Lesotho is an inspiring destination full of soaring mountains and rushing waterfalls. I love it for its scenery and people, its fascinating history (think Moshoeshoe’s visionary leadership) and its Basotho culture (think ponies, blankets and conical hats). Now there’s another reason: a romantic and honeymoon getaway at Maliba Lodge, Lesotho.
So read on, all you romantics, and find out why you should visit.
The main area
Walk across a bridge over a pool to reach the lodge’s main reception areas, where you’ll find two comfy lounges, a secret balcony upstairs, tables set under umbrellas on the patio for breakfast and lunch, a walkway to a wooden deck with a fire pit that’s perfect for sundowners with a view.
But perhaps the most beautiful part of the lodge is your mountain chalet. Styled on the traditional Basotho hut – a rondavel of stone walls with a thatched roof – it has been reinvented and given a modern twist with a dressed stone wall inside, a thatch roof that isn’t perfectly circular and conical but gently wavy to echo the mountains beyond.
- Lesotho is ideal pony trekking territory, so saddle up one of those trademark Basotho ponies, known for their stamina and sure-footedness even on steep mountains. A guide will take you to explore the narrow bridle paths for fabulous views of the mountains and streams surrounding the lodge. Simon Khanyela took us to a rock pool and waterfall, past some eland browsing on a mountainside. On the way back, the hardy horses climbed a very steep hill without breaking stride.
- Go hiking along trails into the mountains, to pools and waterfalls. Admire the trees in what is the largest che-che (Leucosidea sericea, old wood, ouhout) woodland in Lesotho, the birds, the views and surround-sound nature. You may even spot small animals like duiker or signs of porcupines. There are ten day-trails around the lodge, from easy 3km walks to more challenging and longer trails of around 13km. For safety reasons, tell reception where you’re going and how long you expect to be.
- Ask to have breakfast on your private deck below your chalet. Or simply take your early morning coffee down the steps to the deck so you can admire the layered folds of mountains, watch sunlight play among the trees, listen to the early morning news of birds like redwing starling, wagtail and batis.
- Visit one of the local villages for a community tour of about two hours. Get a hint of what everyday life is like for the locals, many of whom wear their Basotho blankets and hats with pride. Visit a stone-and-thatch rondavel, a sangoma (traditional healer), a shebeen (pub), community centre, school or church.
- Enjoy sundowners on the deck below the patio of the main building, with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.
- If you enjoy birding, keep your binos handy on your hikes or when you’re relaxing at your chalet. You may spot species like mountain pipit, malachite sunbird, pintailed whydah, orange-breasted rockjumper or even bearded vulture (lammergeier) soaring over the mountaintops.
- Visit the spa in a tent under shady che-che trees for a facial or massage. We enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing couples’ massage with Hilda and Barbara. It left us feeling on top of the world especially after a bum-numbing, back-crunching pony trek earlier in the day (can you tell I’m a novice rider?).
- Take a tour to see the Tsikoane Cave and dinosaur footprints – after all, Lesotho even has a dinosaur named after it (Lesothosaurus, a 1m lizard from the late Triassic-early Jurassic period). Walk in the 150-million-year-old footsteps of these ancient animals as a guide tells you about them and how the footprints became fossilised. The full tour takes about six hours, including time for a 2km hike to see the footprints.
- Enjoy a romantic bath by candle light, complete with aromatic bath salts. Great for easing away the muscle tension of a day spent pony trekking or hiking through the park. Wrap up in the towelling gowns, slip on the white slippers and drink champagne by the fire. (Like much of Southern Africa, Lesotho was suffering from drought when we visited in late 2018 so because we’re eco-conscious travellers we didn’t actually fill the bath with water, just set the scene for the photo. We showered instead.)
- Are you keen to put your 4x4 through its low-range paces on some 4x4 trails? Ask at reception about some of the trails in the Maliba area of Ts’ehlanyane National Park. Don’t drive off the tracks and make sure you have proper recovery equipment in case you get stuck.
- Take a walk around the garden next to the huts at Maliba Mountain Lodge to enjoy some of the local plants. If you’re a plant lover, the info plaques will enhance your experience.
- Have dinner in the restaurant or lunch on the patio. We enjoyed oxtail, Highland trout and cheesecake in the evening and toasted sarmies and stirfry at lunch time. Just don’t be in a hurry; order quickly because this is slow food so there will be lots of time to have a drink and relax before your meal arrives from the kitchen.
- In winter, drink red wine or hot chocolate around the fire in your chalet, as romantic a spot as you could hope for.
- If you’re a keen long distance runner, visit Maliba in late November to participate in the Lesotho Ultra Trail. This annual 38km or 50km high-altitude route winds through a park of great natural beauty, challenging you with world-class mountain running – an excellent new notch on your marathon belt.
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