Sitting in the passenger seat of the open top game viewing vehicle, like a driver’s mate, I experienced at close quarters our guide’s extraordinary skills. After some time, I also realised what was different about our vehicle, it had no door on the driver’s side. The reason for this soon became clear. Nsika, our driver and guide, sat in a regular driving position, every now and then leaning over where the door would have been to check the sand road for animal tracks. He also drove, left knee on the seat, right foot in charge of the vehicle’s pedals. And every now and then he stood upright and drove giving himself a commanding vantage point.

Makhasa Private Game Lodge

Stopping on the sand roads Nsika exited the vehicle where the door would have been and looked down onto the road. He stood or crouched and looked back at us and explained what he had seen. He read the road and the story it told like I would read a book. “A female leopard walked south here not that long ago” “Elephants, a large breeding herd, crossed here then went through that thick bush heading towards the marsh area” “A male lion, very recently, was here walking that way”

Makhasa Private Game Lodge

We rounded a sharp bend and out stepped a magnificent looking male lion. Nsika bought the vehicle to a halt, and we all sat and admired this incredibly impressive, heavily maned, beast. He was clearly the king here and his physique gave him great presence. He was handsome with a powerful gaze and glint in his eye. When he walked towards us, we reversed. When he gained on us Nsika moved off the road and let him pass. We then followed giving him plenty of space. And when the king was tired of walking, he elegantly lowered himself down onto the warm sand road. He was clearly on a mission but also tired. With every enormous yawn he drew in the air showing off his teeth and in particular four huge canines.

Travelling through open grassland I was particularly struck by the beauty of the reserve that we were traversing. The grass, golden in colour lit by the dawn sun, stood around a meter high and swayed gently in the light and warm breeze. We encountered a large herd of buffalo moving through the grasslands in a long orderly line. It was a classic African savannah scene as the buffalo slowly walked towards a water hole, egrets flew in and out, creating flashes of brilliant white against the cloudless blue sky.

Makhasa Private Game Lodge

You do not have to be a birder, I describe myself in the words of author Simon Barnes as a bad birdwatcher, to appreciate the many varieties of birds encountered when out in the bush. KwaZulu Natal is known as a bird watching hot spot and Nsika spotted and pointed out a host of bird species. He was thrilled to show us a pink footed hawk perched high in a dead tree. I was delighted to get a “well spotted” comment when I pointed out a woodland kingfisher. And to see Namaqua doves made us all smile. But no one could beat Nsika and his sighting of a pink throated twin spot.

Makhasa Private Game Lodge is situated on the Munywana Game Reserve overlooking a large water hole often frequented by elephants. It is owned and operated by the Makhasa people and currently offers employment to around twenty members of the local community. Here the lodge, through opportunities created by tourism and conservation, creates much needed and varied job opportunities.

The main lodge is the focal point for guests where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served either indoors or on the wooden veranda overlooking the water hole. The food was excellent, perfectly cooked and presented at every meal. Credit must go to the chef Meva and his team in the kitchen. It is also a great place to just relax on a comfy couch, read a book between game drives, or enjoy a drink from the bar. Lodge manager Ingrid, her assistant Buhle, and members of the Makhasa team were always on hand ensuring that all the guests were exceptionally well looked after. Wooden boardwalks through the sand forest guide you from the main lodge to your suite. The large, thatched rooms with ensuite bathroom, king size bed, complete with private veranda are a perfect place to drift off to sleep to the sounds of the African bush. In the day you can sit and watch a variety of antelope, nyala and duiker greeted me on arrival, grazing only meters from you. After dark staff escort guests back to their rooms as you never know what nocturnal wildlife will be out on the prowl under the cover of darkness.

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About Author

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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