Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Springbok Lodge Special - Far & Wild Safaris

Springbok Lodge - Nambiti Private Game Reserve

2 Night Mid Week Special
ONLY R 1 295.00 per person per night

Includes: 2 game drives, all meals, luxury tented accommodation AND
a complimentary 1 hour cheetah interaction session per person.

Excludes: All Beverages, Conservation Levy, Spa Treatments and
additional Cheetah Interaction.

Minimum 2 night midweek stay
Remember, if you book 3 nights, you'll get 50% OFF on the 3rd night!
Valid: 4 Nov - 13 Dec 2012 only

Book Now
+27 31 208 3684



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Esiweni Game Lodge - Jeremy Williamson

We just had to visit Esiweni Game Lodge in the Nambiti Private Game Reserve near Ladysmith, Elandslaagte actually, in KwaZulu-Natal.  The Anglo-Boer War Battle of Elandslaagte was fought on part of the northern sector of this 11,000Ha Game reserve. Why visit Esiweni ? well its in the Nambiti Game Reserve and by all accounts the view from the Lodge is gorgeous – pun intended.

We arrived at the Memorial Gate Parking lot just after 12h00 – ideal for the 12h30 check in time at this Lodge.  We were met by new Ranger Ewert and  taken by open Safari vehicle to the Lodge. Access is down a steep bumpy road, and it has been built on the edge of the hillside just above a sheer cliff overlooking the gorge.  There to greet us were the delightful Management couple, Natie and Magda.
Freshen up cloths, a hot chocolate and marshmallow welcome drink - we had arrived. The chocolate was lovely but getting the now very sticky marshmallow out from its guey seat at the bottom of the mug could be interesting. Magda delights in seeing how the various arrivals succeed. We were then led to the expansive deck for the Lodge briefing – the view of the Sundays River valley below was magnificent.

 Esiweni is presently a 4 star venue with 5 Chalets arranged on the edge of this view. The rooms were comfortable with open plan bath

- the vanity, shower, indoor and out – were partly hidden around a nookie. There was however a private toilet.

A tea station with all the necessary, as well as a Bodum and ground  coffee for those who like it real. Decor rather austere.

Lunch at 14h00.
We settled in and enjoyed the view from the expansive chalet deck then off to lunch.
Warthog pie and salad. Delicious, hung around a while and realised that that was it, so off back to the room for a cup of coffee. I might add that there was a tea station in the dining room with one of those perpetually hot urns – so that could have been an option too, for after luncheon coffee.

We relaxed and read the magazines in the room before the 16h00 game drive. We arrived with our layers of clothing, waterproof cases and loads of enthusiasm. No afternoon tea setup so directly to the vehicles and out.  Magda enquired of us before leaving, as to which option would we want for dinner, the Salmon on couscous , or the Kassler chops. We chose the salmon.
The babies were out this afternoon. A newborn Hartebeest, first of the season, was taking its first drink on very wobbly uprights. Soon and within an hour that youngster would be fairly competently mobile. Natie wanted to show us a breeding herd of elephant, just that the road to where they were, had a bit of a steep ascent. The Toyota's just don’t quite have that slippery hillclimb ability, even in 4X4 mode, but with some Jeremy Clarkson style wheel burning, we found grip and summited. The elephant were a delight – BFE, the dominant bull elephant was in attendance. Here too was the matriarch with her three year old daughter and the matriarch’s very new infant, about a week old, angelic. All in the herd, would interact and deliberatly distance the baby from this metallic intruder filled with gawking bodies, so protective were they, that only occasional glimpses of a mobile shadow in the longish grass could be seen. Fortunately the baby did make one curtain call for us, promptly tripped, landing on its face cushioned by a rather non-controllable trunk.
The sun started to fall as we then headed off in search of more. What a beautiful game reserve.

