Shibula Lodge in leopard country – review by Nick van der Leek
“If you were a leopard, this is where you’d want to live.” During an afternoon game drive, Brett brought us home through a beautiful kloof hugging riverine brush forest. With the growing gloom of dusk throwing the headlights of the vehicle and the torchlight between twisting branches, it is easy to imagine one of the Big 5 watching us from some perfectly camouflaged position. It’s true, we watched it happen with a Cheetah: once a spotted coat stops moving, it immediately dissolves into the Waterberg’s pristine mountain bushveld.
Earlier this year, Brett, the ranger at Shibula Lodge in the Welgevonden Reserve, spotted a female leopard with her two cubs. They were in the bush just around the corner from the lodge. It turns out that statistics bear out these suspicions of ideal leopard terrain. A recent study conducted jointly by Lourens Swanepoel from the University of Pretoria and the Centre for Wildlife Management, using rotten eggs and fermented fish, they lured leopards into camera traps. Preliminary estimates are for about 30 leopards (22 adult & 8 sub adult and juveniles) on Welgevonden at a density of 6.1 leopards/100km², giving this area some of the highest density for leopard cubs in South Africa.
Shibula Lodge is an immersive experience, the lodge feels part of the surrounding landscape, and has a slight feng shui feel to it. This may be thanks to the individual plunge pools, or perhaps the delicious Kudu steaks. The view from the dining room balcony presents near symmetrical views as hillsides appear to rise and fall in mirror images on both sides.
Shibula has had a herd of elephants marching through the camp earlier in the year, and while we were there baboons shouted from the nearby rocks of a beautiful kloof. Lions are occasionally sighted too, around this Lodge, named after another Big 5 local, the Rhinoceros.
It’s a wonderful relaxing stay in the heart of the Waterberg, ideally situated [3 hours drive]for Gauteng’s city slickers.
Lodge Score: 4/5