Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Quatermain's Camp – Amakhala Game Reserve – Jeremy Williamson

This delightful tented camp situated in a remote valley in the Amakhala Game Reserve, in the Malaria free Eastern Cape near Port Elizabeth, is named after Allan Quatermain,  the protagonist of H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel, King Solomon's Mines and its various prequels and sequels. Allan Quatermain was also the title of one of Haggard’s books in this sequence, with the character Quatermain,  an English-born professional big game hunter and occasional trader in southern Africa, his camp the epitome of those early Safari camps. 

With Quatermain’s Camp in the Amakhala Game Reserve, we certainly have the early no frills Safari camp, styled on Allan’s and before the advent of electricity ! - well there might be a few frills and luxuries.
Riaan and Julie Brand have created an “out of Africa” primitive styled tented camp . Their classic 1920s style safari camp is modeled on those of the heyday of exploration, that golden era with adventure around every corner. Adventure can certainly be had in the Amakhala and Shamwari Game Reserves when staying at Quatermain’s Camp.

Lana and I entered the Amakhala Game Reserve off the N2 at the Carnarvon Dale entrance gate and left our vehicle at that Lodge. A ranger from Quatermain’s collects you and the game drive begins.  Yvonne (an Australian lass in love with Africa) gave Lana and I a brief introduction to Quatermain’s and off we drove to the camp. There were a number of hartebeest, zebra and even duiker en route and a few steep descents and ascents, but the Land Cruiser managed.
Red hartebeest welcome

The boma style, rustically enclosed dining / living area with central fireplace, was where all guests gather, have meals, sit around the fire or just chill, the accommodation tents are spread out in the surrounding bush, each very private. 

I was delighted with our tent. So safari like, with the odd shipping crate, campaign chair, pith helmet and paraffin lamp.

 I guess Lana was more chuffed with the hot shower, proper loo and large comfortable double bed. 

 Comfortable,  Military styled Chairs – Officers for the use of;  on the deck, magazines and bird sounds. Now you’re talking!

Lunch under the thatch boma area was a host of freshly made tuna and chicken mayo sandwiches,  delicious fresh cool juices and chatter. We met our fellow guests and before we knew it, it was time to depart on the game drive.

The lounging and dining area

Riaan was taking us into Shamwari for this afternoon’s game drive. Lana and I were thrilled. We had last been to Shamwari some years ago and were keen to see what the game sightings were like now? Quatermain’s is the only Amakhala Game Reserve venue that has traversing on Shamwari, a wonderful bonus !
Pretty good a game drive it was too. Riaan’s expertise certainly came to the fore with his experience in finding game.  We stopped on a hillside and all glassed the expansive valleys and slopes in front of us. “What is it that you notice about the animal concentrations ?” asks Riaan. Duh ??  “Well it’s not about where the animals are, but rather where they aren’t” he tells us. He was wanting to find cheetah for us and they could very well be within the vista before us. Riaan pointed out how the vast open grasslands, really quite full of a variety of antelope and zebra, had a large area devoid of any visible wildlife. “Let’s go and have a closer look down there” he suggests.  So it’s not all wind direction and following spoor. A bit of intelligent deduction and experience brought us right onto two cheetah recumbent in the shade. 
The more photogenic brother

The afternoon heat was burning through, the shade offering some respite, but these cheetah were not a going anywhere in a hurry. Looking like they had recently dined, a vigilant slumber (cat nap?) was all that was on the cards for them, it seemed. Vigilant they had to be, as lion also favored this area of high concentrations of a variety of antelope. Cheetah are extremely vulnerable and seen by the lion as competition for food and are thus so often attacked by lion. A slight advantage for cheetah is that being diurnal hunters, with lion, nocturnal, their periods of activity rarely clash.
We let the cheetah be and went in search of – well the lion.  First a bit of scouting around for other game though.  

Springbok keeping away from the cheetah
Springbok and blesbok

 And other game of which there was aplenty! 


Much later we found a pride, in super lion mode. All fast asleep in the shade, dreaming of seeing off those pesky cheetah?  Nah ! would need to be  too energetic for that. Well maybe dinner then?  The sun was sinking and slowly the pride started to stir.

This pride too had eaten fairly recently, so a mad plan of action to secure dinner just didn’t seem to be on their agenda as yet. 

