ENCLAVED by the mountain terrains of Malealea, Matelile and Thaba Putsoa Range, Malealea Lodge is a place where nature and Basotho heritage are intermarried with adventure.
The lodge is exquisitely nestled in the Makhomalong Valley, west of the Mafeteng district and 33 kilometres from Motsekuoa. A seven-kilometre smooth gravel which travels through the Gateway of Paradise offering an enchanting mountain view, separates the hospitality facility from the tarred road which leads to Ribaneng.
Apart from the fresh air, the lush of flora in the compound which includes species of the spiral aloe and the rhus tree ably aids the beauty.
After a day of enchantment from the environs, one is thrust into slumber by lullabies from the marathon chirping of crickets that only heeds to the singing birds signalling the arrival another dawn.
The lodge operates fully on clean solar energy which they also use to pump water from the borehole.
Besides the nine standard rooms, majority of the accommodation comprises of 30 rondavels, 30 forest huts and five Basotho huts. All the buildings are coated with loam soil combined with cow dung to allow Basotho designs (Litema) to be drawn on the walls augmenting heritage. Inside the rooms, Seshoeshoe cloths decorate the walls while light bulbs hang inside a Basotho hat.
Bonfires are lit each night and are often complimented by a local band or choir performance.
The activities offered at the lodge include tennis, village tours, 4×4 trails to Thaba Putsoa, trips to the Malealea Museum, pony trekking, mountain biking and hiking to Botṧoela Waterfall (40m heigh), Ribaneng Waterfall (90m height) and to Musi’s donga and the Bushmen paintings among others.
On the trail, there are sounds of clanging bells fastened to the necks of grazing sheep, the steady trickle of valley creeks, the clip-clop of pony hooves underfoot.
From Malealea Lodge is a 70-kilometres away from the famous Maletsunyane Falls on a gravel road.
In the early 1900s, the place used to operate as Malealea Trading Post – a general dealer where the community could buy from groceries to fashionable clothing. In 1985 it was partially converted into a lodge until the trading post was totally shutdown in 2003 to allow the full operation of Malealea Lodge. Malealea Trading Post used to have a milling business which was donated to the community to operate when the lodge went into full swing.
The owner of the lodge, Mick Jones, recently told the Weekender that the lodge is distinct from the rest of the hospitality outfits in the country due to its enhancement of Basotho culture while also offering adventurous activities.
“We try our level best not to dilute Basotho heritage in our offerings hence all the buildings have that cultural aspect attached to them such as the Litema drawings,” Jones said.
“We offer authentic Basotho cuisine and braai on our menu. Malealea Lodge can accommodate up to 100 people in the rooms and also has a camping site that can accommodate a further 30 people.
“Our activities are mostly adventurous as we aim to promote the beauty of the landscape. We also encourage walks to the village so that tourists can learn about the life in Malealea which includes how traditional beer or crafts are made.”
He said that they also empower the local community as much as possible through part time and full-time jobs which has also birthed the Malealea Development Trust.
“We employ 10 locals on permanent basis and 15 more during our peak seasons which are often in the summer holidays. We do not own any horses so that we can hire some from the community whenever we have guests who wish to ride. We also believe in giving locals jobs whenever there is development which needs to be done here.
“We have also facilitated the local band’s tour of England, Australia and Scotland for performances while they also perform for guests on a regular basis.
“Through the assistance of some of our guest who were touched by the struggle of the community, we were able to establish the trust fund which helps the community in various ways. We feel Malealea Lodge cannot survive without the community,” he said.
A pony trek to Ribaneng Waterfall is around six hours long therefore encompasses overnight stops where tourists rent accommodation from the community as another means of empowering the community.
Jones encouraged locals to tour the country more as the majority of their clientele is from Europe and these mostly visit between September and April.