“That’s a reedbuck alarm call” Natie tells us “must be a predator or two around” So we circled the area, getting darker, lights on, another alarm call, then almost from under our wheels, a lioness darted out of the way, then nonchalantly looked back. Another vehicle joined us – enough, the lioness said and circled close to the two vehicles  - this is my territory, don’t come upsetting me here! She said it all with the most threatening looks. I was so please to be in the vehicle. She must have realised that having to feed four hungry growing cubs was more important than taking it out on us, just because of  the innocent error of almost running her down. She headed off into reedbuck land and we headed off too, only to find the four youngsters a short distance away, waiting in anticipation for her call. They were at that rather awkward age, when ‘help’  from them could mean the loss of  a meal. So perched on a mound for better vantage, they obediently waited, we could not, and departed. With all these predators around it was not wise to stop for sundowners.

The next evening Natie found  three lion for us. slowly they awakend as the sun set. Getting ready for their nocturnal hunting.

Back at Esiweni Lodge we were greeted with refreshing towels and a glass of sherry. That just hit the spot and made up for the lack of alcoholic stimulation earlier. We chose a bottle of Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc from the Lodges wine cellar....

and to dinner. A glowing fire, comfortable seating, convivial chatter and a bowl of chunky tomato soup to start.  A lovely surprise, as we were not sure what the menu consisted of. We had chosen the salmon on couscous. Truly a wonderful dish. All went so well together, the spices, consistency,  just perfect. We complimented the chef, Magda blushed, we found out that Magda was presently on chef duty too,  Magda was doing almost everything - camp manager, reception, reservations, housekeeping, chef, customer liaison, marketing and then a few others, I had better stop.  Magda should stop a bit too, or certainly slow down. That is way too much for one person to do. Well maybe stay with the chef duties whilst we were there, she was certainly quite a master in the kitchen, with flavours and combinations  just so right.

To bed and our room was freezing. We quickly turned on the little radiator heater and dived in under the duvet, cuddled up for warmth. Little did we know and only realised on departure, that the room had under-floor heating. Never thought of it, what with the radiator right there next to the bed. We survived, rose with the wake-up call,  dressed warmly, kettle on for tea and coffee and a biscuit, before heading for the Lodge. Warm muffins, cereal and juice was set up in the dining room and the tea station there had the urn on the go. I made another cuppa.
Off on the game drive. We headed south to where the action and animals seemed to be.

Some of the action that Natie was determined not to take part in, was any confrontation with buffalo. Nambiti Game Reserve seems to have the odd cantankerous bull that goes as far as taking on the game drive vehicles.  Toyota’s are purportedly tough, but tough enough to take on a Buffalo more suited to the Bull rings of Madrid? He wisely thought not. We did see buffalo and a number of them, all bovine and docile, then a big boy showed inordinate interest in us, but we were not that interested in him, so left, fairly rapidly too, with that tell-tale cloud of white smoke. Top-Gear would be proud.

Loads of giraffe, then a herd of gemsbok, these antelope more suited to our western desert biomes, were thriving here, albeit slightly out of their preferred habitat.

The hartebeest too, multiplying well. The blue wildebeest were so prolific a breeder here, that the reserve management were planning on selling off some of the excess stock after the peak in calving was over. Good game viewing.

We stopped at an old farmyard site for morning teas. What a beautiful setting, I loved the old stonework. Some of which was reverting to nature as the figs and vegetation slowly take over.

On one of the morning game drives, Natie pulled over and gave us an insight to the Anglo-Boer War Battle of Elandslaagte, which happened right there on the plains and hills in front of us, just over 100 years ago. All that is now left to remember the soldiers by, are the tales now recounted, some grave sites and monuments to the fallen.

 Magda  welcomes the game drive with refreshing towels and intriguing drink combinations, was that black cherry and lemon? Delicious.
Breakfast had a range of the propriety cereals  and yoghourts, with the cooked breakfast adding chicken wings, mushrooms, tomato and mozzarella to our eggs and bacon. So I made up a Bodum of ground coffee and tucked in.

The most comfortable seating at the Lodge was in the expansive lounge. Some of the more sittable sofas and chairs, and what’s more they looked good too. Normally it’s the antithesis. Then there was a collection of reference books.  

Magda had recently added a new one,  describing our local indigenous flowers, one we did not have, Lana was absorbed, we spent hours there. Spring was here in all its glory with so many of the veld flowers and trees in bloom. A delight.

