With the voice on my GPS repeating “recalculating”we arrived at Amakhosi Safari Lodge forty kilometers west of Pongola in Northern Zululand.
The staff delegation waiting with warm hand towels and cold drinks were a very welcome sight.
As with most game lodges, the pace here is slow and relaxed, even though we had arrived later than expected (have to blame that on the fact that I had programmed my GPS incorrectly)
Before partaking of Amakhosi’s superb ‘High Tea’, we were taken to our river suite to freshen up.
And what accommodation it turned out to be.
In all my years of writing it is the best safari lodge accommodation I have ever stayed in.
My fiancée was entranced by the suite, and she wanted to explore immediately, while I wanted to have tea and get to the Land Rover for a game drive.
So, like most couples, we compromised…we investigated all the rooms, and then went to have tea.
And like we did, I will return to our river suite later.
Back to the high tea.Not just the usual tea, coffee and rusks.Not at Amakhosi! We were offered an array of sweet and savory treats,which I was quite prepared to stay and taste,in the pursuit of accurate reporting you understand.I did try the savory chicken wrap and a couple of the mini melkterts,both of which were delicious.
Then it was game drive time.
Amakhosi is host to the ‘Big 5’,although personally, I don’t mind not seeing them.It is the whole experience that I enjoy.What really gets me excited is seeing game that I have not seen before,however large or small.
Both our ranger Shane and our tracker, Mandla were knowledgeable, without being intrusive.(Don’t you just hate those drives where they speak in the vernacular just to impress foreign tourists, stopping every few meters to peer at spoor on the side of the road).None of this happened on our drive, which made it a pleasure. When we did see game, Shane would tell us interesting facts about what we were looking at.Having been going to the bush since 1966, I still got to learn something new on that drive.
The highlight of the drive for all of us on the vehicle was sitting quietly in the darkness while three male lions walked slowly by, almost within touching distance.
After they had walked by, we headed back to the lodge for a proper look at our accommodation and dinner.
Amakhosi has spared no expense when it comes to the quality of the finishes in their accommodation. There are only eight suites, six called River Suites spaced far enough apart to offer complete privacy and a wonderful view of the river.
Completing the accommodation are the two Umtanwa or ‘honeymoon’ suites which are more open plan, and have their own plunge pools.
All the accommodation is similar, comprising a master bedroom, lounge, separate toilet and shower.
Although the River suites are designed to sleep only two people, the lounge has a sofa bed that can be used for extra guests or children. One of the River Suites is a designated ‘family suite’ and that sleeps four.
Two of the walls in the master bedroom consist of sliding glass doors which gave us a panoramic view of the river and the mountains in the distance.
The bed was really comfortable and warm, which is a requirement on a cold winter’s night in KZN.
In the bathroom is another toilet and from the bath you are able to look down the passage and out to the vista beyond, a very innovative feature.
Once we had investigated every nook and cranny, we headed off to the main lodge for a drink at the bar and dinner.
For us, chatting with other guests is what makes these holidays, and chat we did until the sound of the drum called us into the dining area.
The meal, like the rest of Amakhosi, was superb, and it even offered a sorbet palate cleanser between courses.Something neither of us had experienced at a safari lodge before.
The chef was even able to come up with a chocolate free dessert for me.
The staff were attentive but did not hover and we were informed about each dish as it was placed before us… in much the same fashion as Shane had done earlier on the game drive.
Being a cold night, our bed was calling and as the morning game drive was just after six am, we had a relatively early night.
My fiancée had decided not to go out on the morning drive, so it was me who had to brave the cold morning air in a pair of shorts.
I did not realize how dark it was until the ringing phone woke me and I had to stumble over luggage and clothing to try and find it. Not an easy task in a strange room.
After coffee and biscuits, it was time to mount up and ride.
On the vehicle yet another surprise awaited…hot water bottles in the blankets.And how useful they were.Trying to operate a camera with frozen fingers is not an easy task.
Shane had decided that we would utilize this drive for bird spotting and the game that was seen as a bonus.
He set a goal of fifty species and we saw fifty one, if I include the vultures that I spotted while we were having breakfast.
There were several species that I had never seen before,a Squacco Heron and a Purple Gallinule (now called African Purple Swamphen) being the highlights for me.
Just as we were leaving the dam a Yellow billed stork arrived, which just put the cherry on the top of a great morning.
My fiancée was waiting on the deck with coffee for me on my return and we were able to share a wonderful cooked breakfast looking out over the river and looking at the sunrise images I had taken while she slept.
Aside from the game drives Amakosi also offers other activities. Lodge manager, Alwyn Wentzel has a passion for frogs and given the abundance of species in the area, he conducts Frogging Safaris, a first for any lodge to the best of my knowledge. If you enjoy walking, then there are Bush Walks on offer.We were unable to try either of these activities, but it gives us a reason to return.
With the ‘Big 5’, outstanding accommodation, excellent service and passionate rangers and willing staff Amakhosi Safari Lodge is a must for the jaded bush lover.
Should you wish to arrive in your private aircraft, there is a 1200 x15m airstrip at Amakhosi. There is also a helipad on the reserve.
A Place of Kings that even commoners can enjoy
Phone number: 034-414-1157
Fax number: 034-414-1172
Air strip co-ordinates: South 27˚ 40” 23’ East 31˚ 40” 377’
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