Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Visit to the Lions Valley Lodge, Nambiti - Keith Marallich

I had convinced a family that a three-day tour to the Nambiti Game Reserve would be a better option than what they had wanted – and at almost the same cost, so here we were in mid-February making our way from Durban to Nambiti. For those of you who don’t know, the Nambiti Game Reserve ( is not too far from Ladysmith, roughly a three-hour drive from Durban. At the conclusion of the tour, the family were grateful that I was able to get them to change their minds – they thoroughly enjoyed the experience in this productive reserve.

The lodge that I was lucky enough to secure for us was the Lions Valley Lodge, situated in the heart of the reserve and rated a 5-star game lodge. This is a lodge with ten suites (see what I did there? Suites, not rooms) and all suites have their own theme. These themes are Africa, Bird, Livingstone, Ndebele, Nguni, Romance, Safari, Savannah, Zebra and then the one allocated to me, the Spaza Suite. Now I don’t want to go into too much detail about the lodge – this has been covered in two previous blogs by my colleagues, Lisa and Jeremy. Please see and for their input. In both these blogs they describe the lodge in fair detail, BUT both of them have a comment on the Spaza Suite (and very little, if any, on the others – why?). It seems it is left to me to have my say!

The Spaza Suite is identical in size, configuration and layout to all the other suites at the lodge, but has, in my humble opinion (and I am not an interior decorator, I am a guide) some “brave” decor. This suite consisted of a large bed, a walk-in closet area, two baths, two vanities, four showers (two inside and two outside), a lounge, outside deck, bar fridge, coffee station, two chandeliers constructed of cola bottles and two overhead fans...and I am one bloke! Wickipedia tells us that a “spaza shop” is an informal convenience shop/business in South Africa, usually run from home. They also serve the purpose of supplementing household incomes of the owners, selling everyday small household items. These shops grew as a result of sprawling townships that made travel to formal shopping places more difficult or expensive. So, now we have the definition, and hereunder are some photos of the suite – you make up your own mind...

A section of the Spaza Suite. The door to the right is to the walk-in closet.

One of the lounges in the suite.

Some of the decor

And one of the desks

The two baths, with the double inside shower beyond them and then the double outside shower beyond that.

The double vanities.
A cute reading lamp.
One of the two bottle chandeliers.

As for our guide, Nolan, what an excellent guide, his easy manner with the guests, his knowledge, enthusiasm and easy demeanour makes him an asset to the lodge as does the remainder of the staff, and even though it is unfair to single out any of them, a special mention to Charlie (who made sure that everything ran smoothly at the lodge and was never seen without a smile on his face) and Joe (who kept our food coming and our drinks served).  An extra special mention must also go out to Mango. Who is Mango, I hear you ask. Well, Mango is a semi-tame Banded Mongoose who has made her home at the lodge. I don’t know her history, but banded mongooses are not found in this part of South Africa and are animals that occur in large groups. She was very cute and very active. I struggled to take a decent photo of her as she was on the go all the time, if not hassling the guests (and particularly the ladies), she was scurrying about the lodge or outside digging for grubs or looking for insects. I did have her quiet for about all of twenty seconds, stroking her belly and behind her ears, but she wanted to reciprocate and her nails are sharp! 

Mango drinking from the pool.

And then scurrying away.

Taking a 10-second breather!

Where to next? Who can I hassle?

Ahh, first more water.
Game viewing was good, with a wide variety of animals to be seen. We saw a variety of animals and in fairly large numbers giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, kudu and once a large herd of eland. What was probably my highlight was the lion we were tracking on one of our morning drives. We had left the lodge early, heard the vocalising of the animal and started following. Another vehicle had sight of the animal from one of the hills, quite far away, and directed us to it via radio. The lion was on the road and we started to follow at a fairly short distance. Lo and behold, the lion took us back, right through the Lions Valley Lodge, between the staff quarters and the guests’ chalets and out the other side. It in fact crossed the path that I would take from my suite to the lounge area. Luckily one is transported from your suite to the central area by golf cart – just a quieter game drive! Anyway, the lion passed through the camp and then posed for some photos about 180 metres beyond the camp. Hereunder some lion photos and then some of the general game and birds...

The lion that wandered through the lodge confines.

Throwing out a challenge: "I'll walk where I want!

A Gemsbok (also called a Cape Oryx).

Zebra pose.

Black-backed jackal.

Steppe Buzzard - there were plenty of these about.

Part of the Eland herd in the grasslands.

A Kudu in the tall grass.

A male Amur falcon - the females are striped. There were even more of these birds, literally hundreds of them.

Some hippo activity in the late afternoon.

And to end off with, an African fish-eagle in fly-past.

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