Where the Lion Sleeps

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Where The Lion Sleeps - Text: Charlotte Rogers Im­ages © Ryan Ab­bott | TCB Me­dia, Shum­bal­ala

The fam­ily-owned Shum­bal­ala Game Lodge, lo­cated on the 14,000 hectare Thorny­bush Re­serve now part of the Greater Kruger Na­tional Park, of­fers guests the op­por­tu­nity to get up close and per­sonal with some of the might­i­est an­i­mals in Africa – from lion and leop­ard, to wilde­beest and buf­falo, and al­most ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

Our stay at Shum­bal­ala started with an ex­cep­tion­ally warm wel­come: a bunch of friendly smiles, hot tow­els, and warm­ing sherry to drive the cold from our bones. The Thorny­bush Re­serve can get very chilly at night dur­ing Win­ter.

We were ush­ered to the Pres­i­den­tial Suite where a fire was rag­ing in the fire place, and a soft orange glow was painted across the walls. The suite was dec­o­rated in what I like to call re­laxed lux­ury. The king-sized beds in the two en suite bed­rooms were equipped

with mos­quito nets that framed the bed to look like some­thing out of a fairy tale – the kind of bed that Sleep­ing Beauty would lay her head upon. The bath­rooms boasted with glossy-white, stand­alone bath­tubs – re­lax­ing in the tub was one of the ways I recharged my bat­ter­ies af­ter a long day in the sun or out on a game drive, and the other was in­dulging in the ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of gin on of­fer.

Both bed­rooms also in­clude a ve­randa, an in­door and out­door shower, large win­dows, and slid­ing glass doors to the deck that al­low for light to stream through. The stone walls give the im­pres­sion of a cosy cot­tage, and while the rooms cool down at night, the sun­light makes them bright and warm dur­ing the day. Be­ing able to wake up, open the cur­tains and look out onto the sea­sonal Mon­wana River and the wildlife that wan­ders past the lodge

is a truly mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence. We saw var­i­ous an­i­mals quench­ing their thirst at the wa­ter­ing hole on the other side of the dry river bed – mostly ele­phants, but we also noted a cheeky vervet mon­key tak­ing a sip right next to a kudu bull, plus a young male lion, and plenty of nyala. The wildlife on the Thorny­bush Re­serve is in­cred­i­bly di­verse, and Shum­bal­ala of­fers their guests one of the best view­points from which to en­joy the sights.

Dur­ing the game drives, the guide and tracker work tire­lessly to en­sure that guests are com­fort­able and safe while on board their open game view­ing ve­hi­cle. In only four days at the lodge, we saw a fe­male leop­ard and her two cubs, two fe­male lions, one ado­les­cent male lion, ele­phants (in­clud­ing one born with no tusks), a fam­ily of gi­raffes, a pack of wild dogs, a por­cu­pine, two happy hip­pos, vul­tures, and a mas­sive range of bird life.

Due to the re­serve be­ing pri­vately owned, Shum­bal­ala ve­hi­cles can go where game ve­hi­cles in the Kruger can­not: off-road. I do not just mean on dirt tracks, I mean bundu bash­ing. This al­lowed us to get as close to the an­i­mals as any­one should get to a wild an­i­mal – we heard the crunch of bone as two fe­male lions made short work of a young wilde­beest.

Din­ing is the ic­ing on the de­li­cious, freshly baked cake that is the Shum­bal­ala ex­pe­ri­ence. Their menu changes daily and Chef Danielle prides her­self on mak­ing clas­sic dishes with lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, and serv­ing them look­ing as stun­ning as the nat­u­ral sur­round­ings. On the first night, we dined in the main area by the fire, and as we tucked into our starter, a lone hyena wan­dered past the open door – even the hye­nas want a taste of the de­light­ful menu crafted by Chef Danielle! On the se­cond night we dined al fresco, and tucked into one of the best lamb shank dishes any­one at the ta­ble had ever tasted. Their dessert se­lec­tion was also de­li­cious; you could get your sweet tooth ful­filled twice a day – once at high tea and again af­ter din­ner.

Our stay at Shum­bal­ala left a mark on our hearts and smiles on our faces. We dined in style, saw some of the most beau­ti­ful cre­ations in na­ture, and en­joyed seam­less South African hos­pi­tal­ity. As we drove away from Shum­bal­ala and the Thorny­bush Re­serve, we said to each other that we would sim­ply have to re­turn – and this time keep a closer look out for hye­nas.

For more info, visit www.shum­bal­ala.co.za or call +27 11 253 6500.

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