Motswari is located on both the Timbavati and Umbabat Private Nature Reserves and is the only reserve with traversing rights across both lands. The Timbavati and Umbabat share an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. This means that animals can move freely between the properties and this most certainly makes for amazing game viewing.
We arrived at Motswari by helicopter charter. MCC Aviation flew us from Lanseria to Motswari. There is very little that can compare to traveling to Safari by helicopter. Seeing South Africa in this way gives you a real appreciation for how beautiful the country we live in actually is.
There are four different camps at Motswari; but undeniably the jewel is Geiger’s Camp. Originally Geiger’s was Marion Geiger-Orengo (Motswari’s owner) late brother’s private family home. It is now a beautiful, secluded rock and stone lodge with four private rooms. Each of the rooms are different and each have their own special character. They are all individually styled, with carefully selected furniture and artwork. Nothing about Geiger’s is generic; it still intentionally feels like a private home, albeit one decorated with impeccable taste. Because of its size and intimacy, Geiger’s is ideally suited to a single family or a small group traveling together. The camp’s common area includes an intimate lounge area and a large wooden deck, with an infinity pool that has uninterrupted views of the bush. Marion is an artist and her artworks, and small items that she and her husband have collected over the years decorate the lodge. Marion’s love for art is also displayed in the charming art supply boxes that we found in each of the rooms. I love art – and I completely loved the idea of being able to take my box onto the deck and to paint.
One thing that is obvious and a consistent theme almost with Geiger’s is that the staff consider themselves family. I don’t know if the lockdown contributed to this, by forcing them to be with each other for so long, or if it is just because of the intimacy of the lodge – but it makes for a wonderful, graceful and loving experience. Each of the staff we interacted with were special and made our stay that much more meaningful.
Our initial guide at Geiger’s was Victoria. She had to leave to see her family in Texas, but was with us for the first part of our stay. Victoria is the first female guide we have ever had. It is remarkable that a person who was not born in South Africa, has such a natural affinity with the bush. On our very first evening during sundowners, we were visited by a bull elephant. At its closest it could not have been more than 10 meters away. I was terrified (Shashi less so – but she is not really afraid of anything). Victoria calmly spoke to the elephant, letting it hear her voice and assuring it that whilst we may have been a curiosity for it, we were no threat at all. Her calmness was infectious and because of her I was able to completely embrace and enjoy what is to date one of my most magical moments. Victoria also took us on a bush walk, where we met a female Golden Orb spider. This was another magical experience with a smaller, more overlooked animal and learning about it (and the fact that it is much bigger than the male) was very exciting.
That evening Shashi and I had one of the best experiences we have ever had. Giraffe’s Nest is a platform above a watering hole, deep in the bush. We arrived for sundowners and watched the sun set from the platform. But that was only the beginning of the experience. We had a delicious, but simple dinner, while the staff lit paraffin lanterns. We were then handed a walkie-talkie and left alone for the night. Atop the platform is a large four poster bed, covered in just a mosquito net. We put out our lanterns and slept under the stars. The African sky, when you are far from any city lights and in absolute darkness is something to behold. I think I work every hour and watched as the milky way moved overhead. I wish I could tell you how the bush sounds at night – but Shashi’s snoring drowned out everything. We woke, covered in a thin layer of dew. We enjoyed a simple bush breakfast that had been left for us the evening before, and then were fetched for our morning game drive.
Another amazing experience was drinking water from a hole made by an elephant in a dry riverbed. Sean, our second guide explained to us that elephants do this to find the clean filtered water below the sand. It tasted just like mineral water.
We also got to make pavlova with Geiger’s chef, Chef Grace. Her story is another amazing testimony to the Motswari team – and to how they are a big family. She originally joined Motswari as a scullery maid. She graduated to pastry chef, then to sous chef and then, in 2004 to Head Chef. Listening to her talk about her job, and her love for what she does was inspiring. Her food is amazing and her pavlova is the best we have ever tasted.
It would be impossible to talk about our trip to Motswari without mentioning that we spent time with its owner Marion Geiger-Orengo and her husband. They graciously hosted us in their private home and Marion showed us her art studio. We learnt about her work in Rhino Disharmony, an art project and campaign that draws people’s attention to the plight of rhinos in Africa through the medium of art. Marion is a truly inspiring woman. Spending time with her, and learning about the history of the reserve gave us great insight into why Motswari felt so special. The staff are an extension of her family; that much is obvious. We left feeling like we were a part of it as well.