Natal Bottlebrush
Oh to be more of a botanist. Mind you Lana helped me a lot with the flowers’ IDs.

The Potato Plant was quite prolific,  Hypoxis sp – extracts from this plant, an effective immune booster. Moducare one of them.  Our friend Dawn in the USA will remember this one.
More drives,

Natie had amazingly good ‘bush’ eyes and was first to see any of the more concealed wildlife. Thank you. The mountain reedbuck were special.

He first saw a pair and then slowly the rest of the family appeared on the hillside, an ear here, a twitch there, super! I loved the way the colours so blended, even the impala were indiscernible from the rustic rock so prolific in the Park. Would they choose to ‘hide’  there amongst them, as it so often seemed? Then occasionally so visible out on the plains. Yay.

On one of our drives at Esiweni we had lovely close viewing of – yes the Big 5 minus 1. Yip it's leopard, the elusive one missing from the tick list of our lively new friends on the game drives. 

This lack of leopard sightings is for me, made up for, by the rich diversity of antelope species and the oh so numerous giraffe. Natie has seen leopard and in time so will guests.There are also cheetah to be found in the Nambiti Game Reserve.
Esiweni is a beautifully sited Lodge that should soon be up to compliment with staff. A new chef and Ranger starting this month.. and so forward.  Maybe then Magda and Natie will have time to do what they do best, and look after their wonderful haven and its guests to the max.

Photographs - Jeremy and Lana Williamson


Nambiti Hills Game Lodge - Jeremy Williamson

What makes a visit to a private Lodge in a Game Park really special ? Lovely if the game experience is good and that the Lodge should meet expectations, this in respect to the comfort, facilities and meals, but I find that it is the people – the staff,  that really make it a worthwhile, pleasant, memorable experience.

Nambiti Hills Private Game Lodge in the Nambiti Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal is a truly wonderful venue in this wildlife reserve that I find so intriguing. Perched on a hilltop with a delightful outlook over the bushveld – one can relax on ones private deck, binoculars to hand and see all sorts of animals below. This whilst the people of this Lodge take care of their guests, and here they do!

It was an easy drive from Durban, taking just on 3 hours to the Park . En route I get a call, it was Brett Hoy, Head ranger and Camp Manager, just making sure that we were en route and for him to be able to arrange that there would be someone at the parking lot to meet us.  Lana and I arrived at the Nambiti Game Reserve’s Woodlands gate in time for the preferred 14h00 check in at Nambiti Hills Game Lodge. We were met at the Lodge by Chantal and Thandeka,  warm smiles,  a warm scented facecloth to freshen up, plus a cool ginger and lemon drink, which set the comfort mode to high for the next few days. Walking through the expansive reception and lounging area to the deck, that view! Awesome it was! I just love our bushveld and to have such a vantage view,  is the epitome of therapy for me.

This was a rather special visit, what made it more so was that Lana and I were to be accommodated in the Lodge’s rather luxurious ‘Honeymoon’ (Special persons) suite. We loved  the accommodation!

Tastefully appointed, luxuriously decorated with really large wildlife photographs, beautiful artifacts  and with  all that one would expect of a Five Star Lodge in South Africa. Comfortable armchairs, sofa, deck chairs, deck recliners - well stocked bar fridge, tea station with the most delectable of snacks and then for a self proclaimed  coffee nut, my dream, real coffee – a Nespresso machine with fresh milk in the fridge – made my day! Charlotte Rhys soaps on the vanity, open plan stone bath bathing area, more special soaps for the indoor and outdoor showers too. Heated towel rails, excellent reading material and comfortable seating options. To top it all, a bottle of our preferred wine on ice – this was going to be fun.

I had monitored the weather forecasts, so,  gone were our soft camera bags, replaced by waterproof cases, fleeces traded for waterproof jackets and we were ready for whatever the weatherman was going to throw at us. It was wet, but every now and again the fine drizzle would abate and out would come the cameras, clicking madly away at whatever animal was in range. At Nambiti Game Reserve there is rarely time when no wildlife is to be seen – I find that rather unique. Must be so much like Africa before the intervention of “man the hunter”.  Then there were the 'People of the Lodge' – well, we were particularly fortunate to have Brett Hoy as our guide. He is an accomplished photographer and a wealth of information – photographic and also in particular with respect to the wildlife too. “Considering the weather (prevailing light situation) have you considered setting your camera.....” .. "Have you noticed how the Impala.......   ..."?   I learned so much!

