Lion Sands Tinga Lodge


Upscale Living Magazine - - Features - By Heléne Ra­mack­ers

Two li­onesses are fast asleep next to Huhlwa Road, which in­ci­den­tally hap­pens to be the Lion Sands Tinga Lodge staff ac­cess route. The younger of the two raises her head to snuf­fle the early morn­ing air. A herd of buf­faloes are re­cum­bent a mere kilo­me­tre away. Will the li­onesses en­deav­our to hunt? They don’t look ema­ci­ated enough to at­tempt a feed­ing frenzy and con­tinue their day­break slum­ber.

It is our last game drive at Lion Sands Tinga Lodge and what a per­fect way to end our two night stay here with the grand fi­nale of a lion sighting – we started off two days prior with some se­ri­ous bundu bash­ing to wit­ness the cat­nap of three male lions from the Tsalala break­away pride. The one seemed trans­fixed by our pres­ence and I can still feel his yel­low eyes star­ing into my soul.

To recharge my bat­ter­ies, the one and only place I pro­fess want­ing to go to is the Bush. The wide open spa­ces, the un­tainted air, the an­i­mals in their nat­u­ral habi­tat; I can go on for days about the ben­e­fits of wak­ing up sur­rounded by Mother Na­ture. Hav­ing my hus­band and daugh­ter ac­com­pany me makes a fam­ily break­away so much more grat­i­fy­ing, es­pe­cially see­ing the won­der of her ex­pe­ri­ences through my daugh­ter’s eyes. As a fam­ily of three, we are ac­com­mo­dated in the newly-built Tinga Hi’Nk­weni (pro­nounced Hing Kweni) Fam­ily Villa. A self-con­tained free­stand­ing Villa, it is gen­er­ous in size and at 3714 sq ft, it feels like home the mo­ment you open the im­pos­ing wooden front door. An out­side area with a pri­vate pool and cov­ered pa­tio, hot sum­mer days are well spent in the re­fresh­ing clear water un­der pow­der blue skies. As we en­ter our Villa, our jaws drop in uni­son at the sheer size of where we are stay­ing. A kitch­enette with a din­ing sec­tion, a lounge area, two full en-suite bed­rooms with all the mod­ern con­ve­niences you can hope for – air con­di­tion­ing, ceil­ing fans, a dig­i­tal safe, hairdryer, in-room tele­phone, indoor and out­door show­ers, a free­stand­ing bath, dou­ble van­i­ties and free Wi-Fi, it can ac­com­mo­date four adults and two chil­dren with ease.

We are ush­ered to the main deck at Lion Sands Tinga Lodge for lunch and a hot day cou­pled with a warm breeze has us rush­ing through our meal to get back to the com­fort of our Villa. The food is de­li­cious and my hus­band or­ders the baby mar­row & mint soup and for main course, he has the bat­tered fish & chips while my daugh­ter and I opt for the grilled beef fil­let on cia­b­bata bread. A few vervet mon­keys in­no­cently sit and wait in the branches of the jack­alberry tree, eyes cast side­ways, to pounce given half a chance.

Af­ter High Tea at 4pm, which is a se­lec­tion of treats – cho­co­late eclairs, veg­etable pizza, cho­co­late chip bis­cuits and a fruit bowl - we em­bark on our game drive with guide Jab­u­lani Manzini and tracker Wanted Lu­bisi. Travers­ing the 12,500 acre pri­vate con­ces­sion you are spoilt with an­i­mal sight­ings ga­lore. The re­serve is teem­ing with baby im­palas and as we round a cor­ner, we laugh at the vi­sion of a hyena obliv­i­ous to our ex­is­tence, hav­ing a nap in a mud pud­dle. A herd of buf­falo have the same idea and once they have fin­ished feed­ing, im­merse them­selves one by one in a pool of mud to cool off.

Out in the clear­ing, the most beau­ti­ful leop­ard cub sits all alone wait­ing for her mother. She seems quite re­laxed and at eight months of age, can fend for her­self. She seems un­both­ered by the hyena sounds in the dis­tance. Back at Lion Sands Tinga Lodge, we are seated on the main deck where we enjoy a de­lec­ta­ble din­ner.

We are es­corted to our Villa as walk­ing af­ter dark and be­fore sun­rise is not per­mit­ted as an­i­mals are free to roam. My daugh­ter and I play a game of noughts and crosses be­fore calling it a night. The fresh air has done her the world of good and she is asleep as her head touches the soft and silky pil­low. My nightly rit­ual of a shower be­fore bed time is restora­tive and the Afri­col­ogy prod­ucts are so fra­grant that I make a men­tal note to pur­chase some at the gift shop to take home with me.

My sleep is dis­turbed by the most in­cred­i­ble elec­tric storm with thun­der, light­ning and rain cre­at­ing a blank can­vas for the fol­low­ing day’s game drive. An­other ad­van­tage of stay­ing at Hi’Nk­weni Villa is that you have your own pri­vate sa­fari ve­hi­cle and guid­ing team, so you can tai­lor-make your pref­er­ence of when to go on sa­fari. We de­cide to wait for the rain to abate be­fore head­ing out.

It is still driz­zling slightly as we me­an­der through the re­serve and the birds are rel­ish­ing the cooler at­mos­phere. The most colour­ful vi­o­let backed star­ling is perched on a tree branch and we see a yel­low billed horn­bill catch­ing an in­sect to feed its chicks, safely es­conded in the bark of a tree.

Two ele­phant cows are fol­lowed by their young, eat­ing their way through the sur­round­ing veg­e­ta­tion. The small calf is the cutest baby I have ever seen and stays se­curely tucked be­hind his mother. Jab­u­lani guesses the calf to be less than a month old be­cause he is still pink be­hind his ears. An­other in­di­ca­tor of his age is the fact that his mom keeps him close to her by emit­ting a rum­ble. Much to our amuse­ment, the small tot tries to feed on a shrub but ele­phants that age haven’t grasped the use of their trunks quite yet.

Back at Lion Sands Tinga Lodge, it is time for break­fast. My daugh­ter loves crois­sants and gets brought a whole plate full of minia­ture ones. My hus­band and I thor­oughly enjoy our English break­fast and by now the day has warmed up enough to jus­tify a swim in our pool.

The late af­ter­noon game drive is un­event­ful as the heavy rain the pre­vi­ous night doesn’t al­low for us to go off-road with the risk of soil ero­sion. Dur­ing our drinks stop, we take in the most pic­turesque sun­set with dif­fer­ent hues of pink and or­anges. It is sug­gested to us to dine in our Villa, which seems like a good idea and our three cour­ses are promptly brought to us. My daugh­ter and I feast on the beef fil­let while my hus­band chooses to make his din­ner into a meat and fish com­bi­na­tion. The food is very tasty and with ev­ery­one sa­ti­ated, we play a game of 30 sec­onds be­fore re­tir­ing to bed.

As we fin­ish our last game drive, a wood­land king­fisher calls out. He rapidly takes off, show­cas­ing his ex­quis­ite bright blue wings. A dif­fer­ent bird will be trans­port­ing us home and as the gleam­ing Air­link Em­braer 135 plane takes flight, the jets pro­pel us into the skies, home­ward bound.

Views ex­pressed are the au­thor’s own.

Thank you to Taryn van Niek­erk from MORE for ar­rang­ing our stay. | Pho­to­graphs cour­tesy of Lion Sands Tinga Lodge and by Heléne Ra­mack­ers

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