Did you know?
The vibrant Venda cloth you’ll see at Shiluvari has become fashionable all over the world.
At first glance, Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge looks very much like a comfortable country lodge, set in scenic surrounds, close to the lovely Albasini Dam, a short drive from the little town of Elim.
And so it is. It is also a very popular base from which to explore the world-famous Ribolla Venda Art Route.
It’s only when you start talking to staff, examining the décor and noticing the care for environment that you’ll begin to understand the reasons behind Shiluvari’s certification by Fair Trade Tourism, an organisation that guarantees your host pays fair wages, offers fair working conditions, and runs a fair operation that respects cultures, human rights and the environment.
Shiluvari staff are not only well paid, but exude a contented sense of ownership in the business. They are offered training opportunities and a chance to rise in their careers, and so they have flourished along with the lodge.
The Girardin family, who owns Shiluvari, have also helped many of the local sculptors become more established. Many were commissioned for the sculptures and wooden carved objects you’ll find around the lodge. In fact, many famous Venda artists, like Noria Mabasa, Sarah Munyai, Justice Murathi, Thomas Khubayi, had their start here.
But it’s not only about the spectacular art. The cupboards in the rooms, for example, were made by the Rivoni Society of the Blind. Much of the fabric is locally painted or decorated. And many plants dotted about the gardens and lodge grow happily in locally made Mashamba Venda pots with their characteristic red clay and silvery graphite trim.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)15 556 3406
Fax: +27 (0)15 556 3413
How to get here
Polokwane has the closest airport (and Polokwane is about three hours' drive from Johannesburg, on the N1). From Polokwane head north towards Makhado (which used to be called Louis Trichardt). Just before the town, you'll find a turnoff right onto the R578. After about 17km, you'll get to a four-way stop in the little town of Elim. Turn left and carry on for just over 4km, and you'll see the sign to Shiluvari on your left.
Best time to visit
Summers are very hot. Temperatures are much more temperate between March and October.
Around the area
You could go on a birding trail with a guide, visit the Ben Lavin Nature Reserve nearby, take a hiking trail, go and visit a few baobab trees, and see Lake Fundudzi and the sacred Thathe Vondo Forest.
Tours to do
You could go on the Ribolla Venda Arts Route, an initiative of the Open Africa non-profit organisation that encourages people to support local people and initiatives. A guide will take you to the local sculptors, carvers, drum-makers, textile weavers, potters and beaders. Book the tour from Shiluvari. You could also drive it yourself, picking out the places you're most interested in.
Length of stay
Shiluvari is perfectly placed to explore a number of exciting attractions, so three days would be ideal.
What to eat
The chef at Shiluvari knows her stuff, and is a great fan of Jamie Oliver.
Shiluvari has excellent spa facilities.