It is not often that I get invited to visit a “new” lodge but in this case my association with the lodge goes back at least 3 years when I met the owner at the airport in Durban.
“I will keep in touch”, he told me and he certainly did, keeping me updated on the progress over the years and culminating in my visit to the recently completed lodge.
I just wish that the relevant authorities in charge of the roads around Pongola and Jozini would do something about the potholes! I had driven this road several years ago and NOTHING has really changed. Certainly there are road works in place but the heavy-duty coal trucks are not making that job any easier…but enough of a traffic update and let me focus on the lodge itself.
The Tembe Masizwane Lodge is currently the only four star lodge that is situated in a sand forest and it abuts the Tembe Elephant Park. Masizwane means, “May we help each other”, and the lodge certainly lives up to this name by being heavily involved with the local community on many levels.
The last part of my journey to the Lodge was on a recently resurfaced stretch of road that was a pleasure to drive on. Turning off this main road I drove to the entrance gate on a sand road that took the local labour force a year to clear. (As part of the community involvement program, the lodge uses local labour to keep this road clean and in good condition). The smiling faces of the security guards welcomed me and it was only a short drive from this gate to the main reception area.
While checking in I spotted a Barn Owl perched above the walkway that leads to the accommodation. I was told that the owl had moved in shortly after the structure was completed and has lived there ever since
The 12 chalets are all linked via wooden walkways that wend and weave their way through the indigenous plants and trees.
The chalets are tucked into the landscape and are spaced far enough apart that they offer privacy for the outdoor showers that is a feature of each one!
Hannes Du Preez, the lodge owner, has a passion for trees and has named each chalet after a different species.
His extensive tree knowledge was revealed on the game dries that we went on and certainly added a dimension that I have not experienced before.
The majority of the 12 chalets have double beds, while there are a couple that offer twin bed accommodation. Aside from having one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in each chalet has indoor and outdoor shower facilities as well as a desk and small seating area.
Outside, on the deck, there is a table and chairs that allows guests to relax and watch the incredible birdlife, with some very rare birds like the Pink-throated Twin spot making a regular appearance.
During my visit there was a family of bush babies close by that were very vocal until it started raining. They are called “bush-babies” as their call sounds eerily like a crying child!
The biggest surprise for me was the main lodge building.
This enormous space houses the dining area, a lounge/seating area as well as the bar. All hand built, the roof is an architectural masterpiece.
Aside from the indoor seating, there is also a patio that guests can utilize with some of the furniture being made from strangling fig vines!
There is also a traditional Boma area under construction that will be used as an outdoor dining area for guests.
Juan, the chef, certainly went out of his way to make every meal different and tasty…I did not believe that lettuce soup would taste as good as it did!
Hannes explained that they employed sustainable building methods during construction, which meant that the natural vegetation was disturbed as little as possible. It is this blend of construction and the preservation of the indigenous trees and plants that adds character to the lodge and its surroundings.
There a three guided walks on offer within the property and all are well worth trying. The experience of walking in a sand forest is totally different to doing the “usual” bush walk
A short drive back along the main road to the Tembe Elephant Park main gate is the only access for the game drive vehicles, however an environment impact study is currently underway for a gate to give direct access from the lodge into the Elephant Park.
Although these drives started off quietly as far as game viewing is concerned, the exciting birdlife was well worth the time we spend in the game drive vehicles. The park does have the “Big 5” and although we did not get to see lion or leopard, we did manage to see Elephant, White Rhino and Buffalo.
Unfortunately for me the elusive Black Rhino remained exactly that, elusive. And the sighting that I hoped for did not happen but it does give me something to look forward to on future game drives.
There are already plans to extend the lodge accommodation with extra chalets that will be completed in early 2011.
In the course of my travels I get to visit a lot of bush camps, but this experience was new and exciting for me.
You can use the lodge as an end destination, or it can be used as a base while visiting some of the other attractions in the area.
Tel: +27 35 753 5695
Web site: www.tembemasizwanelodge.co.za
Directions from Johannesburg: I tried both routes and found the latter to be the “faster” route back .
My route to the lodge took me from Jhb-Leandra-Bethal-Ermelo-Piet Retief-Pongola-Jozini.From Jozini you can follow the signs to the Tembe Elephant Park(take the left fork as you come out of the town.
My route home:Lodge-Jozini-Pongola-Louwsburg-Vryheid-Utrecht-Volksrust-Standerton-Greylingstad-Balfour-Heidelberg-Jhb
When driving through a village on my way home I spotted these two donkeys… I am not sure if they were waiting for the store to open to buy washing powder, but they kept a smile on my face for many km’s