Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sibuya Game Reserve - Eastern Cape

Sibuya Game Reserve and tented camps, situated in the Eastern Cape and accessed uniquely by boat from Kenton-on-Sea via the Kariega River. This was different !  Lana and I had driven from Durban to near Kenton-on-Sea the previous day in order to be refreshed and ready for the scheduled 12h00 departure by boat  from Sibuya’s safe parking and offices  in Kenton, on the banks of the Kariega River.

Sibuya jetty and boat at the mouth of the Kariega River - Kenton-on-Sea

 We had overnighted at the most delightful nature paradise – Sebumo Tude – Nature’s Lounge, 30 minutes drive from Kenton. Indeed it was paradise ! Relaxing on our deck overlooking the valley and hills we revelled in the abundant birdlife with Knysna Turaco’s flitting from tree to tree along with so many others. Ron and Doris had certainly pulled out all stops to make us comfortable . The 3 course candle-lit dinner was a treat. What a start in preparation for our visit to Sibuya.
We drove into 39 Eastbourne Rd, Kenton-on-Sea at 11h30 – our luggage was hastily dispatched to the back of a vehicle, to be transferred by road to Sibuya’s River Camp and then on, the short distance to Forest Camp by boat.
Sibuya Forest Camp - Main Lodge

 We in turn completed the arrivals procedure, met our fellow guests and guide, Bryan,  and descended to the jetty from where our  cruise to Forest Camp would commence.

This was no speed-boat transfer to the Lodge, rather a leisurely, extremely interesting journey as Bryan pointed out the rather prolific birdlife on the river banks and gave all of us an insight into what Sibuya Private Game Reserve is and was all about.

A special was an African Black Oystercatcher then  Egrets, Plovers, , Goliath Heron, Common  Whimbrel, Fish Eagle, White bellied and Reed Cormorant then Yellow-billed and Black Duck, Cape Teal and Cape Shovelers.What a sight when this mass of quackers took off, their iridescent plumage gleaming.  Some forest species too, Knysna Turaco, Black-collared Barbet, Black-headed Oriole and then a host of LBJ's.

 As we entered Sibuya Game Reserve waters we had our first antelope sighting too, some Impala interrupting their browsing  to nonchalantly gaze at this boatload, as we motored by. The diverse Albany thicket vegetation is really quite beautiful , secreted away in some dense foliage, Bryan pointed out some ancient Cycad.  What a lovely boat ride, there were to be more. Forest Camp is set on a peninsular on the bank of the Kariega River and has no vehicular access, all our game drives would commence with a short boat ride to the vehicle jetty. Really adding another dimension to the normal game drives Lana and I were so used to. We got to know the resident Goliath Heron and Fish Eagles quite well.

 Architecturally designed, Sibuya Forest Camp has great attention to detail in its construction. A very comfortable lounge dining bar area leading immediately out onto an open boma area. 

Then the tents secreted away in the forest.  The owners have taken particular care in keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum. Solar power for the  lighting, fridges and water heating. The lights are supplemented by paraffin lanterns which adds so much to the evening ambience.  I was particularly impressed with the effort  taken to make the elevated board-walk linking the Main Lodge to the tents attractive.
Note the electrified bedside lamps

Not just the normal straight pathway, here the planks have been tapered and shaped to wind through the forest with machined scallops adding to the detail. Strategically placed seating en route on the path and at each tent there is a rustic but comfortable bench. Ours overlooked the Kariega River and the game rich lands beyond.  

 The innovative carpenters had license in the bathrooms too, some really intriguing creations here. Note the Aloe clad basin. Electric lights here in the bathroom and on the bedside tables.

 Whilst on the bathrooms – the solar heated shower was a treat, there was also a lovely old ball and claw bath which I guess Lana preferred and such lovely soaps and shampoo, pure luxury in the bush. So, comfortable beds, airy tents with a paraffin heater to combat the winter night chill, lit when the “turn-down” was done whilst we dined on the delicious Lodge fare.
Our bags had all arrived and were in our rooms when we were shown to our place of repose for the next night or two. Then it was back to the Main Lodge dining area for a drink and the Sibuya light lunch, cold buffet. - light? well with some discipline then.
Venison sosaties et al

All the cooked food is prepared in some  distant kitchen on the property and conveyed to Forest and River Lodges, where the camp chefs add the final touches – different, and this did not compromise the dining in the least - delicious fare. Our lunch today was a Green Garden Salad, Broccoli Surprise (amazing) Layered roast Artichoke and Corn salad (amazing) with hard boiled eggs and fresh cherry tomatoes. Then, tagliatelle pasta Stroganoff and a sweet chilli Grilled Chicken and banana with fresh coriander. Oh and then Homemade baby marrow and creamy corn Quiche. And to end, a traditional creamy Melk tert – (Milk tart). Lana and I creamed it all.! The following day we had a seafood pasta and venison sosaties, magnificent! See above and below.

We started to take on the disposition of the local wild avifauna as we waddled to the boat which would take us to the Game viewing vehicles across the river. All aboard and off we went exploring this 2700 Ha game Reserve.  

