Ok, so we can’t say that we’ve visited EVERY lodge in Southern Africa. Far from it, we’ve probably only scratched the surface so to speak, though with our high standards there are probably quite a few that don’t really warrant a visit, at least not when there are better alternatives. Over the years however we have visited quite a few lodges across the region, and we have a number of firm favourites. Now each lodge offers something unique, even though their ‘offerings’ may be the same as many other lodges. Design, location, situation, staff and other factors combine to create a unique experience, and it’s that experience that, at the end of the day, determines which lodge is a favourite and which lodge isn’t. Of course each lodge also has its strengths, where for example the game viewing might be so good that one is willing to compromise on other aspects. Or the game viewing might not be so great but the lodge experience is so good that it warrants patronage. Mkhaya’s Stone Camp in Swaziland is the perfect example of the latter. It’s not a Big Five reserve so forget about Lions and Leopard etc, though the Rhino sightings can be very good. But the camp itself is wonderful, and it takes the award for ‘Most peaceful camp’. There’s no electricity, the open-sided chalets (yes, it’s pretty unique!) are situated far apart from one another, and there’s a very small but efficient staff compliment. This adds up to an incredibly quiet camp, far enough from the outside world that one is spared from the ‘village’ sounds in the background, while the staff are very good at keeping a low profile when they are not busy serving the guests (at some lodges the staff area can produce a lot of noise!). Daytime siestas are very relaxing, while by night all one hears is the calming chirps and clicks of crickets, the odd night bird or Spotted Hyena whooping as it passes by on a foraging mission. Lack of WiFi means that one tends to take a bit of a break from electronic devices and return to paper and ink, making Mkyaha Stone Camp a very good place to just get back to simplicity, peace and relaxation.
The view from this dining room is pretty hard to beat… In January we ran a ‘birds and botany’ tour for Naturetrek, one of our UK operators for which we do the ground work. On the request was a visit to Royal Natal in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg – the northern ‘ Berg to be specific. While this resort offers perhaps the finest views in the whole of the Drakensberg, there is no restaurant on site so catering can be a challenge. No problem for us however, as we brought in our good friends Doug and Riana from Out Door Dining (they specialise in providing food in out of the way places – www.outdoordining.co.za)) and we were able to enjoy great food as well as the jaw-dropping views of the Amphitheater, as the rock wall in the background is known. Now that’s doing it in style!
Some kind of Eden… The Kalahari is famous as a dry season destination, when birds and animals alike are attracted to the artificial waterholes in the ‘fossilised’ Auob and Nossob Rivers that flow north-west to south-east through the park. Thirsty animals and crowding can make for some explosive scenes, which is why the park is almost fully booked during the dry season between about May and early November. But what’s it like during the wet season? Well, to quote our guide Leon after his February 2017 visit, it’s like ‘some kind of Eden…’ This comment was made as they came over a rise near Mata Mata Rest Camp to look down on a herd of Springbok moving down the Auob Riverbed, which was as green as a golf course fairway, with clouds of butterflies dancing over a puddle in the road where the herd was crossing. Coupled with the vast skies and simple sense of space, the reference to Eden was almost involuntary. So, while the dry season may be when most folks want to be there, the summer is a delight in its own right, something that every Africa enthusiast should experience. Contact us for a price on a custom-made safari to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.