The owner of Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa

In 2008 we fell in love with Welgevonden Game Reserve and became the proud owners of Mhondoro Safari Lodge & Villa. We do not live in South Africa, but we try to fly over here as often as possible. Sometimes that will only be my husband Frank and myself, and sometimes our two children Stijn and Thomas will join us. For us, South Africa feels like home, and I can’t even count the many times that we have arrived in this beautiful country. Every time we smell the bush, and hear the animals, it touches our hearts. This is home to us. We passed on our love for the bush and the animals onto our children, especially our youngest son Thomas (13). His love for the bush knows no boundaries, and he loves living the “ranger life” as often as he can get to Mhondoro. As it always is a hard job to keep up the high standard at Mhondoro, but we do enjoy every little minute! We are very blessed with a magnificent team who understands our passion, and knows what level of quality we want to achieve for our guests. Our motto has always been that we want people to arrive as guests, and to leave as friends.

Today, as I brush my teeth, looking around our suite at Mhondoro, I keep an eye out for many different things. Perhaps a globe that doesn’t work, or a light that is not sparkling clean, or any of another 1001 things for the “To do” list to make sure our lodge is spic and span and ready for the next guests. Frank and I are constantly debating – what can we add and what else can we do to give our guests at Mhondoro the most unforgettable 5-star experience? It remains a challenge to keep high standards. But when one of our youngest guests (a 10-year-old English girl) is heartbroken because she “really DOES NOT want to go home”, it is a real gift and a genuine reward! (I do think we’ll see her here again at Mhondoro…)

And then we had Daisy earlier this week. Daisy is the matriarch elephant of Welgevonden and she is about my age, 44 years. Daisy has been involved in a conservation research programme and she was fitted with a GPS transmitter six years ago, in a collar that looks like a gigantic necklace powered by batteries that needs to be replaced every few years. By tracking Daisy’s movements, we discovered that she is the matriarch of Welgevonden, she leaves her own herd to go as “maternity aid” whenever a baby elephant is born in the reserve, and to check out the qualities of the new mother and her little Jumbo. After a while Daisy then returns to her own herd, evidently happy to have re-established herself at the top of the hierarchy within our elephant population. So the time came for Daisy to get a new “necklace” with charged batteries, but… first she had to be found, which was a perfect job for our sons Stijn and Thomas. Great was the excitement when at 6:50 one morning, the helicopter picked them up to join the veterinary team and they were on their way. After half an hour of flying over Welgevonden in a helicopter without doors (yes, you just have to let go of the fear…), they found a big herd of elephants, but unfortunately, no Daisy, until Thomas spotted another elephant behind a tree. Rolling from left to right in the air, the helicopter manoeuvred behind the tree, and yes, there she stood!

Stijn and Thomas assisted the veterinary surgeon who took aim with a carefully placed dart, and after the herd was moved away from Daisy and she was on more flat ground, the dart did its job and Daisy kneeled down for an induced sleep. At this point we could now approach her by vehicle, armed with the new transmitter. Sam, who was responsible for changing the collar could use the help of Thomas who said that it was very convenient and useful to have his Leatherman multi-tool and pocket knife with him! Meanwhile, tubes of blood were taken from Daisy for analysis and everyone had the wonderful opportunity to touch the majestic creature – certainly something one does not get the opportunity to do every day! And so, after the transmitter was changed, blood was taken and her heart rate checked, it was time to wake her up again. Because she was not “amused” the last time she woke up after we fitted her collar, we made sure now that we were at a safe distance!

First one leg straightened out of the grass, which looked a bit funny, and then she quickly got up all the way on four legs. She had a confused look in her eyes as if she would say: “wait a minute… what am I doing here? And who has put something in my drink…?” But soon she was her old self and wandered off into the bush to find her herd.

And so ended yet another wonderful day of adventure at Mhondoro, where no day is ever the same, and our guests can experience incredible moments like this that they will never forget! Enjoy our holiday video!

Owner – Myriam Vogel