The wildlife was particulary relaxed and we had some really lovely close sightings of some white rhino, impala, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest, both the black (white-tailed gnu) and the blue wildebeest (brindled gnu) nyala and bushbuck - excellent species diversity here. All the while Bryan kept us all informed and entertained. Interesting fella is Bryan! Guides are a Lodge's key front man and Bryan is a super ambassador, informative and allowed us time at a sighting, turning it all into a most enjoyable experience... and then there were the other guests on the vehicle, who we rapidly started to get to know, what with the banter and lovely comments. - This was going to be fun ! Bob always with such insightful comments with Lorna, Sue and Tracy adding to the enjoyment of our time together.

The Sibuya Game Reserve is particularly scenic and the owners have created a number of locals where one is able to take advantage of this attribute to the max. Sturdy decks at the end of a steep descent on the very edge of the now almost sheer hill-side, afford panoramic views over the river and bushveld below. One even had strategic vantage over a Fish Eagle nest with chick – special. The roads at Sibuya are amazing, straight up the rocky side of the hills and down the other sider, no wonder the one route is known as "the Roller Coaster" - I might even have gained some respect for the Toyota Land Cruiser game drive vehicles, but I really think it was the inordinate driving skills of our competent guide, Bryan.

Sundowners too were were an occasion, from a chosen spot, with the rolling hills disappearing in the gloaming, a glass of some chilled beverage, some tasty snacks and wonderful discourse from the gang . It was quite exciting  returning to the boat in the dark and taking to the now pitch black waters. Bryan knew the way and we were soon back at the Lodge, with drinks, convivial chatter, warming fire - memories.

Comfortable safari chairs around the glowing embers, that awesome canopy of stars above, then to dinner. As the evening was a tad windy and chilly, dinner alfresco was deemed to be out, so we retired instead to the comfort of the dining area. The windows had been rolled down and secured, making for a cosy  flame-lit banquet, and banquet it was! All of us regaling the events of the day, these became more exciting as the evening progressed.

Lantern lit ambience

Prawn skewers to start, followed by soya and sage Pork Fillet,  as well as Chicken Fillets filled with spinach and mozzarella,  plus delish veggies and ending with a classic Tiramisu! A bit of ‘star gazing’ good nights to all and off to our by now, cosy tent.

At a reasonable 06h45 we met at the Sibuya Forest Camp main lodge for tea, coffee, rusks, camp biscuits, then hit the boardwalk to the jetty where we bundled, all warmly attired in layers of cloth, into our floating transport. The bird and animal life seemed reluctant to break from their place of repose until the sun crept over the hills, then there seemed a scramble for the upper-most branches  or open glades in order to best catch these first warming rays.

A herd of buffalo, a colourful Jackal Buzzard overhead, a view-site. From here we could gaze down on the plains below. Some impala, a crash of white rhino, a herd of eland, a tower of giraffe, Bryan’s terminology was catching. A single warthog broke the collective noun naming theme, as we headed back to the boat - as we sped back to camp - Lady driver this time !  a Malachite kingfisher  raced us to the camp, it was neck and neck for ages - I think the kingfisher won but what an amazing sight, having this powered up vibrantly coloured little bird giving it wing, right next to us and so close for so long. Where was my camera, its just that I was enthralled by the experience. Enjoy the moment. At Sibuya we certainly did, with a little help from Bryan and our fellow guests.

The afternoon game drive brought us to the lion enclosure – these carnivores kept separate from the rather costly buffalo.  They were not too active, as lion so often are - is it a 'mattress' of lion now  Bryan?  Well one has to have the Big 5 you know, even if some concessions need to be made.

Sibuya Game Reserve is technically a Big 5 destination, as we had now seen lion, white rhino and buffalo, we had also seen sign of the elephant herd, but they managed to elude us in the thick forests, and then the leopard, they are here,  but  seem to elude even our resident locals with very occasional sign and sightings. Most likely a legacy of the the local farmer’s historic persecution of these wary cats, which now seems entrenched in their secretive behavior, persisting to today.  Leopard are very rarely seen by guests at any of the Eastern Cape Game Reserves.

Sundowners !

Our boat cruise home to the Lodge this evening was even a bit colder, and we were grateful for  the gesture of two of our fellow guests who had not participated on the afternoon game drive, and were waiting for us with charged sherry glasses for us all – you were so thoughtful - thank you Bob and Lorna.  The cuisine at Sibuya again proved to be excellent at dinner, the resident chef, Welcome, had presented magnificent fare,  and what with the sundowners, the sherry and wine with dinner, I am sure the sound of merriment carried over the river and the plains beyond. The animals seemed shy and retiring the next morning, was it us?

We did get to see a fair few though, and added a half-collared kingfisher to our bird list, one of the more colourful of the species and not that often seen, it is regarded as 'near threatened'. Please to see them thriving here.
Breakfasts at Sibuya are rather  relaxed, or could be the cause of a need for one to relax, as what with cereals, yoghurts, juices and then the full traditional full house cooked fare, we were repleat. Time to leave this particularly lovely, comfortable, friendly haven.

Some of our party were to remain an extra day or two at this delightful retreat, so with fond farewells our cruise to the mouth of the Kariega River with our departing new friends was lovely.
Our bags had already arrived at our waiting car, I must say that all logistics were very well managed. What a pleasant stay and we had some really good game viewing and learned a bit more about this very beautiful  big game area, as it slowly strives to return to the Africa it was before the settlers impacted so on the regions wildlife! Sibuya a good choice.

Photographs by Jeremy and Lana Williamson

1 comment:

  1. I definitely enjoyed reading through this article.Thanks.