2013 Grand Awards: Mateya Safari Lodge, South Africa
Susan White Mathis, a native of Atlanta, had long been in search of a place to build an African retreat, and after an extensive search, she settled on Madikwe Game Reserve, a 185,000-acre tract of arid bushveld located an hour by light aircraft northwest of Johannesburg. Enclosed by a 95-mile fence, it is home to 66 mammal species, including lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant and wild dog. After a while, however, it became clear that the home she had constructed for herself and her friends could also function as a small, ultra-luxurious game lodge.
Set around a rocky outcrop, Mateya Safari Lodge comprises just five huge air-conditioned suites. These are astonishingly opulent, with four-poster beds, large fireplaces and artwork ranging from tribal sculptures to contemporary African landscape paintings. The marble baths feature soaking tubs positioned to allow a view of passing wildlife, and interconnecting indoor and outdoor showers. From a sun lounger on your private rosewood deck, all you can see is a stretch of tawny grassland extending beyond your infinity-edge pool to a ridge of distant hills.
Public areas at Mateya are equally lavish and include an exceptional library, plus an expansive living area that provides a gallery-like space for White Mathis’ vast collection of African sculpture. A formal dining room is complemented by a wonderful outdoor deck with a view of a waterhole, plus a private dining area in the 8,000-bottle wine cellar. During our stay, the food was uniformly delicious and the service prompt and exceptionally obliging. Facilities at Mateya include a small spa. The wildlife-viewing is well-organized and the game prolific.
Suite, from $1,865 for two (all meals, local beverages, game drives and park fees included). Madikwe Reserve, Molatedi, North West Province. Tel. (27) 14-778-9200.