Makakatana Bay Lodge

When it comes to getting away, I personally have never found any vacay to be more relaxing than a bush vacay! I don’t know if you feel the same way, but the moment I enter the gates of a game reserve it is as if all my stress is left outside those mile-long wire fences, and I instantly become lighter and freer! It was the same, if not even more so, when Justin and I escaped for two nights to 4 star Makakatana Bay Lodge over my birthday.  I say possibly even more so because Makakatana Bay Lodge is situated within iSimangaliso Wetland Park, so not only is it lush and green, which is always good for the soul, but it is located on the western shores, and so offers a true bush experience while being closely situated to the coast and lake St Lucia estuary, which is very unique and special. And… can you say TRANQUIL?

Upon our arrival we were greeted with warm smiles and a little background on the lodge and the reserve. We were then advised of times for lunch and our first game drive, and taken along a network of wooden walkways to our room which was beautifully private, hidden from other rooms between bushes, and a completely private deck and view.

Once we had settled into our room {and snuck in a little G&T}, we made our way up to the lodge, which was beautifully adorned with owner Leigh Ann’s incredible artwork. We sat on the deck looking at the lush bush, and eating delicious gourmet sandwiches. On to our second G&Ts we connected immediately with another couple seated near us. An instant friendship ignited between us and British couple Mick and Judy. It so happened we arrived and departed the same days, and we enjoyed all activities together.

Once we had finished our {delicious} deserts we made way to our first game drive. The park boasts 4 of the Big 5; Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino and Leopard and numerous other wildlife species, including an impressive 526 bird species. Our first game drive was absolutely awesome! Snuggling next to each other in the chilly wind, Juzzy and I got our bush-eyes on, and loved trying to be the first to spot the locals (animals)! Alas, our city eyes were absolutely no contest for our eagle-eye guide, Jeandre. Born and bred for the bush, Jeandre was an ever-flowing source of knowledge and quirky jokes. From varying species of insects and ant-nests, right through to the moods and preferences of the Hippos and their babes, Jeandre was incredibly knowledgable. He made our time thoroughly entertaining, and informative. We ended our first game drive with G&Ts {hey, stop counting!} and snacks whilst the sun set over the bush. Perfection. After just one afternoon at Makakatana we already felt like we had a mini holiday!

Just before dinner Justin and I had the opportunity to have a drink with the lodge owner, Hugh Morrison, which, for me, was a highlight of the trip. It was lovely to see the heart of this incredible place, which was tangible just in our short time together.  Hugh’s grandfather built the old crab house on the land in the early 1990’s, and it is still there, now used as a wine cellar.  Hugh has 3 sons who will be fourth generation at Makakatana Bay Lodge. Very special indeed.
After our drinks we made our way to the boma and had dinner under the stars and around a fire. It was romantic, and our steaks were delicious.

Waking up in the bush on our second day was bliss. We called up to the lodge for cappuccinos and sat on our deck, quietly listening to the birds and watching some waterbuck in the distance. It was Thursday the 9th of November – my BIRTHDAY! And once my caffeine had started to take effect {I am not a morning person}, Juzzy excitedly gave me my prezzies to open! I was completely spoilt and while I was a little sad to not spend the morning with my babies, I cherished that one-on-one time with my hubby. It was slow, special and one of my best!

Beaming with birthday joy we made our way to breakfast, a lovely continental display, as well as being able to order off the menu. We debated all through breakfast whether or not we would join in the activities for the day. With our busy lives we could think of nothing better than lying at the pool which overlooks the estuary for the day, G&Ts in hand, and taking the odd dip. The fear of missing out got the better of us though, as we agreed that we needed to join in on the day’s planned activities… and oh my greatness am I glad we did?!
We set off after breakfast for a short drive through the reserve and arrived at the banks of a private stretch of the St Lucia estuary narrows. Our captain was 80-something year old Warrick, who I grew instantly fond of. A St Lucia local, Warrick was so passionate about the wildlife and the lake, he was magnetic. I couldn’t get enough of listening to his stories of hippo encounters and about his close family.

After seeing multiple pods of hippos and settling upon a bank alongside some crocs for some hot chocolate and cookies, we made our way back to the shores. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and shared stories with one another. We learned that our guide Jeandre is possibly one of the most fearless humans on the planet, fathering snakes and spiders… unless he is faced with a Praying Mantis 🙂

We took a slow game drive back to the lodge, and apart from my one wish of seeing the leopard on my birthday not being granted, it was an incredibly perfect day.
Once back at the lodge we had some time to take a nap and chill before heading to dinner around the fire in the boma once again, but this time an incredible curry buffet. I was so impressed to see the lodge using Wonderbags. After we completely stuffed ourselves on all types of curries and salads the lodge staff came into the boma with cake & candles and all singing the happy birthday song to me 🙂 it sure made me feel very special.

We had the option of an early (5.30am) morning game drive on our final morning, but us tired parents chose to have a little lie-in. Our last brekkie was as delicious as all other meals we enjoyed. We only had to check out by 11am so had an hour at the pool before making our way home. Only a short 2.5hr drive home was a pleasure, too, as before we knew it we were reunited with our 3 babies. And after 10minutes of being home I was already dreaming of being back in the lush iSimangaliso bush! :)))))

Stay posted for a competition on my blog early next year to stand a chance to win a visit this incredible place!

Interesting fact: On 1 December 1999 UNESCO declared the lake and adjacent coastal areas a world heritage site. The 328’000 hectare reserve was South Africa’s first world heritage site and encompasses 5 five major ecological zones. Makakatana Bay Lodge remains the only privately owned lodge situated within this World Heritage Site. 

Video taken from the Makakatana Bay Lodge website:

To enquire or book your stay at Makakatana Bay Lodge visit:


Thank you to Hugh, Leigh Ann, and the incredible team at Makakatana Bay Lodge for having us. It was the most perfect way to celebrate my birthday, and get some rest in before the busy festive season {and school holidays} hits us!


Author: Shan Fourie

Shan Fourie is a busy mom of three, based in Ballito, and is a full-time lifestyle blogger/Content Creator. With over 14 years of experience in marketing, Shan began blogging in 2018, and embarked into full-time content creation in 2021. Shan uses her platform to share brands, businesses as well as to raise awareness and funds for causes and initiatives close to her heart. Somewhat of an activist, Shan has helped bring people together for multiple causes, including A21 Walk for Freedom, multiple Bone Marrow & Blood drives, a peaceful protest to stop NetCare Alberlito from closing its paeds ward, as well as other movements she is passionate about. Her biggest focus this year is on raising funds, alongside The Rise Up Movement, for a GBV safe house in Kwadukuza, along with a lab for facilitating rape-kits on site, instead of having to send them to Pretoria. Shan is an official Ambassador for (a) The SA Bone Marrow Registry, (b) the Red Movement (a movement intent on eradicating period poverty), and (c) and a partner of the Rise Up Movement - an NPO that stands against GBV, Child abuse, and Human Trafficking. Shan was a Mrs South Africa 2022 finalist, 2023 CANSA ambassador for Mrs South Africa, and Discovery Bank was her gold sponsor. Shan is also the official Wellness influencer for Gateway Theatre of Shopping and The Pencil Club Umhlanga. Shan believes that wellness is all-encompassing - mental, physical and emotional. She believes it is important to keep your life clean of toxicity. Self-care is super important to her.

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