FESTIVAL OF MOTORING
A motoring spectacle of speed and performance
THE OUTPOST AND PEL’S POST
Three nights at The Outpost Lodge and two nights at the neighbouring Pel’s Post (both part of the exquisite Rare Earth collection) is enough to write a whole book about. Both encapsulate a supreme luxury safari experience with such cleverly orchestrated design to have minimal impact on the environment. Each of the private spaces at both lodges is connected to the central lodge area and each other by Zimbabwean teak walkways through rocky outcrops and Bushveld.The suites all boast unparalleled views of the river below, and bathrooms have freestanding baths and both indoor and outdoor showers. The highlight of each of the suites is undoubtedly the state-of-the-art retractable remotecontrolled screens that give you a real al fresco bush experience, completely immersing you in the wilderness. While The Outpost lodge can accommodate up to 24 people in 12 suites, Pel’s Post is for utmost privacy and exclusivity with only four rooms that can sleep up to eight people.
THE BIG FIVE
Before we knew it, our time in the Pafuri Triangle was up, and we were headed south. Shumbalala Game Lodge, nestled in the 14,000 ha Thornybush Reserve– now part of the Greater Kruger National Park – was our next destination and, though the biodiversity of the Pafuri region was to be left behind for a more traditional Bushveld nature experience, it was here that an encounter with the whole Big Five gang was more likely. Exiting the Kruger at the Pafuri Gate would mean a 350 km drive through Malamulele and Hoedspruit through many small villages, which would mean a drive of about five-and-a-half hours. We opted instead, to drive through the Kruger (at 50 km/h this would mean an additional two hours onto the drive) and exit at Phalaborwa before hitting the road to Thornybush Reserve (about 100 km from the Phalaborwa Gate). If you have time, this is an excellent opportunity to get a self-drive through the Kruger and spot some game on your own time.
Shumbalala (meaning where the lion sleeps) was all we had hoped for and more. Situated right on the banks of the seasonal Monwana River, with an active waterhole right in front of the lodge, we were treated to up close and personal encounters from the privacy of our verandas by giant herds of elephant, nyala, kudu, buffalo and even a young male lion. Game drives gave a new meaning to bundu bashing as we went in search of prime sightings off the road, through dense bush. On the three drives we did during our stay, we saw a lioness on the hunt, a family of leopards with an impala kill, the same lioness the following day with a young wildebeest that she had killed, hyena visitors during sundowners (and one that casually walked through the camp our first night at dinner). Also spotted was a male tusker (one of the Magnificent Seven of the Kruger), buffalo, a herd of wild dogs, bush pigs and more. For the ultimate in game viewing, Shumbalala is, hands down, where it’s at.
HOME TIME… ALMOST
After three nights of no remorse luxury in the twin-suited Presidential suite at Shumbalala, nights around the roaring fires, a private dinner in the magnificent wine cellar and days lazing in the infinity pool gazing into the eyes of elephants, we reluctantly hit the road again. My urge to take the Jag bundu bashing had to be suppressed by my fellow road trippers but was soon forgotten as we hit the green hilly mountain roads of the gorgeous Mpumalanga, en route to White River for our last night. I have always loved driving in Mpumalanga – the quaint villages and spectacular scenery are more than enough to make one forget about the somewhat shoddy road conditions and low speed limits. It’s no wonder it’s one of our country’s most loved self-drives.
Just under three hours and we were in another world entirely. After over a week in the bush, we were transported into the secret gardens of the Belgrace Boutique Hotel, described as being an “unapologetically romantic” space. A quintessentially European luxury hotel, it is indeed the perfect place for romantic indulgences.
While being romantic was not the purpose of this trip, we could soak up the grandiose setting, laze in our private Jacuzzis and enjoy the unrivalled five-star service and opulence before heading to the airport the following day and bid adieu to our trusty steed – which by then most definitely had some stories to tell.