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October 19, 2014


They say change is the only constant and that the ebb and flow of life is underpinned by concepts of dynamic, fluctuating change. Well this couldn’t be truer here at Mopane Bush Lodge and Mapesu Farm. As many of you are already aware, Paul and Rosemary Hatty have decided to retire and have sold the lodge and property. This came into effect at the end of July. I, Andrew, have also chosen to move on as of the end of August to start RAE Safaris, my own personalised Africa centred guiding and adventure brand. Those wishing to stay in touch can email me at

To Paul and Rosemary. These last years have been some of the greatest of my life. Thank you for your patience and the freedom afforded me and your unyielding support. You have inspired me to take this next leap. We created something here at Mopane Bush Lodge that was truly rare…warm, authentic safari hospitality delivered from the depths of our souls with passion and conviction. The heartfelt avalanche of well wishing farewell emails that have buried our collective inboxes these past weeks is testament to this. You are quite simply the very best of people. It was an honour!

It’s a tough thing saying goodbye constant reader. I have spent the last eleven years in the Limpopo valley and nine of those at Mopane Bush Lodge. Breslaw House on Mapesu Farm has been our family home over much of that time. I find it incredible how sentient a building can become…how it almost breathes and how it contains those most valuable of all treasures…memories. This wasn’t just another place to stay…this was home…a child was conceived and born here…a family laid down roots here!
I think I said goodbye finally the other day while driving on the farm. It was one of those perfect Limpopo winter days, warm, languid, with the softest of breezes rustling the now copper infused Mopane leaves I was in a state of melancholy as I gazed over the veld, the grass like spun gold bending in supplication to the will of an easterly wind. A DJ on the radio must have sensed my mood and played “Moments Away” by Mango Groove. I stopped the vehicle at a good view point, got out, stood…and said farewell as Claire Johnston’s sultry whisper oozed from the stereo and filled the air…a fitting benediction to my time in this incomparable wonderland.

Mopane Bush Lodge and Mapesu Farm have been purchased by Shared Universe Africa. The fund they are creating aims to achieve the following:
• Establish a game reserve, Mapesu Private Game Reserve, and helping to buy and restore 6,000 hectares back to nature
• Save critically endangered rhinos
• Set up a buffalo breeding program
• Invest in and redevelop the Mopane Bush Lodge
• Offer visitors to our game reserve elephant safaris
• Adopt an elephant program
• Establish a Nature Academy
• Establish a business school and organize a volunteer program
The fund will also engage in social study projects, where we will also be inviting Vietnamese and Chinese scientists to study rhinos, to increase the knowledge about rhinos and to demystify the perceived medicinal value of its horn.
Shared Universe will also:
• Create approximately 100 jobs
• Train local staff for almost all available positions
• Increase tourism attractions in the Northern Limpopo area
• Create opportunities for Corporate Social Responsibility (our “rent a charity” concept). Investors have access to the Game Reserve, and can participate in various corporate sponsorship activities.
• Create a small medical post locally
• Protect and rehabilitate other wildlife (veterinarian services for wounded animals)
Check out more on Shared Universe Africa at

We would like to welcome the new General Manager, Coba Röhm who has been appointed by the new owners. Her passion for the industry reaches back to 1987 in the Kruger National Park. Management and Training afforded her the opportunity to serve within the Sabi Sands / BIDVEST / Quantum Services and Controls / a 5 star Boutique Hotel in Nelspruit and The Coach House Hotel in Tzaneen. The need for excellence in the Industry inspired her to form her own Coaching and Hospitality Training Company – Ignite. All of the lodge and farm staff have elected to stay on and grow and prosper under the new dispensation. Mopane Bush Lodge will continue to be the ultimate gateway to Mapungubwe!

