When it comes to wildlife on a safari there is no predictability and no guarantees. The best two people to have with you in the game viewing vehicle are a great guide and lady luck. And there are always times when you just miss out on what would have been a memorable sighting or encounter. Sometimes you are incredibly lucky with a sighting from your lodge. But how often does that really happen?

On arrival at Sungulwane Private Game Lodge I was greeted by the lodge team. And after the formalities of signing in, Sam, the general manager said the words I often hear. “If only you had arrived thirty minutes ago, a female cheetah with her two cubs were here drinking right in front of the lodge”. It is normally earlier, today or yesterday, not missed out by minutes. However, there was twist in the tale here.  A long elegant golden tale with black spots that developed into stripes before a fluffy end. Keenan, Sams husband and lodge guide, asked if we would be happy to delay lunch as the cheetah had not moved far from the water in front of the lodge. She was now laying, resting, taking shade, under a thorn tree with her cubs a hundred meters away from us. Quietly and carefully, we walked single file a few paces from the lodge veranda and there they were. Wow, probably the best lunch time appetizer ever and what a wonderful start to my stay.

During our drives with guide Calvin at the wheel of the game viewing vehicle I was starting to think we must be in a cheetah hot spot. We came across a large male feeding on a new kill, a young impala, that he would have easily chased down in the open plain and grassland. This was prime cheetah country where hunts must have been successful more often than not. We sat at a comfortable distance, giving him his space, watching and listening as he licked, crunched and chewed his way through his prey. Occasionally he would look up, stand and carefully check and survey the scene for other predators in the area. Cheetahs can and do fall foul themselves and become the prey of lions.

On an early morning drive, we encountered two huge bull elephants that seemed just as interested in us as we were in them. Much like the cheetah they move effortless through the bushveld in almost silence. With these two though it was muscle laden trunks ripping grass and tree roots out of the ground and the breaking of succulent emerald, green leafed branches from trees to chew on. They ate their way towards us as we reversed again giving them the safe and respectable space they require.

Sungulwane Private Game Lodge SafariKZN

Sungulwane is located within the thirty-one-thousand-hectare Zuka Private Game Reserve and is home to many species of iconic African wildlife. There was a first here for me as well. Calvin, after sunset, amazingly spotted a flap necked chameleon, measuring only two or three centimetres in length hanging onto a single stem of grass. My first chameleon in thirty years of travel. Along with numerous animal sightings and encounters the bird life is prolific.  Owls and nightjars were out in force after dusk. The reserve is also visually spectacular with water holes, containing hippos, surrounded by fever trees. The pale bark covered trunks and deep green foliage are distinctive to the region. In the background the Lebombo Mountains sit high and mighty. And bordering the reserve in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a world heritage site.

Back at the lodge I sat with fellow guests, Ken & Linda from the US and Bjorn & Bente from Norway, around the dinner table. After a divine first two courses of butternut soup and ostrich fillets there was a noise from the water hole. We all listened intently and debated what it could be. I was sure it was a bush pig grunting from the darkness. The following morning Calvin had also heard the same thing. He confirmed It was a Verreaux’s eagle-owl. You learn something every day in the bush.

Everything about Sungulwane is very special. The main lodge is modern and stunning, its open plan design runs from dining room to lounge to sitting area all leading to the swimming pool, everything open and interlinked. Comfort is optimal with so much detail incorporated yet kept very minimal. The suites are spacious and like the main lodge beautifully designed and decorated with large ensuite bathroom including an outdoor shower. Each suite has a balcony looking over the thornveld onto green rolling hills.

Every meal, breakfast, lunch, high tea, dinner, was an event with great flavours and presentation, the quality you would expect to find in a high-end restaurant. And all this came with excellent service from staff members, Carmen, Noks, Kanyie and all those behind the scenes.

Please make a note of Sungulwane but do not expect a pre lunch cheetah.

Sungulwane Private Game Lodge SafariKZN

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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