Lockdown had made us all slow down, but now that we are able to travel again, our lives are slowly returning to be controlled by constant activity. I was hoping that I would no longer be in a hurry, but it seems that old habits die hard. This Alabama song says it all…
Part of being in the bush is to experience the wildlife…and getting to spend time at a spectacular lodge. Situated in the Balule Private Nature Reserve, Naledi Bush Camp very quickly made an impression on both my wife and me and it was to be our home for the next three nights. Like many of the lodges in South Africa, they have just re-opened their doors to local visitors and it turns out that we were one of the first post-lockdown guests. This laser-cut sign at the turnoff to the lodge set the tone for what we were about to find at the end of the short drive to the reception area of the camp. Everything was perfect and the staff that we interacted with were passionate and accommodating. Having visited many camps over the almost 2 decades that I have been a travel writer, Naledi certainly made a huge impression on me immediately.
The earliest recorded use of the quote: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” was in 1966 as an advertising slogan for Botany Suits
Naledi Bush Camp is the epitome of this statement when guests arrive at the reception area that doubles as the office as well as the curio shop. Given the currently COVID-19 protocols, they are selling branded masks, a must for using on game drives as well as around the public areas of the property. And speaking of the pandemic, the lodge is fully compliant with all the required protocols and social distancing regulations.
The main public indoor area is a well-stocked bar that forms part of a larger space that can be used for meals or as a seating area if meals are going to be enjoyed outdoors. To the right of this bar is a permanent coffee and tea station and, if you decide to save a morning muffin or scone, you can enjoy it with a cuppa later in the day.
And this is the other side of the same room. Separating these two halves is a long dining table that can be used for social distancing meals if the need arises. That being said, there are many intimate areas where guests can enjoy a private dining experience.
After filling out the required paperwork, we were taken down a winding path to the front door of our suite. We were staying at the Rock Fig Suite, the most recently built of all the 5 rooms at Bush Camp. Little did we know what awaited us behind these rather imposing hand-made doors with custom-designed handles.
Once inside, the magnificence and the sheer size of the accommodation became apparent. Owner Kjell Bismeyer has made certain that no detail has been left ignored. Like the bedroom area, the lounge doors that lead to the outside deck can be fully retracted, which leaves guests feeling that the line between the outside and the interior is totally removed. And given the fact that this suite is surrounded by trees, it felt like we were in a luxurious tree-house. The decor is understated and appropriate. A fully stocked mini-bar, together with a complimentary tea/coffee and water station can be seen to the right of the image.
Looking from the lounge area towards the bedroom and the in-room bath. The front exterior view of Rock Fig belies the actual size of the accommodation. I do believe that a four-letter word escaped my lips when I realized just how vast the accommodation was. “WOW” is more appropriate for this posting…but it is a huge WOW. The high thatched roof adds to the feeling of spaciousness that we felt when we entered.
The ‘welcome’ on the bed was made of leaves, seed pods and sticks…something different from the usual leaves or petals. The bath, although it does not look it in the photograph was huge and both my wife and I were able to enjoy it, fully stretched out and totally submerged in the warm water. For those who prefer a shower, there are both indoor and outdoor showers to be experienced. The sliding glass doors that lead out on the deck can be fully retracted, thus allowing fresh air to blow in and thus not requiring either of the duo of air-conditioners during the night. That means that guests, like us, can enjoy the roaring of the lions or the cackle of hyena as their calls echo in the darkness. Should you not want to be disturbed by the insects that might be attracted to the lights, there are doors with netting that you can leave in place.
From the outside looking in… The exterior is superbly maintained with not a screw or a plank out of place. This image was taken from a small seating area where we enjoyed one of our evening meals. (More about the food in an upcoming posting). My wife tried the pool, and given the fact that the suite is secluded from prying eyes, skinny-dipping IS an option. At night the soft glow of the lit pool makes it a feature and added to the ambience of the suite as we lay in bed and listened to the sounds of the African night. Both the pool motor and the light can be turned off by the occupants from switches in the bedroom.
However, there was no time to stay and explore the accommodation or the lodge buildings in detail as there was a game drive to enjoy…as well as the first in a series of sightings of this particular lioness. No matter how many times I visit reserves, my first predator sighting always gets the adrenaline pumping. (From a predator point of view, this visit produced lions, leopard as well as two cheetahs.)
Nothing says Africa like a sunset over the vast plains of Balule. With the rains not yet forthcoming, the trees are still bare and hence in stark contrast against the multi-coloured skyline.
Dinner…or should I be specific…the main course of the first dinner that we enjoyed. Aside from breakfast, visitors are served both lunch and dinner, both of which have dessert…so be warned and pace yourself. The food was truly spectacular and the Chef would proudly introduce each menu to us, all the while basking in the knowledge that what he was about to produce would take us by surprise…and it did! More about the meals in upcoming postings.
After dinner, we returned to our suite that had been magically transformed by subtle lighting and a mosquito net. Overall, a wonderful first impression of what was to become one of our favourite lodge destinations. This posting is the first in a series that I will be doing on the property, the food, the facilities and the game drives. Not forgetting an unforgettable 5 hours that I spent in solitude in the raised hide at Rosie’s Pan. The latter being one of my favourite moments of our visit.
To find out what the camp is currently offering, visit their website, or click on the logo above.
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