10 September 2013

{Safari Diaries}: Itaga Private Game Lodge

As most of you who follow on twitter and instagram already know, last weekend Jurg and I headed to Bela Bela for a three day bush break.  Although we've been to Bela Bela before {Jurg even proposed there!} we love re-visiting the area again and again since it's only about a two hour drive from Johannesburg.  Just far enough to feel like you're escaping the city, but still close enough to make a weekend jaunt worthwhile.


On this trip we were looking for somewhere new to stay and, on a whim, made a booking at Itaga Private Game Lodge.  We'd never heard of the lodge before, but really liked the look and feel of the rooms on their website and also found their prices quite reasonable when compared to other lodges in the region.  As we pulled into their gate, I knew we had made the perfect choice.  Dozens of antelopes, warthogs and ostriches meandered around their waterhole just feet away from us.  Usually, wild animals only feel comfortable getting so close under the cover of night.  

As we started towards the lodge, an ostrich wandered over curiously and a moment later a baby nyala came so close that we could touch his sweet little nose.  Shocked by the unexpected docility, the lodge manager quickly informed us that the nyala's name was Quasimodo {adorable, right!?} and that he was indeed quite tame.  I was in heaven.  But even beyond our initial impression, we soon realized that the lodge itself serves as a haven for a variety of animals.  Nyalas roamed around the rooms by the dozens, ostriches grazed the day away on the main lawn, warthogs spent hours pestering the antelopes around the waterhole and I even became closely acquainted with the resident cat, Tiger.  

If you're an animal lover like me, you've officially found your paradise.  
Animals aside though, we also loved everything from the rooms {ours was tucked away on a little hill with an idyllic outdoor shower}, to the pool, to the decor, to the food.  Every night before dinner, Jurg and I would head to the lounge and enjoy a glass of wine next to the fire before sitting down for a remarkable meal.  On the first evening, I enjoyed a tomato soup starter, fillet main and chocolate pudding dessert and on the second I ordered an equally divine cauliflower soup starter, chicken curry main and apple strudel dessert.  


On our second day at the lodge, we were quick to take advantage of the afternoon game drive that's included in Itaga's rate.  As we headed into the park, our guide, Rochelle, kept us occupied with interesting safari tidbits while we scoured the horizon for rhinos, giraffes and elephants.  We quickly stumbled upon the most majestic Kudu bull and then came across a journey of giraffes {did you know that a group of giraffes is called a journey? Something new that I learned courtesy of Rochelle}.  Giraffes are one of my all-time favorite animals to spot on safari because they always look so kind and curious.  It's almost as though they pose for the camera.

Continuing our drive through the park, we were extremely fortunate to spot a group of eight male rhinos hiding in the brush.  As I enthusiastically snapped away on my camera, I suddenly heard Rochelle jam the vehicle into reverse and soon we were moving backwards at an alarming rate.  The crash of rhinos {another funny group name} were headed our direction, and fast.  We slipped away in just the knick of time and gazed in wonder as eight masses of pure armor went stampeding down the road.  It was one of the most incredible sights I've ever witnessed while on safari. We were all left speechless.

Every time we're lucky enough to see rhinos in their natural environment I feel extremely privileged.  Rhinos are being poached at an alarming rate in Africa, with over 440 killed in South Africa in 2013 alone.  And the year isn't even over.  By the time our children are our age, it's likely that rhinos will only be found in zoos.  At the current rate, they'll be extinct within the next decade.  And all because of superstition surrounding the healing powers of their horns.  So tragic.

At sunset, we stopped in an open patch of land and hopped out of the vehicle for a quick sun downer.  As we sipped a glass of red wine and watched giraffes roaming in the distance, I was again struck by the beauty found in Africa.  What a wonderful, yet troubled continent I've been blessed to call home.  

Sometimes I still can't believe I live here.


Our stay at Itaga easily ranks as one of our best experiences in South Africa to date... and that is saying a lot.  Everything about the weekend was incredible and we haven't been able to stop raving about it since.  For anyone visiting South Africa, I promise that this will be an absolute highlight of your trip.

By the numbers:

Rates: R1,295 {$130} per person per night
Breakfast: Included in the above rate
Dinner: Included in the above rate
Afternoon game drives: Included in the above rate

For more information, you can visit their website here.

65 comments:

  1. I try to remember what photos I like so when I comment I can tell you about them. But to be fair I have liked them all. So many great ones of the animals...they are so cute. I cannot imagine what that would be like to see them there in their habitat. The last one with the rhinos running is so cute! Thank you for linking up for Travel Tuesday, hope to see you next week!

