Monday, October 4, 2010

Shayamoya/ Shayamanzi By David Batzofin

I am writing this from the deck of our chalet at Shayamoya in KZN, while a steenbok is feeding within touching distance.
A Malachite Kingfisher briefly stopped by to check me out…just another glorious day in an African Paradise!
As most of our recent trips have been relatively close to Johannesburg or Pretoria, we thought that we needed a proper break.So my fiancée and I headed off to KZN…to be specific the Lake Jozini.Also known as the Pongolapoort Dam.Is it a dam, or is it a lake? Does it really matter.Like Kariba it is a vast body of water that contains Africa’s finest fighting predators, Tiger Fish! It is the only area in South Africa that you will find this predator, but that is not what we were here for. (September is the ideal time to catch these crafty fish)
We were both after some R and R, and what better place to get it than on a Houseboat on the lake.
Shayamanzi means ‘Hit the water’ and that is what we did! The managing director of Shayamanzi, Roger Blevin who built the first boat is currently in charge of the second build. (Shayamanzi has proved so popular that a second, currently under construction, will be launched in the last quarter of 2007) We were given a tour of the new the boat during our morning cruise and it looks truly impressive.
Roger is passionate about his boats and will share specs with you at the drop of a propeller, however most passengers are happy to know that the boat will not sink and that there is enough food and drink on board.
We were met at the main lodge, Shayamoya by Bev and her staff,had quick lunch and then we were off to the Lake to get on board our ‘home’ for the next two days.
We got engaged on a houseboat in 2006, but this was way bigger than we had been expecting.
The staff was excellent and really helped to make it a time to remember.
Bramson, the skipper and Michael, the chef, made sure that our every wish was catered for.Food and service were wonderful, and as the other guests regailed us with stories of the area.
After our long drive from Johannesburg, my fiancée passed on the evening dip in the Jacuzzi which is situated on the rear deck.
We were able to cruise on the lake until we found our mooring point for the evening,then we piled into to one of the smaller tender boats and went in search of wildlife and birds,both of which are easily spotted.
This area is a haven for birders as there are over 300 species to be found.For the wildlife enthusiast, there are hippo, and VERY large crocodiles in the dam.Elephants and more recently black rhinos have been re-introduced to the area. There is also a variety of smaller game to be found on the property.
Our bed was very comfortable, and the view from our cabin was stunning.My fiancée is not really a morning person; it was difficult to get her up for early morning game viewing (She believes that I can show her pictures of sunrises at a more opportune time)
After breakfast and a morning cruise, we transferred back to dry land and returned to our accommodation at Shayamoya, (meaning hit the wind) and a different yet no less spectacular view of the lake and the surrounding bush.
There are 8 chalets with two rated as premium,one being the honeymoon suite.It is the only chalet that does not overlook the dam.It faces west and has an awesome sunset view. The lodge also boasts a magnificent indigenous garden which features over 35 species of Aloe.
In this time where people are looking for low maintenance gardens, this is an idea that can be taken home and copied.
Ryan took us for a walk through the indigenous garden that surrounds Shayamoya and very proudly pointed out the wide variety of aloes species it contained. The gardens also have a variety of endangered and rare succulents. All the plants are labeled, so you can jot down names and enquire at your local nursery on your return home.
Like most bush breaks, the majority of our time seemed to be taken up by either eating, sleeping and the occasional game drive.
For the former you need good food, which we had in copious quantities, and the accommodation provided the ideal setting for relaxing afternoons and a good nights rest.
On one of our game drives we were able to join two young rangers who are involved with the rhino and elephant relocation projects at a property close by.There are leopard in the area, and although they remained elusive, we did see a Serval.
Spring Hares are plentiful and we found a mother and her offspring nursing in the middle of the track, something I had not seen before.
Unfortunately we did not get to see any rhino and after tracking one of the elephant families for about two hours, they finally showed themselves as the sun was fading, which made photographs impossible.
It was then back Shayamoya for a delicious and well prepared evening meal served with wonderful homemade corn bread.
Some of the vegetables and herbs are grown in the lodge garden, and the milk and cream is supplied from their own herd of cattle on a nearby farm.
The food was well presented and the portions were generous.Enough to fill, but not to bloat.
There is a constant supply of tea and proper filter coffee, and cookies on hand at the main lodge. (All the chalets also have tea and coffee stations)
All the staff and attentive without being intrusive, a mark of good service as far as I am concerned
What more can one ask for!
Aside from Shayamoya and Shayamanzi there is one more surprise on the property.The original Blevin home has been transformed into the Tamboti Ridge Bed and Breakfast ,and now offers luxury self catering and B &B accommodation to weary travelers on their way to or from the coast.We were told that it is very popular with scuba divers. All three properties, owned by the Blevins, lie on the N2 about twenty kilometers south of Panola in KZN.
So ‘Hit the wind’ or Hit the water’ or just chill at the guest house, the choice is yours.

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