by Fiona Zerbst

Nkelenga Tented Camp

Limpopo safari

Nkelenga Tented Camp
As much as I love Kruger, I think I’ll be saving up to spend my next game-watching escape in the 11 500-hectare Thornybush Nature Reserve, which is large enough to be home to vast quantities of game, including the Big Five, but small enough to be quite easily traversed if you’re up for a number of game drives.

And honestly, who wouldn’t be? The bush is teeming with life, and we saw the Big Five in just two game drives: three leopard, five cheetah, four lionesses and a male lion (whose name happens to be Marvin – no one knows why!) and herds of buffalo and elephant. Not that this happens every time, you understand; but the experienced trackers and rangers are so attuned to what’s happening in the bush that their best guesses usually take you straight to some unforgettable sight.

We spent two nights at the wonderfully private tented camp Nkelenga, which is unique in that it’s self-catering and you can book the entire camp for your family or guests. The camp is a home-from-home for up to nine people and has a fridge, freezer and open-fire area overlooking a large waterhole, so you can eat outdoors or in the comfortable dining room, or even on the terrace.

Nkelenga is rustic but sufficiently luxurious – guests want for nothing. If you don’t mind doing your own cooking (but not washing up – that’s taken care of), then it’s worth staying here for the freedom and privacy you can enjoy.
Once you’re on game drives, you rely on the wits and experience of your tracker to guide you to game. Our tracker, Vusi (Joe’s son, keeping it in the family), was quick to pick out some hard-to-spot creatures. One evening, he managed to spot a young black mamba in a tree. Considering that young mambas are light grey in colour, and the tree itself was grey, the fact that he spotted it at all was astonishing.

I pity game-watchers who think the bush is all about the Big Five, and having twitcher Rosemary Renton along with us on our trip was really enriching, as she identified many bird calls for us. She brought her books along with her and we soon found ourselves poring over them, trying to identify some lesser-known winged creatures.

At night, as we sat around the campfire, we heard the coughing grunt of a lion somewhere close by; surrounded by just a fence, the small camp is in the heart of the wild, which makes it really special.

As a massive thunderstorm broke on our last night there, and as we watched sheet lightning flicker over the waterhole, we again heard the lion as if just outside our luxury tent. It was one of those primal moments for which everyone heads to the bush, and we were thrilled and terrified at the same time.
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Issue 63


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