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose - an expat lifestyle blog

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    1. Thanks Bonnie! I hope you and the fam are able to visit Africa soon :)

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  2. So incredible. I love the giraffes but I've been falling for rhinos this year. Such prehistoric looking creatures. I've been following your blog for a couple of months now but I wish I'd been following before I went to South Africa.

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    1. I find that rhinos have such an aura about them... I think it has to do with how prehistoric they are, like you said. It's almost like catching a glimpse of a dinosaur :) When were you in South Africa!? And where did you visit... that's awesome! I suppose you'll just have to come back for another trip now...

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  3. Sold! I want to go! Have just sent your post to my husband and told him we need to get planning. His international driving licence is in the UK at the moment so we'll have to wait until it arrives so we can head to Bela Bela and then on to Itaga.

    I think I'm going to have to stay glued to your blog to find out all the amazing things SA has to offer :)

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    1. Ah, so exciting! You guys will LOVE it! Promise :) Also coming up is our Adventures with Elephants experience on Thursday. It's also in the area and makes for an unforgettable day trip, just down the road from the lodge. Hope your husband's drivers license arrives soon! xxx

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  4. Wow! These pictures are incredible! I really want to go there now... Planning on doing some travelling with my boyfriend next summer, so here's hoping!
    Lydia x
    thepiccolopixie.blogspot.com

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    1. Crossing my fingers that you guys will be able to come to South Africa! I know you'll love it :)

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  5. Um, so you basically are living my dream! And can I just say how gloriously National Geographic-worthy these photos are!? Seriously, I cannot get enough. Those rhinos are incredible and I'm so glad you were able to see them in their natural habitat. Poaching :(. This lodge looks gorgeous and is just fueling my fire to get over to South Africa!

    Amy | Club Narwhal

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    1. Thank you so much Amy... that means a lot coming from you! Visit soon... I volunteer to be your personal tour guide :)

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  6. WOW so nice! Will have to save and give it a try!
    What settings do you put your camera on? Your photos are great!
    http://johced-ourjourneytoeverywhere.blogspot.com/
    xxx

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    1. You MUST go... you and Cedric will love it! I shoot with a Nikon 3100 and edit using iPhoto. Hoping to upgrade to photoshop or lightroom soon.

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  7. I love that you and Jurg have been doing so many little excursions lately!

    Giraffes were my favourite animal to spot as well. I was continually amazed at their size and shape - such unique animals!

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    1. I love it too :) And this weekend, we're off to Durban! Can't wait. Always love you and Joe's weekend adventures as well!

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  8. What a spectacular weekend - I can't believe you saw wild giraffe! And a journey as well - who knew?! Going on safari is one of my bucket list things to do... someday!

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    1. Going on safari is definitely an experience for the bucket list! Hope you're able to make it happen sooner rather than later :)

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  9. Oh wow this sounds like a perfect place to enjoy our beautiful country!! The pics of the sunset and the rhino are just gorgeous, I love your photography!!!

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    1. Thanks so much Gaelyn - you happen to come from a very photogenic country! I am constantly amazed that I'm able to live here.

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  10. Oh my gosh Jenna this place looks like a dream!! Those animal photos are unbelievable. As if you got that close!

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    1. It was really like something straight out of a travel show! I kept pinching myself because I couldn't believe it was real. Especially all of the tame Nyalas and the rhinos. It was an experience I won't soon forget :)

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  11. okay amazing! this is an example of how many different and gorgeous places there are to visit!

    xo the well-traveled wife

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    1. Such an incredible world we live in, right!? Hope you can visit soon :)

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  12. I don't think you could have asked for a more idyllic place to stay! Not only does it look beautiful but to be a haven for animals too, what a winning combination!

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    1. Idyllic is indeed the perfect word to use! A weekend of pure bliss :)

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  13. I think we are food/animal soul mates. Jealous doesn't even begin to describe how I feel that you live about 2 hours away from such a place! Do me a favor and never take it for granted, ok??

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    1. Mo, we're visiting Jenna. I've decided. Ultimate blate :)

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    2. I concur that we are food and animal soul mates... and probably travel soul mates too! Just for you... I'll remember never to take it for granted ;) Come visit... pleeeeease!

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  14. OMG I have never been more jealous!!!! These photos are sensational. I hope you're framing some!

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    1. You're so right... I need to frame some! So many amazing memories we have... and currently they're all tucked away in folders on my computer. Need to change that asap!

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  15. I would love to be there and do something like that.Its really stunning.

    xoxo
    Ivy
    http://www.purrpleivy.com/

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    1. I hope you're able to visit someday :)

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  16. Wow these pictures are amazing...I can't wait to experience a safari for myself!

    Kam x | A Married Couple & Their Travels

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    1. I can't wait for you to experience it either... you and the hubs will love it!

