Komati Gorge Lodge – a secret jewel outside Machadodorp
Nelius Mostert from Fieldsparrow was invited to visit Komati Gorge, an upper-class hunting venue in Mpumalanga.
Mountainous rolling hills surrounded me on all sides. As I toped a steep crest, everything dropped away into a surprising gorge, the side of which is a rough cliff about a hundred and twenty feet high. At the base of the gorge is the lodge surrounded by neat green lawns, where Ernst and Amanda await me with warm smiles. I felt at home instantly.
Ernst had invited me to visit Komati Gorge, situated on the banks of the upper Komati river just outside Machadodorp. It’s only about 300 kilometres from mid Gauteng. At first I thought it would be on the highveld, but actually Komati Gorge is situated between high and lowveld – and that means the best of both worlds concerning weather, habitat and types of game.
It took us five minutes to unload and get on the game-viewer vehicle. Off we went, and my safari in the Gorge officially started. Being used to bushveld areas, I found myself loving the feeling that my eyes were actually “resting”, for I could relax while looking at grass-covered mountains kilometres away.
I was very excited, for I was actually hunting in Mpumalanga, South Africa’s eastern province, which is known for its lush forests and high mountains, its trout angling and its misty winter evenings in front of warm indoor fires. I knew I was in for a treat.
I loved the comfortable and warm personalities of Ernst, Amanda and their team of professionals. I also loved the way they handled their staff and the respect these people showed them. As a visitor, I could relax in their capable hands enjoying true South African hospitality.
The rolling hills made way for vast, open grasslands and a multitude of fountains feeding the twelve kilometres of upper Komati river that make lovely, deep pools and peaceful rapids. The fountains also feed three large, well-stocked trout dams. It’s a fly-fishing paradise, mesmerising you by the reflection of grassy hills and surrounding cliffs on the surface of the pools.
Then, suddenly, we were driving into large canopied bushes with a variety of trees – home to the abundant kudu and bushbuck that flourish in the area. Animals that looked on peacefully as we drove past them were Cape eland, zebra, blue wildebeest, impala, blesbuck (of which there are more than 250), kudu, duiker, warthog, bushbuck, red hartebeest and waterbuck. Also available for hunting are mountain reedbuck, bush pig, baboon and jackal. Furthermore, an abundant variety of bird species inhabit the area, including birds of prey. Among them are black eagles, the bald ibis and the giant kingfisher.
Another surprise awaited me when we stopped next to a bushy area and were invited to have a look at a bush camp hidden from sight. This little camp, with no electricity and a simple layout, immediately stole my heart. Three small stone buildings that sleep eight people each encircle a small boma. The rustic ablution facility is heated by a “donkey” (a wood-fired boiler) and outside showers are screened off from the boma by a pole fence. A small, fully-equipped kitchen, comfortably close to the braai area, with gas appliances (including fridge and freezer) rounded it all off. I immediately insisted that Ernst let me stay there one evening, which he did. The night spent there was bliss, with soft lanterns surrounding me and a small fire shooting sparks into a starry night. The moon playfully cast light through the clouds as jackals and other critters gave voice to the hardship and abundance of the African bush.
Komati Gorge Lodge consists of 2 500 hectares, or 6 177 acres of land. If one takes the topography into account – the land is all mountains and hills – you effectively have around 3 300 hectares of prime hunting lands. A well-known club is currently developing a mountain-bike trail. They left one morning at seven am and came back with smiling faces at around two pm, having completed sixty kilometres of adrenalin fun. They all rushed to the pool to cool off.
Ernst is also setting up a horse trail which will complement the quad bike guided tours and the 4x4 trails, and will provide an alternative kind of safari to those who love the outdoors. Because no hunting is allowed from any vehicle, the animals are not skittish about cars and bikes, and I personally experienced quad bikes passing game that only moved casually to the side until the bikes had passed before closing the gap again, giving the photographer the opportunity to stop and take pictures from 35 yards away. There are also three well-marked hiking trails covering three, six and 16 kilometres.
There are eleven well-placed hides, including pit and elevated hides and tree stands, giving bow-hunting groups good options to choose from. The hides are quite rustic, but you get the feeling that you really are part of it all. The hides are well managed and hunting from them is a pleasure.
Cold-room facilities include a whole abattoir on the farm next door, with carcasses being handled in the most professional way.
Back at the lodge after a day in the veld, I was greeted by a warm, friendly fire that kept the cold at bay. Ernst and I sat there listening to the river rapids echoing off the spotlight-lit cliff side. We shared stories of hunts gone by and hunts we were still dreaming of, had a couple of drinks and watched the moon rising up over the sharp rocks above us. Amanda called and we sat down in one of the two dining rooms where dinner is normally served. There is also a large breakfast room with great views of the gorge. A cozy fireplace ensured a great atmosphere and I enjoyed a perfect dinner with good company. The quality and presentation of the food was some of the best I have ever experienced. Then we went to a well-stocked, licensed bar area for a nightcap.
I woke the next day in my luxurious unit and I knew that the accommodation would impress even the most discerning bow hunter. Over all, Komati Gorge Lodge provides fifteen accommodation units sleeping a total of fifty people. All units are neatly and comfortably furnished and tastefully decorated, with DSTV and a deck area with hammock and chairs. Komati Gorge offers a variety of accommodation options from luxury self-catering units for two to large family units sleeping from six to ten persons. All self-catering units have a braai area and well-equipped kitchens. There are also four hotel rooms should one not want to self-cater. Much effort has been made to anticipate the visitor’s every need and many units have electric blankets, open fire places and towel warmers. All meals are available in the restaurant.
Furthermore, there are two conference rooms that could accommodate groups of ten and forty respectively. A well-organised team-building course can be booked, and there is provision for corporate hunting groups. Ernst is also planning a 3D archery range, which should provide loads of fun to these groups as well as other visitors.
One of the houses is actually built with a cozy boma and bar area, opening on a deck overlooking the deep blue waters of the Komati. While I was visiting, there were a couple of chaps from the USA staying there. All very friendly, and they invited me in right away to see the place. I got the immediate feeling that the spirit and manner in which Komati Gorge provided service rubbed off easily, and I found myself invited to enjoy a drink with these fine gentlemen – now my friends for life.
River-rafting during the rainy season, or kayaking in the calm waters, is also great fun. One thing I have always wanted to try is a stalk with a kayak, like the old Indians did in the wild west of America. Or maybe from horseback. Who knows, we might even hear stories like that from Komati Gorge in the near future.
Sitting here in my urban house thinking back on my adventures at Komati Gorge Lodge, I can honestly say that going back to those rolling hills and steep gorges is a true magnet for me. I will stay a friend to these wonderful people at the Gorge and daydream of every visit I still plan to make, because passing through those gates left me with nostalgia and a sense of fulfillment and contentment. Absolutely a double thumbs-up.
Booking space is still available for this season and if you want to be surprised by their rates, you may contact them at tel. 017 843 3920 or 017 843 1497, or send an e-mail to
Website: www.komatigorge.co.za & www.adventure4you.co.za