Despite the weather, the game viewing was good – I feel I must add – As always !. We came upon a small herd of elephant and two of the youngish bulls were testing their testosterone, engaging trunks, dueling tusks and pushing one another around quite energetically. The smaller one was so aggressive that he eventually caused the slightly larger guy to back off, turn tail and run, incredible!

This is such a beautiful and diverse game reserve, rugged hilly areas, open flat grasslands and pretty much all else in between and so full of a wide variety of wildlife and flora. Lovely to see South Africa’s largest antelope,  the Eland,  so close and so many of them.  

Kudu, then a few more  and  ‘Oh yes’ ! some more - there are quite a few Kudu at Nambiti, such a beautiful antelope and some of the bulls have the most magnificent massive horns.  

 There are a number of lion at Nambiti too,  we were fortunate to see them well. One morning we came upon the big fella and his 2, two year old sons.

Big daddy before the fight
They were not in passive mode, low growls from all three rumbled the earth - was that because of our intrusion? apparently not, aggressive pecking order for superiority displays then started, with  one of the youngsters ‘mounting’ his brother in a show of dominance, that was when dad had to show who really was boss, a massive fisticuffs,  just meters in front of us in the road, ensued. Grunts and grumbles turned to roars of rage, no wonder death is often the result of such altercations, the claws certainly were not sheathed, this was wildest Africa, right here. No pictures, we were too enthralled by the action.

One evening Brett delayed the return to the Lodge a bit, to our delight, he had heard a male lion giving vent in the distance and was determined to locate him.
Roaring,  telling all and sundry just where he and his territory was, Brett found him, anticipated his direction  and just happened to be right next to him when next he rose to the occasion to demonstrate his emotions, the poor Land Rover vibrated under such resonating a call. Had we not been well ensconced safely in the vehicle I would say encountering such vociferous resonance would have had me quaking in me boots. On another occasion we had sightings of just the two younger males , having left dad to fend for himself.  The following day we again found them, this time with their sister, and on this occasion it was a “mattress of lion,” all three recumbent, flat out in the long grass, seemingly too lazy to raise an eyebrow, let alone a head. This is the joy of visiting these private game reserves versus the National or Provincial parks, as here the Rangers are able to track the animals with the comfortable Land Rover Safari vehicles, even to venture off-road to secure close clear sightings of these mostly prostrate predators, normally so well hidden in the long grass.

The evening stops were a delight. Brett would set up the ‘sundowners’ with white and red wines, other drinks and the most divine snacks. Imagine really delicious meatballs, still warm, spiced with all sorts, a bit of coriander? to give it a gamey sensation?  Dried wors, macadamia nuts, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, another evening it was spicy chicken wings and accoutrements. Oooooh so good. 

Thankfully there was still an hour or so till dinner – no rush at this Lodge to cut the drive short  and head back, rather Brett would endeavor to make the very most of the experience.  Then to dinner, now that was decadent fare.
Back at the Lodge, that warm welcome, warm cloths and a warm drink - one evening milo and kalua, the next was horlicks and something exotic?  Was that mint chocolate flakes sprinkled on top? I believe Chantal has great fun making up these ‘welcome back’ warming concoctions!
Bryce, the accomplished Lodge Chef, gave us all a big grin as we entered the dining room to warm ourselves at its double sided central fireplace.  He was busy with the final touches to our preordered dishes, in his “display / open kitchen”  Probably warming himself too,  as the flambĂ© flames did their magic. A sensible idea with regards to dinners (the breakfasts too) is that the comprehensive menu is presented, whilst all are gathered feasting on cakes, teas and coffee before the game drives,

  choice of dishes made,  one is left to salivate in anticipation of the meal,  whilst also enjoying  the game drive – double wammy.