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  17. I'm coming to visit. I'll arrive tomorrow. ;)

    The plight of rhinos is one of the most heartbreaking things to me. Like I commented on your instagram, I worked at Zoo Atlanta every summer in high school and spent my last three in hoofstock with the rhinos, giraffes, zebras, Thomson's gazelles, and our lone ostrich, Idi. I can't ever pick a favorite animal species, but obviously the ones I've had bonds with are higher on my list of loves!
    Zoo Atlanta just had a baby rhino, though, which is THRILLING! I can't wait to get back Home and visit! (Sadly it isn't the offspring of either of "my" rhinos- Boma died a few years ago and Rosie has moved to another zoo.)
    I seriously can't wait to see African animals in the wild (or a safe reserve, as it may). And to witness a rhino stampede?! So cool! I've only ever seen Boma run, but seeing that mack-truck body suddenly propel itself at those speeds is incredible! I can't imagine seeing eight at once!

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    1. So amazing that you were able to work with rhinos, giraffes, zebras, gazelles and an ostrich. What an incredible experience that must have been... it actually sounds like my dream job! You are more than welcome to visit any time... I have a couch sitting here with your name on it ;)

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  18. Those pictures are INCREDIBLE!!
    Going on an African safari has been a lifetime dream of mine. Just so incredible! Thank you so much for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much! I hope you're able to make your dream realize sooner rather than later :)

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  19. seriously, these pictures are ridiculous!
    i love that you always hit up these lodges
    ONE day i'll make my way down there~

    xo The Egg

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  20. I hope one day comes soon! Would love to meet up with you in person :)

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  21. The lodge looks beautiful and your saw so many amazing animals on your drive!

    xx
    Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

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    1. It was really incredible! It's crazy to think that all this is just two hours away from crowded, manic Johannesberg. Love it :)

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  22. You got proposed to here?!?! I am so jealous. What a life you lead this place looks incredible. Glad your trip was fun :)

    abroadsworld.blogspot.com

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    1. Not at this exact lodge, but at another similar one in the area. It was magical... Jurg did good :)

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  23. I want to go on a bush break!
    P.S. I'm pretty sure your photo albums have to be the most amazing albums ever :)

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  24. I can't believe you live there! These rhinos running, I didn't even think that happened in front of humans. Oh my gosh!

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    1. I actually can't believe I live here either sometimes! It's very rare to see rhinos running in the wild... a definite first for me.

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  25. As a wise child once said, "Is this real life?" Wow. This place is stunning. I am seriously considering moving, haha.

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    1. Do it! The dollar-rand exchange rate is good at the moment... perfect timing ;)

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  26. This place looks incredible, and I can't believe how affordable it is. A safari is definitely on the top of my list and I've started saving my pennies! Great photos!

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    1. You'll have saved enough before you know it. Everyone has to visit Africa at least once in their life... you guys will love it!

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  27. What an amazing three day break. You take beautiful photos!

    http://somewhereyonder.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. Thanks Claire... you made my day :)

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  28. As I said in my tweet, your photos make me jealous! I would love to one day be lucky enough to call South Africa my home. Having all the national parks and beautiful animals right on your doorstep must be amazing. Have you ever seen cheetahs in the wild on your safari trips? They are my favourite animal :)

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    1. I have on occasion, but for some reason they are quite difficult to spot. BUT Jurgen's uncle has tame cheetahs on his farm in Namibia and they are absolutely amazing to interact with :)

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  29. Oh my goodness Jenna. Your photos are amazing and they make me want to plan a trip there ASAP. One of these days I'm getting to Africa, such beautiful land.

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    1. Thank you so much Alex! I hope you're able to make a trip out soon... Africa is an incredible country. It has an aura about it that just sticks with you forever.

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  30. You have been killing me with those instagrams!!!! Those places you are staying are absolutely stunning! Did you get them sponsored by chance? We are trying to figure our how to do that for our upcoming travels!

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  31. LOVE this post. And the photos are all incredible. I'm now following along via Bloglovin. Looking forward to visiting often.
    ~Vanessa
    http://vanessa-morgan.blogspot.com
    http://travelling-cats.blogspot.com

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  32. JENNA!! These photos are freaking incredible! What camera do you have, and have you taken photography lessons? I'm swooning over each one!

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  33. This place looks amazing! Just being that close to them would make me feel like I was in heaven.

    www.thecrackedlensblog.wordpress.com

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  34. this lodge is gorgeous! it looks like an amazing place for a vacation. :) and your photos are looking so great! you picked up some beautiful details.

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  35. Im new to Joburg and have been looking for a little get away that's not as involved as Kruger. This is going to the top of my list! Thanks!

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Thanks for commenting! I love reading each and every one of them :)