This underrated Waterberg hideaway is not only the classic weekender distance from Johannesburg but also a boon to those with pockets in a pinch
A family of happily-snuffling warthogs scatter scornfully as our sedan pulls into the parking lot of Lindani's Molope Tented Camp. To our right, a communal kitchen space, refreshing splash pool and braai boma (ideal for stargazing later).
To the left, a band of four tents set bashfully in the shade at the base of a verdant hillside. Three-hours drive and a trio of toll gates from Johannesburg, we had arrived at our exclusive-use Waterberg bush camp in Lindani.
Sam and Peg Van Coller started Lindani back in 1998, renovating the first farmhouse, and have since developed a brilliant eye for detail. This attentiveness is what sets their 11 beautifully appointed self-catering stays apart.
My grandparents used to take my sister and I to Lindani Lodges during school holidays. We’d cycle, collect dung beetles and porcupine quills, and feed the orphaned black rhino, Bwana, at conservationist Clive Walker’s place in the nearby Lapalala Wilderness Reserve. Lindani is also where I found a pile of nature magazines and begged my grandpa to subscribe me to EnviroKids, the Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa’s magazine. I’d decided that when I grew up I would be a conservationist (still a pipe dream of mine!)
After the smooth drive, we unpack the makings of a glorious weekend from the car boot - potjie ingredients, walking shoes, board games and a pack of Uno - while waiting for the final element. Good friends, six of them, who arrive just in time for sundowners. Our tented camp sleeps eight without compromising seclusion and couples thoughtful comforts with just the right touch of rustic charm.
This 5000-hectare sanctuary forms part of the larger Waterberg Biosphere encompassing rocky mountains, sloping trails and grasslands home to plains game. The outfitted kitchen has ample crockery, cutlery and cookware plus a generous dining table and benches.
Like our resident squadron of hungry warthog, we all gather around to devour that potjie before retiring fireside again. (If cooking is not your idea of a holiday, there's also delectable farm kitchen fare available to pre-order).
The next day we spot plenty of zebra, giraffe, impala and more on short bicycle rides around the property and also hear the sharp barks of kudu on the hiking trail immediately above our tents.
Lindani is not a Big Five destination, which is for the best really as it means that us visitors have rule of the reserve instead.
Unless, perhaps, you happen to ask one of those Waterberg warthogs.
Plan your trip to the Waterberg
From Johannesburg drive north on the N1 highway. At the Kranskop Toll Plaza (about 160km) take the left exit to Modimolle and follow the R33 through the town centre. From there it’s a 60km drive to Vaalwater, which is the last stop for ice, fuel and food.
Pack your power banks. There are no plug points, but solar electricity keeps the lights and fridge going. Tents are simple with twin beds (easily hoisted together), an en-suite bathroom and modest decks for lazing an afternoon away. Sweet simplicity is compensated for by the two sublime outdoor showers. Don’t miss the chance to order freshly baked farm bread from the kitchen.
Lindani Lodges has nine self-catering options, from the eight-bed Molope tented camp, great for a weekend away with friends to the 18-sleeper, four-house Motseng Lodge complex.
The tented camp costs from R350 per person and bicycles available to hire too. Keep an eye on Facebook for their specials though, currently you can nab a weeked at just R550 per person. Digital nomads and people working from home right now should also consider their new special. Lindani Lodges have just installed Wi-Fi so you can work from the bush for week from just R6500.