The light was fading and the last of the sun was putting a final pink tinge to the pale blue sky. The waterhole we had stopped at was surrounded by dry straw coloured grass. On the opposite bank stood a line of thorn trees. The still water reflected the trees like a Victorian mirror. As I sipped my red wine I thought it must be near perfect soft light for a photographer.

Other than the breeze causing the dry grass to rustle there was no other sound. That was to be broken with what sounded like a distant roar. I looked at JP, our guide, and simply said “lion”. It was a question more than a statement. As JP began to quickly fold the drinks table away he replied sharply “yes”. The second roar was louder. My second question was “how far do you think?” “At a guess 400 meters, I think we should all get into the vehicle”. He replied.

We drove less than 200 meters and there in the short dry grass stood a magnificent lioness. She was no more than a few feet from our game viewing vehicle. She let out several more continuous roars. The noise took me back to my childhood. Only one other noise had I actually felt in my stomach. That was the noise of an army marching band drummer, whose base drum strapped to his chest, when beaten sent a shock wave right through me.

She walked right past us at a good pace. She continued to roar and call. She stopped only once and this was as JP put it, “not to spray but to defecate”. We could see, hear and now smell her. And with a final roar she simply vanished into the darkness.

We were staying at Elephant Rock Lodge and even from a boutique lodge there is no real guarantee of such close encounters. The lodge itself is sited perfectly over a waterhole and from our room we had seen waterbuck, kudu and warthog drinking. We had also seen giraffe and eland on the slopes surrounding the waterhole.

Our room, a very short walk from the main lodge, like all was thatched with polished floors. The bathroom with outdoor shower looks directly over the waterhole. There was also a private deck with fixed hammock style loungers. And on a cold winters night there was the bonus of an electric blanket.

The lodge itself is stunning. Melanie, my wife, now knows exactly what sort of home she wants in the African bush. One based on Elephant Rock Lodge! The split levels, open fire and furnishings give a very homely feel.

Meals are served either on the lodges’ large deck or on the upper level indoors. We ate indoors. A nice touch was to be served a pre-dinner glass of sherry. This was enjoyed by the warmth of the open fire. For dinner I opted for lamb shank as my main course which was perfectly cooked. The portions were generous and very much enjoyed in the lodges’ homely atmosphere.

Our game drives with JP had proved a great success, its not often you see the footprints of lions and then see lions. We had seen females on two separate occasions. We had also come across a small family herd of elephants, within the herd a young bull showed off by felling two trees as we looked on.

The Lodge in winter or summer makes an ideal location for a very intimate safari. The decks and pool are perfect for relaxing during the heat. And in the chill of winter there are the leather couches by the open fire.

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People say that Africa has an effect on your soul and Mark Henson the ‘author’ of this site is no exception. He first travelled to South Africa and the province of KwaZulu-Natal in 1993 and has been coming and going every year since. Twice now most years!

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