Travel & Things has been on the road for the past two weeks, this is Part 1 of a two-part overview of the lodges that we stayed at.
The trip was planned so that all the lodges were within an hour of each other, except for the drive from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit, which took about 6 hours as we dodged both potholes and trucks.
None of the roads is pothole-free, however, some routes are shorter than others and utilise main N roads, rather than my favourite route which is the R36 through Dullstroom. Lydenberg, Orighstad and finally Hoedspruit.
I have been travelling this route regularly for the past few years and it seems that the various municipalities are losing the battle with the potholes. They are multiplying and getting larger and deeper.
Be aware and be vigilant, please.
This was the first lodge, Maninghi Lodge
Quote:” Maninghi Lodge is settled on the banks of the mighty Olifants River in Balule Nature Reserve, which is situated in the Greater Kruger National Park. The Lodge boasts an unparalleled, 3km view of the Olifants River and the Blyde Canyon mountains in the background, with Maninghi often playing host to scores of elephant, hippo, lion and other wildlife, which come to the river to slake the thirsts brought by the African sun”.
This was the first view that we had as we drove into the car park at the lodge. As an aside, the road from the gate to the lodge is sign-posted well for most of the journey, but we took a wrong turn and ended up taking the scenic route to the lodge.) The lodge has this awesome frontage to enjoy without having to leave the property. When we arrived there was a small herd of elephants enjoying a drink together with a pod of hippo that was expressing its displeasure at the pachyderm intrusion.
Baboons, Impala, Waterbuck and a variety of aquatic birdlife caught our attention and it made our unpacking wait.
Looking back at the main lodge building from the lawn that separates the building from the river.
There are two rooms on the left as well as tented accommodation just a few steps away.
There is also a communal lounge, bar, dining area and swimming pool available to guests.
Our accommodation was around the rear of the main building. It might not have had a river view, but it was private and secluded.
Consisting of a bedroom, bathroom with both a bath and shower and a separate toilet it was everything that was required for a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
If you put bacon and egg on a fresh croissant, can it still be referred to as a ‘Breakfast of Champions’? I am uncertain, but what I do know is that all the meals were delicious and given how far the lodge is from any supermarket, they were diverse and most enjoyable.
It is all about presentation! This breakfast was served on the banks of the river while a variety of wildlife paraded past on the far bank.
Given the fact that there are hippo in the river, management tries to keep guests on the deck after dark. The whole ambience of the river changes at dusk, with the calls of the hippo becoming the dominant sound as the birds settle down for the night.
Potjie time… dinner was served in the main dining area, where we could enjoy our meal AND keep an eye out for passing animals.
If you are looking for a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of large lodges in high tourist areas, then this is the lodge for you.
This was the second stop on our trip. The recently opened Cape Vulture Lodge near Hoedspruit.
Quote: “Cape Vulture Lodge lies in the shade of the Northern Drakensberg mountains, under the watchful eye of over 650 breeding pairs of the endangered Cape Vulture which nest on the cliffs”.
Leave your car safely at the main gate and the lodge staff come and collect you in a game viewer to enjoy the short ride to this brand new addition to the Hoedspruit area.
The mountains in this image and that loom protectively over the property are the Northern Drakensberg and the cliffs here are home to literally thousands of breeding pairs of Cape Vultures.
I was informed that the accommodation was tented, but THIS was NOT what I was expecting. I could easily make this my home.
Beautifully decorated with an attention to detail that is truly breathtaking, it is just a pity that I spent so little time here. Although, a feature of this trip was an afternoon nap every day.
The floor of the shower fascinated me as the slope to the drain was so subtle as to make me believe that the floor was level.
Good water pressure and hot water from individual solar geysers are just some of the eco-friendly systems that have been installed by the owners. As I was to discover on this trip, many lodges are not starting to rely more and more on solar/generators than the National Energy Provider which tends to be unstable at best.
My morning view…
The mountains are usually covered with mist and clouds in the early morning but burn off quite quickly, revealing bother this visit as well as the early vultures catching the thermals as they head off in search of food.
The main lodge building as seen from the pathway to our tent. Bearing in mind that the lodge only opened a week before we arrived, the bush is already starting to regenerate in the areas around the building. No doubt the staff will be working hard to make certain that the scars left by the construction will soon vanish and the lodge will sit amongst the vegetation as part of the landscape.
Time to be sociable? Looking into the lounge from the deck that spans the entire front of the building, offering guests an almost unobstructed view of the mountains as well as the circling birds.
Once the lodge fully opens to visitors, both local and international, this, I believe will become the heart of the property.
From the inside looking out… The building has been designed in such a way as to allow the flow of inside to outside and vice versa to be unhindered and unobstructed.
Minimalist and uncluttered, this lodge is spectacular!
High-tea before a sundowner game drive.
A return visit to KwaMbili Game Lodge. This time we did not miss the turn-off and head off in the wrong direction as we did on our previous visit in November 2021! And, instead of staying in the chalets, we chose to stay in one of their Safari tents.
From their website: “KwaMbili Game Lodge provides an authentic safari experience at an affordable price. KwaMbili is situated in the Thornybush Game Reserve near Hoedspruit, within the Greater Kruger area. The reserve is home to the Big Five as well as an abundance of other game and bird species”.
From the outside looking in. It might look small, but there is MORE than enough room inside and unlike tents of old, you can walk around without having to crawl around on all fours.
That said, the tents are all about to undergo a radical make-over which I look forward to seeing when we return in October.
Bringing back the days of the early safari/hunters where furniture was brought to make them feel at home.
Beds that were so comfortable that I even missed a morning game drive to sleep in. Something unheard of for me.
Dinner is served. Boma style.
With all the guests seated at the same table, it allows for interaction and chat…and to find out about each other.
For instance, I discovered that one of the guests was the sister of the guy that I had bought my torch from. Small world indeed.
The evening sky over Thornybush is certainly spectacular.
The whole lodge is about to undergo a complete renovation and this is the first of the room that has been totally transformed.
Of all the properties that we visited during this trip, KwaMbili was the only one to deliver not one but two leopard sightings.
Look out for Part 2 coming soon. That will feature the other 3 properties that we stayed at.
Thanks to all at these lodges for the professionalism and hospitality.
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