Bela Bela without a booking.
Oscar and I decided to go away for a weekend. I asked him to make the booking. For some reason I end up making most of our travel bookings and arrangements and this time I just wanted to be taken away and not plan or think about it.
But little did I know Oscars idea of planning a weekend away is making no bookings and simply winging it. Thursday rolled around and we jumped into the car with an overnight bag packed. As I clicked in my seat belt I asked him “So where are we going?” His reply was a simple “I don’t know, let’s just see”
We some how settled on Bela Bela, friends of ours always talk about visiting the warm baths and it sounded like fun. So off we went through two toll roads and a right turn into hot dry nothingness.
Bela Bela (Previously known as Warm Bath or Warm bad) is a little dusty dorp in the Limpopo Province. It means “Boiling water” or “the pot that boils” in Tswana. Like most towns founded by the British it was settled in because there was water. Even better, hot water. The hot springs became quite the communal bath for the Brits. And then the boere who walked very far and needed to soak their feet.
Today the town has a Super Spar, a Mc Donalds, a mall and just over 45 000 residents.
After driving through the town we decided to go find accommodation in Modimolle instead. As we drove passed places we would Google them (when we had signal) If they looked interesting we pulled in to ask if there was anything available. It was a long weekend and we got a lot of no’s with funny looks for showing up with no booking.
Then we found this great place, I forgot the name. It had a private Jacuzzi and a gorgeous pool overlooking the bushveld. Only one problem, the gate had not bell and the number went unanswered. We decided to give up and turn around to the next spot. Just as we pulled away someone drove up to the gate and put in a pin and there is was. Our opportunity to tailgate our way into awesome accommodation. We drove behind the little white car that we could now see was being driven by a young girl. We followed (stalked) her through the bush and pulled up beside her when she pulled up in front of a gorgeous house. Upon greeting her we learnt she was a student coming home for the long weekend and the place belonged to her folks. They were so kind and as the man came out he looked at us and said “Let me go grab the keys and drive you down” In hind sight we should have just gone with it and see what happened, but I interrupted him and explained we did not have a booking and simply took a change. Sadly they were fully booked. (They also thought we were rather nuts for going away without a booking) They kindly gave us some suggestions and off we went.
We ended up booking in at Shangri-La Country Hotel. What a fabulous little place. From the road it looks very flat and boring but once you turn in you drive along beautifully kept tennis courts and gardens. Lawn chess and roses everywhere. The restaurant, bar and reception is almost treehouse like between dense gardens and a perfect blue pool. It has the most beautiful little chapel and a zen garden that looks out over miles and miles of bush.
The room was well priced although not the grandest it was neat , clean and comfortable. Buffet breakfast is included and their food was an all round win. Far better value for money than anything you will find in town.
With a place to sleep and a full stomach we turned in for the night and decided to tackle the warm baths then following morning. (in 33’C heat).
The hot springs are now part of the Forever Resort and they seem to be the place to be on weekends. There is a large our door pool area with several pools and slides. Kiddy heaven. As we got to gate to pay the R120 for entrance to the park i asked the cashier where the indoor pools were. She then gave our money back and told us to walk around the building as the indoor (Hydra) have their own entrance and tariffs. Thank goodness we asked.
We found the hydra and got there just in time for happy hour. Usual charge is R80 per person to get in but between 3pm and 4pm its half price. The pools close between 4pm and 5pm. I am not sure hy. Maybe to clean?
The whole building looks like it got eaten and thrown up by 70’s architecture. It needs up keep but is still clean and rather fun. There are 3 pools that you get access to. The hottest one is 43’C and the coldest is 22’C. So its a sweat fest all round.
An hour is all you need before you dehydrate in the insane heat.
The town itself doesn’t have much to offer. We stopped at the tourism office to ask for places to visit and we got the most uninspired answers. Self driving game drives are no longer allowed due to pouching in the area so they pretty much tell you to go to Spur then go for a hot swim.
Tips for Bela Bela.
- Have dinner at Shangri La or just a drink in the garden while you watch moneys fling mulberries at unsuspecting guests.
- Go to the Hydra between 3 and 4pm to get discount.
- Pack light. As in cool clothing. It’s hot there.
Pack light, have fun.