The days started bright and early, our ranger would knock on the door and then to the deck for that Illy Coffee, rusks, muffins and greetings all round. To the vehicles, layered to the hilt our  protection from the early morning cold drizzle, anticipation high. We never seemed to travel far before Brett would cut the engine, point out the reason and then entertain us with an interesting snippet – imagine a herd in excess of 100 Eland slowly moving through the bush munching on the fresh new growth after some recent burning.

We saw quite a variety, grey duiker, steenbuck, common reedbuck, hartebeest, blue wildebeest, some black wildebeest which we were told by Brett,  were to be removed to pastures new as they could interbreed – not desirable.

A pair of black backed jackal were anxiously ferreting about in the cold early morning as  too another of our more nocturnal species, spotted hyena. These three were having a right royal time ‘playing’ or so it seemed and occasionally chewing on odd scraps of skin? Scattered in the veld.  

One of the rather bedraggled spotted hyena
The numerous herds of impala were soon to become even more numerous, the dark patch in front of the hind legs becoming more evident as these prospective mothers’ bellies slowly became distended with the growing foetus. Ready to drop mid November – good time to visit !

 The high profile animals too are well represented. The white rhino here have had their horns trimmed as a deterrent to the poaching menace. With a bit of a stump they don’t look too bad either.  

Always something interesting to see -  a variety of migrant raptors have also arrived for their summer vacation,  supplementing admirably  the already rich avifauna.

Our early morning stop with tea, coffee or Hot Chocolate and the optional Amarula cream, rusks full of nuts and pumpkin seeds, muffins and biscuits. No wonder I couldn’t wait to get back to breakfast ;-) had I ordered the Spanish omelette, Lana’s breakfast was really interesting, a courgette fritter – a stack with tomato and feta layered between and bacon on the side !  The morning game drives were slightly extended and more worthwhile than the norm, well done Nambiti Hills / Brett, some venues elsewhere seem to run by the clock and not by the sightings. So with the later return to camp, rather gourmet brunch and of course the wonderful teas and coffees at the Lodge and in our room, Lana and I decided to forgo on the optional luncheon, which gave ourselves and guests opting to follow suite, time to relax, or to visit the nearby  cheetah rehabilitation centre. Here they have a variety of wild cats.  I believe the principals are certainly conducting the centre in a very sensitive and responsible way. Thank you. Our African cats are just so special.

Nambiti Game Reserve is slowly becoming truly Big 5. There are a number of game reserves in KwaZulu-Natal that do have the Big 5 on their property, (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard) It is the leopard that is the elusive one and rarely if ever seen. Well the secretive leopard of Nambiti are becoming more friendly and have started showing themselves. Brett tells me he saw leopard again the day after our departure – and saw it well, super news as these sightings are definitely becoming more frequent there.  Good elephant, lion, rhino and buffalo sightings have been pretty much the norm for me when visiting Nambiti. However I actually enjoy the sightings of the very diverse antelope and other species found at Nambiti –

 too often one is at a Lodge where the focus is purely on ticking the Big 5. Not so here. Great. We even saw hippo.

The Nambiti Game Reserve is not that well known – it should be – consequently one of the marketing strategies of the Lodges there, is to offer some really excellent value for money specials.
Lana and I had to have a look at the luxury suites at Nambiti Hills Lodge, there are eight of these and beautifully appointed.

 Bath with a view ! Openplan

and the bathroom - well shower room and vanity

Nambiti Hills Game Lodge is very comfortable, quite luxurious, beautifully decorated and has lovely meals, these are presented at a variety of venues. Their lapa (boma) is quite different. A wooden deck with central fireplace perched on the summit of the Nambiti Hills’ hill with the most amazing panoramic view. No walls for this boma, just African bushveld and a canopy of stars. Quite ethereal. Then they have a wonderful family of staff – the people that make ones sojourn into darkest Africa so pleasurable. Check http://www.nambitireservations.co.za/Nambiti_Hills_Game_Reserve.asp for their excellent value specials. You might just enjoy the experience as much as Lana and I.

Photographs - Jeremy and Lana Williamson