A weekend getaway in the wild coupled with the taste of Amarula is one worth remembering.
Three days in the luxurious Kapama Private Game Reserve in Hoedspruit – a small agricultural town in the Mopane district – offered just this experience. This game reserve is home to various wildlife, including the Big Five.
Guests are offered game drives twice a day – during the morning and in the afternoon. You get to spot animals including kudus, impala, buffalos, lions and zebras.
A game ranger and a tracker drive the guests around the game reserve to spot animals and birds and learn about Mother Nature.
READ MORE: How to make two Amarula summer cocktails
We explored groves of Amarula trees in the heart of Phalaborwa in Limpopo, which bear golden fruit during summer.
The fruit is harvested over six to eight weeks from January to March every year. During the second day of the three-day trip, we visited the Amarula Lapa in Phalaborwa, where we got a glimpse of how the perfectly sun-ripened marula fruit is harvested.
During this harvest, the succulent marula is the size of a small plum and ripens to a yellow hue, releasing an intense tropical fragrance.
“The marula trees drop their fruits in February. About 85% of these come from this area and are used in our production,” says Matome Malatjie from Amarula.
At the production facility, the fruit is hand-selected from a conveyor belt, with over-ripe or damaged fruit being discarded. Green fruit is held back to ripen, while the yellow fruit is used to make marula pulp.
The yellow fruit goes through a washing process before reaching the de-stoning tanks, where the kernels are removed from the fruit pulp. The marula pulp is then pumped into cooling tanks, where it is cooled down to prevent uncontrolled fermentation and then transported in bulk by insulated tankers to cellars in the Western Cape.
During fermentation, which takes seven to 10 days, the natural fruit sugar present in the marula fruit is converted to alcohol. After fermentation, the marula wine is distilled and aged in French oak barrels for at least two years, during which wood spice characters of vanilla and toast are naturally imparted.
The fruit’s aroma attracts herds of elephants. This is seen as a sign of approval to start harvesting. About 90% of harvesters are women from 25 villages in Limpopo. They are paid for every kilogram they harvest for Amarula, which ultimately benefits around 60 000 people each year.
READ MORE: SA’s best national parks
Marula trees are indigenous to sub-equatorial Africa and Amarula uses only uncultivated fruit-bearing trees for production. These trees are protected by South African law, as they support an extensive ecosystem.
Their canopies provide habitats for a range of plants and grasses, while the fruit is consumed by elephants, rhino, warthog, kudu, baboons, vervet monkeys, zebra, porcupine and even millipedes. Their leaves are also eaten by a range of browsers, including domestic cattle. A single tree can produce up to 500kg of fruit per year.
The trip was wrapped up with an early morning elephant interaction at Camp Jabulani on the third day. This interaction includes feeding the majestic animals and taking photographs standing alongside them.