Marataba Conservation Camps, a new, conservation-focused safari experience, is now open and giving guests the chance to be part of hands-on wildlife management and ecological conservation.
The two sites—Founders Camp and Explorers Camp—are both located in Marataba Contractual National Park, a privately managed section of the Marakele National Park. To encourage a fully tailor-made stay, Founders can be booked on an exclusive-use basis and Explorers on a semi-exclusive basis. Every booking is allocated a private conservation guide and vehicle, allowing for plenty of flexibility, and experiences can be chosen on a “mix and match” basis.
Founders Camp sits on the Matlabas River and comprises four individual suites. The main area and each of the rooms has an expansive deck, offering views up the river to the mountains. Booked in its entirety on an exclusive-use basis, the goal was to create an elegant family home in the heart of the bush. Furniture includes refurbished, antique wood coffee tables and traditional African bowls alongside contemporary light fittings and modern textiles.
The river is home to numerous pods of hippos and, with no crocodiles, animals wade into the water to eat and drink. Sightings from Founders Camp include regular elephant crossings, kudus wading in the shallows, rhinos coming to drink and a wide variety of birds. There is a boat based at Founders Camp for water-based safari cruises (this is also available to guests staying at Explorers Camp).
Explorers Camp is one of the original camps of Marataba and has been upscaled to five double tents and one family tent. With a backdrop of the Waterberg Massif and an active waterhole right in front of camp, Explorers is known for the elephants that frequently stop in for water. The canvas tents sit on elevated wooden decks and can be made up either as king beds or twin beds. With two guides and vehicles, Explorers is booked on a semi-exclusive basis for nine guests or fewer and an exclusive basis for 10 or more in one booking.
Meals at both camps are served al fresco whenever possible, with breakfast enjoyed around the fire at sunrise and dinner served under the stars. Dining is family-style; platters are filled with organic vegetables from the on-site kitchen garden. Lunches can include al fresco feasts in camp, packed lunch boxes for all-day walks and drives, and on-the-go picnics between conservation activities.
Guests at Marataba Conservation Camps are encouraged to combine safari activities with conservation experiences, and there are chances to explore the landscape on both day and night game drives and boat trips. Wild walks with a conservation guide are also available, and guests will navigate the mountains and gorges on foot, ending with a swim under a waterfall and a picnic lunch.
The main focus at Marataba Conservation Camps is, however, to get involved in the conservation activities that occur daily. Wildlife monitoring and management is a core function of Marataba’s conservation team and ensure an in-depth look and feel of what modern-day conservation is all about, from population control to ecological functions. Guests may also participate in telemetry tracking walks with cheetah, compilation of individual identikits for elephants and elephant impact assessments, the set up and monitoring of camera traps, transect walks for vegetation mapping and planting, and snare patrols. For those with a special interest in rhino, notching is an ongoing and important wildlife management intervention, and guests can join for a conservation contribution.
Rates include all meals, local drinks and safari experiences including conservation-focused activities but exclude specialist megafauna experiences (i.e. rhino notching). Every guest pays a conservation contribution per night; this money goes directly back to funding the conservation they experience as part of their stay. Marataba Conservation Camps are easily accessed from Johannesburg, either by road (three and a half hours) or private charter (45 minutes).