By Stuart Reichardt
The excitement for my trip started long before I got to Bela-Bela, because I knew I was going to be driving the latest entrant into the South African SUV market, the brand new Isuzu mu-X.
I had already gotten a taste for this multi-utility crossover earlier in the year during the official launch, so you can imagine how elated I was to get a chance to test it as a tow vehicle… for two whole weeks!
The 4×4 model I drove, fitted with Isuzu’s legendary 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, made light work of towing! And I towed a lot… over a 1 000 kilometres on all types of terrain.
UMOYA CARAVAN LODGE
My first stop was at Umoya Caravan Lodge, which is run by Fabrice and Adel. What a great place this is for a getaway!
The resort is situated approximately two kilometres outside Warmbaths (Bela-Bela) on the R516 Thabazimbi Road at the foothills of the Waterberg, Limpopo. Being less than two hours’ drive from the big city of Johannesburg, it’s close enough for a weekend getaway, although you’d definitely want to spend more than just a night or two here.
Access to Umoya is with an electronic key tag disk through an automatic sliding gate, and the electric fencing ensures additional safety of all who visit the resort.
The neat stands are covered in small stones, lined with inlaid bricks and surrounded by grass, making them ideal for trailer tents, caravans and tents.
In the section of the campsite I stayed in, each stand has its own private ablutions with shower, hand basin and toilet with hot and cold running water.
The ablutions are top class and each stand has its own DStv point – just bring along your card, cable and decoder. Each stand also has its own braai with height-adjustable grid, perfect for those nights spent chatting around the fire.
If you go in a group, make use of the spacious outdoor boma with fire pit – it’s where the best stories are told late into the night.
Umoya is a great destination for families, providing facilities for young and old. There is a trampoline and a playground for the kids, and a farmyard with ducks and chickens. Numerous buck roam freely within Umoya, and I was woken up one night by something bumping into my trailer tent. I can only assume it was one of the animals that populate the farm.
The resort has cold and heated swimming pools, open for all to enjoy, but there is also the “Watergat Cocktail Pool”, which is only for over-18s who want to relax and enjoy their surroundings in peace. There is a cash bar to enjoy sundowners.
I bade farewell to Fabrice and Adel after two days at their lovely resort and it was off to my next pit stop.
The Bela-Bela area is packed with fantastic resorts, and my second destination on this trip was basically just “up the road” from Umoya, a quick 14 km drive north east along the R101 and onto Eersbewoon Road to Sunset Mountain Caravan Park.
This exclusive, boutique resort is small, discreet and beautifully set against the mountainside, with great care taken to integrate the campsite flawlessly into the natural surroundings.
Sunset Mountain caters only for over-18s. The reason for this is that they market themselves as a quiet couple’s getaway, a place where mom and dad can escape for a “me time” weekend.
All the excavations and removal of rocks to form the campsites were done without disturbing the large trees in the area, so expect lots of cool shade on those hot summer days.
Each of the eight campsites has its own private bathroom inside a canvas dome tent consisting of a bath, basin and toilet, as well as its own separate shower. The use of raw red brick works well and is complemented by the red soil common to this area.
There is a small plunge pool to cool off in and the grassed stands are a must to reconnect your bare feet with mother earth. Tranquillity is all-encompassing at Sunset Mountain with the abundant birdlife in the area singing its praises. After you’ve been here for a few days, you’ll want to stay a little longer.
Johan Horn, the owner of this exclusive camping and caravan resort, mentioned that it had taken two years to build, and that he had made every effort to maintain the trees which now provide shade for all the stands.
It’s a wonderful place to rejuvenate the soul, and as much as we all love our children, there are those occasions where friends and family can step in to take over the parenting mantle for a few days while we sneak off for that some all-important R&R.
During my stay at Sunset Mountain, I took a leisurely drive out to the surrounding communities such as Settlers, which is a small farming community where cattle and sheep graze happily on the local school fields, keeping them trimmed and neat for the next game.
Modimolle (the old Nylstroom) is a short drive from the resort, as is Bela-Bela, when you need to stock up on rations or find a restaurant if you don’t feel like another braai.
BOSFONTEIN CARAVAN PARK
After two blissful days at Sunset Mountain, I headed just six kilometres along the road to Bosfontein Caravan Resort, an established resort that offers the whole family a perfect getaway.
There are 53 caravan stands, each with electricity, fresh water and a dedicated braai. The communal ablutions at Bosfontein are simply spectacular. Wow, you can certainly shower or bath and shave in style.
