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MOLORI - Excellence

One of the most amazing lodges to enjoy when visiting Africa.

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I am thinking of writing a new “Dictionary of Superlatives”. It will be a very short book because it will contain only one word—Molori!

Molori means “my dream”—and it is impossible to imagine a more appropriate name for the lodge that bears it because, quite simply, Molori Lodge is one of the world’s ultimate travel destinations. It is the place for which the word “exclusivity” was invented—offering visitors an incredible range of experiences and pleasures not to be found all together anywhere else on earth.

Tastefully and deliberately tucked away in the bush on the side of a gently sloping hill, deep in South Africa’s Mdikwe Game Reserve near the border with Botswana, Molori shines as an example of how architecture and the human presence should blend with the natural landscape. From beyond its perimeter, Molori’s luxurious opulence lies invisible and unimagined, only the tastefully thatched roofs of its few meticulously sited buildings are visible.

So carefully and thoughtfully has the lodge been laid out that even as you arrive—to a welcoming African song-and-dance greeting by staff—you wonder where the lodge actually is! Nowhere in the lodge’s grounds is its full extent visible. Rustically paved paths meander invitingly through the natural bush between the lodge’s buildings, brilliantly exaggerating the “exclusive hideaway” sense of privacy that overwhelmingly cossets you.

While the lodge is accessible by road—it is around three to four hours’ drive northwest of Johannesburg—guests typically arrive by aeroplane or helicopter. The game reserve has an airstrip suitable for aircraft up to the size of a Beech 1900, and Molori operates its own Bell 222 helicopter to a helipad directly adjoining the lodge, a matter of footsteps away from the hidden comforts inside. With a limit of 10 guests permitted at any one time there is little chance of your African idyll being disturbed by the comings and goings of the Molori helicopter!

The lodge’s buildings—their architecture and decoration—are as uniquely Molori as everything else. Natural earthy red and brown tones abound, inside and out, that mirror the warm colour of the African soil. A great deal of use is made of beautiful weathered leadwood logs to form stunningly different “pillars” inside the buildings, whose high thatched roofs tower elegantly above. The earth-coloured stone floors—all with adjustable under floor heating—are painstakingly finished in a beautiful handcrafted herringbone stone inlay pattern.

Unlike so many modern “luxury” facilities, which tend to be rather overtly ostentatious, the deliberate “warmth” of Molori’s décor—while incorporating every conceivably desirable facility—is immediately relaxing and immerses you in a welcoming embrace from the moment you first step inside the lodge and leave behind the world outside.

Three spacious suites—all physically separated from the main building—currently comprise the Lodge’s guest accommodation, which can best be described as…well, perfect. Even these “standard” suites are around the size of a standard suburban home and each comes equipped with its own heated pool, two showers (one indoor and one outdoor), reverse cycle air-conditioning, under-floor heating (separately adjustable for each of the three main areas), interior and exterior ceiling fans, wood burning fireplace, a safe, a Bose iPod docking system, a telescope for viewing game from the expansive viewing deck, an espresso machine, a portable DVD player, wireless Internet and a mini bar with a regularly replenished supply of drinks and snacks.

The suites’ layout, combined with their clever landscaping and situation within the lodge’s grounds, simultaneously manages to confer them with both spaciousness and privacy. While the three suites are configured identically and are generally similarly appointed, each is distinctively unique in its final decoration—most noticeably the bathrooms, with each having completely different bathtubs. One suite features an “antique” theme with a copper tub surround and antique copper taps, one features a porcelain tub and the other, a modern bath and fittings. These tubs sit in the centre of the large bathrooms that also contain the indoor shower, and feature twin sink units. The toilet and a bidet reside in a large, separate “annexe” to each bathroom.

The west-facing walls of each of the three distinct “rooms” of the suites (there are no separating walls between areas—they are cleverly separated by the suites’ shape and layout), is largely comprised of floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors that can be completely opened to provide an unrivalled open-air experience. The weather is immaterial at Molori—regardless of the temperature outside, can enjoy the same exceptional view either through the walls of glass, or in the open air.