We were concerned recently to hear reports of two young and emaciated lions wondering beyond the boundaries of the National Park. They eventually ended up on the private farm Hackthorn between Venetia Nature Reserve and Mapungubwe National Park. The Mapungubwe Lion Project undertook to feed and monitor these lions in the hope that their condition would improve. This was done under the watchful eye of Project coordinators Rox Brummer and Don Bird. Mopane Bush Lodge heeded a call for assistance and donated a large warthog carcass to the initiative. The response and assistance from the community in helping these two cats was truly heart warming. Mapungubwe’s lions are a genetically strategic population and every lion is vital to the long term survival of the species.

BIKE4BEASTS had another successful run earlier this month. Wendy, Andrew, Johan and Pierre Jonker (photographer at large) hosted the first large overseas group in the safari tourism orientated format of this mountain bike adventure. The Vermeersch family of six from Belgium had a magnificent time. They cycled both Mapesu farm and Mapungubwe National Park surviving punctures, thorns, thick sand and belligerent elephant cows! Their visitor’s book comment says it all:”Your Bikes 4 Beasts 4 Belgians was fantastic! Thank you for the incredible experience! Epic time we spent here with amazing guides!”

Ancient Africa awaits you!
Warm regards,
The Mopane Bush Lodge team

Major Fambrough:” You wish to see the frontier?”
John Dunbar: “Yes sir, before it’s gone.”
Dances with Wolves

I remember standing near our station wagon in the crisp predawn half light of a lowveld morning. We were at Numbi Gate, Kruger National Park. My dad was in the reservations office arranging our permit while my ma fussed with my baby sister in the car. I recall that I was all of five or six years old and that I stood rooted to the spot staring at the fence and the impenetrable thicket beyond. My ears were filled with the strangest and most mysterious of cacophonies…sub tropical squeaks and clicks…the dawn chorus of an African wilderness. I was transfixed…and consumed with an urgency to see over yonder…beyond that wire barrier…to understand what made those marvelous noises…I had to go, was drawn inexorably. It began for me that morning. It was an awakening of something visceral within me…the acknowledgement of a hunger for Africa’s frontier spaces and a lust for her siren song.

For the last nine years I have guided and explored the magnificent wilderness of Mapungubwe with folk from all over the world. I have been blessed with adventure in the grandest form and it has almost always culminated with some time at the well known confluence viewpoint. Across the Limpopo and up the Shashe basin lies another dramatic frontier. I have stood there more times than I can remember perceiving a voice growing louder with each subsequent visit. It is in essence a powerful vortex, a force tugging on my mind, calling to me. I cannot describe the language. It is an archaic tongue formed in the sediment of Gondwanaland and rising from the rifts and scars of this brave continent. It has become insistent of late constant reader and I must heed it now.

Several years ago my dad and I ventured to Madagascar and I heard it there too. It had a Malagasy inflection to its accent but was just as African and just as stubborn. It was almost overwhelming in the dry deciduous canopies of Tsingy Bemaraha National Park. Troops of Decken’s Sifaka (a rare lemur variety) were eyeballing us from their precarious perches and I remember that African voice in my skull exploded with indignant gusto. “Do you see this…this wonderland…feel it, revel in it. It is a reminder of the very beginning of time” I was like a deer in the headlights, helpless, enslaved. I felt like the first man on earth. I remember that I had a hard time leaving…hugging my Malagasy guide, Celestain, like a man drowning and promising my speedy return.

On the first of September 2014 I will embark on a new journey. I will look across another frontier…one of self employment as I launch my company, RAE Safaris. It is the first move toward heeding that incessant siren song…a song I can no longer ignore. It is quite simply the rest of this wondrous dark continent calling me to explore…to cross new frontiers…to seek the beauty behind other distant blue horizons.

Good friend and architect extraordinaire, Peter Rich used an analogy that I love and I trust he will forgive me using it here. When discussing my new venture and its perils Peter said:”Andrew…if you don’t push your boat from the shore, how will you ever discover new worlds?”

I do that now. This ship is sailing for deep running dark waters. In my mind’s eye I see myself standing in the mist as the vessel turns away from the harbour and my first mate, a crusty faced fellow, warning that…”thar be dragons over yonder there Cap’n!”

Lord I hope so!
Andrew Rae
August 2014

Category: Blog

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