Friday, September 21, 2012

Nkomazi Game Reserve – Jeremy Williamson

A gem of a find !

Now here is a wonderful game reserve destination ! Nkomazi Game Reserve.

Malaria free, between Barberton and Badplaas, at an altitude where both Low and Highveld antelope species are found, this wide diversity of species makes for such interesting game viewing. Open, Central East Africa type savanna topography in places, this looks so much like one expects Africa to be. Grasslands, with a herd of wildebeest here, zebra over there and a few eland, then some hartebeest and blesbuck over there, with a single Jackal scouting between. 

All this visible from a single point. Drive a bit further and there, in the distance on the low plains, is a herd of Elephant heading for a wooded stream.

 A secretary bird,  striding proudly through the long grass searching for something to eat, gives us a brief nod as it passes. Looking good, Africa as it should be !
The road network from the entrance, to the Komati Tented Lodge, is such, that management have opted for guests to be met at the gate,  where safe undercover parking is provided, with a lounge and toilets. To then be transported – on the first game drive, sort of  – to the Lodge. Well you are in an open vehicle and driving through the Park with animals near and far. Hartebeest lying right next to the road were so relaxed they did not budge or blink. The crash of white rhino too, were, well, crashing!  

 As we had arrived later than the normal pick-up time, arrangements were made for us to join the afternoon game drive, with our luggage continuing to the Lodge. More rhino and another jackal as we drove through to the wooded stream where the herd of elephant were enjoying the succulent reeds and thornveld schrubs. 

 More interesting birds too, Bald Ibis, a Red-throated Wryneck  and was it another Secretary Bird?  Sundowners on the bank of the Komati River, hippo, crocodile, otter! The telemetry system hinted at lion in the vicinity, the lion eluded us, so we disembarked to enjoy the sundown with a glass of fermented grape, done to perfection.

 We arrived at our overnight abode in the dark. Lemongrass scented towels to freshen up as we alighted, a mini maglite thrust in my hand and we were guided to our large walk-in Meru style tent, which by the close sound of rapids in a river, meant that it was perched right on the banks of the Komati River. ‘Out of Africa’ – this is it,  military campaign chests, officers campaign chairs and paraffin lamps, giving our place of repose, a comfortable luxurious ambiance.

  “It is going to be cold tonight, so light up the gas heater when you get back to your room”. “Oh and bring a jacket to dinner, we will be dining in the Boma”  The skies here are even more clear than in the Kruger Park area we had recently been experiencing – fabulous, no wonder there is a computer driven telescope for evenings  of Star Gazing for guests. Not tonight, tables set in the Boma around a crackling fire with a couple of braziers ablaze and scattered around, to warm from all sides. Dinner, after starters was to be a traditional South African braai. I was taken aback a bit, watching those chefs braaing over the smoking coals, using their iPhone’s, ‘torch app’ to check on the meats’ progress. We were closer to the modern world at Nkomazi than I had thought. The braai meat was done perfectly.  Maybe hands free Petzl headlamps would be the answer for the chefs? Everything else was of the best and latest, but with an old twist, such as the tents and military styled accoutrements.

 Fine Royal Doulton bone china dinner services, colourful  Kelims on the floors, but best of all was the shower concept. Here was this zinc sink below a beautiful Victoriana maze of chrome piping. Shower curtain thrust into the sink to retain the splash, great shower, piping hot too.

Yawn, dawn, what a beautiful awakening, warm duvets aside, the tent was quite cozy with the day outside rather fresh, no early morning healthy dip in the plunge pool for me today!. 

Right on the bank of the Komati River, the Komati Tented Lodge is a delight. Resident and rather tame nyala antelope shyly looked away as I stumbled and tripped under my load, en route to my caffeine fix and normal functionality. 

Vehicles ready, blankets and layers of clothing - we climbed aboard and were off to the open plains and its myriad of animal.  This game reserve deserves a longer stay to fully appreciate its diversity.

 Home to the Barberton Daisy and now, recent consideration of the reserve becoming a World Heritage Site, due to  it being a very good representation of the Barberton greenstone belt, which is situated on the eastern edge of the Kaapvaal Craton.  This greenstone belt  is well known for its gold mineralisation as well as for its komatiites, an unusual type of ultramafic volcanic rock named after the Komati River that flows through the belt. Some of the oldest exposed rocks on Earth (greater than 3.6 Ga) are located in this Barberton greenstone belt of the Swaziland–Barberton areas and these contain some of the oldest traces of life on Earth. Several endemic butterflies, plants, spiders and insects roam this locality, and add their magnificence to the splendor that is the Barberton Mountainland. Nkomazi Game Reserve appears to have something for everyone.  My  grandfather – a geologist, started his explorations in a very interesting mineral rich area it seems. Based in Kaapsehoop, he must have trudged these plains, I wonder what the wildlife in the area must have been like then?

The wildlife is pretty good now, as our two game drives attest. Loads of antelope of numerous species - all rather relaxed too.

No scampering off as the vehicle approaches. Mind you the rhino were a bit skittish this morning and raced off as we approached, amazingly fleet of foot.  That’s the way “Stay safe fellas”. 

With a longer stay we were almost certain to see a lot of the more unusual residents of the reserve. I would be keen for that, as they have some rarely seen, special animals here.
Back to the camp for a rather gourmet breakfast – the nyala peeking through the mess tent entrance and we peeked back. Very tame.

 Departure was not all that bad, as the drive to our vehicle  would give us another ‘game’ drive through this lovely reserve. As we approached the gate there seemed to be a large gathering  of various antelope there to bid us safely off on our journey home. Blesbuck, wildebeest and hartebeest,  each with their own circle of friends, a lone ostrich presiding over this lot.

For my own interests, geological, scenic, the vast diversity of fauna and flora, this is certainly a venue that I have already started planning on being able to return to. I really admire those with the foresight to secure such vast areas, to fence and protect them,  and then reintroduce species long lost to the biome creating a wonderful haven for our wildlife and a most delightful venue to visit, this one is different and very good!

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