In addition to the three “standard” suites—which would be considered “seven-star” anywhere else, there are two “presidential” suites currently under construction that will be completed by the end of 2007. These suites, which will be the largest of their kind anywhere in Africa to offer the African game experience, will dwarf the standard units, and, in addition to all of the standard suites’ facilities, each will also contain walk-in wardrobes, an office and an individual kitchen area where the suites’ butlers (each suite will have its own butler) will complete meals that have been prepared in the lodge’s main facilities by world-class chefs. The presidential suites will each have two heated pools similar to the cascading pools of the main building, as well as their own jacuzzis.

In addition to the kitchen and dining area, the main building of the lodge features a comprehensive bar, a baby-grand piano, a comfortable lounge and two outdoor dining areas. All areas are linked and are accessible from both indoors and outdoors. Finished in a similar style to each of the suites, the main building features a huge deck area surrounding two cascading curvilinear swimming pools and a recessed jacuzzi. Multiple relaxation areas adorn the deck with comfortable shaded chaise longue seating. One or two other raised deck areas with shaded chaise longue seating dot the grounds offering outdoor relaxation, comfort and privacy.

A few steps from the main building, along one of the “storybook” pathways, lies a comprehensively equipped spa and fitness centre, which features the latest Techno Gym treadmill, bike and cross trainer machines, and free weights and training machines. Molori employs a highly trained full-time spa therapist ready to offer massage, aromatherapy and reflexology and you can choose to enjoy any of this in the comforting surroundings of the spa or in the privacy of your own room. A large sauna, steamroom and chiller pool complete the spa and fitness centre’s facilities.

Other lodges may have spas and fitness centres (though I’m sure few of its size are as well-equipped), but I doubt that very many have an astronomical telescope to match Molori’s. Sited on the hill behind the lodge, Molori’s enormous telescope—more like the equipment one might expect to find in a national observatory—resides in a dedicated building in which the roof slides off to reveal an unobstructed night sky. For those with an interest in such things (and few wouldn’t be, given the opportunity to use such an exquisite telescope) this is yet another unique and unexpected “treasure” tucked away within Molori’s grounds.

As impressive, luxurious and comfortable as Molori’s physical infrastructure and amenities are, it is the Lodge’s staff who complete the Molori dream. A more accommodating, welcoming and genuinely friendly group of people you couldn’t hope to find—anywhere. No matter what your tastes or preferences, in food, drink or activities, the staff at Molori Lodge will accommodate you.

From the instant you arrive at the lodge, your every need, want or whim is attended to—in most cases without your needing to ask. Those who might be tempted to view Molori’s “staff” as simply staff would be missing out on Molori’s greatest secret, and that is the warm-hearted gift of genuine friendship on offer from those who are there to take care of them. Molori’s managers, Greg Lederle and wife Riana, are the ultimate hosts in this ultimate destination and at the same time as they ensure your every creature comfort, they instantly make you feel as if you have known them all your life.

As well as its manager, Greg is one of Molori’s two full-time game guides; Carmen van den Berg is the other. Greg’s passion for his craft and his love of the African bush makes a game drive in Molori’s dedicated modern Landcruiser safari vehicle an absolute joy. You will get no sanitised “commentary” during a Molori game drive. Instead, what you will get is an education that thrills and enlightens and that leaves you hungering for more; Greg’s genuinely enthusiastic descriptions of everything around you will leave you hanging on his every word. Because he is one of very few guides within the game reserve to be permitted to carry firearms, Greg, a one-time professional hunter, is also able to take guests walking in the reserve; something that—with so many creatures otherwise waiting to eat, trample or gore you—you certainly wouldn’t contemplate without such a highly skilled and knowledgeable guide and protector.

The game reserve contains all of the much-touted “big five” species—lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. While there is a good chance that Greg and Carmen’s knowledgeable guidance will result in sightings of all five during your stay, the two guides’ knowledge, manner and presentation confers all of the reserve’s other animal and bird inhabitants with justifiably equal “significance” in visitors’ minds so that it is simply impossible for any drive or walk to disappoint.

