reunion of friends; a spot from which to view passing game, relax poolside at Kubu’s unheated swimming pool, or to chat and share stories of the days adventures around a fire at Kubu’s lapa.

Pax.: 6             No. of Units: 12

Kubu Camp

  1. Kalahari Bush Camp

This permanent-tented bush camp is a great family or large group escape. Surround yourself in the thicket and spend time listening to the stridulating of beetles or call of the jackal. Kalahari Bush Camp is so named for being situated closely to the local Bush Pub, and is a great base from which to explore all the Reserve has to offer. Each tent is well-appointed, and the group shares common areas, such as; a fully-equipped kitchen, lapa/braai area and ablution facilities.

Ablution: Yes                           Pax.: 2             No. of Units: 5

Kalahari Oasis Camp

  1. Pitsi Bush Camp

An idyllic location for some much needed rest and relaxation, Pitsi Bush Camp offers five units with a communal kitchen, outdoor toilet and shower, lapa, and small splash pool. This camp is situated further away from the main activities at Mabalingwe and is a great spot for guests wishing to kick back and enjoy the lovely warm weather.

Ablution: Yes                           Pax.: 2             No. of Units: 5

Pitsi Camp

  1. 4X4 Camp

This camp is the most rustic of the accommodation available to guests and caters specifically for the adventurous few, who revel at the idea of “roughing-it” for a completely unique experience. Braai and ablution facilities are provided, but there is no electricity and the camp is only accessible by 4X4 vehicles. The camp is in an isolated section of the Nature Reserve, which is any camping lover or gadget guru’s paradise.

Ablution: Yes                           Pax.: 4             No. of Units: 7

4X4 Camp