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This Ultra-Luxe Safari Lodge In South Africa Is Unlike Any Other

So meticulously integrated into the hillside as to be nearly indiscernible upon approach, Melote House is Lepogo Lodges’ second non-profit, conservation-focused property. Ultra-luxe and exclusive-use, this is unlike any other safari lodge in South Africa.

Citizen Femme was among the first to check into Melote House – a process which begins not in any lobby, but with refreshments at the entry gate of the 50,000-hectare Lapalala Wilderness Reserve. After stomachs are satiated and cameras are readied, guests are welcomed into an open-sided safari vehicle for a gentle game drive en route to the lodge.



The Vibe

Image Credit: Lepogo Lodges

IMAGE CREDIT: LEPOGO LODGES

The malaria-free Waterberg region is renowned for its biodiversity and striking landscapes. Preserving the natural appearance of these lush valleys, ancient rock formations and rugged mountains was top priority in the construction of Melote House, which features rammed-earth walls and living rooftops for wildlife grazing. Views are spectacular in all directions, but especially from the infinity pool and outdoor dining terrace; it overlooks a waterhole that is regularly visited by impala, zebras, giraffes and lions – to name just a few of the abundant species that call the reserve home. 

Because Melote House is exclusive-use, guests have full access to the property and will only ever share the space among family, friends and the luminous blue-tailed skink lizards, who bask along the sun-warmed outdoor walkways. An attentive staff of 16 sees to every need, whether that’s a spa appointment or a cold glass of South African sauvignon blanc to enjoy poolside. This is a place to relax and reconnect with nature – but the WiFi signal, it should be noted, is excellent.


The Rooms

Image Credit: Lepogo Lodges

IMAGE CREDIT: LEPOGO LODGES

Designed for privacy with minimal impact to the environment, there are just six suites in the main building of Melote House. The Seringa and Marula Suites are a spacious 100 square metres with floor-to-ceiling windows that open to a private terrace and outdoor shower. Inside, there’s a dual-head rainfall shower, a soaking tub and personalised toiletries. Further essentials can be found within the expansive walk-in closet, where a thoughtfully prepared box containing everything from tampons to hairbrushes awaits. A sumptuous bed serves as the suites’ centrepiece, resting beneath a wide skylight that turns into a stargazing portal when night falls – just press a button to retract the shade. 

Image Credit: Lepogo Lodges

Image Credit: Lepogo Lodges

While the extra-luxe Baobab Suite offers an additional 120 square metres of indoor and outdoor living space – including a private plunge pool and a rooftop sky bed – every suite at Melote House features a deliciously lavish minibar. Perhaps better described as a maxibar, there are full-size bottles of spirits (vodka, whisky, house-infused gin) and wine, alongside a refrigerator stocked with an array of tonics, juices, sodas, beer, pre-cut lemons and a special edible surprise each evening. A Nespresso machine, kettle and a variety of coffee and tea satisfy the need for a hot drink while jars of homemade snacks (both savoury and sweet) are rotated daily and quickly become a thrill to discover upon returning from the morning’s game drive. Adjacent to the main house is a 250 square-metre cottage with two ensuite bedrooms, a kitchen and living space that increases the occupancy of Melote House to 16. 


The Food + Drink

Image Credit: Lepogo Lodges

IMAGE CREDIT: LEPOGO LODGES

Days begin with an early game drive and the morning’s first cup of coffee is usually enjoyed in the bush; prepared by guides, alongside tea and light bites. It’s a thrill to sip an Amarula coffee just after dawn, watching as a lone wildebeest revels in a dust bath, before returning to Melote House for a proper breakfast. For lunch and dinner, head chef Fleur Burns prepares fresh, indulgent dishes with locally-sourced ingredients and flavour influences from across Africa and Asia. Enjoy the likes of tempura-battered avocado with sundowner drinks in the bush, then sit down to an ostrich pad Thai starter, followed by coconut-crusted fish with brown butter.


The Spa

The gym and rock pool. Image Credit: Lepogo Lodges

The gym and rock pool. Image Credit: Lepogo Lodges

Two treatment rooms are tucked behind the colourful, mural-like wildlife of birds and trees found throughout the reserve. It’s a tranquil welcome before a massage or body scrub, and spa services are happily tailored to meet guest preferences – whilst accommodating a busy safari schedule. For active wellness, there’s a gym equipped with treadmills, a rowing machine and stationary bike, as well as yoga mats and free weights. Thanks to the gym’s hilltop perch, time spared for exercise is rewarded with more of Melote House’s incredible views across the reserve. Relax afterwards in the secluded rock pool found just above the gym.


The Little Extras

The Melote House experience is filled with surprises. Whether it’s an opportunity to trail the conservation team on a zebra tagging mission, sitting down to a sumptuous brunch spread in an unexpected hideaway, or returning to the suites each evening to find a personalised note, something memorable is always afoot.

 

Image Credit: Summer Rylander

Image Credit: Summer Rylander

There’s something extra for the planet, too – Lepogo Lodges offsets the carbon output of every visitor’s journey to and from Melote House. Guests can choose whether their offsets support Lepogo Lodges’ own program to donate fuel-efficient stoves to a local community, the planting of indigenous tree species through the South African Reforestation Trust, or the global initiative Stand For Trees. All profits generated from Melote House are put directly back into the Lapalala Wilderness Reserve. Current efforts include sponsoring a cheetah release program – lucky visitors may spot the big cats during a game drive – and helping to regenerate the land with the reintroduction of buffalo. A pangolin rehabilitation centre is also in development.


The To-Do List

Image Credit: Summer Rylander

IMAGE CREDIT: SUMMER RYLANDER

It should come as no surprise that game drives are the top activity at Melote House. Both morning and evening bring abundant opportunities to see white rhino, elephants, big cats, wildebeest, an array of birdlife and so much more. Safari vehicles are equipped with comfortable seats, blankets, binoculars and a knowledgeable guide, like Liam Todd, who can also share photography tips in addition to animal expertise.

A visit to the reserve’s 2,000-year-old bushman paintings is another must-do. Reaching the ancient artwork involves a bit of a scramble over rocks and streams, but it’s worth the effort to see the remarkably well-preserved depictions of tribal figures and animals like the kudu and jackal. And, while it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the bush, it’d be a shame to leave Melote House without having spent time luxuriating in-suite. The rooms are so nice, so comfortable – so carefully planned out to alleviate all manner of discomfort – that one is reminded anew that sometimes the best thing to do on holiday is nothing at all.


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