Deon and Martie Beukes are the very friendly and hospitable owners who will ensure your stay is the absolute best. I arrived on a Saturday to a packed campsite, set up the Jurgens Penta in no time at all after choosing a central stand, and then took a stroll around the picturesque campsite. Bosfontein has an amazing indoor heated pool in which I spent a fair amount of time enjoying the lovely warmth. There is also an outside pool with a kiddie’s pool.
Situated on a farm between Bela-Bela en Modimolle, there are numerous walks and mountain bike trail rides through the resort and surrounding game park where the flora and fauna are abundant.
One of the two natural springs in the Tweefontein area originates on the farm.
There is volleyball for the teens who want to impress other holiday romance prospects and the adults can try their hand at hitting the ball over the net in an effort to work off the previous night’s delicious braai. There is putt-putt, a trampoline, a pool table, a waterslide, table tennis and catch-and-release fishing, all catering for a variety of holiday desires.
On my second day at Bosfontein, I took a drive around the area and later in the evening I watched a bit of rugby at a pub in the area called the Springbok Boma.
Thys, the owner and various other patrons of the restaurant were all over the new Isuzu mu-X that I was driving, and a quick photo session took place in the parking lot. We talked for a long time about the Isuzu history, the old Isuzu Trooper, and many there echoed their love for the Isuzu brand. This is farming country after all, and farming country needs tough reliable vehicles.
Back at Bosfontein later in the evening, Deon pulled up in his golf cart and asked if I’d like to go along with him on a game drive. The Bosfontein Caravan Resort is a small portion of the larger game farm that houses wildebeest, giraffe, inyala, impala, duiker, bushbuck, waterbuck, zebra, eland and a variety of other birdlife and game.
What made this game drive really special was the arrival of the three resident giraffes. Deon actually calls the giraffes over by name – Tinkerbell, Trompie and Kerneels – and they respond because they know he has pellet treats to offer them. What majestic animals they are and what an experience to be in such close proximity to them.
Later that evening I spent some time languishing in the heated pool and chatting to the friendly ginger cat that has made this area its home because of the warm tiles that surround the pool.
The next morning after cooking a scrumptious breakfast of eggs, pork rashers, sausage and fried tomatoes, I packed up and said my goodbyes to my friendly hosts Deon and Martie.
Bosfontein I’ll be back for another wonderful stay soon…
KLEINE BELA FAMILY RESORT
Literally just around the corner from Bosfontein is Kleine Bela Family Resort. The one thing that struck me immediately on my arrival was the sheer size of some of the trees, particularly the huge Wurgvy (Ficus craterostoma) which is said to be one of the largest and oldest trees of its kind in Limpopo.
Koos and Anna Marie, the owners of this great resort, told me that political parties used to gather in the shade of this giant tree to hold their meetings.
Kleine Bela has 18 stands in the main camping area and 6 permanent stands for long-stay campers and caravans. Each stand has access to electricity and water and there is a large communal braai and fire pit that is available to all.
The main camp area has lush green grass bordering two swimming pools, an outdoor entertainment area, a kiddie’s playground and tree house which is equally lovely for adults to enjoy sundowners in.
There is also a rustic bush camp with 7 stands and this area is being developed to include additional bush stands.
The gardens at Kleine Bela are beautifully maintained and the main area is perfect for weddings and functions. This family resort also has a few private chalets that are available for those who don’t have a caravan or who don’t feel like roughing it while camping.
The numerous shared (though individual) ablutions at Kleine Bela are neatly tiled affairs with hot showers, ample towel racks, clothing hooks and seating, all spotlessly clean with complimentary hand soap.
The two well behaved dogs at Kleine Bela called Mila, a Jack Russell, and Bela (the most chilled boerboel I’ve ever met) will saunter over when you light a braai fire hoping for a tidbit. They’ll wait it out if they have to.
There is a small shop where patrons can purchase necessities and there is an outdoor bar to enjoy a frosty ale on those warm summer nights. Take the kids for a stroll around the animal park or bring along your bicycle and pedal your way around this beautiful resort.
If exercise is not on your agenda, take a picnic and sit under the huge Ficus tree, as politicians did many decades ago, and watch the blue headed agama lizard go about his business doing press-ups to proclaim the tree as his turf. There’s no need to talk politics, rather lie on your picnic blanket in the shade and let your mind wander as the sparkling diamonds of sunlight shimmer through the leaves of the great green gentle giant above. Take a nap – you deserve it.