In addition to Greg and Carmen’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all creatures and things African, they carry a number of reference books with them in the game-drive vehicle so that in the event you have a question they cannot immediately answer (highly unlikely) you will still get the answer you need.

Every game drive is unique. Game drives are usually conducted in the cooler mornings and evenings when the animals are more active. The evening drives extend into the darkness and make use of a spotlight to reveal the different habits of some animals and uncover the nocturnal secrets of others. Lazy lions that lounge in the shade during the day become active; the night belongs to these beautiful but deadly killers and to see them up close in their world is a spine-tingling treat that mere words fail miserably to describe.

Molori’s exclusivity and limited guest numbers mean that game-drives and walks can be easily tailored to your personal requirements and can be as short or as long as you like—Greg and Carmen live for their time in the bush, so there is no such thing as an unwelcome request for an outing. You will never be hungry or thirsty on a Molori game drive, either. When you stop for a break to enjoy the serenity of the bush—parked alongside a slowly meandering river or in a calm and sheltered clearing—the drinks you asked for before you set out (along with a selection of tasty snacks) will have magically appeared on a collapsible table by the time you have got out of the vehicle.

All of these touches—the gourmet snacks, the favourite drinks, the knowledgeable guides and their personable presence—ensure that your game drive is never just a drive through the bush looking at animals, but is a complete and uniquely memorable “African experience.”

Another uniquely memorable experience on offer at Molori is the quality of its cuisine. During our stay at the Lodge, the head chef, Willie Malherbe was away and we were entertained by the lodge’s sous chef, Pierre van Zyl. All I can say is that if Pierre was the “second” chef, then the head chef must have been away answering prayers, performing miracles or walking on water! Every single morsel of food was quite simply divine.

The lodge justifiably prides itself on its culinary standard and offers a mix of international and local of cuisine, using only the best of ingredients. Molori is small enough and personal enough to allow its chefs to cater to your every need and adapt a menu to your taste or specific dietary requirements. Before you arrive, Riana will contact you and ask for any specific requirements or preferences; with that information in hand, your menu—which changes every day—is prepared, depending on what is available in markets. Expect to enjoy local delicacies such as ostrich and venison—especially springbok—as well as fresh lobster and prawns and other more “typical” items found at other top-notch restaurants in the world’s best hotels and lodges.

When dining, you have the choice of candle-lit silver-service-formality in the lodge’s main dining room, or having your meals served outdoors or even in your own room and in warm summer evenings, you can enjoy a barbeque-style gourmet meal in a uniquely African “boma” (fenced enclosure).

A Molori breakfast, especially following a morning game drive, is a gastronomic treat that—like so much about Molori—defies adequate description in words: seasonal fruits, home made pastries, cereals, home made yoghurts, freshly squeezed juices and the tastiest selection of hot food will leave you frustrated that the human stomach can only hold a finite amount!

For those wanting to visit Molori Lodge, its outstanding website is packed with important information and offers a glimpse into the hidden treats that await. There is no shortage of guests keen to discover the Molori experience—the lodge was fully booked throughout 2007, at which time even the unfinished presidential suites were already pre-booked.

For many of those guests who seek the kind of luxury Molori affords, its availability to be booked exclusively for complete privacy makes it an extremely attractive for anyone looking for unrivalled sanctuary, free from the prying eyes of the paparazzi.

In my opinion, Molori is a place that justifies a “must do before you die” classification. Beyond the fact that everything about it indulges the senses (there are other places in the world that pamper and indulge) Molori engenders a strong emotional tie—a sense of…ownership, almost. You feel as if Molori belongs to you—or you to it. Molori Lodge is a very difficult place to leave and I have no doubt that more than a few of its guest will shed tears of sadness at leaving their Molori “home” and the wonderful friends they met there. Molori Lodge highlights perfectly the truth in the saying that “home is where the heart is.” I left my heart at Molori—it is “my dream” to go back one day soon and retrieve it.

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