Ross recently stayed at Bushwise Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park. He had a great time away in the bush, enjoying game drives, good food, and some time to relax.
On a warm Friday afternoon we made our dusty way to a weekend escape in the bush. Well, not quite "in" the bush. Our destination was the four star Bushwise Safari Lodge , and it is about as far as we've ever been from "roughing it" in the wild, while at the same time being our most immersive African bush experience to date. Shouldering above thorny trees for a view of the neighbouring Crocodile river, Bushwise Lodge is in an incredible position on the edge of the Kruger National Park and its rooms have been configured to maximise the bush experience.
After a warm welcome from Tim, who owns the lodge with his wonderfully gregarious wife Annette, we were shown to our room and made to feel at home. This was the sense that pervaded the weekend. Tim and Annette, like the owners of the holiday homes we passed on our way, have a love for the African bush and they share this with their guests in the excellent accommodation they have created in Bushwise Safari Lodge.
Having arrived just after sunset, we resolved to get an early night so that we might catch the Big Five in their morning routines. In the generous comfort of our room, with stomachs full of delicious bobotie (a traditional South African dish), falling asleep was not a challenge. With the sliding doors open to our private balcony and the insect screens closed, a distant grunting of hippos was the only sound to disrupt the gentle cacophony of beetles, bats and birds.
The African sun was our alarm clock (although I closed the block-out curtains to enjoy a few more minutes in the large bed). We had a nice cooked breakfast, which we shared with some of the other guests going for an early game drive. Though Bushwise offers professionally guided game drives in the Kruger, we opted to drive ourselves. This may have been a mistake. Though we did see rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo and several thunders of hippopotamus (yes, that's a name for a herd of hippo!), we didn't spot any predators. Guests at the lodge who had taken the safari option saw lions and hyenas in the same areas that we had seen only bush and impala. We stopped at Lower Sabie for an early lunch - our padkos had run out far too quickly. There is a large Mugg & Bean with a deck overlooking the Sabie river which, although busy, is well worth a visit.
Back at the lodge, Tim recommended we take a walk along the fence next to the river and around Marloth Park. In the late afternoon light we strolled along a wild but easy path, past the occasional bench facing the river. On our way back, we bumped into some curious zebra and a male kudu with magnificent curled horns. The kudu moved away, but the youngest zebra came within arm's reach and posed like a seasoned model. There is a certain indefinable thrill in seeing large wild animals in close proximity, and the experience is heightened when there is nothing but air between you. There are also giraffe and wildebeest, bush buck and warthogs, and (inevitably) baboons. We saw only one giraffe, but he allowed me to walk close enough to fill the picture with his frame despite my inadequate zoom lens.
Dinner on the second night was held in a small boma near the entrance to the lodge. While we waited, we shared drinks and stories with the other guests around the wooden bar on the deck. One of the friendly staff invited us to make our way down for starters. Our steaks were cooked on a braai while we soaked up the soup starter with chunks of more-ish corn bread. With a central fire and a rim of candles, the boma had a romantic air.
Game viewing is great, and bush walks are lovely, but in order to feel that I have truly escaped I need the chance to read a book while the sun is up. We took that chance on the Sunday morning of our stay. Under the shade of a huge umbrella, we lounged next to the pristine infinity pool on the deck and held off the return to reality one page at a time.