26 October 2005 is an important date for us – that’s the day we officially opened Morukuru Madikwe. Surrounded by both our families, we took our first steps towards building our hospitality group, which 15 years later is made up of three locations, seven houses and around 80 staff members.
Our journey started back in 1992 (28 years ago) when we first had the privilege of visiting South Africa, and our love-story with South Africa began. Brian Jackman (award-winning journalist, author and one of Britain’s foremost writers on African wildlife safaris) wrote “Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there you will never be the same”. His words rang true for us and from our first safari all those years ago, we started to dream about owning our own property in Africa. At that time, we were both based in The Netherlands and worked in the real estate industry. Our lives were two-dimensional; working like Trojans in our business so that we could break away and enjoy our passion for African safaris.
We spent many hours thinking, dreaming and talking about the goal of having our own place in Africa. We had visited many locations in South and East Africa, but for now, we had to be satisfied with daydreaming about our ambitions.
In 2003, when we celebrated our 12 ½ years wedding anniversary and marked this milestone with a multi-generational trip, which took us to Madikwe Game Reserve for the first time. And that was it – we realised this was the location to create our dream home. We bought the land for our perfect holiday spot. Then reality set in… What would we do with our house when we were not here?
By now we were officially safari addicts and had stayed in some of the most beautiful lodges. We loved all our bush experiences but felt some aspects of a safari holiday could be improved. For one, we wanted more flexibility. We didn’t enjoy being dictated by fixed timings and felt a more accommodating approach was needed for things like game drive schedules and mealtimes. Our vision was to create a place where families could feel at home. Groups with young children or elderly members often face limitations. We wanted to offer both the luxury and an authentic safari experience. Bush dinners, bushwalks with a ranger, overnight sleepout in a beautifully dressed hide, a bubble bath under the stars! We saw an opportunity to create something different – something extremely comfortable, something intimate but spacious, a place where guests wrote their own agenda. You want to dine in the bush? No problem. You want to have early meals for kids? No problem. You want appropriate activities for children? No problem. You want to bring your family with people from 8 – 80 years? No problem. With our Morukuru concept in place, we opened Madikwe River and Owner’s House in 2005. That was fifteen years ago!
In 2007 we sold our business in Holland, which gave us a chance to focus on our African venture. Starting from our base of two exclusive-use properties, River and Owner’s House (2005) and Farm House (2009) we expanded our offering to include Morukuru Ocean House our off-the-grid offering in the beautiful De Hoop Nature Reserve (2014) and AtholPlace (2015) our Johannesburg base. In 2018 saw the final piece of the puzzle put in place with the introduction of Morukuru Beach Lodge. This was a departure from our exclusive-use concept and took us into the territory of offering luxury suites appealing to couples, small families or intimate groups.
As we sit here and remember this wonderful journey, we are reminded of all the special occasions we have been part of, such as birthdays, anniversaries and weddings; as well as hosting many, many family holidays. Our guests have embraced our concept, and many have returned time and time again. They come for the Morukuru experience and of course our amazing staff that make sure our guests leave as part of the Morukuru family.
We have just arrived back in South Africa after a very long 6-month absence. We are delighted to be back, to finally celebrate some of the 2020 milestones! Our 30th wedding anniversary. The 15th anniversary of the opening of Morukuru. The completion of the refurbishment of River and Owners’ House. And the cherry on the top – Morukuru Beach Lodge has just been announced as the #1 property in South Africa (#8 in the world) in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2020! We are so excited to celebrate all of these milestones and quietly reflect on the very special journey with a huge sense of gratitude, achievement and happiness.
The borders are open, the local infection rate low, and we are prepared and ready to welcome you back to Morukuru Family with strict health and safety protocols in place. South Africa needs guests more than ever at the moment. If now is not your time; dream a little bit longer, and we will be here for you when you are ready to visit us.
Stay safe and hope to welcome you back soon.
Ed & Anka Zeeman
1. Most memorable moment
The first time we took part in conservation work. Running through the bush with jerry cans of water to cool off the animal. Taking blood samples. It was so special to feel part of being part of a national geographic documentary. Through this initiative we founded the Morukuru Goodwill Foundation so we could make a difference to conservation and then for the local communities.
But also when just sitting on Owners House deck, watching the trees, house and river below. Even today, we sometimes can hardly believe that we own and created this paradise in the middle of the bush.
2. Funniest moment
We had a lot of funny moments in this 15 year journey and know there will be many more!
3. Scariest moment
Anka: We were on a game drive with my sister, brother in law and guide. We walked single file, me behind the guide, the other 2 behind me. The guide had explained that if something happened, we should not talk but stand still and click our fingers. It was extremely hot and we were walking back to the lodge at a fast pace. At a certain moment I felt no one behind me. When I turned around, I saw my sister standing in the distance only a few meters from a huge elephant! Apparently the guide and I were so focused on getting back home we marched right past it!
Another scary moment was during the March 2016 cloudburst above Madikwe with 250mm rain falling in 24 hours. Due to a broken dam the river rose a few metres very quickly to the point of 3cm deep in our wine cellar but thankfully it dropped as the storm subsided.
4. Wish we could do it all again moment
Ed’s 50th birthday celebrations in 2013 with family, friends and staff – it was very special
5. Best wildlife sighting in Madikwe
We noticed 2 male lions heading for a tree with a prey in it. In the next tree, a young leopard was watching what was his prey. To our surprise, one of the lions climbed in the tree to retrieve the leopard’s prey. Two trees next to each other, each with a big 5 predator in it!
6. Favourite spot in Madikwe
Ed’s view – having dinner under the stars.
7. Favourite spot in De Hoop
Sundowners in the dunes.
8. Favourite activity in Johannesburg
Being in Maboneng/Marshalltown for a guided walking tour makes you feel you are really in Africa. Also a visit to the Apartheid Museum is a must for visitors to gain background and understanding about the history and present relations in South Africa.
9. Favourite SA Food
Boerewors always delivers, but bunny chow at the beach also a favourite.
10. Favourite SA Wine
For Ed – Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, for Anka – De Wetshof Chardonnay.
11. Favourite SA gin
For Ed – Inverroche Amber. For Anka – Six dogs.
12. Must-do activity in De Hoop
Snorkeling in the rock pools at low tide and the guided Marine Walk.
13. If we could have another property in South Africa it would be in ….
The Cape Winelands, but don’t think that will happen!