The check-in was first class, with Colleen giving a very good briefing of the layout and programme for Kirkmans Kamp, which is a traditional 1920's homestead comprising of 18 guest cottages. The lodge is modeled and furnished in the traditional colonial style of the old Transvaal. The camp invokes a rich, historic atmosphere, and has a bar, various lounges, both inside and out, wrap-around veranda, gift shop, a pool and spa as well as a television room where one can also access the latest news if you are that way inclined. When one walks into the main building at Kirkman’s Kamp you get the feeling that you’ve been transported back in time. Impeccable and gracious service completes the old world atmosphere, set in one of the most renowned wildlife regions in the world. Located on a ridge, the camp overlooks the Sand River. Their daily programme for winter is a wake-up at 05:45, followed by hot drinks and then the morning game drive (during which more hot drinks, and my personal choice, hot chocolate and Amarula, are served), return for breakfast, relax, lunch, relax, afternoon tea, afternoon/evening drive (with another stop for sundowners and snacks) and then back to the lodge for dinner. One cannot go hungry here!
Our cottage was one of eighteen at Kirkmans and was in the style of a semi-detached unit. We had a double bed with an old fashioned bedstead, ball and claw bath, stand alone shower, toilet, air-conditioning and all the trimmings one would expect to find at such a lodge. There was also an outside veranda overlooking the Sand River – all in all very comfortable.
Our guide here was Elliott and our tracker Victor and I was looking forward to our first (and last) afternoon/evening game drive at Kirkmans. Elliott was a very pleasant person with a very good, dry sense of humour – I really enjoyed his company. Their game drive vehicle was also a Land Rover, equipped to carry ten persons, but ours only had six guests on board, so it was very comfortable. Elliot was a very good driver, and when he did go off-road it was not the physical workout that we had at our first lodge, it was a smooth ride all the way. Again, like all the lodges in the Sabi Sands, general sighting of the more common animals were seen regularly, including a group of four white rhino. Some not so common animals that we did see were a group of banded mongoose and a black-backed jackal. Elliot knew about a leopard that he said he had seen that morning, so one of the first animals that we came across on this afternoon was this young female leopard, but she did not have too much energy and spent her time in the long grass with an odd yawn or two – it was too early for her to be out on the hunt.
As the sun set and it grew dark – which happens very quickly in winter in South Africa, I saw some twinkling lights up ahead in the bush. At first I thought that it was another game drive vehicle up ahead that had stopped for some reason or other, but as we got nearer, I saw that it was in fact two oil lamps that had been suspended in a tree, together with a tray of six champagne flutes and a bottle of sparkling wine chilling in a bucket of ice. Now what can be more civilized than this? This was our sun-downer stop, and it was good to stretch our legs for a while. For the entire afternoon/evening drive we only came upon one other vehicle out on their drive.
Kirkmans Kamp had only recently entered into a five-year co-traversing agreement with Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, so are now able to explore more than 6 500 hectares of land bordering 12 kilometres of Sabie River frontage and 11 kilometres of the Sand River, so the next morning we set off for this area. We went into the thick reed-beds of the Sand River in pursuit of a leopard that Elliot knew frequented this area, but unfortunately we did not find her. We did stop right next to a hippo that was wallowing in the shallows of this river, and this was quite an atmospheric setting. The area was quiet, with only bird sounds echoing through the reeds and the mist hanging thick and low over the water – very relaxing. I have included a photo of a hippo, but alas, it is not this particular one, but one that I had taken earlier on my trip – this for those who are not sure what a hippo is! On our way back to the camp after the drive, we came upon a large clearing next to the river, and here breakfast had been set up. Breakfast was prepared by our guides and trackers – there were two vehicles here- and a great time was had by all. @Beyond always seems to get it right with their little surprises like the drink stop in the evening and now breakfast in the bush. I have also posted a photo here of what their vehicles look like – this was taken of a vehicle at one of their other lodges in the Sabi Sands – ours was similar, except it was a Land Rover.
I would have liked to stay two nights here (at least), just to experience the full value of their game drives, but that which I had seen I was very happy with, particularly on the afternoon/evening drive. Although game viewing was not as prolific as had been seen at other lodges that I visited, I put this down to only having experienced two game drives as opposed to four at some other lodges. Although this is a fairly large lodge – eighteen rooms – it was very comfortable and intimate, and the staff here was superb so I will have no qualms in the future to send clients here.