With no action here, Riaan headed off to see what nocturnal species he could find. A pair of Jackal, a scrub hare, super, then as it became darker, so in the gloaming, Riaan pointed out a Brown Hyena. Quite a special animal to see, especially as these are not a common species, especially  in the areas from whence we hail. Not too unfriendly either as it walked relatively close past the vehicle with a rather broad grin – well mouth open and showing off a formidable dental array.  More of a scavenger than the better known Spotted Hyena, but these can still be quite aggressive hunters.

We wended our way back to Quatermain’s Camp where a festival of paraffin lamps welcomed us,  in the boma  a warming fire and refreshments awaited. Yvonne, a ranger of note, also seemed a past master at playing with the fire and producing delicious culinary offerings. Dinner by romantic lamp-light, together under the thatched lapa was something from our / my / Africa’s past, with the flames flickering, shadows shimmering on the palisade of old mis-shapen logs , a myriad of stars in the ether above, a good glass of wine and delicious fare with a happy group on Safari. To cap it all dinner was a typical South African braai of note.  Even Aussies can braai ! Thank you Yvonne and Craig.

Now the real test, time for bed and as we left the circle of new friends, so Yvonne passed me a paraffin lamp with instructions on how to extinguish it. Quite important to know, Lana and I had previously visited another lamp-lit venue and one of the guests was distraught, not being able to relight the lamps in the early dawn darkness after having screwed the wicks down into the reservoir and out of the mechanism when turning them off the previous evening.
Without periphery light the stars were most impressive – we sat on our deck and marveled at the sight,  then took our 1 candle-power lamp into the tent and to bed. Who needs 100 candle power, the light from the lantern was surprisingly sufficient , had we wished, there were more lanterns to light and brighten our domain, enough, and to bed and the night sounds. I love tented accommodation, this was so reminiscent of our two year’s travels through southern Africa in our Land Rover and tents, when we upped, sold everything and turned ‘bush’. The night sounds are not diffused, one can feel the breezes and easily awake, delighting in the dawn chorus. Closer to Africa one cannot easily get.

 So it was with a sprightly step we arrived at the Boma, cameras in hand, for coffee and rusks just as the sky was paling in the east . The morning was fairly fresh but no need for a fire in the hearth just yet, although Julie's little Jack Russel thought otherwise and sought warmth in the ashes from last evenings fire, too cute! 

 Craig was there, all bright and chirpy, to take us on our morning game drive. This morning the drive was to be in the main Amakhala Game Reserve immediately across the N2.  What an interesting drive with a super range of really good sightings.

Would this be a tower of giraffe ?
Now what?

Back to camp for breakfast at Quatermain’s Camp. Yvonne had prepared the traditional “full house” South African brekker. Along with cereals, fruit juices and the Boere Coffee, probably made in Yvonne’s billycan,  delicious!
Surprisingly, or should it be unsurprisingly,  this was a camp that Lana would have liked to have spent more time at. Time was limited on this journey for us, what with a number of venues to see – this for us to get a correct perspective of the wildlife game viewing potential in the area - we had to sadly move on.  There are many issues that make a destination really stand out. Our general opinion is that it is the hosts and guides that are the most important contributor to ones enjoyment of a venue. Then, for us being expert wildlife specialists wishing to best advise our clients, I guess it’s the wildlife viewing potential that follows. This would finally be followed by what the Lodge / accommodation has to offer.   
At Quatermain’s Camp, Riaan and Julie have really created a wonderful destination.  They and their staff make the venue, the wildlife sighting potential  is outstanding. At this camp in particular, as one has the added advantage of being able to traverse on both Amakhala and Shamwari Game Reserves, and then there is the camp ! Certainly it is different and very rustic, but boy does this add value to one’s Africa experience.

The vanity with super shower and a flush toilet behind this

 As an International traveler, give me this any day, being able to get so close to nature, something  one is not easily able to achieve, and yet so comfortable for the most discerning of guests. All one needs do as a potential guest, is to fully understand the considerable difference in facilities at Quatermain’s Camp than at other more traditional venues. We are not used to being without electricity and this my friends, is the real key to the success of Riaan and Julie’s dream.
Lana and I would be back there in a heart beat!  

Photographs; Jeremy and Lana Williamson


  1. Wow! what a amazing place look like real nature of South Africa i think it best place for enjoy Port Elizabeth Game Reserve

  2. It certainly is - we loved it - Jeremy

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