Escape to the Eastern Cape: Inzolo Exclusive Game Lodge
Inzolo is where five kinds of vegetation converge: forest, fynbos, grassland, thicket and renosterbos.
I’ve only ever been to the bushveld up north so I didn’t know what to expect of the Eastern Cape’s offering. I was blown away – by many things. Firstly, how different it is to the dry veld I’d grown to know and love. The lush green shrubbery and fields are much more jungle than dry land and that’s because – as Dave, our knowledgeable ranger from Inzolo explained – Inzolo is where five kinds of vegetation converge: forest, fynbos, grassland, thicket and renosterbos. It’s quite amazing to watch the sunset and think about that for a second – how rich the natural habitat is – as you sip on a fynbos-infused gin and tonic!
The team at Inzolo appreciate this privilege and put a lot of effort and time into conservation. They’ve launched two special projects: the buffalo breeding initiative and the protection of the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, creating a special enclave for them to live and breed in. It’s always great to enjoy the wildlife around you when you know it’s being taken care of and protected.
The lodge itself is tastefully decorated with details like fish baskets as lampshades, interesting art and luxurious touches in every room. One of my favourite areas was the wooden deck with a view overlooking the reserve and a watering hole/mudbath where the elephants come and play – which they often did around teatime.
The game drives were always spectacular – spotting any of the Big Five never loses its magic – we saw lions, rhinos (!!!), elephants (very close up!) and buffalo. But what I loved most about exploring the Eastern Cape wilderness were all the little details Dave could share. I learnt about the fork- tailed drongo’s trick of mimicking alarm calls of animals to steal their food, how baboons communicate important information about their sex and age through a scent gland at the back of their feet when they do a kind of karate kick, and about the massive hamerkop nests that can take generations to build.
Viwe and I went on a sunrise drive with Dave one morning, (totally worth the early wakeup!) to see if we could find marsh owls in the grass. We didn’t spot any, but it was such an adventure wading through the marshes and listening carefully for their calls.
The prolific bird life at Inzolo is also a major drawcard. Last year, a group of birdwatchers were lucky enough to spot a dwarf bittern!
When you go to Inzolo, prepare to feast. Chef Sebastian creates memorable meals with ingredients grown in the lodge’s very own vegetable and herb garden. Standout dishes for me were the slow-cooked springbok served on gourmet samp risotto, as well as the earth-roasted beetroot. This can be enjoyed with a selection of SA wines from top estates including Lanzerac and Jordan. Another unmissable treat is the droëwors provided in each chalet.
Few things come close to the bliss of enjoying an ice cold beer around the boma. The fire was crackling when we returned from our afternoon drive, so we could relish the evening fall in the bush, ushered in by the unique sounds of beetles, birds and other small creatures.
Two other unique touches I have to mention: one, the delicious welcome drinks and steamed cloths Themba, the excellent barman, had ready for us each time we arrived back from a game drive – he surprised us with a different concoction every time. And two, the branded stainless steel bottle/ flasks each guest receives upon arrival. This can be used as a water bottle throughout your stay and is both a keepsake and a smart green initiative by Inzolo to reduce the need for plastic bottles. I’ve been using mine as both a coffee flask and reusable water bottle since returning home.
Soak up the seclusion
The layout of the lodge makes you feel as though you are completely alone in the bush. There are four private chalets located away from the main lodge area. The luxe bathrooms, with showers with a view of the bush, are a great place to enjoy the solitude. And I loved having my morning coffee on the balcony, looking out and listening to the stillness of the bush.
The plunge pool was another dreamy spot. It looks out onto the striking rockface that inspired the Inzolo logo. Parking off on the main deck area with a book was pure bliss. A young nyala male came right up to the edge of the lodge to see what we were up to, and it was so special to see such a curious, majestic creature up close.
This pic: We spotted these beauties on a sunset game drive. Inset: Ellies getting up close and personal.
Fantastic food and drinks, spectacular sunsets, awe-inspiring views, special encounters with majestic creatures including the Big 5, a fabulous boma, luxury accommodation, privacy… Inzolo ticks all the boxes of a restful retreat in the wild…